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How to respond to people asking about my family?


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I am so saddened by how many of you feel off put (someone said “like a star on a freak show”) by simple questions or statements. People don’t know what they don’t know, and will likely continue to do these same things unless you tell them how they’ve made you feel. I lead a pretty textbook “normal” life. I wanted marriage, I wanted kids, I bought a house, now I’m working on the American dream...and I would hope to God that if I said or asked something that came off the wrong way, they’d tell me. I ask a lot of questions, I like to hear alternative perspectives and learn about others’ experiences. That’s how you learn and grow, relate and make friends, and it sucks to think that taking a genuine interest in someone may have left them feeling invaded. We don’t know unless you tell us and believe me, we’d feel terrible if we knew we did it. Don’t let us keep doing it, educate us.

To your point, OP, I think you can answer however you want. Do you think if you started being honest it might help you feel more comfortable with the truth? I mean something simple and vague like “I’m not really close with my family and don’t really like to talk about them”. I only ask because you don’t deserve to have to carry it around like it’s a big embarrassing secret. That must be so heavy. It’s part of your life, part of who you are, and you deserve to be proud of who you are. I’m confident that if you do decide to own it, you’ll find others respond with understanding and compassion. The others above are right when they say there are MANY families with dynamics that you know nothing about unless you’re involved. 

I’m so sorry for how your parents and brother treated you, I can’t even imagine. I hope you know that their behavior is a reflection of them, not you. You could’ve been an angel child from God, but if that’s the kind of people they are, that’s the way they will act regardless. You be you. I’m proud of you for having the strength to walk away. I hope you recognize how big of an accomplishment that is. Now use that strength to love yourself, and pursue your own happiness.

Edited by indea08
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Well there's really two issues. Family problems and nosy people touching a raw nerve.

As far as zoom guy, yes keep things simple.

As far as family, stay estranged from them.

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Speaking as someone who hasn't seen her MIL since Fall 2011 (wow, 10 years now), and my husband hasn't in 1.5 years, nor spoken to her in over a year, being estranged from family is 10x more common than you think.  Don't be embarrassed or think you're weird.  You chose to save your life. You chose to be brave and fight for your survival. You left an abusive situation knowing you didn't deserve to be abused.

It's not your fault that they suck.  You could have been the best kid in the world, and they still would have been abusive.  They ask for money as their way to keep control of you. It's not love or need. They just aren't good people.  And it does not mean you are or going to be a crappy parent or person.

It's okay to even be honest that you stopped talking to them.  I have always been upfront to coworkers, friends, family because my MIL have stalked us, and I want them to know what's going on for safety reasons.  And to the cops when she comes to the house unannounced.  And the interesting part is, the reason why I know is common, is because a bunch of friends will then tell me about the as$hat in their life.

And speaking as someone who's had to review her FB account, and hide a bunch of things from public, I would recommend you do as well. 

And go treat yourself. You work hard, and deserve a little love for yourself.

Edited by tattoobunnie
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On 4/28/2021 at 12:22 PM, Batya33 said:

I helped myself because I married at 42 and was subject to so many unsolicited rude comments.  

"How's the wild and crazy single life?" ( when I was 40 and in an exclusive serious relationship - but not yet engaged)

"But why do you want to have kids, you're a [insert my male-dominated profession]"

"You know, we're buying a house because that's the next step everyone does"

"Why is someone so [backhanded compliments] still single?"

"Your clock is ticking for adoption too"

Good grief, woman! My hand is itching to slap these people. ahahhahah

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Thank you everyone. Really appreciate all the help, kind words and share stories.

It is true that my situation is more common than I think. I have to start with my own family. Both my parents are estranged from their own families and haven't spoken to anyone in decades. I don't know my extended family, so I can't tell whether they are good or bad. It seems to be a recurring pattern in my family. 

I think if it weren't for people's judgmental comments, I probably wouldn't feel as inadequate. Someone once asked me about whether I'd be going "home" for Christmas and I said "home" is where I currently live and that I wasn't too keen on visiting. I sensed their discomfort from their reaction and from that point on decided to just keep it short and sweet. It's even more painful in the current circumstances as everyone is suddenly overly vocal about the importance of family (especially on social media). I agree that family is important, but family can take various shapes. I'm my own family for now and although it can sometimes feel lonely and a bit sad to not have someone to turn to if you're having a bad day, I think it made me stronger. At least I know I don't need anyone's validation and I choose the type of energy I want in my life. 

In all fairness, I wasn't a mischievous kid at all. I wasn't allowed to go out have friends, so I spent my days studying, drawing or playing computer games. I wasn't the kid of who went to parties, took drugs, smoked, skipped school or stole. On the contrary, I was a straight A quiet student as studying was my only escape. They on the other hand, always accused me of skipping school to hang out with boys (even when I actually was at school). I would go to school even when I was very sick, that's how much I liked it. It's anecdotal at this point. 

I actually deleted my social media the day following that birthday incident I described. My sister gave my Instagram handle to my brother, allowing him to send me that rude message. No one in my family knew I had Instagram except her, so she sure was the cause of the leakage. Instagram caused me issues at the time as I should have kept the whole thing private and I didn't. To be honest, I didn't think it would trigger that specific situation, but it did. I now deleted all my social media. I was never into it in the first place anyway. I was vilified for not helping out, but my brother owns two luxury cars (God knows how he got them) and has now issues plastering them all over Instagram. So in the end, it was crystal clear they only saw me as a cash cow. 

I'm still afraid of ever having children or getting married to be honest. I'm a quiet and level headed individual, but I'm actually afraid of having one of their negative traits suddenly surface in front of my future kid or partner. I certainly don't want to create the same negative cycle. I'd rather be on my own if that could turn out to be the case. 

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Now, now, Rivoli.  No  more of this talking yourself down!

2 minutes ago, RuedeRivoli said:

I'm my own family for now and although it can sometimes feel lonely and a bit sad to not have someone to turn to if you're having a bad day, I think it made me stronger. At least I know I don't need anyone's validation and I choose the type of energy I want in my life.

I know it's hard, but try not to give the "family" so much space inside your head.   There is a  lot of utter tripe talked all too often about "family".   Maybe family is the "flavour of the day" on social media.   I don't do FB or any social media, and if you feel that you'd be better off without the social media rubbish, then maybe give it a miss for a while. Yes?

There is no reason why you should not marry, or have children. Besides, you can't tell the future lol!  

You know, R, an awful lot of people aren't too bright and have a tendency to ask the stupidest questions. Just let it wash over you.

 

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But you don't have to perpetuate a negative cycle.

My mother often was overly critical of me. She said things to me a mother should never, ever say to her child. I too was afraid I'd talk to my kids that way. But since I was aware of it, I just didn't do it. My mother also wore it like a badge of honor that her children were afraid of her. She thought that meant she had well behaved children. She also spanked. I didn't want my children to fear me, so I didn't spank them and I didn't engage with them in a way that would cause a fear response.  Respect, yes. Fear, no.

Since you are aware I am fairly certain you won't interact with your children in a negative way. But if you have concerns you could always talk them over with a therapist.

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Agree with Boltnrun (and of course you can adopt).  I think social media always exaggerates the importance of whatever the flavor of the month is.  Like - lately it's all about how the top priority once fully vaccinated is to hug our parents.  So, you know, I do want to see my mom (plane flight -haven't seen her since Feb. 2019, speak with her 5 times a week or more) - but honestly -I feel very connected to her right now.  I don't need a hug.  I do want my son to see her but that's a separate reason.  I really dislike the assumptions about what we'll prioritize as things get back to normal.  I talk to and interact with many family members and I cannot wait to have more space from my son -I love him and virtual school since March 2020 is a weeeee bit much as far as togetherness in an apartment. 

So all of the "oh this pandemic is great for family bonding, we've slowed down so much because we're not driving Peanut to soccer and karate and coding and basket weaving" - uh huh.  I private message with many on Facebook.  Please know that they post lots of idyllic Norman Rockwell photos, lots of photos of their kids taking up gardening or making sandwiches for people who can't get food right now and many of them -the parents -are quietly going insane and drinking or eating far too much.  Not all.  But please remind yourself social media is not reality and I'm glad you're not doing that.  

I'll share an anecdote.  In 2013 my mother in law died.  My son was 4 and a handful, ball of adorable energy.  my husband was grieving, shell shocked - had I gone to the funeral it would have meant me taking my son by myself on a plane flight and staying either at a hotel with him by myself or burdening my mom for the week or so and having to keep him occupied during the funeral (meaning hiring a stranger to be his babysitter most likely) the mourning period, all the visitors.  My father in law told my husband "I do not want to put her through that - please tell them not to come because it's too much work and not to come for me" - My husband said the same and meant it.  I watched the funeral on line. 

But my dear friend was horrified.  "No!! you pack a bag tonight and you take your son and be there for your husband!!!"  Because that's what families do, right?  That's what the assumption is "of course you do whatever it takes to be by your husband's side when his mother died, of course you don't think of all the logistical nightmare, family first!!"  In hindsight -best decision ever.  For our family.  Maybe for no other family.  I spent tons of time with my MIL when she was alive.  Loved her.  My husband read my eulogy at the funeral. 

I share this because there are just so many assumptions made about family and what we're supposed to do, how we're supposed to act, what we're supposed to feel.  And - by the way -so many assumptions that are dismissive of friendship because the friends aren't "family".  Really?? Says who??

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Before feeling guilty, consider that your parents feign looking 'down' on you about money merely because they are scapegoating you for the fact that they are failures in this area themselves.

What better way to deflect self-blame than to project it onto someone else's vulnerability, and of course they know you are vulnerable because they've CREATED that vulnerability in you.

So try using every opportunity where you feel lousy about this to flip the table and take your power back. Recognize this as THEIR problem, and you get to decide the degree to which they get to pass it on to you.

From there, you can keep a private goal of operating in the world without shame or blame. 

This doesn't mean you'll always be successful at it, but holding it as a goal toward which you can build your resilience is a worthy pursuit.

As for nosey guy, you've written about him before. He's intrusive, and you don't need to answer everything you are asked. Just ignore the question by taking as long of a pause as you wish--the longer the better to impose some discomfort on him, and then ask him a work question. He'll either get the hint, or he's too dense to even care about what he thinks.

Head high as you grown beyond the ignorance of family.

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Excellent post Cat.  The best yet.  

Operate in the now" Rivoli, try not to overthink, and don't let anyone try to make you believe you are "less than". 

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