How do I deal with extended family that I find emotionally draining?
July 25, 2009 7:18 PM Subscribe
How do I deal with my extended family if every moment I spend with them results in emotional turmoil and descents into deep depression much like their own?
posted by anonymous to human relations (23 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I live out of state from most of my family and have a happy little family all my own. Things are going great for me: I have happy children, a nice house, a loving wife, a great job. I'm an upbeat person and know how lucky I am, and I enjoy every minute of life. I'm thankful every day of my life.
My parents and my sibling and his family are located in the state where I grew up, pretty much still in my hometown. Parents are suffering from multiple ailments where one is in and out of the hospital while the other tries to work a full time 3rd shift job (and they're both in their 60s). They suffer from a string of bad luck and worse choices. There are unpaid credit cards, minor car accidents, a house with urine soaked carpeting and cockroaches running about. My sibling's family is deep in consumer debt, my sibling has had a dead end job for over a decade that they complain about. They hit their children as discipline. They buy new cars and go on vacations while barely being able to make rent. Both parents and sibling have had to call me and ask for thousands of dollars to evade eviction.
Now I'm a happy guy that knows he is lucky to have a good life, but whenever I'm in the company of my family (I fly out to see them once every 4 months or so) I try to talk to them to help them and I hear nothing but negativity how there's no upside to their situations and how the world is unfair and against them. They complain that I don't visit enough (I've mentioned it costs $1k-2k to fly out with hotels/cars etc.). They complain endlessly about their problems and seem to have little idea (and put no effort into) how to dig themselves out of their predicaments. Sometimes for me it feels like yelling at a wall.
Interacting with my extended family involves lots of frustration (half with them not trying to make better decisions, half with my powerlessness to help them) tons of emotion and overall I leave feeling completely depressed with little hope for the human race.
Interacting at home with my own family is a supportive, wonderful environment but anything more than a phonecall to my extended family and I'm down in the dumps for a week. I'm starting to decrease my visits to them and call instead, but even that is incredibly emotionally draining.
I'd like to support my extended family and I hope to continue trying to help them out but every interaction tears me down and I don't know how to deal with them anymore. I don't want to cut off interaction with them because it seems incredibly selfish of me to do that, but I have to figure out some sort of middle ground. I don't know what that middle ground should be or how I can keep myself from falling into their spirals of negativity.
What should I do?