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Family Facepalm


Jibralta
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This is a difficult topic to discuss, because my brain gets all twisted up when I think about it. It's basically the relationship between my mom, my sister, and me. My mom has positioned herself as a middleman between my sister and me. My sister is happy this way, my mom is happy this way, I am not happy this way. I've tried to circumvent it in the past, but have never been successful. 

My sister and my mom have (what I believe to be) a very codependent relationship with each other. I think it's a natural dynamic for their personality types. They are both naturally manipulative people. They actually conspire together to control situations, and they can do it almost without speaking. They are in complete denial about this. 

They validate each other, even when what they are doing is mean or wrong--especially then. It's very annoying. When we were growing up, my sister would always take my mom's side against me in arguments, and my mom encouraged this. She claimed that my sister was 'fair' because she is a Libra (lol). But believe me, my sister isn't 'fair'--my sister is looking out for No. 1. And so is my mom.

My mom has this thing where she needs to feel like she never makes mistakes and that she is always right. She also needs to feel like a "good guy." I do realize that this is why she clung so hard to my sister when we were growing up. But I have stopped hoping that my mom will somehow grow out if it. My sister continues to work this angle with my mom, and frankly, my mom likes it. She feels like my sister is her "protector," and that she needs protection from me, the kid who will call her out. Like I am her enemy. Basically, the worst thing you can do with my mom is show her that she is wrong, or make her feel like a "bad guy." But it has to be done and I get a ton of grief for it. 

My sister and my mom both have (what I consider to be) peculiar friendships. My mom boasts that she has many friends--and I guess she does, if you count all the people that would probably show up if they were invited to a party by her. But she really only hangs out with one or two couples, almost like they're security blankets. These are all like-minded people, of course. She even brings them with her when she's visiting other friends! 

As a kid, my sister was obsessed with being 'cool,' and was always hatching a scheme to fit in with the 'cool kids.' She actually went so far as to dump her own friends when a 'cool kid' expressed a dislike for said friends. Eventually, my sister did fully ingratiate herself into that cool clique. She is actually an extremely charming person. She lights up a room--and so does my mom--but she's a real btch. I think that's why she's been so successful in business. She's an apex predator. And she still sheds friends like yesterday's trash. 

My mom and my sister are both extremely competitive. But my mom will swear up and down that she (my mom) is not competitive as she complains about how much her friend Rita brags about her (Rita's) grandchild when said grandchild is nowhere near as awesome as my mom's grandchild. 

I don't know whether my sister would admit to being competitive or not, but she definitely is. And unfortunately for her, she grew up as the little sister of me, who won first place in practically every competition that I entered, could run faster and do more pull ups than any of the boys, and who was the best artist in school. My sister dreaded the first day of class, when teachers would inevitably say, "Oh, you're Jibralta's sister? Can you draw as well as she can?" One day, my sister finally burst into tears and demanded that she never be given the same teacher as me again. Her demands were met.

My mom and my sister both have nasty, spiteful tempers and they never forgive. They never admit to being wrong, and they never apologize. 

The Problem

The point of this whole diatribe is that I am once again facing the tricky machinations of my own personal mother-sister Cerberus. In August, we will be vacationing two hours from their homes (my mom lives 2 miles from my sister). It is a 13-hour drive from here to our time share. Rather than meet us there, which is a comparatively short drive for them, my mom is asking that we drive the additional 4 hour round-trip, on top of our 13-hour trip, to visit my sister, who magically can't get the time off for a day or two (she has unlimited vacation time).  

We actually have two time shares in the same location. We bought them 20 years ago, with the idea that we would reunite there with our respective families each summer. Well, it seems that the new annual family vacation date and destination has been moved. It is now this week, and it's even farther away, and no, we weren't invited. But that's not actually what's bothering me. What's bothering me is that my mom really expects us to make the journey to my sister's to stay overnight, in the middle of our vacation, when she knows that I hate staying at my sister's house (a whole nother story).

All of this was communicated through text. I responded by saying that we were willing to come down on the first Sunday after we arrived, and that we would drive back the same day. I also asked if I could purchase the time share from her. My mom holds the deed to both units (unsurprisingly), so we have to go through her to book our stay. And literally every time we go down there, my sister asks that we drive the 4-hour round trip to her instead of her coming up to see us. And we always do. Buying the unit from my mom would obviously prevent my mom from knowing when we are 'nearby' and saddling us with visitation obligations. However (unsurprisingly) my mom ignored my text. 

My mom and step dad are coming up here in two weeks to visit family and friends. We will see them for dinner one night, and I am sure this issue will come up. I get so tongue tied trying to discuss these things with my mom because she denies that she and my sister are being unreasonable. And she will get undoubtedly get upset and say that I'm totally wrong and being completely selfish, and it will be a huge aggravation. My boyfriend and I have been discussing strategies for handling my mom (and sister) for the last couple of weeks, but I don't feel any closer to a solution. My mom is so good at guilting and manipulating. It feels hopeless.

Any advice?

 

Edited by Jibralta
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Deal with the vacation plans first and leave the other upset and problems with them for the moment. If doing the extra trip and staying over at your sister's isn't something you want to do change it to something that you're not free to do. Something came up. Remove the emotion out of it and fix the issue which is being available for the trip to your sister's place. I know this is hard but don't make any room for it, period. 

The plans will adjust around what you can't do or aren't free to do. They'll figure out a way to meet you at the time share. 

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7 minutes ago, Jibralta said:

Oh, I wish it was that easy. But it'll just get added to the list of unforgivable infractions I've made over the years.

Oh I get it . I am persona non grata with my dad’s family. But if everything you do is wrong is there really a point anyway? Life is too short to torture yourself. 

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1 minute ago, Rose Mosse said:

If doing the extra trip and staying over at your sister's isn't something you want to do change it to something that you're not free to do. Something came up.

I thought of this. But literally nothing is important enough (in her eyes) for me not to visit my sister. And she will ask pointed questions about our schedule, believe me.

I guess you can say she's a little controlling 😂

And nosy! Although 'nosy' is one of those things she never admits to being, but freely points out in other people 😂😂

 

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Just now, Seraphim said:

But if everything you do is wrong is there really a point anyway? Life is too short to torture yourself. 

I KNOW. I do not understand why I even care!!! Like, why does this bother me at all? Why can't I cut them out of my life? Why is this even painful? I know that they're wrong!

I think maybe it just has to do with wanting to be part of a family.

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2 minutes ago, Jibralta said:

I KNOW. I do not understand why I even care!!! Like, why does this bother me at all? Why can't I cut them out of my life? Why is this even painful? I know that they're wrong!

I think maybe it just has to do with wanting to be part of a family.

I struggled the same with my dad. It is a desperate need to be loved. And realize that your family members are too sick to love you properly. But still the wish of the inner child is there. 

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Aw but everyone wants to be part of a family. Or at least anyone I know. You don't have to cut them off.

I think you just need to be clearer about what you're not available for (those are your boundaries without stating or spelling out b-o-u-n-d-a-r-i-e-s or offending anyone with details). If she asks more questions, reassure her everything will be fine, confirm you'll see them at the time share and tell her to enjoy herself. 

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Posted (edited)

I definitely don't want to cut them off. I love those asshles. They're my asshles. But they make me want to tear my hair out and run screaming.

22 minutes ago, Rose Mosse said:

I think you just need to be clearer about what you're not available for (those are your boundaries without stating or spelling out b-o-u-n-d-a-r-i-e-s or offending anyone with details).

If I was dealing with mentally healthy people, this would work. But my mom sees things that she disagrees with as 100% bad, and she actually feels threatened by them to the point where she will lash out in anger. I think this is what psychologists call "splitting."

I do think my mom is mentally ill to some degree. When I read about Borderline Personality Disorder, it reminds me of her a lot. It took years and years of me going to therapy understand what was going on in my family, and to realize that it wasn't normal. I'm still making discoveries about how it has affected me and my perceptions of the world around me. 

I don't know about my sister 100%, but she's got issues. Even my mom worries about her to me, in private. She may have the same mental illness as my mom (and my grandmother, who actually used to bang her head against the wall in rage!). But because she is my sister and not my mom, I perceive it differently. Just like I perceived my grandmother differently.

They were all genetically related, and I am adopted. Our personality differences are extremely obvious. It's like being raised by wolves haha. 

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Your mom and sister are insecure.  They may not act like it or admit it but they are as well as you stated codependent like two drug addicts sticking together so everything they do no matter how horrible or dangerous is normal.  There is no fixing this so don't even try and learn to accept this is who they are.  They have shown you who they are for years so just take them at their word so to speak and adjust your interactions accordingly.

  This is the crux of your problem as I see it.  You are operating under the assumption that they are reasonable and empathetic under it all when they are not.  What you need to do is accept that they are both selfish and narcissistic people and then tailor you responses or actions accordingly.

  You are making an effort which they know you will continue to do so you are basically playing right into their hands.  If you don't, you get guilt tripped and interrogated which is another way of punishing you for not going along with their way or the highway attitude.

  What to do in this instance?  Of course telling them to go pound sand is one option but it sounds like you are not there yet.  I like that you didn't cave and counter offered to come down and visit and then leave after the visit.  I would go one further by making plans while you are there to go see a nearby attraction or museum or whatever and invite your sister and her family.  If they go great but if they don't then that is great too but you took the high road and offered.  This does a couple of things.  It shows them you are in control not them and it also shows your sister that she is only part of the reason you made the 2 hr trip down.  It takes her importance away in a sense.  We were coming this way anyways kind of thing.

You will never change them or be okay with the way they are but you can mitigate your exposure and make life easier for yourself. If they say or do something you do not appreciate then go silent on them, don't tell them what they did wrong or try to show them they are wrong just go silent.  It isn't your job to teach them right from wrong so stop trying.  Just because they are blood doesn't mean you have to play by their rules when visiting.  Be flexible but not a doormat and offer alternatives when they suggest something you do not want to do.

In the end not giving in will give you control back and it might even show moms that if she digs her heels in and won't bend a little she simply will not see you on that trip.  Don't fear upsetting her, you are a grown up now too.

  Lost 

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Posted (edited)

I've learned to start listening when my initial reaction to something is to dismiss it!

45 minutes ago, lostandhurt said:

I would go one further by making plans while you are there to go see a nearby attraction or museum or whatever and invite your sister and her family.  If they go great but if they don't then that is great too but you took the high road and offered.  This does a couple of things.  It shows them you are in control not them and it also shows your sister that she is only part of the reason you made the 2 hr trip down.  It takes her importance away in a sense.  We were coming this way anyways kind of thing.

That's what happened here. This^ didn't make sense to me, and to be honest it still doesn't. But on some other level, I can just barely start to make out how it directly aligns with their selfishness.

I called my boyfriend over to read it, and he thinks it makes perfect sense to do as you say here.* He sees the sense in it, I do not. I think that's because my thinking has been so molded by this dynamic over the years. Interesting..... It's so interesting how I've been taught what to recognize and what to ignore.

________________

*We probably won't though, but only because I don't want to make a long day even longer. But in the future, I will remember it.

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2 hours ago, Jibralta said:

All of this was communicated through text. I responded by saying that we were willing to come down on the first Sunday after we arrived, and that we would drive back the same day.

Well, just do that. Your sister is a favorite kid. Dunno if its biological thing or because she was younger so its overprotected younger kid thing. But its like that. Its unlikely you would change that, but what you can do is "show teeth" a bit. You dont have to oblige to their every word, just do what you wanted in first place and that is it.

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Okay, you know my mom and I adore each other a lot But a few years back when I was in therapy I learned to cut the co dependant bond with her and actually understand in a way she was also responsible for the abuse my sibling and I suffered. 
 

When I was doing therapy my mom told me, “ never let anyone make you believe that I was responsible for that mess and that I don’t love you.” Why??? Guilt and fear . When my therapist told me that she had indeed put us in danger and threw us under the bus I was offended. I came to understand though it was in a way true. Now, my mom loves to be right not to the pathological level maybe that your mom does, but she does. So I knew I had to face her down face-to-face and tell her, yes, you were responsible as the only sane person in that situation so it does make you responsible for our abuse. Let’s just say she didn’t take it well. There was anger and tears and recriminations and minimizing and then self loathing from her . Then she got her self together and today we have a great relationship. I had to face her down though and hold my ground despite the background noise and wailing. My therapist said that would happen because people don’t like to change and people don’t like to accept  responsibility especially if it is something like child abuse. 
 

Anyway ,my long drawn out point is; you have to stand your ground despite the crying ,the wailing, the b*tching  whatever they’re going to do. that’s the only way to get any respect and peace. You may never have a peaceful relationship with them or even a good one and they may be your jerks 😂😉but they can come to respect you. 

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I feel the conflict and really appreciate how genuinely you’ve shared about it. My “a—holes” LOL.  Love it.  And I get it !  I really like lost hurt’s advice.  I wish you could just cut them off. I hate what you described.  And I totally get why you’re not.  Thinking of you. 

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1 hour ago, Jibralta said:

I've learned to start listening when my initial reaction to something is to dismiss it!

That's what happened here. This^ didn't make sense to me, and to be honest it still doesn't. But on some other level, I can just barely start to make out how it directly aligns with their selfishness.

I called my boyfriend over to read it, and he thinks it makes perfect sense to do as you say here.* He sees the sense in it, I do not. I think that's because my thinking has been so molded by this dynamic over the years. Interesting..... It's so interesting how I've been taught what to recognize and what to ignore.

________________

*We probably won't though, but only because I don't want to make a long day even longer. But in the future, I will remember it.

Have you ever had a boss or bf or anyone in your life where they always expected you to come to them?  It is a way of saying "I am more important than you are, thus you come to me"  This is no different.   It is also a way to keep the playing field in their favor.  You coming to them is home field advantage, the place where they are most strong and invulnerable.  Say some kind of drama unfolds and you get upset who has to leave and drive 2 hours you are them?  It is all about winning even when there is no game called for that day.

  Each time they do these subtle things they are putting you down back into your place as they see it.  If you are insecure how best to stay feeling good about yourself even in the company of Jibralta?  You beat her down and gang up on her so you can feel good about yourself once again.  

  I think they are threatened by you, you and all your goodness ruins their imagined self.  We see it all the time in the news.  A small person trying to look big by calling names, putting others down and getting their gang to join in to make it legitimate.  Don't let them...

  See past the petty crap and see the origin of their actions.  Remember the old saying: "It's mind over matter, I don't mind because you don't matter"

  When you are visiting and IF things get tense just cut the visit short. Just because they are comfortable being jerks to you doesn't mean you have to sit and take it.  If they ask why you are leaving simply state "We came here for a nice visit, unfortunately it doesn't feel very nice to me so we are leaving"  Let them call you a baby or to sensitive or what ever, just give them a hug and tell them you love them and walk out the door.  No more words, just silence and let them sit there and convince each other they didn't do anything wrong. In the silence of the night they will not be able to stop thinking about it and they won't have their partner there to lie to them.  Perhaps the next time they will try extra hard not to be selfish jerks when you visit.

  Family, what ya going to do???

Lost

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Thank you, everybody, for these responses. I think that I've been lying to myself a bit about my own feelings, and about what is actually happening in my relationship with my mom and my sister. It's really helped to start putting things out here for others to review and share their impartial opinions on the matter.

I said in my initial post that I've stopped hoping that my mom would grow out of her need for validation. But I realize that this is not true. There is still some part of me that wants her to acknowledge and correct what is happening. 

I also think that I've been ignoring the fact that the two of them literally don't respect me. Sure, they say that they do, and they would be deeply offended if I suggested that they don't. But to quote the old adage, "actions speak louder than words."

Finally, I think it's pretty clear that I need to take a stand. I'm not looking forward to the anger, tears,  recriminations, minimizing, and self loathing from my mom. But I've weathered all of these things many times before, and I know I can handle a little more blustering. That's actually the least of my worries. My biggest worry is the impact on my family. Not just my mom and my sister, but my aunts and my cousins. I don't want them getting involved. 

This is going to take some time to plan and execute. There are so many little footnotes that I could add to each of the sentences that I'm writing. I have to work through this situation thoroughly before I can be really effective. What I'm saying is, it's not going to happen by August lol.

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3 minutes ago, Jibralta said:

Thank you, everybody, for these responses. I think that I've been lying to myself a bit about my own feelings, and about what is actually happening in my relationship with my mom and my sister. It's really helped to start putting things out here for others to review and share their impartial opinions on the matter.

I said in my initial post that I've stopped hoping that my mom would grow out of her need for validation. But I realize that this is not true. There is still some part of me that wants her to acknowledge and correct what is happening. 

I also think that I've been ignoring the fact that the two of them literally don't respect me. Sure, they say that they do, and they would be deeply offended if I suggested that they don't. But to quote the old adage, "actions speak louder than words."

Finally, I think it's pretty clear that I need to take a stand. I'm not looking forward to the anger, tears,  recriminations, minimizing, and self loathing from my mom. But I've weathered all of these things many times before, and I know I can handle a little more blustering. That's actually the least of my worries. My biggest worry is the impact on my family. Not just my mom and my sister, but my aunts and my cousins. I don't want them getting involved. 

This is going to take some time to plan and execute. There are so many little footnotes that I could add to each of the sentences that I'm writing. I have to work through this situation thoroughly before I can be really effective. What I'm saying is, it's not going to happen by August lol.

You will be OK ,like you said it’s just blustering to keep the status quo. It might be loud but it’s background noise to keep you in your lane, well your lane according to them. 

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21 hours ago, Jibralta said:

I definitely don't want to cut them off. I love those asshles. They're my asshles. But they make me want to tear my hair out and run screaming.

If I was dealing with mentally healthy people, this would work. But my mom sees things that she disagrees with as 100% bad, and she actually feels threatened by them to the point where she will lash out in anger. I think this is what psychologists call "splitting."

I do think my mom is mentally ill to some degree. When I read about Borderline Personality Disorder, it reminds me of her a lot. It took years and years of me going to therapy understand what was going on in my family, and to realize that it wasn't normal. I'm still making discoveries about how it has affected me and my perceptions of the world around me. 

I don't know about my sister 100%, but she's got issues. Even my mom worries about her to me, in private. She may have the same mental illness as my mom (and my grandmother, who actually used to bang her head against the wall in rage!). But because she is my sister and not my mom, I perceive it differently. Just like I perceived my grandmother differently.

They were all genetically related, and I am adopted. Our personality differences are extremely obvious. It's like being raised by wolves haha. 

Their mental health issues are not your issues however. There has to be some boundary between how you perceive yourself independently from these people. If you can let go of needing their approval or caring so much about what they think or say, it would do a world of good. They are not like you - that first step is acceptance and then second, to stop measuring yourself by their measures. It's not going to work. You go about your life according to your tune, your standards, your methods and your beliefs. This is also cutting that cord mentally/emotionally while still navigating your life and your relationships with relative ease. 

I don't have a perfect family either and there have been plenty of ups and downs. Don't take things so personally. I hope this works out and you can relieve yourself of these thoughts and worries soon. Live your life as you see fit and be whoever you need to be to feel balanced, happy, motivated and unweighted by this pain and resentment. You can do it. 

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I just want to say, even if it's obvious and you know it intellectually, none of this is your fault. ❤️

It can be so hard to seperate our parent's stuff from ourselves sometimes. There's that part from when we were younger and depended on them so much to love us and take care of us and show us how to navigate difficult feelings, and the little guy always takes things straight to heart and figures it must be something I'm not doing right if a parent isn't able to fully recognize and accept us. 

But there's nothing you could have done or do now to change your mom and sister. It's not your fault. It's not reflective of you, though I know it's hard to process that after years of them trying to put it on you. 

 

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23 hours ago, Jibralta said:

My mom and my sister both have nasty, spiteful tempers and they never forgive. They never admit to being wrong, and they never apologize. 

Jibralta.  I've read your thread.  Being frank, I would have nothing further to do with them.  You will never get love, in any shape or form, from them.  They are pure toxicity.

The way I look at these things, Jib, is: life is all too short.  You cannot even imagine the relief, not to say the exhilaration, you would experience if you turn your back on this lot and get rid of the poison.  

It makes no difference what you do, or don't do, while they are in the picture. Ignore, not ignore, try boundaries (futile), torture your brain with ideas that might improve an unimprovable situation.  I don't get these hangups about "family". These are not even lovable people, not even likeable.  

15 hours ago, Jibralta said:

the two of them literally don't respect me

Of course they don't. They don't even see you as a person. 

The sky won't fall, I can assure you, if you get rid of this toxicity out of your life, and, more importantly, you will flourish.

 

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22 hours ago, Seraphim said:

But if everything you do is wrong is there really a point anyway? Life is too short to torture yourself. 

Exactly this ^^.  Jilbralta, I'm so sad to read all of your post... my husband is closed out and it was always like that for him growing up with his siblings preferring each other, leaving him out, ganging up on him, and then him being beaten by his dad to the point where he remembers his mom having to throw her body over him to get the dad to stop beating him....  And yet the dad is ALWAYS the victim.

He never apologizes, we've apologized for things multiple times, but none of them have ever apologized about anything... especially not leaving our kids out of events and making them feel ostracized (that's where we finally drew the line and stopped going to their crappy events).

But like Seraphim said... if you're always put in a bad light, you can't win, so you walk away.

Even biblically... it says twice I think in the NT to, "shake the dust off your feet from a household where they won't listen to you."  

They aren't **listening** to you, they don't care about your side/feelings/emotions/ etc.  so it actually is best to, "Shake the dust off your feet," and leave them be.  

Be happy with your partner ❤️ and find fulfillment in other things.

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Different take.

If you want to keep your relationship, then you need to solve the "you can be right or you can be happy" dilemma.

Your mom won't admit to being wrong, so pointing out to her when she is wrong, is both pointless and picking a fight you don't need. Unless it's something imminently harmful to her, you need to learn to step back and leave her be. Smile and nod and learn how to be more neutral with them. The more you can step back and just smile and nod and let them be, the easier your relationship with them will be.

This even goes to your sister's power play over "making" you come visit her. It's only fun because you hate it and show it and argue. Like Lost suggested, take over control by offering and suggesting yourself. It will be like deflating a balloon. Granted, it won't be a one time fix because just like you know them, they know you and know how to push your buttons. Your changed demeanor will get pushed and challenged and it will be challenging for you to learn not to react and stay the course.

Essentially step away from playing by controlling yourself and how you react because that's the only thing you control. 

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Who cares if your mom and sister are competitive. If mom was truly competitive, she would enter marathons.  She says competitive things because she probably feels a little inferior and needs to talk about how she is better for her self esteem.  But anyway - just accept this about her. She won't change.

btw, was your sister actually invited to your vacation place by you or did mom extend this invite.  It could be that when things filter through mother, they come out very differently by the time they get through to sister or mom suggested everyone go to sister's on her own.

This is what i would do going forward

1) Send your sister an invite directly with the details "we will be at vacation place x through x date. we would love to see you if you are able to come at any date during this time.

2) If mom rattles on or sis rattles on about how she can't make it, say "i am so sorry you can't make it"

In otherwords, take control of it. If anyone says its not fair.  Say "i am sorry you can't make it.  we hope to see you next time."  And be firm. 

And do the same with any other invite for your sister.  Just go directly to your sister, even if its an email. Don't change your plans for her.  or mom.

 

 

 

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