How should difficult family members be approached?


#1

especially if they are creating pain in your own life? I was thinking of potentially converting to Catholicism but my family have always caused me a lot of pain so now I find myself going to Mass often on the verge of tears.

I have had some many problems around my family and they do not seem to have been alleviated since I started going to Mass. I just wanted to provide you with a few examples.
My elder sister is very ill with an auto immune disease and has been for the past 12 years. Before her illness she used to bully me a lot. This has not changed at all. Often she shouts at me quite literally for nothing and it is very hard as it leaves me feeling quite worthless and depressed and scared to be around people to be honest. She had been shouting at me so frequently over the course of about two weeks that I finally said to her in a very meek voice* "If I am saying anything that is especially upsetting you, could you tell me what this is so I can change it"* I also told her that I was becoming scared of saying anything for fear of her response. That was all that I said and she shouted at me and said she should be able to speak to me however she wishes as she is ill and has enough to contend with and then put the phone down on me and has not spoken to me for a month. I phoned my younger brother in tears to tell him what had happened and he said that I was wrong to have said that to my sister and he also stopped talking to me.. I was left really questioning myself - I still am. I have to add that it is not my sister's illness that has made her like this. Any attempt to stick up for myself leads to these sorts of responses and have done for as long as I can remember - only now it has become worst. Only one year ago, she told me by email to go and lie in front of a train to put my family out of their misery. So it has been hard.

My mother is the same... She was made redundant from her job and this coincided with me receiving a large legal settlement last year. With the money I prioritised my mother. I gave her a proportion of it and went without myself (not because I was being a martyr) because I felt guilty spending any of it on myself. I paid her bills, did her shopping every week so her pension would go further, and then treated her to a holiday in the Maldives in March of this year and also took her to Lourdes two months ago (She is not a Catholic and used to go to a pentecostal church sporadically). During the holiday to the Maldives she called me a parasite which also left me feeling bad and confused as I had paid for it all - and it seemed the more I helped her the worst she was towards me...Everything is kind of back to front with my mother. If you help, you are treated badly and shouted at and ignored for months on end. If you do not help in any way , the same thing happens only worst.

The point I am trying to make is how do I deal with situations such as these and still strive to be a good Catholic convert to be? You could say to me to ring my sister and try and reconcile but she is not like that. She would simply slam the phone back down on me. Am I not supposed to love people even who act badly towards me and turn the other cheek? Even though I had been going to Mass regularly, I felt like my family were trying to undermine my progress and sabotage things for me and it worked for a while as I simply stopped going to Mass. I was becoming deeply depressed by what was going on with my family and despite praying and praying, nothing was changing and I no longer knew how to cope with the family machinations. I still do not.

Am I supposed to keep letting them do what they do despite the fact that it leaves me feeling awful? Am I permitted to break off all contact and try and forge a life for myself outside of all of this. I feel that being a Catholic is not compatible with being around my family - it simply is not. There is a lot of bitterness and anger and dysfunction and i do not want that in my life. I really just want some peace...


#2

[quote="changecomes, post:1, topic:249003"]

Am I supposed to keep letting them do what they do despite the fact that it leaves me feeling awful? Am I permitted to break off all contact and try and forge a life for myself outside of all of this. I feel that being a Catholic is not compatible with being around my family - it simply is not. There is a lot of bitterness and anger and dysfunction and i do not want that in my life. I really just want some peace...

[/quote]

No. Yes. Get some peace and leave your family to their destructive habits, but continue to pray for them. Sorry I don't have any nuanced insight, or any suggestions on how to cut out your family, but you should.


#3

Realize that forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same thing. Forgiveness is something the victim can do, by letting go of the hurt and the desire for vengeance. It is not the same as excusing the offense. It is recognizing the offense is real and yet wanting God's mercy for the offender. That is the work of grace, and sometimes it takes awhile. That is what "turning the other cheek" means. It is not laying on the ground and being a doormat. It is a combination of not being provoked to sin by the offense and not being intimidated by it. Turning the other cheek is taking the third way, the way of non-violent refusal to be overtaken by violence. Jesus did not strike back at his accusers during His Passion, but he admitted no wrong-doing, and in fact asked why he was being struck for telling the truth.

Reconcilation, on the other hand, is the rebuilding of a relationship damaged or destroyed by an offense. That requires work on both sides. If your trust has been destroyed, even you might not be able to do it, at least not in this life. You certainly cannot do it on your own, though. If your relatives are not willing to stop the offended behavior (the first necessary thing in a reconciliation), then your hands are tied. You can be merciful, you can be long-suffering, but a true reconcilation isn't an option until the offenders repent of their behavior and at least try to stop it.


#4

[quote="EasterJoy, post:3, topic:249003"]
Realize that forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same thing. Forgiveness is something the victim can do, by letting go of the hurt and the desire for vengeance. It is not the same as excusing the offense. It is recognizing the offense is real and yet wanting God's mercy for the offender. That is the work of grace, and sometimes it takes awhile. That is what "turning the other cheek" means. It is not laying on the ground and being a doormat. It is a combination of not being provoked to sin by the offense and not being intimidated by it. Turning the other cheek is taking the third way, the way of non-violent refusal to be overtaken by violence. Jesus did not strike back at his accusers during His Passion, but he admitted no wrong-doing, and in fact asked why he was being struck for telling the truth.

Reconcilation, on the other hand, is the rebuilding of a relationship damaged or destroyed by an offense. That requires work on both sides. If your trust has been destroyed, even you might not be able to do it, at least not in this life. You certainly cannot do it on your own, though. If your relatives are not willing to stop the offended behavior (the first necessary thing in a reconciliation), then your hands are tied. You can be merciful, you can be long-suffering, but a true reconcilation isn't an option until the offenders repent of their behavior and at least try to stop it.

[/quote]

Thank you EasterJoy
I understand now. I have told my family in the past that they have treated me badly and they said they have not.When i told my mother that she had treated me badly even thought I had done all that I could to help her when she lost her job she simply said to me "That she should not have to treat me well simply because I have helped her". She has said that she is not the problem but myself. these are the similar responses from all members of my family, They do not want to try and change as they do not feel that they are doing or saying anything that is wrong. Iknow in my heart that the only reason that I tolerated it over recent years was because my mother is getting old and my sister has a life threatening illness and I owuld have felt awful if I had severed links and anything had happened to them, but it is now getting to the stage where my own health has become affected, so I shall pray for them but keep my distance from now on.


#5

[quote="jilly4ski, post:2, topic:249003"]
No. Yes. Get some peace and leave your family to their destructive habits, but continue to pray for them. Sorry I don't have any nuanced insight, or any suggestions on how to cut out your family, but you should.

[/quote]

Thank you jilly4ski - your response has helped as I was feeling pretty sad until you responded. Thanks.


#6

Easter Joy explained it very well. Loving others and forgiving does not mean being a doormat. Your family treats you badly and now this has started to affect your health. It is your absolute right to protect yourself because you don’t deserve this. Really.

I have a very similar family situation. No matter what I do and how hard I try my father always treats me badly. Things are always my fault. I’m never good enough. I’m a huge dissappointement to him. That kind of thing. Last time I saw him (a few months ago) he insisted on having an argument over something that I found absolutely crazy and definitely not my fault. I tried to be nice. I refused to argue. I wanted to keep it civilised. Unfortunately, it didn’t work and the second time we met he created a scene while we were in public. I told him off, got up and left. We haven’t spoken since and I don’t intend to get in touch. I’ve had enough of manipulation and bullying. His behaviour affects my health too, it always takes me about 1-2 months to get over the pain and stress his behaviour causes. I doubt he will ever change but I still hope and I sometimes pray for him.

You see, neither you or I are responsible for other people’s behaviour. We can try and love them and treat them well but if these attempts are always rejected and turned against us there is not much we can do. People often take their frustrations on others who are willing to tolerate abusive behaviour. You have to create boundaries for the sake of your health and sanity. Distancing yourself from this is a difficult and painful thing but easier than what you are experiencing now. I am very sad that my father and I will never have a healthy relationship and that it could be years until I see him again. But I can’t tell you how much better I feel. I feel free.

Pray a lot and put your trust in God. He loves you and will help you get through this since you are His beloved child.


#7

My mother is completely out of my life and my sister and I talk, very casually, rarely.

I struggled for years with my family and my pain. I've have several clergy of different faiths tell me that "honoring your parents" sometimes means just "separating with love" for a time. My kids and I are much better off and healthier not having my mother in our lives. Does it feel good to basically have no mother? No. I feel like an orphan. It's so very hard. Your mom is supposed to love you more than anyone. She is supposed to protect her children from harm and support them. When that doesn't happen it's devastating and confusing.

I had to decide what was best. My mother is so very emotionally sick and abusive that she brings no good to our lives, unfortunately.

I wish you well. Don't let people tell you that you have to "bury the hatchet." You have to come to a place of forgiveness and acceptance. But you don't need to be treated badly, not even by your mother. Honor her by caring for her child, you.

:hug1:

Cara


#8

Bless your heart. You have dealt with a lot of emotional abuse, but there is no reason to go any further down that path. Christ has set you free!
I too have had a difficult time with my mother; she is very narcissistic and demanding. I finally have cut all communication down to extremely limited contact, with my husband present.
Please follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and you will find peace. My prayers are with you!


#9

I, personally, would break off contact with such people until they are willing to reconcile. In that situation I KNOW beyond all doubt that I haven't done any wrong - on the contrary I have done all I can to help them, and they have turned their backs on me, so whether I do or don't I have the right to leave them.

Unless you have a vocation for being what we know in Catholicism as a "victim soul*" I would advise getting away from them for awhile and finding some good friends to hang around with and talk for awhile. Even if you don't sever contact, true friends are very helpful in such situations. If that's not possible you can most assuredly find someone here who has been in a similar situation.

*Victim Soul [to my understanding] - someone who allows his/her self to bear burdens for the sake of salvation for other souls. In short - someone who bears their cross as Christ did [to their best abilities].


#10

Thank you all. I had to go to her house this morning to collect something and she was very cold and closed the door on me, so this provided me with the opportunity now to simply get on with my life in the best way that I can...
Thank you and God Bless


closed #11

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