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Pressure from Family to Reconcile
October 2, 2016
2:54 am
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Brooklyn Gtray
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January 13, 2014
2:24 pm
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K
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Hi Amy,

I have a question and then a response. Do other family members know about the abuse you've suffered? Other than your brother I mean. Because that could change how you handle the pressure.

I booted my mom out of my life in my mid-twenties because she was abusive and while I do not regret that decision is has affected my relationship with her side of the family. Part of that was my fault, I avoided them because I didn't want conflict. I have really regretted that decision on my part. Eventually I decided that all I was doing by avoiding people who I loved and who loved me was protecting my mother from being outed as an abusive POS. So I chose an aunt who I had been especially close to and who I have always known to be a very thoughtful person and I told her what it was like for me growing up. It wasn't easy but I wanted people to know why I hadn't been around for so long. Since then things have gotten easier, I see and speak to my family more, though it is still difficult and there is still a disconnect there. I can't go to holiday gatherings with them because I don't feel safe being around my mother. And I feel a lot of anger about that.

But to answer your question about how I deal with family challenges:

My grandfather recently died and I had to be in the same room with my mother. A lot of people were very supportive, but some people pressured me to talk to my mother. My approach varied but I always tried to be direct and firm. I offered to explain why I don't speak to my mother and was very firm that that was something I would not do. Most people left it alone after a while. But my brother is always insisting that you only have one mom, she's just like that, forgiveness is important, etc etc. I have tailored a few responses to that, and I would encourage you to do the same, and to make them really genuine. Tell people what you really think about it, because you will likely feel better about standing up for yourself with honesty and integrity. That said here are some of my responses.

On forgiveness:

I don't share the value that forgiveness is always necessary. I think that forgiveness has to be earned and that one of the ways that's done is through building trust. This person has proven to be untrustworthy repeatedly and until that stops, I think forgiving her would just be tantamount to saying, please continue to abuse me, I will continue to give you a pass.

On you only get one mom:

I am aware of that, but I refuse to have a toxic relationship with my mother just to have any relationship with her.

On general pressure to speak to my mother:

I wonder if you have spoken to her recently about making amends with me, about apologizing for her abuse and about getting the help she needs to stop being abusive. Because if you are only talking to me about it then you are letting her get away with it.

If the response is, she wouldn't put up with that, or something to that effect:

That's exactly why I am not on speaking terms with her.

On she has a mental illness, or she's just like that:

I don't have to engage with someone who hits me just because she has a diagnosis that says she is prone to hitting people. If she can't control herself that is more reason for me to stay away. Think if it was your kid, and your mother just started wailing on her. Would you say, that's just how she is? Or would you protect your child? If your friend was a violent drunk who was constantly berating and hitting you would you stay in that person's life no matter what because that was somehow just who they are? Probably not, you'd probably cut them out of your life until they stopped drinking and harming you. Why should a parent get different treatment for the same behavior?

Generally I try to keep my tone light and engage it as a dialogue. Like I'm just trying to gauge their opinion on something more neutral. I also don't insist that my family members change their relationships with her, although I do think ideally they would still have relationships with her AND attempt to hold her accountable. I sort of frame it as, you engage with this person the way you choose and allow me to do the same. It makes the conversations less intense.

I hope this helps you deal with your extended family. It can be really tough and it is an on going process. But holding your ground and standing up for yourself is really important.

Actually, one more quick thing. You can also tell you family that forgiving and moving on don't mean that you'll have your mother in your life. Part of you moving on has been making sure she can't continue to abuse you. So there's that.

Also, if you really can't handle the constant harping at the moment just make it a condition for your relationships with them to continue that they stop. It doesn't have to be a big ol thing with a dramatic announcement, but if you live far away and you only talk to your brother on the phone, just say hey I love you, I want us to talk, but whenever you pressure me about Mom I gonna have to get off the phone, and then follow through. You can keep calling him and engaging with him, but whenever he brings up your mom just say, hey, I love you, it's time for me to go now, we'll talk again soon. I know it can be really hard for adults who were abused as children to set boundaries, but all mature relationships are founded on them, and you are totally allowed to set this boundary with your brother, and any other member of your family who won't listen to reason.

Okay, I hope some stuff in this ramble helped you.

Peace

K

December 21, 2013
2:54 pm
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PolkSaladAnnie
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Hi Amy,

It is okay if you don't want to have a relationship with your abusive mother. It might help to have some responses ready for family members.You can let them know that you are in a process of healing, and you're not ready to reconnect with your mom. Communicate how important they are to you (your brother, or whomever), and let them know how grateful you are for their love and support. Offer that you will not put them in the middle of the unfortunate situation with your mom, and that you would appreciate if they left your mother out of the relationship that you share with them too.

 

Good luck to you. Family pressure can be very difficult. The ripple effect my estrangement from my mother had on my other family relationships was almost as devastating as the estrangement itself. I was not invited to many family functions, and was sent very strong messages about all of the suffering that I am causing. I was also told that I "need to forgive," and that my mom's criticisms "should just roll off" my back. It's shameful that the victims are expected to continue tolerating abuse in the name of "family peace." That kind of attitude is how abuse is allowed to occur in the first place.

 

Be strong. I wish you the best, and am happy that you have found happiness in your life.

December 17, 2013
10:51 pm
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Amy
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I've been estranged from my mother for nearly 4 years now and live on the other side of the world. 
I grew up with my mother and brother in a single parent home- my parents divorced when I was seven and it was a violent mess; the police were at our house often. This was not due to my father, but to my mother, who would throw heavy objects.
My mother was very abusive to me throughout childhood- hitting, slamming me into walls, pulling out my hair, and telling me on a regular basis that I was \\\"good for nothing,\\\" a \\\"little bitch,\\\" and \\\"stupid.\\\" She once left me on the side of the road or often locked me and my brother out of the house for the day so she could have sex with her boyfriend. I look and act very much like my father, and she did not appreciate this, so I bore the brunt of most of the violence in the home. 
At 14, I moved to my dad's because I was afraid that she was going to kill me. This is not an exaggeration- I actually believed that she might kill me. 
When I left, she said that she would never talk to me again.
She came around about 4 years later and I forgave her and let her back into my life because I desperately wanted a mother. Throughout my 20s, she continued to belittle me, but I allowed it and tried to just turn the other cheek. In my late twenties, I became clinically depressed and attempted suicide; I was rushed to the emergency room. A few days prior, my mother had said that I should just go through with it if I felt so badly- I had told her that I was feeling suicidal and that was her response. At the time, due to the depression, I did not recognize that this was not an appropriate thing to say.
After the suicide attempt, I sought out a lot of help and picked up the pieces of my life... Finished grad school, got a good career, quit drinking and smoking, married my best friend. I kept my mother at arm's length but she was still in my life. When I happily phoned my mother up to tell her that I was engaged, she said that she probably would not have time to go to the wedding, and then she proceeded to cry and said that my father used to rape her and make me watch when I was a baby (not true, to my knowledge, but that is besides the point). I hung up the phone, had a very good sob, and decided to cut off my relationship with her for good. My mother has never apologized, but she did send me a letter to let me know that I've always been \\\"a very difficult child\\\" and that I should not question her \"mothering.\" I've since moved very far away with my hubby and we have a great life- I am very happy now! HOWEVER, I am getting pressure from family members to reconcile with her and they won't stop harping me about it. They say I should just forgive and move on, that she has a mental illness and had a tough childhood, so I should be more understanding. This is SOOOOO beyond me- I cannot even begin to comprehend their thinking. What am I missing here? Is it possible to have any type of relationship with a person you do not trust? What is the point? How have you handled pressure from family to reconcile? My brother is really laying it on thick, and I don't want to lose him from my life, but it gets me so down every time! 
Thanks for reading. Love and hugs to all of you. Estrangement is very difficult, but shouldn't our family be those who care for us, instead of those who harm and condemn us?

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