Do I have to be loyal even if they're wrong?
September 8, 2011 11:06 AM   Subscribe

Is loyalty expected amongst family members even when they are wrong?

One of my parents exhibits the same behavior as someone with a paranoid personality disorder. IANAD, so therefore am not saying they have this, but do exhibit all the same characteristics. As a result, my parent is often on the attack, holding grudges, feeling victimized and constantly slighted. When I'm around this parent, I'm constantly reminded that I should take their side in these faux battles because as their son, I should be loyal. I, however, don't want to validate their maladaptive thinking and behavior.
posted by jmmpangaea to Human Relations (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Loyalty is about being there and doing your best for someone. It's not about unquestioning acceptance. If by disagreeing with your parent you influence them in such a way that they become a better person and benefit from your criticism, isn't that the greater loyalty?

There's a reason why the term 'blind loyalty' is a negative one.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 11:13 AM on September 8, 2011 [9 favorites]

You are your own human being and, I assume, an adult. You make this choice. Is it expected? Depends who you ask. I, personally, consider the filial-piety-above-all-else thing to be a crock of shit. If someone treats you poorly, you don't have to take it.

My mom wasn't the best person, emotionally. Our relationship improved tenfold when we got some serious distance between us. However, she never distanced herself as much from her mother (who has a personality disorder), who was even worse and every day there was a phone conversation with yelling, yelling, yelling. I decided my life was not going to be like this.

I ignore, and continue to ignore, phone calls until I decide it is time to take them. I also decide when they end. They're with grandma now -- my mom passed away, and was a bit better about this, but not great -- but the second she starts up The Bullshit, I say goodbye and hang up cold. It's not teaching her anything. She will never be different, and, according to relatives, she has never been different. I am preserving my sanity in the face of the fact that this person raised me.

Again, nothing is required of you except that which you make required. I require my sanity intact and, due to that, limit my interaction with my family. I have no regrets. If anyone makes noises about it, about how I should treat my family with more "respect" or "loyalty", I tell them to appreciate their relationship with their family, because they have a much better one than I do. And then I continue on preserving myself.
posted by griphus at 11:16 AM on September 8, 2011 [4 favorites]

Is loyalty expected amongst family members even when they are wrong?

First, this question is too abstract. What do you mean by "loyalty"? What relevance does that have in this situation?

In a general sense, it's expected, yes, but it's not necessarily correct. I really think that you absolutely shouldn't undermine family members/SOs in public. But you're supposed to be their anchor of reality who's willing to call them on their crap in private... assuming rationality.

But, face the facts, your parents are adults, and you're not supposed to be their caretakers/cheering squad, at least until they're too old to take care of/make decisions for themselves. My point is that precisely because this are "faux battles," you shouldn't pour too much energy into it. Even if they were real battles, you aren't supposed to "rescue" your parents when they can presumably take care of themselves.

Don't argue with the parent. Let the parent have his/or say, change the subject and/or beg off when they go on a paranoid tear.
posted by deanc at 11:26 AM on September 8, 2011

I have learned from NAMI Family to Family class active and respectful listening. Acknowledge what the other person is saying, or mirror what he/she is saying. My personal experience as a mother of a son who is affected by Schizophrenia is that he feels better if he can say what he really thinks to at least a few persons: he knows perfectly well that I do not see things his way, and that I do not agree with his bizarre theories. I have learned on my part that logical arguments are not productive to calmness and that a few "I hear you" or "Did you said that..." or "Let me paraphrase that..." makes him feel more real.
posted by francesca too at 11:27 AM on September 8, 2011 [4 favorites]

Is loyalty expected amongst family members even when they are wrong?

Yes, very often it is.

But going along with the rantings of a mean-spirited and possibly mentally ill person out of a sense of guilt or fear of confrontation is foolish.
posted by General Tonic at 11:32 AM on September 8, 2011 [5 favorites]

Is loyalty expected amongst family members even when they are wrong?

I agree with griphus - and plan to take that advice myself.

Your parent should NOT expect you to make them feel better about themself constantly (if that is the case) nor should they be putting you in that position, no matter if you are 10 or 40 years old. It's unfortunate they don't get help for their mental issue(s) - that might help your relationship improve.
posted by Ghastly girl at 11:45 AM on September 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

When they say that, tell them that as their son, you show your loyalty in other, more sincere ways (be prepared to name them), and you consider petty arguments and grudges to be beneath your attention.
posted by hermitosis at 12:00 PM on September 8, 2011

Thanks, all really great answers. This clears some of it up and I plan on using some of the ideas put forward.
posted by jmmpangaea at 12:26 PM on September 8, 2011

My mother is a bit like your parent and she and my father used to get into these ridiculous feuds with neighbors where my mother would interpret everything these nefarious neighbors were doing as attacks on her. For example, "they go out in their yard and scream at each other because they know it bothers me!" When this drama reached the point where she couldn't talk about anything else, my sister and I just told her to keep us out of it, it was between her and the neighbors, and not to talk to us about it any more. It took a while of reminding her over and over, but she finally shut up about it. This is something to consider, though you should be prepared for a whole lot of heat about it from your parent. In my experience, this is the only way to preserve your sanity, but you have to be ready for the anger it could cause. Personally, I think that kind of drama is worth it. I've sold myself out too many times to make other people happy; now that I know who I am and how I deserve to be treated, people will treat me right or they will be out of my life.

Also, loyalty doesn't mean agreeing with whatever kind of weird idea comes out of a parent's mouth. You are still your own person, with your own brain and your own judgment, and you have to do what you think is right.

Also also, "Nefarious Neighbors" is available for use as a band name.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 12:29 PM on September 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Speaking as someone who is in the middle of laying out boundaries like this with my in-laws, along with my SO... I'm going to offer a hesitant yes, in certain family situations "loyalty" or "standing together" or plenty of other Nice Cover Names for 'being a jerk to an outsider' is required- on behalf of one person. (For me, it's my SO and I vs my in-laws and my SIL, in their minds- which it has kind of become, unfortunately.)

If your parent is coming up to you with this kind of request ('I need you to gang up with me on Neighbor X because they're omg stealing my tulip bulbs!'), you need to a: Not encourage it, and b: Divert, divert, divert. They come up with 'but you need to be on my side!'? Your answer needs to be banal and a non-answer. 'That's nice, Dad.' "I'm sorry you feel that way, but I'm not available to do so.'

The only other possibility I have for diverting this is dependent on your parent being under some kind of mental health care already. If this is a new thing, and they're on some form of medication, their mental health professional needs to know.

I do, however, agree with the above stating that there needs to be a bit more background on this in order to get a more concise answer.
posted by Hwin at 12:44 PM on September 8, 2011

Show your loyalty by being as kind as you can be. Demanding unquestioning support and agreement in the name of loyalty is manipulative, and loyalty does not require that you allow yourself to be manipulated.

Respond to the feelings, not the details.
"Uncle Frank is behaving badly to me; you can't speak to him at Cousin' Chris' wedding." Gosh, mom, you must feel terrible. Let me give you a hug.

Diversion, absolutely.
"My life is terrible; your dad's family is ganging up on me. The wedding will be a crisis. rant, rant, rant." We'll be there, and we love you. Hey, what are you going to wear? "rant, rant" Tell me about *your* wedding. "rant" Seriously, Dad really knew how to cut a rug?

I was the 2nd of my siblings to put emotional and physical distance between my Mom and me; the 1st joined the military. She was losing her ability to control/manipulate me, and she pulled out all the stops. I learned to get off the phone when she got mean, to leave a room, building or state if that's what it took. It took quite a while, but Mom learned that it didn't work, so she let go, stopped trying so hard to manipulate me, and we had a relationship that was more honest, and pretty good. Maybe not the mother-daughter relationship of my dreams, but also not horrid. Keep the goal in mind; it's not a short or easy transition.

Be loving, send cards and flowers. Lots of short calls work better than long calls that turn into rants. Get in the habit of calling home on the way from the gym to the store on Saturday, or whatever, so you can say. I'm at the grocery store now, gotta get off the phone. I'll call you again soon. I love you. Bye. Try to see her good side. Be appreciative of the love she feels for you, even while you do not accept bad behavior. Encourage her to seek therapy Mom, maybe you could see a therapist; you deserve to have someone who can really listen, and help you deal with everything. The doctor suggested anti-depressants? Why not try them? You deserve to feel better, besides, my friend Terry lost weight. Let's go get the prescription filled; you don't have to take them, but maybe you'll want to try them. Good luck to you and your Mom.
posted by theora55 at 2:28 PM on September 8, 2011 [3 favorites]

A certain amount of loyalty should be present but not to the point where it's diminishing your quality of life. If you do not agree with your parent, you should not have to agree with them purely because they are your parent. This can cause all kinds of drama though, so sometimes it can be easier to be non-committal.
posted by mleigh at 5:28 PM on September 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

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