What is driving family members away, due to an obsession with family life called?
October 26, 2006 4:08 PM   Subscribe

Is there a name for the behaviour where someone becomes so fixated on 'family' and family visits/occasions that they become controlling, unreasonable and obsessive to the point where they end up driving family members away? Is there a psychological disorder or term which might cover this?

What I'm looking for is the name for the 'family' equivalent of what happens when someone falls obsessively in love and starts to behave like a stalker - driving other people away in their neurotic attempts to pull them close: perhaps motivated by fears of loss, but bringing about the very thing they fear most.
posted by Flitcraft to Human Relations (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
We call it "Pulling a Clark Griswald."
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:13 PM on October 26, 2006

a lot of people use "dysfunctional" as a blanket statement to cover things they don't like about their family.
posted by robbie01 at 4:14 PM on October 26, 2006

Codependency? Pretty one-size-fits-all term but I think it applies.
posted by Brittanie at 4:23 PM on October 26, 2006

god, I hope there's a name for this.
Flitcraft - you're not suffering alone.
posted by ruelle at 4:32 PM on October 26, 2006

Family situations are notorious for outing the control freaks.. People think that the familial bond gives them carte blanche access to behave in ways that wouldn't be acceptable in other social situations. Boundaries get blurred.
posted by jazzkat11 at 4:49 PM on October 26, 2006

My father did this. In his case it was called loneliness.
posted by jet_silver at 5:31 PM on October 26, 2006

Codependent behavior

It's the opposite of healthy boundaries.
posted by artlung at 5:31 PM on October 26, 2006

Mother-in-lawism or Grandmotherism?
posted by Mr. Gunn at 6:03 PM on October 26, 2006

posted by koeselitz at 6:17 PM on October 26, 2006 [3 favorites]

Would there really be separate term for family situations of this behavior? There may be any number of underlining reasons/disorders for their behavior.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:49 PM on October 26, 2006

Obsessive-compulsive disorder?
posted by frogan at 7:00 PM on October 26, 2006

I wondered because it seems to be much more common than I thought. Co-dependency certainly covers some of this, though its meaning seems to have broadened, since I first encountered it reading about families of alcoholics, however what puzzles me is just what is wrong deep down to prompt this sort of behaviour. Is there any more formal description of it outside the world of self-help books? I know co-dependency is a controversial concept in psychiatry with some people saying it doesn't hold up as a concept, but boy, does this exist!
posted by Flitcraft at 7:09 PM on October 26, 2006

Tar-and-feathering your nest?
Or perhaps electric-blanket syndrome?
posted by rob511 at 7:15 PM on October 26, 2006

Does it really matter if it's family or not? Sounds like classic control freak behavior to me. You're going to do things their way, or you're going to be punished in some manner, leading to your drifting away. I agree that there must be some sort of underlying reason for the behavior, but it seems like that would be a more individualized diagnosis than could be given here.
posted by Meep! Eek! at 7:36 PM on October 26, 2006

They could name it after my aunt if they need a name!

We sometimes see her as being a bit of a mother hen, but that doesn't fully describe the behavior.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:01 PM on October 26, 2006

Does this person show this behavior only during family visits or at other times as well? The reason I ask is that I have a parent that suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder and the behavior you are describing goes on regularly but does indeed get worse around the holidays. This person is controlling and needy, has a horrible fear of being abandoned / ignored, so any family gathering is an audience for them to rally some quality attention, positive or negative. The contolling behavior reaches a fever pitch because of this person's need to "make sure everyone has a good time" by being basically invasive and overbearing. The rest of the family know how to deal, but no one really looks forward to family get togethers when this person will be present.
posted by Carnage Asada at 8:16 AM on October 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

I definitely have been the recipient of this type of behavior in my family and, having had a few conversations with the culprit, she seems to have this imaginary standard in her head as to what family SHOULD be doing together. There are all sorts of "rules" and "musts" and "shoulds". I have no idea where these rules come from, though. We have a ridiculously dysfunctional extended family (we put the FUN in dysFUNctional!) with all sorts of complex boundary issues, judgmental behavior, unhealthy gossip and passive aggressiveness.

The culprit really draws her self-identity from being associated with the family and is terrified of being alone or independent. She attempts to impose the "rules" on as many as she can. Some buy in and some don't.

I just chalk it up to good, old-fashioned, multi-generational co-dependency. I would love to know where all of the rules come from.
posted by jeanmari at 2:53 PM on October 27, 2006

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