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Last week my Grandmother had surgery. My Mom asked me why I didn't visit her.

I don't care about my Grandmother due to horrible things she does sometimes. For example, out of revenge, she creates false stories about someone and spreads them everywhere. Once she told my cousin's husband that his wife sleeps around with others and it was a complete lie. They are happy together. She would be glad to see them divorce! I really don't care what she tells about me to others but when my parents hear these things they get upset. (You may wonder why my Mom still cares about this toxic person. My Mom loves everyone no matter how bad they are and tries to change them in a good way.)

What is important for me is to be honest with everyone, never lie, and never pretend to be someone I am not. I'm also really bad at handling feelings. I always try to act and decide upon logic and never involve feelings in anything. Sometimes I forget that this may upset people but when it happens I always apologize and tell them that I didn't have bad intent.

Now I want to be honest with my Mom and tell her that I really don't care about her mother's health state without hurting her feelings.

How can I tell my Mom that I don't care about her mother without upsetting her?

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  • OP: When your grandmother spreads false stories, do people believe them? In particular, do your parents believe what she tells them about you? Does she succeed when she tries to turn people against each other? – AJM-Reinstate-Monica Dec 5 '19 at 12:31
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    @AJM-Reinstate-Monica my family or people who know her very well dont believe her because they are aware of this. The people who doesnt know her, yes they do. – BlackCrystal Dec 5 '19 at 14:52
  • Has she always been like that or may this be a side-effect of some form of dementia? – Fildor Dec 6 '19 at 14:44
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    @Fildor always like this as long as i remember – BlackCrystal Dec 6 '19 at 15:42
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Once I went to the funeral of a distant relative of my young nephew, he asked me why I went to the funeral, because I did not even know the person who died. My answer was simple:

I came for you, not for her.

Maybe you should visit your grandmother not because you care about her, but because you love your mother. Your mother is the one who is expecting your support. By not visiting your grandmother you're denying the support that your mother needs. Now, having that in mind, you might ask your mother.

I'm not comfortable near my grandmother. How do you feel about that?

Listen her first, then choose what to say next. Maybe the best is to say that you will make the visit only if that makes your mother feel better.

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    I'm not sure this is a good answer. At least, I think the opening could be rewritten. OP mentioned that their grandmother does "horrible things", which at this stage we don't know much about and which could even be abusive! It seems to me that "Maybe you should visit your grandmother not because you care about her, but because you love your mother. Your mother is the one who is expecting your support. By not visiting your grandmother you're denying the support that your mother needs." ignores the context, assumes OP to be in the wrong and rebukes them for it very harshly. – AJM-Reinstate-Monica Dec 4 '19 at 16:28
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    @Santiago I think it is clear to OP what their mother wants and how she feels about it. The issue is that the mother disregards OPs feelings and puts the pressure to resolve the matter on them and they now have to choose between their own and their mothers feelings to be hurt. – skymningen Dec 4 '19 at 17:11
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    OP is asking how to answer why they didn't visit in the past, not whether they should in the future. "My Mom asked me why I didn't visit her." – Captain Man Dec 4 '19 at 17:37
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    I don't find these situations at all similar. The OQ said absolutely nothing about showing up for this person's funeral (where presumably they wouldn't have to deal with the toxic person themselves, barring some kind of occult powers that were not brought up in the question). – T.E.D. Dec 4 '19 at 22:15
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    To back @AJM-Reinstate-Monica: I would agree with the answer if it was about visiting the grandmother with the mother (or at least driving the mother there if she needs a ride and cannot otherwise get there); but I disagree that the mother's feelings should decide what OP's direct relationship with their grandmother should be, especially in cases where the mother isn't event present for the supposed visit. – Flater Dec 5 '19 at 9:53
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To address your question directly:

How can I tell my Mom that I don't care about her mother without upsetting her?

You can't. You cannot expect to tell a relative that you do not care about a person that they care about without causing them some upset.

However, I won't be obtuse. I feel like you're asking:

How can I support my mother without sacrificing my own feelings about her mother?

Since you're trying to avoid upsetting your own mother, I'm going to assume that you care about her and her feelings.

You say that you don't act out of emotion, but you do. You're trying to avoid upsetting your mother. This is an emotional desire. You wish to keep your distance from your grandmother, even though you don't care what she says. There's an emotional element to this.

Here's the thing: there's absolutely nothing wrong with weighing the emotional aspect of things. Your emotional state impacts your physical and mental wellbeing. Denying emotions as a dimension to your decision-making is counter-productive at best.

Instead, embrace and acknowledge the emotional elements. When talking about what you're doing, focus on your decisions (rather than talk ill of others).

You disapprove of your grandmother's behaviours. You've seen it damage those close to you. You know that she speaks ill of you. You don't wish to be close to someone who behaves the way she does to others.

Try to explain to your mother why you don't wish to visit your grandmother in these terms. Acknowledge that your mother loves her mother very much. Don't try to convince her to feel the way you do about your grandmother. Offer to support your mother in any other way that you can.

You're not going to convince her that it's reasonable not to care about her own mother's health. You may be able to convince her that a visit to your grandmother by you isn't on the cards for the reasons listed above.

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    There are logical reasons for not wanting to upset someone you deal with regularly, not just emotional. (e.g. it will make future interactions with them less enjoyable. Or to be purely robotic, might make it harder to get them to do what you want.) I think you're conflating impact on other people's emotions and considering that people have emotions with basing a decision on how one choice or the other makes you feel about it right now. You can be practical and pragmatic about maximizing future happiness for yourself and/or for everyone. (Overall agreed with your answer, though.) – Peter Cordes Dec 5 '19 at 16:13
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Simple Answer: You Can't.

I agree with the advice given by Santiago and Dancrumb. It would not be productive to simply tell you're mother that you don't care about your grandmother, but it would be good for you to explain why you're unwilling to visit your grandmother.

I would also suggest, if you can, going with your mother to visit your grandmother. This will demonstrate that you care about and support your mother. The time spent with your grandmother might be unpleasant, but the time spent with your mother before and after would be exceptionally valuable. I would not suggest using it to explain your feelings towards your grandmother, though; instead, wait some before broaching the subject and your mother will likely be more receptive as you've demonstrated that you aren't a callous or petulant child.

Relevant Stories

There's a couple of stories I'd like to share because I feel they are relevant.

"I'm not sad"

My maternal grandmother (mom's mom) passed away while I was a teenager. One of our family's dogs - my mom's favorite - died shortly after. My brother and I were talking about our feelings and shared that neither of us was particularly upset by these events. We made the mistake, however, of having this conversation right in front of our mom! She was clearly upset by the exchange.

Lesson: Be conscious of whom you're talking to when you say you don't care, aren't upset, or otherwise have thoughts or feelings that might suggest someone or something isn't important to you. People who do care will not take it well, particularly when something upsetting has happened recently. Few can take such statements in stride.

"It would be illogical for me to comfort you."

I once had a cat who was ill. I was quite worried about his health, but I found that the woman I was dating at the time was completely unsympathetic. Her justification was that my cat scratched before. (She didn't know how to interact with cats.) Her line of reasoning was that because the cat had hurt her she could not show any sympathy for him; she couldn't show sympathy for me on the matter as that would be giving my cat sympathy indirectly. According to her logic, showing sympathy towards someone who had not made right the wrongs they had done to her would excuse all the harm done to her.

She was upset with my father for something he had said once, so I asked her... would she show sympathy for me if my father died? Her answer was "No."

I could only conclude that the pain and suffering inflicted upon her when she was young had made her extremely defensive. It had compromised her ability to trust and empathize as demonstrated by her refusal to associate with anyone who didn't meet her stringent standards. She always justified her behavior with logical arguments and refused to acknowledge the emotional aspects of a conflict. (To her, there was always a clear right and wrong.)

Lesson: We all have emotions and they influence our decisions. If we don't acknowledge this fact, we may use logic to justify actions that are hurtful to others and not logical at all.

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  • "It would be illogical for me to comfort you.". This story doesn't sound to me like somebody who makes decisions void of emotion. This sounds like someone who is extremely over emotional that she harbours serious feelings of resentment and is quite petty. She likely uses "logic" as a veil to hide this, to avoid showing her sheer contempt – Cruncher Dec 6 '19 at 17:56
  • @Cruncher It may not have been clear in my answer, but that was the point I was trying to make. Her decisions were guided my emotions, but she wouldn't admit it. – Ohndei Dec 15 '19 at 22:52
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I've been in a similar position as you, except that my father takes on the role of your grandmother. Anecdotes aside, I have disconnected from my father entirely but my mother has not and wishes not only to have a relationship with both him and me, but for him and me to also have a relationship.

It took years of finding the balance here, and you're never going to find one where everyone gets exactly what they want. However, I do think that there is a balance of fairness to be struck.

How to tell my Mom that I don't care about someone without upsetting her?

Now I want to be honest with my Mom and tell her that I really don't care about her mother's health state without hurting her feelings.

If the thing you're trying to tell her upsets her, then you logically cannot avoid upsetting here when talking about it. Not talking about it may work in a single conversation, but it doesn't work in the long term.

What you need to do is have a clear talk with your mother where you acknowledge both her feelings and yours. It's important to give your mother the platform to express what is upsetting her, but it's equally important for you to have the platform to tell your mother that your feelings are different from hers and should not be ignored either.

Since this is your mother, I suggest letting her talk first. Parents who want to help their children (which is a good thing) sometimes end up overriding their adult children's wishes (unintentionally). Conflict can be avoided (or at least lessened) if you let your mother first express herself, and then respond with your feelings. She'll be less inclined to override you if she has already received the platform to say everything she wanted to say.

How your mother responds to this, I cannot know. From my own personal experiences when talking to relatives about the issues between me and my father, your mother may stick to her guns:

  • Some people never move from the "but it's your family" argument - no matter what the family member has done.
  • Some people never believe that one of their loved ones did something bad - even when presented with undeniable evidence.

If your mother falls in either of these camps (or similar ones), then there is little you can do to convince her that your grandmother's behavior is unacceptable to you. Instead, you should pull focus away from what your grandmother has done, and focus on this being a personal decision you've made, and more importantly that you are allowed to make personal decisions without needing to justify them (since your mother will never agree with the justification anyway - but don't say this out loud as it provokes further discussion).

Something along the lines of:

I have chosen to no longer pursue a relationship between me and my grandmother. This is my personal decision. You and I may disagree on past events that have happened or how they should be responded to, and you are entitled to your own opinion; but so am I, and I would like to ask that you respect the decision I've made.

A reasonable person should accept this.

If your mother does not, then she does not respect your personal boundaries and that can become an issue between you and your mother. That is sadly unavoidable if your mother would choose to make it an issue.

However, do take your mother's response with a grain of salt. When people struggle with accepting the misdeeds of a loved one, it is more often a matter of trying to do good (believing in the goodness or redemption of a person) rather than trying to malevolently and knowingly perpetuate the loved one's misdeeds.

While your mother may never outright state that you distancing yourself from your grandmother is acceptable, that doesn't always mean that she will outright override your decision. Sometimes, people will allow something to happen even if they are unable to state that they accept it happening. In order to preserve your relationship with your mother, it may be better to let that particular sleeping dog lie.

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I am very attached to my mother and, in fact, I always have this little fight with her when I don't want to go to my maternal grandparent's home. And this is the approach that I generally take. This is my very first answer because I can easily relate to what you are feeling because even I don't like to lie and always try to be honest with every situation and to people. :)

What is important for me is to be honest with everyone, never lie and never pretend to be someone I am not

This clearly states that you must have experience with saying things to people in a direct manner. This in turn means you also know how people will respond to this. Plus it's your mother so you know very well that there is a greater chance that if you say this, she is going to get hurt. That's why you are asking this question as you know that there is no better way without hurting feelings.

As you believe in being honest and want to stick to this principle, then you can try telling your mother in a polite manner that:

This is how I feel. I don't feel like visiting the hospital, I know it might hurt you but If I go then it will be against my will and I'll end up thinking too much about this. Do you have any ideas about how we can resolve this so that both you and I are happy?

I think your mother is the one who can give you the best advice for this and I think she can understand you and the situation better.

There is always more to every story, and its very hard to figure out others feelings and reactions to action of people.

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    The statement "This is how I feel. I don't feel like visiting the hospital," could be a lie from OP. From the question, it seems like they specifically are avoiding their grandma, not the hospital. – JMac Dec 4 '19 at 20:12
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I'm sorry, but what you ask is probably impossible. For many people, there is no way to say "I don't care about your mother" to them without upsetting them. If your grandmother is very old and very ill, it may even be "I don't care if your mother dies", which is particularly upsetting.

When we act logically, it is still really about feelings. You can (and should!) logically examine the choices you have to figure out what their outcomes are likely to be, but feelings are how we decide what outcomes are better or worse. Feelings are what motivate everyone, really. To make it more confusing, sometimes you may have to choose between the outcome that feels better now and the outcome that will feel better later, which is difficult for young people and almost impossible for people in very stressful situations.

Do you feel it is more important to take satisfaction in your own openness and honesty, to make your mother like you, or to avoid the grandmother you hate? It doesn't sound like you're going to get all three. You probably will have to compromise on one of these things now.

When this happened to me, I visited my grandmother a few months before she died. I didn't like visiting her because she sometimes said mean things about fat people and lesbians. When I saw her that last time, she made a comment about how fat me and my girlfriend are. Visiting her didn't make me feel good right away, but my mother liked that I had done it, and later I felt good about having made my mother happy. I never told my mother how mean my grandmother was because I didn't want to make my mother feel bad, but I didn't lie either. I just said nothing about it. I particularly did not contradict my mother at the wake, when she was talking about what a good person she believed my grandmother had been.

You might do the same, or you might not, if your granny is meaner than mine was, or you don't have a pleasant relationship with your mother like I do with mine. I'm not in a position to decide what's best for you.

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  • NB: I wrote this answer before I knew OP's gran spreads malicious rumours. If I wrote it today, I would not recommend having any contact with the grandmother. – Robyn Dec 7 '19 at 6:47
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People have a variety of reasons to do what they do. What your grandmother does may be the only way she learned to interact with the world. It is not excusable but it may be the only way she knows.

When you lack physical strength compared to the people you have to deal with sometimes you get used to getting what you want in indirect ways, like lies, plotting, etc. That is why some older women that have lived in very toxic environments when they were young are so toxic themselves. You can't hope to beat down your husband with your fists, but maybe you can get what you need or want in other ways. It is sad, but it is true.

I tell you this so you maybe can find it in your heart not to be so angry with the lady. My grandma on my dad's side was quite the case, she hated me since I was 4 I think, my whole life. She once threatened to hit me with her very solid cane, luckily my mom was there. Every opportunity she had to make me feel bad, she took. She was really mean to my mom too. And I always defended my mom, so that did not help.

In the end, these people drive everyone away so they wind up alone. I learned throughout my life what a horrible life my grandma had. It made her very twisted. Note that I am not justifying her, I am just understanding her.

In the late years, after she managed to do a lot of damage to everyone in my family, she was all alone. Even the people that she had favored left her alone.

My mom took care of her a lot and when she was so sick she was in the hospital my mom went to see her and take care of her there too. She did it for my father's sake. But also because she took pity on this woman that had such horrible experiences when she was young and in the end she was so alone, after giving so much to their children. I am certain that if my grandmother hadn't being alive when I was born, my life would have been much better, yet I did go to see her to the hospital.

I felt nothing but pity for my grand mother, that is why I went to see her. It is funny but in her way she apologized with me and my mom, she said that the people she never would have thought would be there for her, was there for her in the end. It was sad, she could have had such a better life if she would have been nicer to us, instead of this constant little wars and acts of aggression.

Anyhow, you said you base your actions in logic, not emotion. But for me you are not being logical, you are taking the path of most resistance. Going there and saying "there there, get better soon" would be the most logic. I went to see my grandma to help my mom out and to show my dying grandma some support, but I was emotionally unaffected. I did it as an act of charity for a person in need, not for a grandma. Also, my dad did care about his mom, so this also made him feel good.

For me, my core, myself is being polite and trying to be nice. So even though I didn't care for my grandma, as a grandma, she was a human being in pain, so I could relate and try to be supportive. I did not betray myself by going there. By that is how I am. You can be someone that chooses to say "I don't go there because that person is horrible and doesn't deserve me going there". And is a valid position too. Just make sure that you are truly acting that way to be true to yourself and not out of anger or resentment towards her so you don't regret it later.

I never had to say quite exactly what you want to say, I have however told people my feelings about the several relatives that acted this way and I have managed so in a way that well, at least there were no tears, maybe they didn't agree with me, but they understood my position.

As everyone has pointed out if you say something like you want to say you will probably hurt your mom. However, families have shared history. Your mom knows about your grandma and knows about the things she does and knows about the things she did to you. So you just need to tell her:

I didn't go because I fee uncomfortable around her since she has done X and Y. I don't feel that going there will make her feel any better and I won't feel better either, because I will remember what she has done and I will be worried about what she will do in the future by me being there.

This transmits how you feel and why and you actually are not saying anything horrible your mom will be shocked or surprised by. Don't over do it though, the point here is not to talk ill about your grandmother is talking about how you feel. If she insists you can mention something like:

In the past she has said those things that made you feel really bad and worry about me. If I go there I think she might repeat that. I don't think it is what you need.

If she continues insisting you just need to spin this same concept around and saying it makes you uncomfortable and will be for the worse. However, I advise you to say something like the following to your mom, and go if she asks you to. But this is optional.

Mom, I don't really want to go, as I said, she makes me uncomfortable, but if you need me there I will be there for you. I just want you to be aware she may start talking ill of me and I don't want it to be a problem for you.

In the end you care about your mom and you don't want her to feel bad. So If you do it, do it for her. You say your mom loves everyone, but she may know things about your grandmother that you don't know, sometimes families hide dark stuff. And maybe that is why she is there. Also as your mom is your mom, her mom is her mom. And that is a bond incredibly hard to break if it was kept though your whole life, no matter how nasty the mother in question grew out to be.

Finally, you don't have to go every day you can go once in a while. Think of it as an investment. A little of your time to make your mom feel better.

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I have broken off contact with my maternal grandmother before my mother did. Here's why and what I did.

My grandmother believes she is perfect. Her kids are almost perfect and if they are somehow not perfect, that flaw comes from their father. Her grand-kids are mostly perfect and any flaw obviously comes from their fathers. And their fathers are flawed. No man is good enough for her daughters. Her only son has a university-educated wife. She is okay, not perfect, but okay. I took all that. She was my grandmother and I loved her. I loved my father more than her, but I forgave her, because she obviously loved my mom a lot. I could not forgive her, though, when she cheated on my grandfather while he was on his deathbed.

My mom and most of the family somehow forgave her, again, but I could not. I told my mother this. I told her how I understood how she was her mother, but she was not my mother. And I told my mother that I loved her and I loved my father and I loved my grandfather and that my grandmother, her mother, had hurt all those people. If I wanted to visit her, I had to visit the man who she cheated on my grandfather with, because she moved in with him. I told her that I refused to visit them. This man was not my grandfather and in choosing him, she had lost me. I told my mother that I would support her if she wanted to visit her mom, because it's her mom after all, but that I could not bear visiting someone who had harmed my family so much. My mother understood. A couple years later she broke off contact as well.

Based on this, what I suggest is:

  • Don't focus on not caring. Focus on hurt.
  • Focus on how much you love your mom.
  • Focus on the difference in relationship between mother and child and grandmother and child.

Good luck.

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