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Thread: Family Relatiionships--Long, any advice?

  1. #1

    Default Family Relatiionships--Long, any advice?

    This has been a long and difficult road to come to this point, but there is some stuff that maybe some people might be willing to chime in a little advice on. It starts with my mother and stepfather, who decided long ago that my wife was not to their liking.

    It wasn't that she was nasty or mean to them, but that they considered her to be from "the wrong side of the tracks" and they let me know that she was "low class". After several years of trying to keep the peace, I finally put my foot down and told them to shut up about it. After all, she is my wife. Fortunately, my father and that side of my family has no issue at all with my wife, they adore her completely and she feels the same way about them.

    Needless to say, the trouble with mom and stepfather went up and down over several months. Then, as my son's birthday neared, my sister called and asked if her and mom could take son and daughter off for son's upcoming birthday. I let her know this would be something my wife and I would have to discuss.

    After a bit of discussion, my wife and I decided that our children always had their birthdays with us, and as such, sis and mom could have the kids another weekend, but not the weekend of son's birthday. When I next talked to sister, I told her this. She asked me if the issues between mom and I affected my decision at all. I told her I would have been lying to say that they did not, everything affects everything else to some extent.

    Later that day, on my way home from work, I had a voice mail on my phone from mom. She was threatening to sue me for every penny I had for visitation of the kids! I was livid, the maddest I had ever been. My wife convinced me to call my father first, which calmed me down, before I called mom.

    When I called mom, I told her she was way out of line, and that she had wrong info. Left it at that until later, when I was calmer. It took several weeks to fully calm down to talk to her, but when I did, she told me that sister had told her that I had said that we were not ever going to let her see the kids again. I said it was ridiculous, that she had raised me and knew me better than this. Her response was that she no longer knew me and she was, "Sorry. I'm sorry I ever gave birth to you."

    That was when I ended that phone call.

    I've only had one phone call and a few letters back and forth with mom since then. I've let her know that if she wants a relationship I need an apology or I need to know she did not mean what she said. The only response I have gotten was that she was "angry and upset" when she told me what she did. I have refused to let her have contact with my children to protect them from the possibility of emotional trauma.

    I was going to have a relationship with sister. The problem came along when she got engaged and she wanted my children in the wedding. This wasn't an issue, as long as my wife and I could be there to watch over them, as we did not trust them to be alone with mom. My sister refused, saying it was not possible, that there was no way my wife could come along to fittings for my daughter for a dress with sister and mom, or be there in the room when everyone was getting ready. Our response? Then it's not possible to have kids in wedding.

    Then sister attacked me because "family means nothing" to me. She refused to believe anything I said that mom told me, even when I told her she could check it with mom. It got so rough with the attacks, that I was questioning if I wanted to go to her wedding.

    Then our grandfather died.

    I went to the funeral, where I was a pallbearer. My sister was absent, a fact I noticed that seemed to hurt my father emotionally. The reason that was given for her absence? She had just started a new job in the last month and thought it would not 'look good' if she asked for time off to attend her grandfather's funeral.

    Oh, yes, god knows, Grampa had absolutely no thought about others when it came to dying! How selfish can you be?!? My word! This was supposed to be scheduled further out!

    Please forgive my sarcasm. I stopped calling my sister at that time. If she wanted to talk, she could call me. I made my decision then about the wedding. If there was that much question, then I should not go, she could be just as happy without me in attendance.

    That was over six years ago. Last week our uncle died. My sister was not at his funeral either. I was told that my sister is pregnant, due in June at almost 42 years old, with her first child. Three of my aunts and one of my cousins went up this last Saturday to my mom's to do a baby shower for her, and they were bugging me to patch things up with mom and sister. I have a little girl who is almost six now that neither of them have met, and I do not want to expose her to the possible emotional trauma.

    Today at work, just as I got back from lunch, there was a message on my voice mail. It was an attorney for a collection service, looking for my sister. I guess she recently got a short-term loan (one of these "payday loans") and used me as a reference. Since she hasn't repaid, they are looking for her.

    It was almost funny when I told them I hadn't talked to her in six years and I got to hear the surprise in their voice. I guess the loan was pretty recent. Nice to know that she was so kind in asking if she could use me as a reference.

    Any thoughts from people?

  2. #2


    I didn't want to leave you hanging out there.

    No advice, maybe a little sympathy. My guess is you haven't got a lot of replies because there doesn't appear to be much YOU can do to fix the problem.

    I realize i'm only hearing your end of it, but it would seem that your mom and sister have issues. There are limits to what you can and should do to accomodate them. Be polite when you have to interact. Help them in other ways when its within your ability and won't damage your own family.

    I don't know all the details either, but they don't sound like the sort of people I would trust MY kids with unsupervised. Your mother can't really do anything about visitation unless some kind of issue has come to the state's attention about the way you and your wife are raising them. Even then its a stretch.

  3. #3


    Quote Originally Posted by Maxx View Post
    I don't know all the details either, but they don't sound like the sort of people I would trust MY kids with unsupervised. Your mother can't really do anything about visitation unless some kind of issue has come to the state's attention about the way you and your wife are raising them. Even then its a stretch.
    We talked to an attorney who specializes in family law shortly after Mom pulled her lawsuit threat. He listened to us, then nearly laughed at Mom's threat of a lawsuit.

    Wife and I are still married after 18 years, and are of a like opinion about this. We're stable, with a house, dogs, cars, etc., we're not strung out on drugs or anything. Our kids have never shown any signs of any abuse of any sort, they have never been on drugs, they are actually reasonably responsible. The attorney said this was a perfect situation for the children. I mean, hell, the courts try to put kids back into the hands of moms who are strung out on crack, and Mom wants to try taking our kids away?!?

    I told Mom several years back to stay out of our lives if she can't be decent to us. Stopped calling Sister at same time, figured if she wanted to talk to me, the phone worked that direction as well. We returned stuff from Christmas one year because it bothered our oldest two kids when Mom sent them cards with $$ and wrote asking them about coming to see her, but she said for them to not say anything to my wife and I about it.

    Then we told Mom to stay away for good. I've just been harassed by other family members to repair things, and I don't know that I can do it. If anything, for the protection of my children, I can't do it. I'm just trying to figure out if it would even be worth trying to look back that way, especially after having my heart ripped out like it was.

    Thanks for the reply, Maxx. It does help put things in perspective for me.

  4. #4


    My parents and I are not on best terms, since I left college for an amazing business opportunity, which screwed up their last few years' plans for me. You have a wife and kids (a situation I also desire), and so you have much more experience than I do, but I empathize with your situation.

    It seems to me that your mom, like my parents, has come to expect certain things out of life. My parents expected at least one of their children to make it through college; nevermind that a successful career is typically more important. Your mom expected that her entire family should be available to her (or even under her control!) when she felt she wanted to see them. She may also expect that each of her children marry into a good pedigree. Put yourself in her shoes, and think about how she's tried to express her desires through you.

    That said, I think you are doing amazingly well and making great decisions throughout the whole process. You are properly shielding your small children from emotional trauma that they do not deserve to get caught up in, and you and your wife are shouldering the burden like two strong individuals should. You seem to be handling your sister and mother quite well, with no sense of unbidden bitterness in your words. Family is important to you, but you are still looking at this from a rational perspective. Again, I think you and your wife are making good decisions for the family, but you have my support.

  5. #5


    Many of us feel a sense to obligation to family, particularly in dysfunctional families. My sense is that YOU are ultimately responsible for you and yours. Relationships that are unhealthy or destructive should be cut off (either relatives or friends) and your immediate family should be shielded from negative influences.

    I am not a vindictive person, but I would have returned the Christmas gifts as you did and would never allow your Mother or Aunt to see your children. If they're psycho enough to threaten to take your children by legal means (Law suit, which I don't think they'd have a snowballs chance in hell to win, IMO), they might be willing to abduct them. Crazier things have been done by family. If they did pose any threat (such as abduction of your children) besides just being judgmental and rejecting of your wife, I would go as far as getting a restraining order against them.

    After my divorce, my Ex (the true embodiment of Satan) was befriended by my Aunt (my father's youngest surviving sister). When I went up to Washington to vacation with my boys one time, we stopped at her house on our way to camp at Mt. Rainier. I went to use the bathroom and when I came back into the kitchen, SHE was telling my two young sons how evil I was. I left with the boys and never saw my Aunt again. She has since died and I have no regrets that I cut off ALL contact with her. No one deserves that level of hate and betrayal! Family relationships can be toxic, and that is something I will not tolerate in my life, ever!

  6. #6


    Your mom expected that her entire family should be available to her (or even under her control!) when she felt she wanted to see them.
    Mom has been extremely controlling all my life. It's only been since I stood up and took things under my own control that I realized just how much she tried to control things. From pushing me into a military academy, to trying to sabotage my marriage, she has done what she can to get things where she is able to call the shots.

    Family relationships can be toxic, and that is something I will not tolerate in my life, ever!
    I actually ended up buying a book, titled Toxic Parents, that described a lot of things that Mom was doing in detail. How many people have heard the line, "We can't be happy if you aren't here for this event."? That's a sign of a toxic relationship--nobody should base their happiness on whether or not you are present for an event or not.

    I do love my family dearly, and have made quite an effort to stay in contact with a lot of the family. As you pointed out, those relationships that are unhealthy have been cut off for the sake of my sanity and mental health together with the protection of my wife and children.

    Believe it or not, I stopped off after the funeral in Southern California and saw my mom's step-father--I call him Grampa--we have corresponded for years but not seen each other for several because of where we live and timing. He is closing in on 100. He doesn't hear from my mother or sister, only my wife and I, and was curious as to what was going on with everyone else. I guess he doesn't fit in Mom and sister's control schemes, I don't know. Honestly, it's sad.

    Not every relationship in the family is dysfunctional, we're not all perfect. But some things are hard to believe just get left by the waysides. I can't understand it.

    After the attorney/loan collector phone call yesterday, I was also warned by a co-worker that they have heard of people stealing sibling's identities when $$ is badly needed, so keep watch on mine. I wonder about it, as the last time these sort of calls happened with my sister she went to jail for a week and lost her fiancee whom she had hidden multiple bad debts from, going so far as to get a PO box to hide the mail for the debts. I wonder if her husband knows of this loan.

    I guess this one belongs under an SEP field (Somebody Else's Problem) for now.

    Thanks for your input everybody. It just cements my resolve in what I have decided so far.

  7. #7
    Butterfly Mage


    I think you did the right thing by shielding your kids from emotionally-unstable relatives. You are a good father for putting their interests first.

  8. #8


    Again, thanks to all who have commented. I haven't covered everything that has gone on over the years between Mom and I or between sis and I, it could easily be a book. This is part of the reason I think that some of the family doesn't leave me be on these relationships. The hardest thing is to stay the course--I get a lot of them pushing me, saying, "forgive and forget," or, "blood is thicker than water."

    It's easy to give in to pressure from outside. I don't tell the family because it's not their issue to deal with and I don't want to burden them with it. But that leaves me open to their requests to patch things up. Sometimes it would be nice to be just one big happy family.

    That's the biggest fantasy in the world.

  9. #9


    i think you are doing the best with what you have been given. i am an only child and have for the most part always had a close relationship with my grandmothers.
    a few yrs ago one of the passed away, which was really hard for me because even though she wasn't 'a favorite' growing up looking back at it now i didn't see what i had. however, in the recent yrs, my other grandmother has shown her true colors and said that i was taking things of her's and (like your mothers feelings towards your wife my mom has gotten the same) becoming more and more like my mom (in her eyes that is the worst thing possible).
    it was soooo hard for me at the time because i was getting out of high school and then this all started happening and i never saw it coming, but that was because my parents protected me from it for some many yrs. i never knew she had that side to her.
    i guess what my point is, is that unless you are going to have 100%-no-contact with your family...that is fine, but your kids will find out someday about all this and it will probably hurt them more down the road then letting them see parts of it now.
    i do agree with you, that if they are going to treat you and YOUR family that way...fine, cut them off, but be careful and make sure you make whatever peace with yourself about it that you need to because if something happened to your mom and those were the last words you said to her, would you feel okay with it?
    *even though my grandmother still doesn't like my mom, we still send her x-mas cards, b-day cards..etc. just because it would be harder knowing you left things that way and never getting a clean conscience about it..*
    i don't know if any of this will help, but good luck with it all.

  10. #10


    Ninjagirl, thanks.

    We did make a clean break, and my conscience is clean. I wrote a long letter in the end that told her the reasons why we were breaking off our relationship and, on top of that, what could be done if she wanted to try to bring it back together at some point.

    She has never tried.

    I have not left my children in the dark about all of this. As soon as we felt they were at a point they could understand things, we discussed it with them. They were quite angry with their grandmother (my mother) and understood the break. The have been fully supportive. The only one not fully informed is my youngest, but she just turned 6. She isn't quite ready for the full truth of it yet. Ir will come, later will come.

    Everyone I have spoken to outside of family has supported my decision. Only family has pushed me to gloss over the gory mess just to keep everyone in a big smiling photo. Sorry, but that's the same attitude that you get with people who go back to spousal abusers. I won't do that.

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