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this is quite a long text but I think it is necessary to get an insight of where my motivation is coming from and why I want to "break up" with my parents.

The Fight I

A couple of months ago there was a huge fight between me and my parents:

My grandfather offered me to buy his old car for a very good price (~50% off of its current value) because we were expecting our second child and were looking for a bigger car. Everything was fine until my parents stepped in and told me that if I would buy the car for half the price I would also have to pay my siblings. They argued that my grandfather was giving me half a car for free and this would be unfair to my siblings.

Although I completely disagreed with them (and still do) I turned down the offer since I didn't want my family to be fighting over a car. So while I turned down I told my grandfather the reason why I could not buy his car. I did not exaggerate anything or discredited my parents. However he eventually got mad at my parents for interfering in this situation, but he accepted my decision and everything seemed fine.

The Fight II

A couple of days later my parents furiously called me and acted like it was my fault that my grandfather would not talk to them anymore because I "falsely discredited" them. They also told me that my grandfather was totally devastated and was kind of physically suffering from "my lies about them". They told me I should call him and "make things right again".

I was shocked and after that talk with my parents I immediately called my grandfather again. He seemed really fine and told me that he wasn't able to pick up the phone the day my parents called because he was busy in the garage.

I texted my parents that everything seemed fine with my grandfather and I have no further interest in discussing this car topic anymore.

The aftermath

I did not get any reply on this text message. At least three months my parents would not communicate with us. But I was not contacting them either since I needed some time to think about what happened.

I asked myself:

  • What did I wrong?
  • Why do my parents always play the "victim"?
  • Why does it seem that my parents don't care about their grandchildren?
  • How could they possibly be mad at me?

These questions were omnipresent in my head and I finally read a book on Transactional analysis ("psychological games") since I was searching for answers to my questions.

The realization

And then it hit me hard: These "games" were accompanying my whole life. I remembered more and more similar situations were I always ended up as the "bad guy" and had to apologize to my parents (or otherwise they would ignore me). This realization felt really good and sad at the same time. But I eventually decided to cut my parents out of my life for the sake of me and my family and this decision felt good..

The drawback

Around three months later my parents called me (they had to because of a family related issue) and acted like nothing had ever happened. I was fine with this strange behavior since I already decided for myself to not "play those games" anymore. I was friendly and we chatted for some time and eventually hung up. This was the last time we talked on the phone. I have currently no urge to talk to them.

Now my siblings call me on a regular basis and ask me what is wrong with me. They tell me that my parents keep asking about me and my family and that they are "totally suffering". This of course makes me sad but I am not quite sure if they might play the victim card again. They just could call me and they know it (because I told them).

My siblings can not understand me at all. For them I am just acting tough on my parents because I didn't get the car. But I just want my peace and freedom from all of this. When I tell them about my realization ("psychological games") they tell me that I am "brainwashed". They just won't leave me alone.

The final question

How can I tell my family in the most politest and sensitive way that I am not interested in participating in the everyday family business anymore?

I want them to know that I am not angry at anyone nor do I want anyone of them to feel bad because of me. Is it irresponsible of me to break up with them?

  • What does 'participating in everyday family business' mean? – dbeer Jan 14 at 23:03
  • I know the position that you are in and i am trying the same thing (except i have a little sister i want to take care of) so i hope for a good answer with you :) – hopsinat Jan 15 at 6:32
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    Flater answer seems to be the best but if you need to be extra sure learn how to answer with questions. IF your siblings say that your parents keep asking about you ask them "Why they can't ask me? why they send you? Why would I want to tell you things I don't want to tell them if I know you're asking for them?". And yes, they PLAYED victim card. They don't feel they are bad ones in this relationship. – SZCZERZO KŁY Jan 15 at 12:50
  • Have you looked into whether a restraining order is appropriate for your situation? A country tag might help target this sort of advice. – Trebor Jan 15 at 14:51
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Disclaimer
Having had to sever ties with an emotionally and psychologically abusive narcissistic father; I'm going to assume that my answer will err in favor of you being in a similar situation. However, based on what you have told (both explicitly and implicitly), I do think that it's fairly likely you're in the same boat as I was, at least in regards to emotional manipulation and mind games.
However, I want to clearly stress that while this answer is built on the premise of you being in a similar situation, I cannot conclusively confirm that this is the case. This is a recurring issue with succesful manipulators, they always straddle the line of not being able to conclusively prove their guilt specifically so they can avoid persecution for their deeds.

As far as I can tell, your situations shows all the telltale signs of manipulation. But don't forget I'm just a stranger on the internet seeing things as you've described them.


What is going on?

I want them to know that I am not angry at anyone nor do I want anyone of them to feel bad because of me.

If they are manipulators, which you seem to have accepted already (because it's the reason for you taking a break from them), then that means that it's considerably more likely that they act sad rather than genuinely being sad.

This is one of the manipulator's main tools: playing the opponent's heartstrings to get what they want. I say "the opponent" because manipulators tend to play a psychological game against you where they try to gain control over you and "win". This competitive attitude is what makes it hard to ignore: you can't just ignore someone who is instigating a (psychological) fight with you.

Another tool in their toolbox, often closely related to playing the heartstrings, is to generate flying monkeys who do their bidding. In short, the manipulator talks to a third party, telling them a heavily redacted emotional story, in order to get the third part to talk to you.
Even if you're at the point of ignoring the manipulator, you may not be as dismissive of an uninformed well-meaning person who is genuinely trying to help, unaware that they've been given a skewed perspective.

I think your siblings are the flying monkeys here. Case in point:

  1. Now my siblings call me on a regular basis and ask me what is wrong with me.
  2. They tell me that my parents keep asking about me and my family and that they are "totally suffering".
  3. For them I am just acting tough on my parents because I didn't get the car.
  4. When I tell them about my realization ("psychological games") they tell me that I am "brainwashed".

(1) is a clearly biased question. Before even talking to you, they are already implying that you're the one at fault. People don't tend to pick sides in an argument when they don't know the specifics of the argument yet, unless one side has already convinced them that the other side is definitively at fault and they then forget to first hear the other side out.

This is further confirmed by (2) and (3), which means they've already talked to your parents and have sided with them even before they've heard your side.
Additionally, (3) is not something they can come up with on their own. The argument was between you and your parents. Your siblings can only really connect this to your behavior if your parents offer this as a possible reason.

But the most egregious proof, to me, is (4). They claim you've been brainwashed, but the first question you should ask yourself is who they think brainwashed you. There are three parties in this story: It's you, your parents, and your siblings. Who is supposed to be the one who brainwashed you? Some unrelated 4th party?

Here's a different explanation which makes more sense when you consider your parents' manipulative behavior: they knowingly misrepresent the truth to your siblings. Because they know they're lying and you're telling the truth, they therefore warn the siblings that "Roger1234 doesn't know what he's talking about, he acts like he's brainwashed" in order to discredit your statements before you've even had a chance to speak to your siblings.
Your siblings, seemingly believing your parents at face value, when hearing you say something that their parents warned them about, subconsciously parrot the parents' justification: "you've been brainwashed".

Without input from your parents, your siblings' response doesn't make any sense. If I talked to someone and genuinely believed they had the wrong idea, I would say things like "I don't understand" or "You're wrong about that" or "It doesn't make sense".
However, your siblings don't respond with a lack of understanding, they respond with already knowing what's wrong with you (brainwashing), which implies that they've already been told something is wrong with you.

I strongly suggest having a look at the narcissistic family tree (I just picked one link, but you can find more resources online) to see how much fits with your family dynamic. However, I do think that we're already dealing with a golden child scenario here:

In healthy families, we encourage our children to be loving and close to each other. In narcissistic families, children are pitted against each other and taught competition. There is a constant comparison of who is doing better and who is not. Some are favored or seen as "the golden child," and others become the scapegoat for a parent's projected negative feelings. Siblings in narcissistic families rarely grow up feeling emotionally connected to each other.

This is a textboox application of "divide and conquer". Pit the children against each other so that they can't unite against you.


What to do? How to get away from this?

To summarize the below: there is no surefire, easy or short answer to this. The issue is that manipulators have many tools, and you have few to no ways of permanently blocking any future attempts they make at either slandering you or sending flying monkeys. I strongly suggest reading the experiences of other people in similar situations, as this will give you insight into the many varied ways manipulators can still reach you and how you can/cannot defend against that. /r/raisedbynarcissists is an excellent starting point, but by no means the only resource you can find online.

Ever since my "awakening", I've browsed support groups such as /r/raisedbynarcissists, and there are often no conclusive resolutions to the story. The only way to sever ties is to sever ties completely. This often entails relocation without telling your family where you're going or how they can reach you, and not sharing these details with anyone from your past life (unless there are people who you can trust and know that they will keep it a secret that they're in contact with you).

Some manipulators give up quickly, others don't. I can't know which ones your parents are, though I do consider it likely that they won't easily stop because they're already militarizing your siblings.

I'm aware how dramatic and overkill this sounds. I expect to receive some comments on this answer that relocation is a disproportionate reponse to your current car argument. But I've also read a significant amount of testimonies of people whose parents tracked them down at work (across state lines), or by calling on and pestering neighbours after relocating, or even calling emergency services to report their child being missing just so they can stay in some form of contact.
These are of course extreme cases and not indicative of every person who finds themselves in this situation, but it's still important to point out that some manipulators stop at nothing, not even the law.

I don't want to tell you that you must relocate and basically create a new life (it is obviously a massive and dramatic move) and identity. But I also can't give you a surefire way to sever ties when your family can still access you (at work, via neighbours, via shared contacts like your grandfather, ...).

The best you can do is browse support groups and articles, to further understand how manipulators operate, and to what extent they will go when you don't yield to them. If you're going to be in their vicinity (whether geographically or through shared contacts) and refuse to play their manipulative games; you will need to be aware of how they are likely to lash out when you don't give them what they want.

4

If I understand your post correctly, your parents tend to think that everything is about them, that they get a vote on somethings you think are strictly between you and your grandfather, and that there is a standard of behavior they can hold you to even though you are an adult with children of your own. You don't mind talking to them, but don't want to be part of dramatic or upsetting conversations about things you disagree on.

You have tried simply not talking to them, but you observe that first, this increases rather than decreases the drama they feel, and second, eventually you get drawn back in either because you must talk to them on some family matter or because they get your siblings to pass word to you that your behavior is unacceptable.

To truly break up with them in a way that transcends their consent, you would have to move away, change jobs, and never contact any family member again, not even your grandfather or siblings. I dismiss this option as unworkably hard for you. So what you want is for them to consent to a different way of talking with you, and of talking about you when you're not around. (This is easier to get their consent for than "breaking up with them" would be.) I hope you can see that not talking to them at all will not teach them these new ways, nor will it decrease the drama in the way they think about you and talk about you.

What will? Well, try something counterintuitive. Try calling them more often. Once a week, once a month, every other month, whatever. More than you do now. Talk about whatever you would like to talk to them about: how your kids are doing, general family updates, planning for whatever event next involves you all. When the conversation goes in a direction you don't like, such as complaining about something you did in the past that you don't feel is "fair game", try to change the subject once. For example,

We have spent a lot of time discussing the car, I did what you wanted, and I don't want to talk about it any more. I'm not angry about it now, and I'm not doing anything to you because of it. Let's talk about [Jane's birthday, our summer plans, your next visit here] instead. [Ask a question related to that eg "do you think you can visit in May?"]

If they push back and try to stay on the topic you don't like, then end the call.

I can't talk about that now. I'll call you again soon.

And do it! Call them again soon! Give them lots of chances for pleasant drama-free chatting. This is a form of behavior modification: if they stay away from the drama, they get nice chatting (and so do you, which is nice.) If they ratchet things up, the chatting ends. With no long periods of silence there's no need to draw the siblings into things or to try to explain your reasons for how you're behaving. You're right there explaining your reasons yourself and chatting nicely once a week or whatever.

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    The suggestion is a great answer if there's still something of the relationship to be saved. However, OP has already made the decision of cutting his parents out of his life. I case OP changes his mind: If after pursuing this course of action, the relationship still does not become better, please do not think your parents will talk or think better of you. They will always be/act the victim. This answer is mainly for your own conscious. (At least I tried everything) – Caroline Jan 15 at 11:41
  • Yes, it will. But the OP just calls on schedule the next week and has the calm chat. In the question it is mentioned that calm chats are possible and quite ordinary. Chat calmly, the call lasts longer and plans for visits or whatnot are made. Bring up drama, the call is cut short. But don't worry, there will be another one. You would be surprised how well this can work. It's not 100% to be sure. But it is more likely to work than trying to stop talking to them while maintaining relationships with any other family members, still living in the same place, etc. – Kate Gregory Jan 16 at 23:14

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