Do you think should I leave my mom's side of the family?
September 30, 2018 6:22 AM   Subscribe

I have a great relationship with my dad's side of the family. They treat me with kindness, respect and love, and they show they care about me. But my mom's side of the family always treats me very bad. It's been like this all my life (I'm 30 at this moment). Should I stay away from them?

I've never liked the way my mom's side of the family treat me and I think the best for me would be to stop having contact with them. But I don't do it because I'm afraid of my mom's reaction because she's always forcing me to stay close to her family, even if they treat me so bad.

The thing is my mom's side of the family also treat her so bad! They treat her even worse! But my mom believes that family is family and we always should be close because we're family, no matter how bad they treat me or her. She also says they treat me bad because they care about me and they love me. She thinks they want me to be strong but I don't think so. And she believes they don't treat her so bad, but they do. Sometimes she reacts and recognizes she's very tired of them, but she says so only during a short period of time.

For helping you to understand what I'm talking about, I'm going to share with you some examples that I've lived with my mom's side of the family (including with my mom):

-My mom's siblings (she has two brothers and a sister) are very controlling, intolerant and self-righteous. If I don't think like them or if I don't like to do the same things like them, they think I'm crazy or stupid. And they think the same thing about my mom too. I always feel anxious, tense, nervous, and afraid around them. I'm always scared when I'm in the same room with them.

-Also, my two uncles and my aunt never take my opinions and ideas into consideration (and my mom's opinions and ideas either). We always have to do what they say, but they never do what my mom or I want to do.

-My aunt (my mom's sister) has a very bad temper and she's always nagging and yelling at everybody (not only at me, but also at her son, her husband, my mother, my two uncles, my grandmother...). My aunt has rage attacks very often, everyday, many times per day. I always have to walk on eggshells when she's around because I'm afraid of being attacked, either physically or verbally. For example, one day my aunt got so angry with my grandmother (her mother) that she threw a knitting needle at her.

-When I was 3 years old, I was in the same room with my mom, her sister and one of her brothers, and they had a very intense discussion. It was a fight against my mom. My aunt and my uncle didn't stop screaming and yelling at her, nor even when finally my mom felt defeated and sat down on the floor crying. It was even worse, when they saw my mom sat down on the floor crying they started to scream at her with more cruelty. I was so scared to see my mom like that and I crossed the room to protect her, and I started to hit my aunt's and uncle's legs to make them stop hurting my mom and I got punished by that.

-My grandma, aunt, uncles and cousins only call us when they want something.

-My cousins never want to hang out with me (we used to be close when we were kids), and they never call when they say they'll do. Or if some day I finally can arrange a plan with them, they usually call the last minute to cancel it with a lame excuse. Also, in all family reunions they always ignore me, they even avoid looking at me and even they turn their back on me, and they always sit far away from me . They never text or call first, they never make plans with me, and they never show they care about me.

-One of my cousins tells my secrets to the rest of the family, so I've stopped telling her anything about me or my life.

-And other cousin looked at me with contempt when I told her I have an online business.

-In one of my cousin's wedding, they seated all the cousins together on the same table. All the cousins but me. They seated me with the older guests and I felt very humiliated. My mom didn't like that either but we didn't say anything.

-One day, my mom, her siblings and her parents went to her sister's house to have a serious chat about a problem my grandfather was having (apparently, my grandmother said that my grandfather tried to force her to have sex when she didn't want, I don't know if this is true, but that's what she told to my mom, my aunt and my uncles). My grandfather felt trapped and he got angry, and so did my grandmother, my aunt and one of my uncles, so they started fighting verbally and physically (my grandmother scratched my grandfather, my grandfather shoved my grandmother and she fell on the floor, one of my uncles yelled at my grandfather and bit his arm for shoving my grandmother, etc)

-My mom usually gets angry when I say I'm not going to a family reunion with her family. She makes me feel guilty for not wanting to spend time with them.

-My mom is always critizing my appeareance (and people's appearance in general). I have a wavy hair but she says it's a messy hair because she loves straight hair (most of her family has straight hair). She also critizes the way I dress and she still tries to pick the clothes she thinks I should wear (but I don't leave her to do that). She's also constantly nagging me and my dad, but when she's around her family she's is completely submissive to them and never yells at or nag them.

-My aunt is also very critical with people's appearance, including mine, of course.

-One of my uncles (the one who yelled at my mom when she was sat down on the floor crying) is always critizing me, making fun of me, forcing me to like things he likes, ignoring me, treating me like I'm worthless, making me feel guilty for not being an example for my younger cousins, etc.

-My other uncle is sexually harassing me, he does it when his wife is not seen him, of course. But at the same time, he hates me a lot. He's always trying to hurt me. For example, he know I'm having TMJ problems at this moment, so he pinched my cheek the last time we had a family reunion. And he puts all my cousins's photos turning their back to my photos at my grandmother's house (because she has a table with photos of all her grandchildren). And on and on.

-And my grandmother is the coldest and the fakest person I've ever met. She's not like the typical adorable granny. It's like she didn't have feelings. And she is usually trying to make me feel like I'm stupid and she talks about my cousins like if they were goddess and goddesses. She basically talks to me like if I were retarded or a baby. Also, she only calls to us when she needs something, and when my parents and I borrow her something, she never return it to us.

-Also, my grandma and my aunt threw into the trash all the stuff my mom collected when she was single. She wanted to keep all those collections but they threw them into the trash without her premission. My mom told me they did that when she was on her Honeymoon with my dad, and she felt very bad when she came back and realized what they did.

-My mom tell me about her sex life with my dad with all details, very explicit, and when I tell her to stop because I feel awkward hearing those things, she says that I'm very close minded. She says that is very normal for parents and children to share details of their respective sex lifes. Really? I asked her if she did so with her parents and her answer was yes. She also kisses me on the shoulders and touch my boobs even if I tell her to stop because I don't like that she kisses me or touches me in that way. She replies to that "But I like to do it" and keep doing it, so I try to avoid her as much as I can.

-If I protest for the way I'm treated by them, they make me feel like I'm crazy or stupid.

-They always ruin all my parties (Birthdays, Christmas...), so I don't want to invite them anymore, but my mom forces me to invite them to my parties, even if I'm suffering with their presence, and she gets really angry if I don't do it.

-They pretend to be the perfect family around other people.

-And on and on.

I want to leave them but I feel guilty. What would you do in my case? Thank you so much!
posted by DaphneG to Human Relations (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Oh dear god. They’re horrid, and you don’t have to put up with it. I’m sorry that your mom hasn’t been the family scapegoat for so long that she can’t even see how terrible her family is, but you don’t have to accept the role just because she does. Block them all and go live your best life.

One word of caution, though. When you’re no longer there to abuse, it’ll all fall back on your mom. I hope she doesn’t pressure you to go back to the lion’s den in order to deflect their abuse off of herself and back to you, but it does happen. Protect yourself.
posted by snickerdoodle at 6:32 AM on September 30, 2018 [20 favorites]

This sounds like an enmeshment situation....the lack of boundaries, the focus on hierarchy, and the harasser uncle who is tolerated all point to that. If you get out of that situation and refuse to be part of it, you will be far better off. They will try to twist your arm any way they can to get you to come back, but don't. Toxic relationships are real. You can do better than that. When you are young, family is not a choice. When you get older, it is a choice. Just don't forget to make it if you need to.
posted by metasunday at 6:47 AM on September 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

The question you asked is: Should I stay away from them?

Yes. Of course. I think you already know this, and maybe are looking for some back up? Here's some back up. This is just about the most abusive family dynamic I've ever read about here. Please remove yourself from the toxicity as soon as possible. You should try to convince your mother to go no contact as well. Nothing good will ever come from this and "family is family" is all well and good when family is all there for each other, but these people are not ever going to be there for your mother or for you, so it is no loss to cut them all from your lives.

I two are the punching bags of the rest of your family. Please go no contact and help your mother do the same. You sound like a caring, strong, good person and you deserve so much better than what you're getting from these monsters.
posted by the webmistress at 6:51 AM on September 30, 2018 [7 favorites]

You are an adult and are allowed to have adult relationships with your family. This isn't just the one racist cousin you have to see at Thanksgiving; this is a deep pattern of abusive behavior with everyone you've mentioned, including your mom -- and no, it's not normal for parents to tell their kids details of their sex lives, or to touch their child's breasts and kiss them on the shoulder; and it's especially disturbing that she continues to do it even when you've told her to stop. I suspect your mother's calibration of what is "normal" has been damaged by her association with her birth family, and you need to get out before they gaslight you into believing that everything is fine.

Do you still live with your parents? If so, work on moving out, even if it's a crappy peeling-wallpaper apartment with three roommates. Start making excuses for why you can't make it to these family events -- you have to work. Your friend who lives in another town is sick and you are going to visit them. If your dad and/or relatives on that side of the family are trustworthy, could you confide in someone there for support?
posted by basalganglia at 6:57 AM on September 30, 2018 [13 favorites]

I suggest using a combination of grey rock and no contact methods to detach from these folks. I also recommend getting the support of a therapist who has a lot of experience helping people extricate themselves from abusive situations. They will help you navigate this situation as well as establish and maintain healthy boundaries.
posted by jazzbaby at 6:59 AM on September 30, 2018 [10 favorites]

This is all awful, and you're perfectly reasonable to want to avoid it. You're also definitely not alone in having family that behaves in this toxic, awful way. If you live with your parents, get out. If you don't see a therapist, then get started seeing one. You might find some solidarity and comfort in groups for people dealing with narcissistic parents or families. On reddit, r/raisedbynarcissists and r/justnomil (which deals with more than mothers-in-law) might be helpful. You might also find the classic post about sick systems helpful. Realizing that this is a common and destructive set of behaviors and that other people have dealt with it and founds ways to cope and stay sane can be powerful and empowering.

One thing you may learn is that there are a lot of ways to disengage form this toxic dynamic. Your choices aren't total enmeshment or moving to a monastery in Tibet. You can choose to dramatically reduce contact without cutting them out completely. You can choose to only communicate in the forms you find least stressful. You can set expectations and boundaries around your participation in family events ("I can only attend the family reunion for an hour because I have to go do X," make sure you're never dependent on someone else for a ride to or from the event). You can remove yourself from situations where people are treating you bad - just leave. You can use a gray rock approach to communicating with people if you feel like you can't completely avoid them. You have options, and working on this in therapy and connecting with others who have gone through similar struggles will help you understand them.

I have pointed you to a lot of resources about dealing with narcissists, and that may seem weird if the term is unfamiliar to you. It's not appropriate for us to internet-diagnose anyone, but I'd encourage you to evaluate the common characteristics of narcissists and other "cluster B" personality disorders, and compare them to how you observe your family behaving. These behaviors get passed down through generations, and one disordered parent can lead to dozens of people displaying disordered behaviors.
posted by jeoc at 7:14 AM on September 30, 2018 [5 favorites]

Do you think should I leave my mom's side of the family?

Yes. You do too.

The problem is that you’re going to have to meet your mother adult-to-adult to do it. She’s responsible for taking care of herself, she has to live with consequences of her actions. If she asks for help you (as an adult) get to choose how much and when to provide it.

This is a tremendously tricky transition to make and some people go their entire lives trying but never quite making it. As others have said above, find a therapist with expertise in extricating oneself from tricky family situations. You will be very very glad you did.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:16 AM on September 30, 2018 [7 favorites]

This is the typical codependent, enmeshed, dysfunctional family. Lots of shame and reactive behavior. Lack of boundaries, attempts to control, and and lack of respect for themselves and others. Everyone is trying to get love but they don't know how to give or receive it. When your mom fell to the floor, they get angry instead of trying to comfort because vulnerability is hard. They don't know how to deal with it. It's hard to comfort others and it's hard to comfort themselves. Vulnerability is hard for them because it was probably dissuaded in their youth. They weren't comforted properly and emotion wasn't allowed. This is where rage originates.

There are patterns they are repeating -- probably for generations and everyone has their role. Your mom is caught in a role.

I would keep personal stuff to myself. Not in a self-righteous way but in a self-protective way. The easiest thing to do is to only go around for special occasions. You're a grown adult and you're busy and you have a life. You don't have to say why you're not going around. Speak up if you're being treated poorly and leave if they are verbally abusive. Direct your response to the person who is verbally abusive. They will get the picture on how to treat you. It's scary and people generally don't want to rock the boat in these types of families. Try to find courage. Another useful strategy is to not engage. Ignore and walk away.

Also remember that this family is in a huge amount of emotional pain. They are most likely filled with shame and self-flaggelate. It's the cliche: "Hurt people hurt others." They don't accept themselves so it's hard to accept others. When you disagree with them on an issue they are so attached to that issue as a part of themselves that they feel wounded and defensive and lash out. It's not your job to fix them but it does help to have some understanding. Your abusive family members are not emotionally strong. They are suffering greatly. Protect yourself and hang around people who see you for you.
posted by loveandhappiness at 7:27 AM on September 30, 2018 [12 favorites]

Absolutely, stay away from these people. Honestly they sound like a great reason to move across the country and "forget" to give out your address and new phone number.

It sounds like your mother has been severely traumatized by her family all her life. She's a victim but she's also become a contributor - meaning she's passed the trauma along to you.

In time she might see that she *can* break free from her family but right now she's deeply invested in keeping you enmeshed with them. She seems to be in deep denial, probably because it's less painful to acknowledge that "my family is abusive and dysfunctional and does not love me, and I have learned to be abusive from them" than to continue to tell the lie "this is what a loving family looks like." As long as she prioritizes her family over you, be careful what you tell her (don't tell her about birthday parties, for example. If it's too hard to lie to her then just don't have a party). Going no contact with your mom might be necessary, unfortunately.

Nthing therapy.

Might be useful to read about intergenerational trauma.
posted by bunderful at 7:32 AM on September 30, 2018 [7 favorites]

Oh, my goodness. You need to get away, far away, and now. You've related a litany of behaviors that completely ignore your boundaries and are the polar opposite of what familial relationships should be. This includes your mother. Inappropriate sharing and touching are not okay, and even when behaviors are generally considered OK, when a person says "this makes me uncomfortable, don't do it" the sane response is to stop even if their boundaries are a little more expansive than most.

You have no obligation to remain in any abusive relationship, no matter what blood ties you may have with the person. None. Please get out of this situation. You have this Internet Stranger's permission to do so entirely and completely without feeling any guilt about it.

At 30 you should feel empowered to choose who you let into your life, and who you wish to exclude. If a person or group consistently treat you abusively, then you owe it to yourself to protect yourself. Imagine for a moment that you have guardianship of another person in the same situation that you are in. Would you leave them in that situation, or would you pull them out of it?

Your mother has failed you here in allowing and encouraging you to remain in contact with these people. It's too bad she doesn't see this as abusive and continues to take this from her family, but there is no need to perpetuate the cycle and allow yourself to be abused even one more day. Be kind to yourself and get out. I wish you the best.
posted by jzb at 7:37 AM on September 30, 2018 [6 favorites]

I can't think of any reason to spend time with such people. I would disengage without drama. Make other plans, and don't go to Uncle Jerk's birthday party. Send a bland card instead. Make new friends and spend your birthdays with them. The big holidays - Thanksgiving in the US, Christmas - will carry a lot of pressure to attend. Go if you must, but be prepared to leave early with stomach trouble. But start making the kind of friends who you can have those celebrations with, or stay home. You might want to attend weddings and funerals; there may be worthwhile family members to stay in touch with. Over time, as you grow and become your own strong person, you will not be as susceptible to their garbage.

There's a great book about dealing with someone who has Borderline Personality Disorder, also useful for dealing with anyone who has poor boundaries, is manipulative, highly dramatic, etc. Stop Walking on Eggshells.

If your Mom touches you in ways you don't like, you have to stand up for yourself. Say Stop That! I hate it in a strong voice, and walk away. To deal with my Mom, I learned to leave the conversation, the house, and eventually moved away. I've had a few lonely holidays, but I'd rather have a turkey pot pie and a good book than meanness.

I can't tell if you are an adult. This is harder if you're a minor living at home. I f you are, start preparing for your independence.
posted by theora55 at 7:38 AM on September 30, 2018 [2 favorites]

What if you found out there was a mix-up at the hospital, and you weren't actually related to any of them?

It doesn't really matter who you're related to. Your life should be full of people who love you and are good to you. Make room for those people by getting the fuck rid of anybody else. People who consistently treat you badly are not owed anything except a quick ride in the ejector seat.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 7:53 AM on September 30, 2018 [9 favorites]

Yes. I would stay away. I'd get as much distance as I could and would try not to feel guilty. You're the one who takes care of you, and that means cutting out people who harm you. And they are committing abusive behaviors. Your instincts are right on. Think about if you had a child. Would you keep your child away from them? You deserve the same.

Not everything you list is the same level. A diss in seating a or a wedding, or being late to return things, is different from the physical and emotional abuse. But the worst of what you list is intolerable.

Your mom is wrong when she says family has to put closeness to family first. When they acted this way, they showed they weren't acting like family. I would cut off contact as much as possible. Make a plan and stick to it. Try imagining that if they were reasonable, they would want the same--for you to keep yourself safe.

There is no survival based need to stay with them, like not starving in winter or defending your home or something--I think that's where the "family above all" idea comes from, but it's irrelevant in modern society. Break from your mom on this; her thinking sounds distorted.

I would also go into therapy.
posted by ramenopres at 7:53 AM on September 30, 2018 [2 favorites]

I cut off one side of my family. It is by far the best desicion I made for my heath physically, mentally and emotionally.

It is worth it.

You can do it if you want to.
posted by AlexiaSky at 8:07 AM on September 30, 2018 [5 favorites]

Heeeeeey. Hi. Take a deep breath with me, will you?

There is a lot of systemic abuse, trauma, and dysfunction in your mom’s family. Are you or your mom financially dependent on these people? If not, just stop talking to them. I did the same with my mom’s family when I was 14 yrs old. You’ll be FINE. The Grey Rock and No Contact suggestions above are excellent.

You do not need to hold on to this drama as evidence. You are an adult and you are free to simply say no thank you to your mom when she pushes her family on you. You don’t have to convince your mom or get permission. You simply make not interacting with them your new normal. Always have independent transportation so you can smoothly exit if your mom is pressuring you, or if her family shows up.


I cannot stress the above point above enough. Practice scripts with a therapist or friend.

Since you are making this transition, please consider adopting a healthy practice you can rely on to give you a place to go get your mind off of this, to help you feel better in general, and to help you process everything. Something that includes exercise, deep breathing, some sort of meditation or flow state, and a group of other people. Some people do all the group classes at their gym, especially spin class. Yoga ia great for this. Triathlon groups are amazing. Hiking. Martial Arts. Climbing centers. Volley Ball or Dodge Ball leagues. You get the idea.

Fill your life with positive pleasant people and experiences.

I’m sorry for your mother and her family because they are suffering the effects of long term trauma and abuse that likely goes back generations. They are COMPLETELY unconscious of it. You will never convince your mother to see it. I’m sorry. The good news is that you are 30 and you have a chance to make a different future for yourself. What these people say or think about you is zero zilch none of your business. Tell yourself this every day: What Other People Think or Say About Me is None of My Business.

I know you’ve gotten great advice. As someone who has done this, I urge you to (a) get a practice going, and (b) grok that ending those connections is as easy and low drama as saying no thank you + politely physically exiting any situation. Independent transportation and your willingness to use it is the key.

Good luck. You’ll be fine. I promise.
posted by jbenben at 8:08 AM on September 30, 2018 [6 favorites]

I'm really intent on making another ejector seat metaphor... you should pull the ejector seat lever on your seat before the plane crashes, and fly away. Maybe keep some very, very arms-length contact with your mom, like still send her Mother's Day cards and birthday cards, but don't let her do any of these things to you again or control your life and holidays or make you feel bad. Or no contact at all, whatever you think.

You need to love yourself and take care of yourself, because these people obviously haven't been doing that.
posted by XMLicious at 8:57 AM on September 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

You mention "my mother will guilt me if I..." several times. You have to decide if it's worth putting in the energy to manage that boundary. It won't be easy, but I believe it will be different-hard (and likely easier) than living with what you describe. Several people up-thread have given great advice re: trying to manage that by refusing to engage with the contentious issue when in conversation with your parents.

I personally feel that it is worth going no-contact over stuff less awful than this -- I have been no contact with my mother and her family for 6 years, after minimal contact for about 10 before that, due to similar but less-extreme shenanigans. I have never been healthier and happier. It was easy for me since my parents are divorced, so it had no bearing on my relationship with my father (which remains very positive). If you have to manage your relationship with your father, that makes things more complex in ways I have no experience dealing with, but I still think it's probably worth it to reduce the level of background awful in your life.
posted by Alterscape at 9:53 AM on September 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

"my mom believes that family is family and we always should be close because we're family, no matter how bad they treat me or her."

Ridiculous. This is a large part of the reason why they treat you both so badly. Because they know you're not going to leave and will therefore put up with it. She's probably also saying this because she wants you to experience what she's experienced with them so that she doesn't feel alone as being the only victim. She may not even realize that's what she's doing. What she said here is a script abusive families often like to brainwash their family members with because they need their victims to stay in the relationship in order to control them.

"-They pretend to be the perfect family around other people."
This is what abusive families do all the time. Put a different face to the world while behind closed doors it's another thing entirely.

Going no contact works for most people in your situation. The way it's described is this: 'I was miserable before the no contact because they were in my life and I was miserable after the no-contact because I didn't have anyone to share the family holidays with anymore.. but I was much LESS miserable during the latter than the former. So if I have to choose between being more miserable and being less miserable then I choose being less so.' In other words you may not have a happy, honkey dory life afterwards, but it will still be better than what you had to deal with before.

Very sorry you had to deal with those things. They all sound truly awful and toxic. Please save yourself. If you grow up in that sort of thing its impossible to realize just how much damage it's actually doing to you because it's all you've ever known.
posted by fantasticness at 10:12 AM on September 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

shared blood does not oblige one to accept abuse. these people are objectively bad. distance yourself from them. if you feel emotionally up to it you can encourage your mom to do the same but this SHOULD NOT BE YOUR PRIORITY, nor is your priority managing her feelings about your choice to avoid her side of the family. your priority is looking out for yourself.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:15 AM on September 30, 2018 [4 favorites]

If nothing else, cutting them off and going no contact will piss them off incredibly so you can live with the satisfaction that they needed you more than you need them.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:27 AM on September 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you're worried about leaving your mother behind, think of you leaving as marking a path for her. She can choose to follow you or not. But you are choosing to have something better for you.
posted by emjaybee at 1:10 PM on September 30, 2018 [7 favorites]

I didn't even read your description of the problems before I thought: Yes, of course.

If family isn't making your life better at all and is in even a small way making your life worse and you don't see a clear path to that changing--obviously there are many things that can be temporary hardships that would be different--then you don't need any more than that. You're your own person. You don't belong to them.

I haven't had contact with my mom or her family for nearly two years now, and I am still sometimes quite angry with them, but overall my life has improved like tenfold with their absence. It's really remarkable. They were just this constant drain on me, and I was never going to be the person they wanted me to be, and yet I'd been trying for thirty years. Given how they are, how are they going to be worse if they're mad at you if you're not actually spending time around them?

That business of family meaning something even if family isn't good to you is bullshit. If it meant that you always had to be there for them, it'd also mean they'd always have to be there for you and they wouldn't treat you this way. If you can't rely on them when you need them, there's no point in enduring all this.
posted by Sequence at 2:02 PM on September 30, 2018 [2 favorites]

What would I do? Get therapy to get help on going no contact with mom's family, and to help deal with the guilt. You may also want to consider not being in contact with mom for a while since she's the facilitator for her family's abuse towards you, AND that she's also sexually abusing you (touching you without your consent, and telling you details of her sex life with your dad). I realize that calling this sexual abuse may seem very strong, but it's all on a spectrum. Telling you about her sex life is some seriously fucked up shit, in addition to touching you without your consent.

As others have said, there is some deep, systemic intergenerational abuse, trauma and dysfunction going on here that you can't fix, nor should it be your responsibility to fix. So, you have to make a choice: status quo (having this particular relationship with mom, giving into your guilt, etc.) or making a change. And only you can define what that change looks like. It could be no-contact with her family, and no or low-contact with mom, and what, if any kinds of conversations you want to have with her about this (I advise maaaybe a one-line message to her about what you intend to do, if anything). You're at the point where you have to choose yourself or choose your mom and her family. So... choose yourself.

emjaybee speaks the truth. In choosing yourself, you're also setting an example for mom to show her what it looks like to choose oneself. Like, if you can do it, maybe she can. On the flipside, she may think, if she can handle her family, why can't you? And the "but it's faaaaaamily!" thing is really powerful. That's a big core belief that she'll have to interrogate and she just may not be able to.

Totally out of left field - I'm guessing you're Asian? I wouldn't be surprised if you were, and of course you may not be. (I am Chinese Canadian so that's where this sense comes from.) If you are, you might find r/asianparentstories helpful on reddit. If you're not, I apologize.
posted by foxjacket at 2:23 PM on September 30, 2018 [3 favorites]

Just stop interacting with them, period. Tell your mother why: "this is a toxic and abusive atmosphere."

Your mother will try to force you to interact with them. She'll be angry. She will use any leverage she has. You have to resist.

Your mother, of course, will still bear the brunt of their abuse. But she is an adult and also has the choice to cut them off. You can support her, then.
posted by JamesBay at 2:37 PM on September 30, 2018 [3 favorites]

Unless you stop being part of their dumb drama, you will eventually become them. Get out while you still can recognize all this bullshit as unhealthy.
posted by Foam Pants at 11:25 PM on September 30, 2018 [3 favorites]

Run. Run. Run.

Same here. My father's family were the greatest, my GF/
GM were saints. They've been gone for years but I still love them.

My Mom's side, not so much. The "abuse" started when I was a little kid and continues to this day - mostly put downs, all my accomplishments were laughable (2 MAs?), my degrees must be fake etc . And they would broadcast their opinions far and wide, including contacting employers and my friends. They were/are the most awful, disgusting, pseudo upper class shits (their family came on the Mayflower!!) in New England. This plagued my poor Mom till the day the poor soul died, she couldn't figure it out.

I keep my distance, as you should. You are never going to turn them around. Be good to yourself and just stay away.
posted by james33 at 4:55 AM on October 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

Wow. I agree with everyone that your mom's family sounds incredibly abusive and it 100% sounds like the right decision to never see them again.

I think the big issue, as several people have mentioned, is how to handle this with your mom. I think maybe framing it with her as "leaving" them is what's causing a lot of her angst, and is also unnecessary. It seems to me like you could just stop going to events where they will be there, and stop responding to texts/etc. from them. No big announcement is needed. Actually, it sounds like they are really into high drama, and I wonder if that influence is part of what's making you feel like you need to take a big stand (if that is actually what you mean). Just stop engaging.

As for your mom, it's good that you've already talked with her about this, because you don't have to go into it again. You mention her "forcing" you to go to events, but unless you are a minor (it doesn't sound like it), she can't actually force you. She can pressure/manipulate you, but she can't force you. And pressure/manipulation only works so long if you are just kind but straightforward with her. How do you think a conversation like this would go?

Mom: OK, so dinner at Aunt's house is at 5 on Sunday, I'll see you there!
You: Actually, mom, I'm not going to be able to go.
Mom: But you have to go, it's family, etc.
You: Sorry mom, I can't go to dinner. Do you want to catch up later next week? I could come over and have dinner with you and dad [or whatever makes sense]

Just keep stating you're not going while you also reinforce that you want to spend time with her.

Now, it does sound like your relationship with your mom is fraught too. This might indeed make it worse. When you get distance from the rest of her family, you might find yourself wanting distance from her too. Her family also might attempt to use her to get to you (they might want their punching bag back). Cross that bridge when you come to it.

Nthing talking to a therapist about this. I think that would be really helpful in terms of getting an outside perspective on what boundaries to set and how to maintain them.

On preview: yeah, if you still live with your parents, this makes it a little more complicated, especially with your mom. But you can still just not go to family events. If other family members come over, you can go to your room or go out. Same if your mom is being pushy about this. Even if you're living with your parents, you get to have boundaries.
posted by lunasol at 10:36 AM on October 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

I agree that your family is treating you in a horribly abusive manner. In addition to a lot of good advice above, don't let anyone tell you abuse makes you bad/toxic cycle of abuse myths or whatever, or force you to deal with it in any way that isn't comfortable for YOU. If you want to go to therapy, do it, but also part of being free from this is you can decide the ways in which you heal and the form it will take. You sound like a really kind person.
posted by colorblock sock at 12:57 PM on October 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

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