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Jibralta
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On the one hand, yes I totally agree that you are handling this really well and are doing a great job of maintaining boundaries.

On the other hand.....why do you insist on vacationing in the hornet's nest? You know what they say about power struggles.....it takes two to fight and you are going out of your way to engage. There are thousands of other vacation options where you and your SO can have a lovely time that is fam and stress free, so why do you insist on doing this. Food for thought and please don't say tradition or habit or timeshare rights.......

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1 hour ago, DancingFool said:

why do you insist on doing this.

My original post probably makes it sound like this has been happening every year for a decade. It's not quite like that. It's been a gradual progression over the last four years or so. 

My boyfriend and I went one year by ourselves (2017) and it was awesome. Yes, we drove down to see my sister at my mom's request, but we didn't realize that would be a demand every time we went down there.

The next year (2018) is when my mom decided to show up with her entourage for the entire week AND we were expected to visit my sister three hours away. So, we grudgingly dealt with both of those things. And then we skipped 2019 and 2020 because we were like W T F no thanks. After Christmas 2018 we even dodged the holidays with my family.

This is the first time in three years that we are going. We hoped that my mom would know better than to pull a repeat of vacation crashers, but she obviously doesn't. So, I'm taking my mom out of the loop with the timeshare. When I return from vacation this year, I will have the deed in my hand and I can bank the timeshare and we can go wherever we want, even go there, and not tell her. 

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I just want to say thanks to everyone who has weighed in on this thread. Everyone has had a useful perspective and given me food for thought. I haven't responded to every post because I am still thinking about a lot of this and haven't gotten my thoughts totally together. It's definitely a journey.

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  • 3 months later...

With the holidays upon us, my palm approacheth my face once more. 

I've been dodging my family for Christmas and Thanksgiving for the past three years. Covid has been a great ally in that respect. But the day will soon come where I can no longer hide behind that excuse. I'm just gonna have to come out and tell them that I'm not travelling down there for the holidays anymore. 

How much of my reasoning do I share with them? I'm not sure. Is it worth telling them that I find the combination of my mom and sister together oppressive? Probably not. But I may tell them that I don't feel like spending all that time and energy to fly or drive down there just to get stuck spending the holidays with my sister's stupid work-friend's family, who have somehow enmeshed themselves into even my mom's life. They're perfectly nice people, and spending one Christmas with them was fine. But they've showed up for every holiday since then, and it's now clear that they're here to stay. 

It's just another side to the same theme in my family. I am expected to battle my way down there to spend the holidays with them at the shttiest time of year to travel, like a salmon swimming upstream. Ever the chump, I think, "Ok. Well, we don't see each other for 360 days per year. This is important." Then they add random people to the venue without even thinking to ask whether I would mind, and my boyfriend and I are left sitting in some corner while my family socializes with their real guests. My job is to get down there at any cost and fill a chair at the Christmas table. My thoughts and feelings are not what's important. I am an accessory.

I'm particularly pissed off right now because yesterday was my nephew's birthday and I was on standby (at my mom's request) for a Facetime gift-opening. Well, the whole day went by and nothing. Early on, I sensed this might be the case. In the late morning, I'd made and sent a video to my nephew animating a bunch of stuffed animals to wish him a happy birthday. I received no response from my sister. Not even a brief emoji acknowledgement.

This sort of thing gives me a lot of anxiety. Instantly, I think, "Have I done something wrong?" I grew up being told that I was selfish, that I don't care for anybody but myself, that I think the world revolves around me, and that my mom and my sister bend over backwards for other people. They have literally referred to themselves and each other as "martyrs." And believe me, I've learned that the opposite is the truth. But that knowledge doesn't remove this thought distortion. I wish it would. I wish there was some switch I could flip or some button I could press that would turn the anxiety response off. But so far, there isn't. And maybe that's because I know that my mom sits ready to reinforce the lie. 

For the whole day yesterday, the gift exchange (and the possibility of my insufficient performance as an aunt, sister, and daughter) was on my mind. Finally, around 6:30, I texted my mom: "Did you guys open gifts?" An hour later, my mom texted both me and Arnold photos of my nephew holding his already-opened gifts. No mention of the fact that she asked me to be on standby for the gift opening. No apology for leaving me in limbo all day. But she was sure to mention how busy and hectic it was, and how lucky she was to even get a photo. 

image.thumb.png.e81f2eb7842acd42dd2fc03a04a7b134.png

So, I decided not to respond. I left it to Arnold do all of the responding (which he is good at). It felt weird, but I think it was important. My natural impulse is to do the 'right' thing. But just this once, I decided to see what would happen if I didn't rush in to tell her everything was ok. 

About an hour later, my mom replied directly to my 6:30 text (I don't know why this image is showing up so big, maybe the aspect ratio):

image.png.836233f3b8556e222e4756f829da82fc.png

I decided to ignore that, too. Haha.

Twenty minutes later comes a text from my sister about how hectic the day was, thanks for the video, etc. This morning, she sent a photo of my nephew hugging the Elmo doll.

I've ignored all of it. Half of me knows it's them trying to get me to reassure them that everything is ok. The other half of me feels crazy. And guilty. Very guilty. I'm going to stick with crazy for a while.

My mom called about an hour and a half ago. The first thing out of her mouth was, "Are you ok?" I said yes, and she said, "You know why I'm asking, right? You haven't responded to my texts and I'm a mom so I worry." Of course I know that. And I also know that I should feel bad for worrying her. Even though there's no reason on earth why she should be worried when Arnold is replying to her texts. She knows perfectly well that he's not going to be replying to her with happyface emojis while I'm laying dead on the floor.

That phone call was slightly validating. Sadly.

Sigh.

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Oh ugh.  And holidays are so hard even with fairly functional family situations.  I probably would be more general about it "I really appreciate the invitation and I know it's the holiday but it's simply getting too hard for us to make the trek out there at the busiest time of year.  Can we please get together at another time? (If another time would work for you). 

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How come you feel guilty when they are the ones who didn't follow through with the gift opening video?

Are you just so conditioned to feel everything is your fault no matter what?  Sorry if that question seems obvious but I'm trying to get a gauge on your current mindset.

There's a quote from the movie "Devil's Advocate" which was unfortunately spoken by the satan character, but it goes "Guilt is like a suitcase of bricks.  All you have to do is set it down."  Which I know is simplifying the situation but it got me thinking...how are my feelings of guilt changing or fixing anything?

Would you feel more guilty if you went or if you didn't go?  If you're going to feel guilty no matter what, I wouldn't bother putting myself through making the trip.  You can feel guilty at home lol.

But I don't think you did anything to feel guilty about.  JMO

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28 minutes ago, boltnrun said:

Are you just so conditioned to feel everything is your fault no matter what?  Sorry if that question seems obvious but I'm trying to get a gauge on your current mindset.

Yes, I think so. And there's nothing to apologize about. I know that my thinking is distorted in this aspect of my life. I'm not sensitive about that. On the other hand, I'm very sensitive to the behaviors of my mom and my sister, which are never straightforward. 

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3 hours ago, Batya33 said:

I probably would be more general about it "I really appreciate the invitation and I know it's the holiday but it's simply getting too hard for us to make the trek out there at the busiest time of year.  Can we please get together at another time? (If another time would work for you). 

That would definitely go well with a normal person, but I don't think my mom can comprehend that logic. First of all, the degree of convenience or inconvenience that I experience doesn't exist in her reality. The only reality is that I show up for the holidays. Nothing else registers. 

It's like that scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, where Nia Vardalos tells her aunt that her boyfriend is a vegetarian and her aunt just can't comprehend it to the point where she actually shouts: "What do you mean he don't eat no meat?!?!" And there's a real oh sht moment for the whole restaurant before the aunt (smugly!) solves the problem (in her own mind) by saying, "That's ok. I make lamb." The boyfriend's wants and needs are clipped neatly out of the equation. I love the way that Nia Vardalos carefully breaks the news to her aunt--she knows what's coming. And when the aunt starts shouting and the other girls turn to see what happened--you better believe their first question is "What have you said to upset our aunt," and not "Our aunt is acting crazy." The craziness is protected. It's just the way it is for some reason. 

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I dunno, lately I like to look at things through prism of my actions, not somebody else. So would reccomend the same. Other people actions dont always come from the right place. Yours should. And that is all that matters. You sent a nice present and nephew was happy. That is great and all there is to it. If she responded now, in 5 days, or never, that is on her. You shouldnt beat yourself over it or get too much worked up. OK, its not nice to get exluded(especially because they knew you waited) and you felt hurt. But that is again on them. Also, think I said already, its OK to say "No" about the trip if its that much hustle for you and your guy. They do maybe "guilt trip" you so prepare for that. 

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Also, I like to think about what the worst outcome would be if I say "no". Guilt trip? Being scolded? Cold shoulder? Would any of that happen even if you were to attend? If so, like I mentioned earlier if the end result would be the same I wouldn't go. Same consequences minus the inconvenient trip and awkward party.

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Without getting caught up on the thread, you don’t need to give a reason for not travelling down for Christmas. 
 

Something like (if you haven’t already bowed out yet), sorry to spring this on you so late but I/we won’t be able to make it down for Xmas. (This but only if you genuinely would like to make a trip at a quieter time of the year less fraught with expectation) I’d really like to catch up with you though and have free time *insert good window of time here*, if you’re available then I look forward to seeing you. 
 

but whyyyyyyy

 

it’s not viable for me to travel this year

 

but familyyyyy

 

im sorry I won’t be able to attend

 

but whyyyyyy

 

I hope you all have a very excellent day. 
 

Captain Awkward would say ‘reasons are for reasonable people’ Actually if you scour her archives you will likely find even better scripts for declining to attend events without giving reasons. 
 

And the take away from the presents opening debacle is to decline being on stand by for anything again. Not in a mean way, just that really wasn’t pleasant for you last time so you’re not going to put yourself in that position again kind of thing. 
 

I’m cautiously optimistic that with a one on one catch up later in the year (or, let’s face it if you see your mum she’ll probably invite your sister but two people is still less socially taxing than a room of strangers) the feeling of just being an accessory in the Jibralta labeled seat will be firmly diminished too *crosses fingers* 

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1 hour ago, Jibralta said:

"What do you mean he don't eat no meat?!?!" And there's a real oh sht moment for the whole restaurant before the aunt (smugly!) solves the problem (in her own mind) by saying, "That's ok. I make lamb." The boyfriend's wants and needs are clipped neatly out of the equation. I love the way that Nia Vardalos carefully breaks the news to her aunt--she knows what's coming. And when the aunt starts shouting and the other girls turn to see what happened--you better believe their first question is "What have you said to upset our aunt," and not "Our aunt is acting crazy." The craziness is protected. It's just the way it is for some reason. 

Is that when the father gets out the Windex bottle??? 😉  Sorry couldn't resis.

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1 hour ago, Kwothe28 said:

You sent a nice present and nephew was happy. That is great and all there is to it. If she responded now, in 5 days, or never, that is on her. You shouldnt beat yourself over it or get too much worked up. OK, its not nice to get exluded(especially because they knew you waited) and you felt hurt. But that is again on them. Also, think I said already, its OK to say "No" about the trip if its that much hustle for you and your guy. They do maybe "guilt trip" you so prepare for that. 

I know. It's going to take some practice is all. I think I did a good thing today by being immature and ignoring them. It's all they understand, I swear.

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1 hour ago, boltnrun said:

I like to think about what the worst outcome would be if I say "no". Guilt trip? Being scolded? Cold shoulder? Would any of that happen even if you were to attend? If so, like I mentioned earlier if the end result would be the same I wouldn't go. Same consequences minus the inconvenient trip and awkward party.

Exactly. And that's why I don't go anymore. I still have an imaginary war inside my head with their guilt trips, cold shoulders, and scoldings, but at least there's no inconvenient trip and awkward party on top of that lol!

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1 hour ago, 1a1a said:

Something like (if you haven’t already bowed out yet), sorry to spring this on you so late but I/we won’t be able to make it down for Xmas. (This but only if you genuinely would like to make a trip at a quieter time of the year less fraught with expectation) I’d really like to catch up with you though and have free time *insert good window of time here*, if you’re available then I look forward to seeing you. 

Yes. Well, I have bowed out for 2021 already, but I think this year I will have to make it official for future years. I'm weighing my options. I don't think I want to wait to be invited, but how to bring it up in a family that doesn't talk about family dynamics as a rule? I don't think there's any way to do that peacefully, so maybe I will have to wait.

I'm probably going to have to give them a real reason for my perpetual "no." And If I give anything close to the truth, there's going to be a two-headed temper tantrum and guilt trip with one head feeding into the other and bolstering it. So, it's a lot to think about and prepare for. 

I do think it would diffuse things if I offered to visit at a "quieter time of the year less fraught with expectation." In fact, that's been my plan for some time. Originally, it was February, but now I'm pushing it back to April. I want it to be short, too. Preferably only three days or so (although that's plenty of time for my mom to find a reason to have an eruption).

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52 minutes ago, 1a1a said:

I’m cautiously optimistic that with a one on one catch up later in the year (or, let’s face it if you see your mum she’ll probably invite your sister but two people is still less socially taxing than a room of strangers) the feeling of just being an accessory in the Jibralta labeled seat will be firmly diminished too *crosses fingers* 

No, that will never happen. And it will certainly never happen with my sister in the room. 

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57 minutes ago, Batya33 said:

Is that when the father gets out the Windex bottle???

Yes! After I wrote that post I went and watched the movie. The dynamics are very accurate even though (for my family & my experience) the context is a generation out of date. It's helpful to watch those dynamics and that craziness without getting upset about it lol. 

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I had a dream this morning where I was standing and talking to two girls. The overarching feeling was that anyone seeing us would know that I was engaged in a conversation and wouldn't interrupt. Then, beyond the two girls, my mom stepped into view. She was the mom of my youth, beautiful with her jet black hair and flashing eyes. She levelled her gaze at me, and it lasered across the space like the two girls weren't even there. I laughed to myself at my mom's nerve. Of course she doesn't acknowledge whatever nonsense I'm occupied with; she has business with me. I also thought, Of course she's going to cut right through my nonsense; I'm her daughter. And I found that strangely touching. I wondered if she was getting concerned about my lackluster responses of late. 

When I woke up this morning, there was an email from her. I haven't opened it, but I can see the first sentence, "I'm getting concerned that something may be wrong...."

So that was interesting.

I have to think about what I'm going to say. This may be a good moment to reiterate past concerns and frustrations. Or maybe not. My mom has a way of 'unhearing' things after a period of time elapses--especially when she is around my sister. They cross-validate each other like plants cross pollinate. 

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I've been reading through all this... Something that your mom seems to repeat a lot whenever she's being inappropriate is "I'm just being a mom! You know how moms are". 

Jesus Mary Joseph, getting flashbacks to my grandmother here lol. She was the master of guilt tripping. And the way you describe your mom, I just keeping thinking "that's exactly like memere!". 

It was easier for me because I was a grandchild, but my dad was deeply impacted by it and all my aunts and uncles have various degrees of neurosis. My brother and I, talking to a favorite aunt, have wondered how much of "family name eccentricity" is learned, and how much is maybe some mental illness through memere's side of the family? She was deeply religious on top of it, and used that as a weapon in her attempts to get people to fall in line. 

She had the same need to appear a certain way at all times, it's hard to explain unless you've closely known someone like that. Just to give an idea, one time we had a family bbq - only her family! - and she spilled some water on her blouse. It was a massive productive, her running off, too embarrassed to be around us, the aunts rushing to her to calm her down. That's just one instance... Everything was a drama, and somehow someone else had to fix it. 

Just relating. I know you will figure this out as you go. Like you said, takes time to unravel it all. 

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Evening Jib!

 

Oh man, parents. Gotta love em - HA!

 

I feel your pain, I really do, and I understand you don’t want to maybe shake the boat and capsize everyone but with these situations where everyone involved is low key p****d but trying to pretend not to be, the boat is already rockin’ and a rollin’ in my opinion! Better to have everything out, seriously. Your relationship isn’t great anyway, what do you have to lose from administering sheer, brutal honesty?

 

Worst case scenario, you don’t see your mother and sister for years. You seem not to have much during covid anyway, maybe this isn’t such a tragedy for you, that outcome.

 

Other possibilities are actually one of great stress then potential healing. She will also have things about you that rub her up the wrong way but she is just not coming right out and saying it, causing a toxic, fake atmosphere. This is the atmosphere I have had on and off with my parents for years. Extremely stressful, no fun, and you can never grow a true relationship from it, you just go through these motions of what you think parents and their kids should be like, al the while seething and trust me, it just eats away at you.

 

Wasn’t timed right and wasn’t done in the best manner, but a month back I had a huge, huge show down argument with my parents. I just said everything. It felt horrible and sickening and amazing all at the same time. And now they know. And because I really didn’t care if they liked it or not, and they did, I got weeks worth of grovelling and apologies and I even found myself whole heartedly apologising to them for things as well, because I’m no perfect daughter either. Things aren’t bliss, but the air is clear and because it caused a mini “break up” we kind of now have a renewed value in each other and also, the best part yet, my parents know I won’t just put up with anything they throw at me anymore. Very empowering! I would totally recommend, but not for the faint of heart!

 

I can only give you sympathy over this Jib as I realise family waters are tricky to navigate! It’s a b****y nightmare sometimes. 
 

Sorry to bring this back to Oscar, but I’m such a fan as ya know!

 

“Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.”

 

When I first read that I was 14 years old. It always resonated with me, and now, as a mother myself, making my own mistakes I am sure, I look at it in a whole new amplified light. 
 

I am not excusing your mother and sisters behaviour in anyway but, if it’s driving you nuts Jib, you might have to stick up for yourself and make a stand chuck - sometimes it’s the only way.

 

Lo x

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3 hours ago, mylolita said:

if it’s driving you nuts Jib, you might have to stick up for yourself and make a stand chuck - sometimes it’s the only way.

I think I must come across as meek and submissive, because you're not the first person to tell me that I should stand up for myself. Well, you're not the first online person. I don't think anyone who knows me in real life would think to say that. But there's always a disconnect with writing and reality (which is why texting goes wrong so much!!).

I have stood up for myself for my entire life. I have screamed at the top of my lungs every night over dinner standing up for myself. I've ripped a door off the hinges standing up for myself. I once knocked both my mother and my sister to the ground, one after the other, standing up for myself.

When that didn't work, I slashed both my arms, walked into the guidance counselor at school and told her to help me or I'd be dead by 20. Then the school kicked me out until my mom put me in therapy. But I desperately wanted that support and embraced it. I worked on my relationship with my mom and sister for years with the support of a therapist. My gripes are no secret to them. 

Therapy helped me a lot. It didn't help them. They're not the kind of people who worry about how they impact others. All they want is for problems to go away so that they can do whatever it is that they want to do. It's that simple. I finally stopped trying to address this with them about four years ago because I realized that it's pointless. They just deny, deny, deny.

If you don't have people like this in your life, it may sound unbelievable. But that's how it is. It turns out that it's actually better (for me!) not to try to stand up for myself. And, incidentally, that's exactly what I did today, which I'll post about forthwith. 

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I went to work without opening my mom's email. I thought about it, I wrote down my frustrations, I cried a bit (I was the only one there!! I get there very early lol). Then I felt better and got to work.

I read her email when I came home for lunch. It was very brief. 

image.thumb.png.271c0f63dd0dcfe52a8f80622592ee7b.png

This is actually a big reaction for my mom. For her to talk to my sister no less about lil ol me. She's pulling out the big guns!!

I'm only half kidding. It's seriously a big deal. I'm sure that sounds crazy.

I realized something. The last few days, I really haven't modified my behavior all that much. I just didn't acknowledge their requests for validation. That's literally it. And I get this big response (big for our family).

So, I figured I must be doing something right.

No, it's not normal. It's not reasonable. But it's right. 

I responded thusly:

image.thumb.png.71d8e42cb60324e636715a0ee669306d.png

When I got home from work, I got my mom's response:

image.thumb.png.9899e6fa35cfdb8f87afe66d01ea164f.png

And she included a jpeg that read, "Motherhood is really about the accepting the fact that you will be permanently worried for the rest of your life." (@itsallgrand Another permutation of "I'm just being a mom! You know how moms are.")

So now everything is hunky-dory for Christmas and I learned a new trick. I hope that I keep learning and stay on top of this dynamic.

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6 hours ago, itsallgrand said:

It was easier for me because I was a grandchild,

That's interesting because I realized at a young age that I was immune to my grandma's attempts at manipulation. But my mom wasn't immune to them. The generation gap makes a difference.

6 hours ago, itsallgrand said:

My brother and I, talking to a favorite aunt, have wondered how much of "family name eccentricity" is learned, and how much is maybe some mental illness through memere's side of the family?

With my family, I think it's hereditary. My mom's like this, my sister's like this, my grandmother was like this, many of my grandmother's sisters were like this. I was raised in the same house as my sister and I'm not the same way. So for my family, I think there is definitely a hereditary component to it!

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