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I've been estranged from my abusive mother for some time now. We always had problems and she suddenly stopped talking to me, which by no means upset me - I've been feeling better after this, because there is no more fighting.

She had a mental breakdown quite recently and has been visiting a doctor at last. The problem is my father and siblings all try to persuade me into making contact with her again (I have no intention to do so) in order to make her feel better. Every time I meet them this subject keeps being brought up, even after many such conversations and my denial to talk about it anymore and despite that they agree with me that her behaviour is and has been always the problematic one and I am on the right side - this in not a matter of who takes the blame, I just mentioned it to note that they were always aware of the problem. I know they mean well, but they make me feel guilty in order to give in.

Question

How can I make them stop interfering in this matter and just let it be?

My country is in southern Europe.

  • Did you try and explain to them why you don't want it? You don't want to fight anymore but maybe they think your mom changed in the mean time or they don't realise at all how much the fighting cost/hurt you. Being abuse person is no less reason for you to forgive that person's behavior. Are you willing to forgive her or does she have to take the first step in this? – Joel Harkes Aug 24 '17 at 6:30
  • As I mentioned she's been abusive so no, I don't want to go back to that. I'm happy the way I am and even if I were to make up with her she would soon cause problems because she will never change. – clueless Aug 24 '17 at 6:35
  • I've explained them over and over, but my siblings weren't there for the most incidents and my father is fixated on "the family must not break at all costs". And no, they are all aware that she will never change and they have told me so in one of the conversations. – clueless Aug 24 '17 at 6:42
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    Can you please tell me the reason of the downvote? What should I correct? – clueless Aug 24 '17 at 7:26
  • Similar question at Parenting.StackExchange: parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/30012/… – English Student Aug 25 '17 at 2:23
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Thanks for answering the questions.

I think it is good to know people never change but their behavior can. But that is not part of the question.

If you are like me, then you are an introvert who doesn't easily talk or share about his emotions towards other people and you try to be harmonious. These are not bad traits but are exactly in such situation hard, especially for the options I'm about to give you.

Options and points of thought:

Stop talking about the do's and dont's; start talking about the reasons and the goals.

Clearly, your father's goal is to reunite the family, maybe coming from a traditional or Christian family he feels like he has failed the family since he is supposed to be the leader and keep everyone together. (Tell him the family has already fallen way before she stopped talking to you, that she hurt you and he was not able to protect you, not blamingly but objectively he would also see it has his duty to protect you)

Start differentiating your mother as a person from her actions.

Tell them it's because of what she did, not who she is. And that this will have to change before ever you will try and have a relationship with her. Tell them also (if true) that you don't believe she will ever change and you don't have the courage to try and that you believe she will instantly fall back into a pattern of hurting you.

Tell everyone what hurt you and how it hurt you.

People can easily think it was nothing or: 'now he is a grown up he doesn't feel the hurt anymore'. But clearly, you feel the hurt. Try to talk about it and if this is too scary, you could try to write a letter to your dad and brothers.

Forgive your mom's actions.

I know it sucks it won't change her behavior, but it will change you. Staying in the victim role only hurts yourself more, this way if your mom was pure evil trying to hurt you in every way, then now she would still accomplish her goal by hurting you even when absent.

Work on your confidence.

Especially in the area she was able to hurt you. Having confidence in these areas puts you above her ability to hurt you.

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    Thank you, this is an insightful answer. I've talked to my father and siblings about what she has done, but not that much about how it affected me. I take it for granted that they understand (well it doesn't seem they do), but I am a little embarrassed to explain how I felt, specially when their answer is it was 'just childish' or 'that's how she is, don't take it personal'. I'll try to do that next time we talk about it. – clueless Aug 24 '17 at 7:24
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    @clueless good luck, having feelings is not childish and of-course you take it personal since it is family. If you have good friends I encourage you to ask them for advice. They can take a non personal - helicopter view on the situation and help you out from your perspective. – Joel Harkes Aug 24 '17 at 7:41
  • @clueless 'that's how she is, don't take it personal' if you want to be blunt you could always go with 'and this is who I am.' or, if you want to go there: 'and this is how she made me' – Steffen Winkler Dec 6 '17 at 8:49
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This answer does a good job of explaining how to focus the conversation (and your thinking) when talking with your father. I'll add something I saw in my extended family (in the midwestern US, involving the first and second generations post-immigration from Italy, for what that's worth).

One family member who was already a little erratic got upset about something, we never found out what, and cut off several family members (siblings and their children). The latter group thought this was a fine idea, especially after the former filed a frivolous lawsuit against the latter. Time passed. Eventually, one family member (one of those cousins) reconciled with the person and then tried to get others to get back in touch.

To which several of the others responded: we aren't the ones who broke off contact; if she now wants a relationship, it's on her to make amends. The message to the cousin -- whether it ever made it to the family member is unknown -- was that damage was done and she was going to have to at least apologize for it if fences were going to be mended. It can be difficult to apologize and admit you were wrong, especially after a lot of time has passed; it can be even more difficult for a third party to convince someone to do that.

This seems similar to your situation. You didn't break off contact; your mother did. If your mother wants to reconcile, you can tell your father, then she needs to act. Further, because of what happened in the past (remember, it's about deeds not the person), you're very uncomfortable being that vulnerable, but you're willing to give it a try if she understands and apologizes for what she did (and, if applicable, fixes some of the damage she did). Say all this with love and caring -- you're sad that this has come between you and your parents, you love your father and regret the bind he's in, you wish things could be different -- and it's not your move.

This moves the situation from "your father tries to persuade you" to "your father needs to get your mother to do something". He might or might not be willing to pursue that, and if he does he might or might not succeed, but the chances seem good that you'll be able to continue avoiding her without being the "bad guy" in your father's eyes.

All that said: if he does pursue it and if she does apologize, ask your forgiveness, and ask for another chance, at that point you really need to be willing to try if you want to preserve your relationship with your father. Either things will actually be better (score!) or they won't and you can then say "sorry, this isn't working" and exit.

  • Thank you very much for your advice. Yes, the ideal outcome would be her taking the first step and apologizing, but she won't. That's why my whole family tries to persuade ME to take action. I'll add this condition you mention when I talk with them again and I'll tell them it is an ultimatum. Maybe they'll give up for some time because they know this is not going to happen. – clueless Aug 25 '17 at 5:47
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    Perhaps you can make some small outreach to her, like wishing her a happy birthday when it's her birthday, then waiting for her to respond. If she doesn't, just say I reached out to her but she didn't reach back. Then, when they say you should try again, don't be in a hurry to do so -- after all, she only has one birthday a year. And I personally don't like your father's attitude of "the family must not break at all costs"; I came from a family that had no value in being kept together. As a last resort, break off from those who keep telling you you should contact your mother. – Jennifer 442 Dec 1 '17 at 10:54
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The biggest determiner here is: what do YOU want from your relationship with your mother? In the question it sounds like the answer is "none". Getting back with an abuser is a risky exercise at best. Unless you know for a fact that things have changed and you now have the strength to resist any new attempts at abuse, the situation is rife with the possibility of it starting again and possibly in a new form.

The only explanation you owe anyone is "It's not possible to reconcile". Any other explanation you offer will just invite debate and trying to "reason" with you about how things are changed. "I appreciate your efforts at trying to mediate. This is the relationship we both desire; if things change we'll ask for your help." Stick to that, and eventually your family will come to understand that you aren't going to say anything bad about your mother and that a reconciliation is not possible. They'll wonder what happened if they don't know already, but they won't have a reason to argue with you either.

I'm sorry to hear about this. One of the comments above mentioned forgiveness - I'd recommend doing that. Forgiveness doesn't mean you forget the situation ever happened; it consists of your saying "I no longer allow this to have any power over me or to control me. I may, however, not engage in the situation that allowed this to occur". I would strongly suggest not holding a grudge - holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get sick.

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