When is it best for a difficult family to become ex-family?

This is an extremely difficult issue to discuss without emotions becoming involved…and I’m sure the mods are cringing as I type, but…
When is it best for a difficult family to become an ex-family?
At what point do you draw the line and say, "for my own sanity, I just can’t communicate with you any longer?"
Obviously, I could go into a long litany of my family’s hurts and harms against me here, but I’m trying to bite my tongue and just state this in the theoretical sense.
I am an adult (49 years old) a mother and grandmother in my own right. I currently live 1500 miles away - by choice. I raised my children as far away as possible and with as little contact with my family of origin as I could.
But it just seems that they are unable to restrain themselves from saying things that are PAINFUL to me, make me feel “not good enough,” judging, condemning, etc.
I figure, if I’m exasperated enough by it to even ask the question, it’s probably time…
If you have “writen off” a family and would like to tell me how that worked out for you, please contribute to this conversation.
If you were raised in a physically, emotionally, etc abusive home, and maintain contact with your family of origin as an adult, and would like to tell me how that is working for you, please contribute to this conversation.
If you have done everything in your power to heal yourself as best as you can, with the understanding that parts of you will always remain unhealed - and you have accepted these broken parts as much as the healed,
if you have attempted to support your siblings/parents toward finding their own healing, with greater or lesser success
please talk to me. I could use a little clarity before I make a huge decision. Thank you.

My sister wrote off my Dad and my dads side of the family. My dad feels like my sister is being rude and unreasonable, and will not willingly be helpful unless she apoligizes…or at least acts respectful in his house (which I think is fair)

My sister got married to a man double her age (at the time she was 20 and he was 40ish)…and nobody liked the guy…(me included) What this has effectively done, is make things awkward. My mom doesn’t feel like she can talk to or about my sister in my dads presense…my sister WON’T go see my parents…at their house (she will meet my mom outside the house) and it nearly caused the split between my parents…

I want to see my sister occasionally…but I hate the fact that if I am inviting her over…I am inviting her husband over…and I really don’t want him in my house…but she doesn’t so much drive…

So I hear from her via facebook and occasionally the odd phone call…

So I guess…if you are going to cut family…it depends on how you slice it…just cause you are cutting out some, doesn’t mean you are cutting out all…and where does that leave everyone else? Also…are these ppl going to be there for you later on down the line? Sometimes it isnt’ an issue…but what if it is?

My husband cut off his mother. His parents divorced shortly after he and I married. My husband was constantly put in the middle, not by his father, but by his mother. She kept him from having a relationship with his younger sibs by lying to them and telling them he did not pay child support. My husband and I know for a fact this was just cruel manipulation and not truth. It caused his Dad lots of hurt, but the sibs got older and have a relatinship with him now since they have discovered the truth and grew up. My husband did not cut her off then. He just tried his damnedest to stay out of it on her end.

Then his mother remarried. We kept a relationship with her and the new husband, and when they married, his two sisters were minors, and brother in college. The step-Dad first cut off his younger sister, stopped paying for her medical care and stopped paying her tution for college (she paid her own living expenses) and we could not fathom why he would do this, esp. since the Dad was paying a lot of money for her to be able to go to college and complete it in the way of child support and alimony (that did not stop when she was living with this guy). That was the first clue.

They had us believing she was out of control, even that she needed mental help. Well. . .I won’t say beleiving, we were dubious, but this sister would not share any of it with us. She finally did when she was about done with college. . .and we were shocked. I’ll just say it was a lot of innapropriate behavior, and the final straw was when she refused to give her Step-Dad a back rub.

My husband confronted his mother about these things, and things we had been hearing from friends of the family about how he was now treating the younger sister, still in HS. She denied it all, and ended up turning the conversation around to being about his Dad, and that the reason the other sister did not have funds for college was b/c the Dad would not pay anything. He told her he knew this was not true (in fact, Dad had other sister live with him and paid all her tuition and living expenses.)

The next day we got an e-mail from the Step-Dad telling my husband that “his” family was none of “his” business, and that if he would like to still be a part of that family he should formally apologize to him (Step-Dad) and to his Mother. He signed it, Mother, younger Sister, and him.

That was when we cut him off. We realized that we could not have a relationship with a woman that would let a man treat her children cruelly, and innapropriately. Well. . .it was my husband’s decision, and I can not influence him one way or the other.

The kids have since then married, and one has had her own children, and my husband and I have a child that his Mother has no relationship with at all. The only time she spends with her grandkids from the other sister is when she can sneak out. She has to do it unbeknownst to her husband (Step-Dad).

The other kids have not cut her off, but they get sick of her not standing up to her husband or playing along with his games and manipulation. They have cut him off. The younger sister had the Step-Dad do the same thing to her. She wanted to visit her Dad on Father’s Day and he told her he was more of a Father to her than he was, and that if she went she would be cut off as well. She did, and their father paid all her expenses and tuition as well, yet again, even though per the divorce decree he set up funds for all of them to go to school, and sent her alimony and child support that did not end when they turned 18, it just continued to go, until the youngest one turned 18. (conveniently, this is when the Mom and Step-Dad finally married to continue with the alimony.)

The older sister has stopped talking to her Mom again, b/c she was not able to sneak out for her g-daughter’s birthday, and so therefore would not go.

My husband has not said a word to her ever since we got “the e-mail.” From what I hear, this man has done the same thing to his HS daughter, from a previous marriage, that he did to all the other kids. Kicked her out and cut her off.

Family is supposed to love unconditional, help you to grow, and not keep you down, and there are lines that shoudln’t be crossed.

I don’t know what extent all this has had on my husband; he just chooses not to speak about it. I know it hurts the siblings deeply.

My father had a rough relationship with his mother and went to counseling for it, and she told him, if she makes you this miserable, and she will not change, you will probably need to tell her “goodbye.”

Ok- long story. I don’t know if it applies to yours or not. It did kind of feel good to type about it.

I hope you discover what you need for your happiness, and if you have to let go, I hope you are able to do so with more peace than guilt.

Ugh… I totally feel your pain. This is something that I too have struggled with. I am 22 and my mother had taken advantage of me, stolen from my husband and I, and done everything else you could imagine. I tried very hard to repair my relationship with her and forget the past. I eventually came to the realization that she would never change. I now have not spoken to my mother in over 2 years, and I am very happy with my decision. I was able to allow myself to forgive her, and move on with my life.

Some of my siblings are still under my mothers wrath and have tried over the past 2 years to coax me into having a relationship her, which has caused me to have to end relationships with them as well. Overall, I am very happy with the decision I made and I am thankful my husband has a great family that accepts me.

I went through hell with my mother since I was 14 years old. There came a point when I realized that by having a relationship with her, even though I thought I was trying to help her, was enabling her to ruin her life and mine. Just because someone is a member of your “family” does not give them the right to emotionally abuse you, nor does it mean you have to put up with it. You have to do what is going to make you happy and increase your quality of life. I will be praying for you :hug:

Regardless of whether you decide to keep a relationship or cut one off, it is very important that you forgive them and yourself. One never knows onto what path our futures will take us and our paths do eventually cross with those we have chosen to part from. Just don’t burn the bridge down…Life has a way of changing all of us.

As for being one who’s life has included the pains you’ve described…yes, each and everyone of us has suffered some form of family abuse.

I guess I have really already made up my mind, but am hesitating to act because of the future ramifications. I KNOW what I should do, and why, it’s just a matter of doing it.

If you’d like a little background, you might take a peek at my blog. But, basically, abuse is abuse. I can be co-dependent in my own abuse, or I can choose not to be. I can decide that I have kept the open door policy long enough, that I have been holding out a futile hope long enough, that I need closure whether or not any of the other members are ready for it.

And if I write off one member of the family, I would write them all off - NOT because all of them are contributing to the problem - but because they willingly tollerate those who do! Putting myself in the middle of all the back-and-forth is just exposing myself to more pain, something I refuse to do.

I need the strength to do what I know I must.

Do what you have to do, but remember that family is always family whether we have anything to do with them or not.

Family problems can always be stressful, but you have to do what you know is for the best.

I haven’t seen or talked to my mother or father in 22 years, none of my siblings have either.
I’m much better for it. It bothers my sister very slightly. I think it bothers my brother a lot. Coincidentally that goes along with the amount of contact we had, with me having the most and my brother having the least.
Yes it was a physically and emotionally abusive home with me getting the worst and my brother getting none.

Later after moving out I started having 1 on 1 contact with my sister (also abused), when we compared stories we were finding they didn’t match up. My mother was still playing the head games.
I learned in psychology class that if my mother says something it’s best to get it straight from the horse’s mouth no matter how embarrassing or hard the answer would be to hear if she was telling the truth (she always told me “you stink” and the class had something where others rate you, I was shocked to see others say I was clean) so when she played “he said she said” with my sister or brother I’d simply ask.
I’m the confrontational type and if pushed I will go off and this was pushing me. I think that made it easier for my mother to disown us so they could retire far away without the need to contact anyone (she also made my father cut ties with his parents and siblings, something he wouldn’t have done on his own).

I actually fear the day that one of my parents dies because I know the other one is going to come back. It’s been so long I don’t know if I’d remember to watch for the right thing if it’s my mother coming back. (I tend to block things out and will probably have to take a Xanax from remembering this stuff.)
My father was the physical abuse through the manipulation of my mother so if he came back without her it would probably be tolerable.

My nieces and nephews have issues with it. Only my oldest niece barely remembers them. Another fear is that a nephew wants to visit them and that could cause them both to come back. But most likely the result will be like when a cousin visited to tell my father to visit his dying parents, they’ll quickly blow him off at the door and the gates and bars will roll down across the doors and windows.

I say burn the bridges BECAUSE family is always family. People don’t change and when you have the ability to go back (which you do because they are always your family) eventually you will and you will be going back into the same situation.
But that’s only based on my experience.

the thing you have to keep in mind is what is best for your sanity. you need to be able to focus your love on the people who will love you back. i’ve never had a relationship with my father and when i was in my teens i tried, i wanted to have a father-daughter expierance. he just couldn’t make that connection so as i got into my 20’s i just stopped trying. i know my situation is different from yours but it did help my piece of mine to finally have closure.

Well, you know the old saying, “You can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family” - and those couldn’t be truer words.

My husband, and I, have stopped communication with one of his brothers. It was just too painful to have a wonderful, loving relationship one day and the next, he would be sending hateful emails and making horrendous phone calls to my husband telling him what an awful person he was and saying nasty things about me. Lots of other things too, but you get the idea.

My husband and I live the closest to his parents and are, therefore, their primary caretakers, although they are not yet at the stage where we have to be really hands-on. They still live about an hour away from us, but we talk everyday, sometimes more than that, and are there for them whenever they need us. DH’s brother lives in another state, but is still within a bus or train ride if he cared to come home. He doesn’t. In fact, he never answers the phone when his parents call him and never calls them back. He hasn’t seen his parents in over 3 years. His dad has even had a stroke during that period. Yet, he insists that we don’t take care of them and are horrible children. My husband is the youngest of 5 children. My in-laws have now lived through the deaths of 3 of them. My husband through the deaths of 2. You would think that surviving after the deaths of siblings and children that this brother would pull his family to him, yet he’s exactly the opposite.

I must add, that he is sick yet he won’t keep anyone informed of how he is doing. That rips our hearts out, but he’s just so mean that we can’t keep opening ourselves up only to be ripped to shreds for doing it. Of course, there are other things that have happened, but about 3 or 4 years ago now, we had a “last straw” incident and I told my husband that I was done trying. It’s not that we don’t love him and want the best for him, it’s just that he’s not someone who we would pick to be a friend and it’s too hard to try to make a relationship that he is, obviously, not wanting. My husband agreed and we have not spoken to him other than for a few times over the last few years. I have to stress this…We love him, we just can’t be friends with him. We do not want him to die alone in another state. Our hearts break that he keeps putting up a wall that is so unnecessary. But we can’t keep doing this and getting crushed. DH’s parents know how we feel and tell this to his brother when they speak with him, but he obviously doesn’t care enough to try to mend fences. They agree with us and understand how we feel. Unfortunately, they, as the parents, don’t have the luxury that we do to stop trying. Parents who love their children will always try. The ball is in his court now as far as we are concerned.

Monidew, we didn’t call him one day and make the announcement that “We’re not speaking with you anymore. It’s too painful.” We just didn’t call or send emails or respond to emails that were hurtful. The funny thing was that we found that if it hadn’t been for us sending him cards, or emails or calling him, he never initiated contact. It was ALWAYS us. There was really nothing to NOT respond to. Know what I mean? That was really telling. He knows we love him. I know he loves us. But, in this life there is not time to dwell on people who refuse to actively engage in a relationship. We’re family. Not friends. We still struggle with choices, but overall, the major stress of the relationship has been done away with.

Sorry, this was long. I guess I’m saying that you might be able to keep the love by not confronting the removal of yourself from their lives, just do it and see if they notice. If they don’t then your all set. If they do notice and ask about it, then tell them what you like, don’t like, what you need and what you won’t tolerate. Your boundaries are yours. Good luck. I know this is hard either way.

There are situations which no one needs to tolerate, even if it is family who is acting in a certain way.

Our family has come close at times, but we’ve always managed to stick it out until things worked themselves out - though the rocky periods could last for years. I could imagine a situation where no one did come to their senses, but we were lucky. My sister did not tell us she had enrolled in seminary - she thought we’d disapprove. She and I have had periods when we didn’t talk. My dad and his mom have had on-again off-again rocky periods for decades - basically they don’t understand each other. Things there improved when I got to know my grandmother better and since I understand both of them, I can translate. My mom and I have an odd relationship - she has told me she doesn’t like to talk to me when I’m tired/stressed/sick and even now is calling a trip to visit that I thought was planned a “maybe trip.” I don’t know if she realizes she says these things, either.

I guess what has kept us coming back to each other is that we grow out of these things (or forget about them, I suppose) and as we move on to other parts of our lives our priorities change. The sister who I didn’t speak to for a while? She has power of attorney for health care for me because I completely trust her to make a wise decision if she had to. But I don’t bring up those years we didn’t talk, either. I just try to work with her based on where we are now.

I don’t know if this helps, since mostly my family hasn’t talked about these things. They just sort of happen in a quasi-passive-aggressive way and then it all eventually resolves itself at least enough for us to get along long distance.

Well said!! You HAVE to live with yourself - you are the most important person in YOUR life - do what you need to do to keep yourself and those closest to you happy and sane. My DH’s family became dysfunctional after the kids all became adults. His dad re-married after his mom passed away and “step monster” slowly, methodically (and deliberately) eroded his relationship with his children. A couple of years ago she had the nerve to call my mother (who she hadn’t seen or spoken to since our wedding 20 years before) to tell her what horrible people we were - my Mom let her have it lol! Anyhow, Jim’s dad passed away - oh boy, a year ago yesterday - and luckily by a strange stroke of fate, Jim called him that day and spoke with him - but we have had no contact with her since and won’t. There are some issues with his brother but they maintain “contact” and we get on fine with his sister, but don’t talk as much as we’d like. Anyhow, Jim had to kind of disown his dad due to his wife, but in the end was able to let his dad know how much he loved [U]him[/U].

My husband cut off his family. He was raised in a very abusive home- both physically and emotionally. His mom was abusive to me during the 5 years we dated, and during the first 3 years we were married. She was abusive to her grandchildren (his siblings’ kids). We tried and tried and tried… she “changed” and “changed” and “changed” but never changed. Through ALL of this, his dad sat by and watched; or worse- called us and begged us to forgive mom because she was making his life difficult.

When our first child was born, we quit trying. She is still abusive to her other kids and still abusive to her grandchildren (not our children) and despite the fact that we KNOW this because we talk to some of his siblings on occasion, she continues to send DH emails alternately telling him she has changed, or berating him for his inability to forgive her. Oh, and she sent my parents hate mail because my parents sent them a Christmas card. Yes, they are “Christians” so it wasn’t a religious issue.

We have forgiven her, completely. However, we are not willing to let her treat us that way any longer, and we are not willing to expose our children to that behavior. So, his parents have never met our children. We do not talk to them, do not answer calls or emails, and do not give any information to anyone who might talk to them. Thank goodness they live in another state. We have gone so far as to state legally in our wills that under NO circumstances are our children ever to go into their care.

Yes, there is a point at which, for your sanity, you must cut off communication with poisonous people. Blood relation is no obligation to let someone make you miserable.

Good luck with your decision, and my prayers are with you!

thank you Abily - I think you’ve opened my eyes to what I should have been able to see all along, but was allowing my love for them to cloud my vision. You’ve made my decision much clearer and easier to make. Thank you.

Glad I could help, Monica. It’s easier for me because I’m a bit removed- it’s not my family, so I can stand back and see things without the emotions getting in the way. Well, more so than Chris can, anyway. Believe me, I have my own set of emotions about his parents, but I don’t have the history he has. I don’t have to mourn the loss of the few good times, because for me there were no good times. I do, however, mourn the fact that my children will miss out on what should be a wonderful relationship with their grandparents.

I should tell you about my MIL. She is a very emotionally and mentally unstable woman who has done everything in her power to try and destroy my marriage. She is also very verbally and emotionally abusive to her own son, as a way to keep him dependent upon her.

I have seen how far this woman will go to try and manipulate her adult son into leaving me and going back to live with her (and my DH is in his late 30s). It got so bad at one point, my DH had to file for a restraining order against her because she showed up at his work, walked in the building, and started pleading with him to leave me and go back to Texas.

The restraining order was not granted and my DH was told to “get counseling to resolve a family spat”. This, despite the mountain of letters and notes she has mailed him and left on his car pleading the same thing. The judge wouldn’t even look at them at the hearing. And if he were a woman and the person stalking him was an ex, he’d get one. Don’t get me started on how unfair the court system is in matters like that.

She drives out of her way to go shopping in the town that we live in just so she can “run into him”. (She lives over 20 miles away and this store has a branch in a town much closer to her than the one we live in). We stopped going to a certain store on a certain day of the week, because on other days, I saw her there, wandering around the aisles with her cart.

She has followed him up here from Texas. She willingly started living in a storage unit she was renting in order to guilt him into leaving me. She used to leave 20 minute messages on our machine, pretending to cry, in order to make him feel guilty and leave me. She makes vague threats that sound like she is either cutting off all contact, moving away, or going to harm herself in order to make him feel guilty and leave me. Obviously, none of this has worked because my DH and I have been together for 10 years and married for 7.

She tried making friends with my DH’s ex-wife, who is quite a piece of work herself, in order to play on DH’s tendency to feel sorry for and want to save people, but fortunately it didn’t work.

And after all the trouble she caused last fall with her stalking him and us having to go to court, she had the nerve to send us a Christmas present as if nothing ever happened. We sent it back to her, unopened. Then she got his aunt involved, to try and make him feel guilty about doing this.

Granted, it did take a few years for my DH to see the abuse for what it was and slowly gather the strength he needed to tell her no and not allow her to make him feel guilty anymore.

Before he met me and we got together, he was living with her. The amount of control, abuse and manipulation she used to achieve this just staggers my mind. Before he met me, she had convinced him to get a joint bank account with her. She did not work much because she could not hold a job. She then proceeded to spend all of his money on things and leave little to nothing for him. She also had control over the household expenses and then would not pay bills so they would either get evicted, or have the power turned off, or other things. When she completely ruined her own credit, she talked DH into putting the bills in his name, which he let her do, and then she proceeded to completely ruin his credit. She left him hanging with bills he had no way of paying. She made promises to him that she would get a job and keep it so he could go out on his own, but she never had any intention of keeping them. She is partially responsible for the break-up of his first marriage (his skank of an ex-wife is mostly responsible for it, though.) and the break-up of every other relationship he has been in.

When DH first moved here to be with me, more of the same thing happened. She convinced him to get another joint bank account and a local bank in our town with her (while she was living in another state), and then bounced check after check on it and left DH responsible for it. She skipped out of town without settling accounts and left DH responsible for settling them.

We have looked into what legal options we have to get her committed to a mental hospital. She obviously needs the help, but she will never get it unless she is forced to go. Our hands are tied. She also knows how to work the system, too. She claims she was horribly abused as a child, but she also uses that as a ploy to get sympathy from other people. She has gone on and on and on about this abuse so much, it has gotten to the point where I have begun to question whether or not it actually happened and that she is making this up or exaggerating it for sympathy. She likes to play the victim and not get help for all of her problems, either. She will go to therapists and go on and on and on about the alleged abuse to get sympathy, but the minute that the therapist brings up the notion that she can’t use the past to excuse her behavior in the present, she stops going.

She has threatened to move back to Texas last fall, but so far, I haven’t seen evidence of this.

My husband has cut off all contact with her. Or he tries. He has to tell her no all the time. It’s a difficult line to walk for him because she is so mentally unstable and the law is not on our side. Until she threatens to physically harm herself or one of us, there is nothing we can do.

I have little contact with my own parents. They were very cold and distant people when I was growing up, and as an adult, they only contact me when they want something from me or they expect me to drop everything because they say so. They don’t just call to say hello and to chat. I tell them no. It’s a lot easier than I thought it would be. I also go to school part time and work full time and my mother tries to pull guilt trips on me because I don’t have time to do what she wants me to do. They don’t work, because I don’t feel guilty for not doing what she wants.

I know how difficult it can be to tell family no and set boundaries and enforce those boundaries, because we are always told that we are supposed to love our family no matter what and we aren’t supposed to cut off our family or tell them no. But you have to do what is best for you and be firm about it. I don’t envy you, but I can sympathize with you at the same time.

You know this is a very sad thread. I am a bit stunned by all the stories people have to share and by their willingness to self disclose such things.

I’m very fortunate in that I don’t have what people describe here. However I would not consider my family that I grew up in to be totally functional, but not seriously dysfunctional either. I know we are somewhat dysfunctional because years ago in college in a class we learned about dysfunctional families. I discussed this at home a bit and said “all families are dysfunctional to some extent”. My mom said “No! Our family [I]works!”[/I] What greater proof do you need than such strong denial?

I am the youngest and only girl in our family. I am not terribly close to my brothers. I talk to them occasionally when the need arises and I see them at Christmas. I’m often confused at Christmas about the pressure to see my family, particularly my brothers because we don’t go out of the way to visit much otherwise. My brother’s have little in common with each other. This is my parents fault because as children we were defined as each being somehow different from the others and any commonalities were not emphasized. I was so surprised when I met my husband and saw that his brother was his friend also. What a concept!

My dad used to yell a lot when I was little, he was not abusive to me but some to my middle brother. I guess he was singled out because dad saw himself in him. The oldest was the “good” one the middle was the “bad” one and I being the girl was the “perfect” one.

My mom is very dependent on things (likes to shop and decorate her house, it does look perfect) and people. She is very clingy of me. She desires us to be a close mother and daughter pair but her very insistence on it pushes me away. She always lists all her friends who talk to their kids every day. Thinks we should do the same. I now live 3 hours away from my home town. When I made the announcement that we were moving my mom said “I will never see you again!”…very dramatically. Trust me, I’ve seen her and I’ve lived here 11 years.

She is extremely proud of me yet also very critical. I am now vegetarian (15 years now) and apparently this ruins all family gatherings and I never hear the end of it, she made a comment when I saw her last week. And I am always told I live too far away. But she is proud of my education and career and my children. When I recently acquired Bells Palsy (which I am still dealing with 11 weeks later) she started calling every day because she couldn’t come see me and was very concerned. Let me tell you this has not help my recovery. She talks and talks at length, interupts things I’m doing…like resting. If I e-mail her she calls me back with a reply. If I don’t answer the phone when I think it’s her she calls me frequently through out the day till I answer. She thinks e-mail is rude…but interupting with too many unnessecary phone calls are not? And she manages to say things in such a way to try to make me feel obligated to something or guilty. Compared to some stories shared here, these are small things…but it’s hard to shrug off guilty feelings.

However, our family “works” because all three of us kids are college graduates. We have never been to jail. No one had kids out of wed lock. No drug or alcohol issues. We are pretty ordinary people and my mom thinks her perfect parenting is the reason for that. Certainly it helped but also just who we are as people might have something to do with it too. My mom was a stay at home mom, I do think she raised us far more than my dad. I was often frightened of may dad and his yelling as a kid so don’t feel terribly close to him.

So anyway, I am often trying to distance myself from my family…mainly mom and her suffucating love and clingyness, but it’s not so bad that I need to cut anyone off. But no family is perfect.

My husbands family has always seemed ‘normal’ to me. They call at reasonable intervals, are helpful when needed, and never push us to do things. Everyone gets along and no one is too clingy, they all feel pretty secure and no one is made to feel guilty. Wow, no wonder I like my in laws!

The clingy, dependent, needy, suffocating, parasitic relationship you describe is NOT HEALTHY, to you or to the parasite. Don’t think that is not abuse - it is! I wish you much strength in dealing with your relationship! You will need it.
I found it interesting that you feel a family could “work” simply because no one has been in jail or had drug/alcohol problems…
Even though my son has been in jail, several times, and is a recovering alcoholic, I still think our family “works” better than the family I grew up in! We were able to stand by him until he recovered and turned his life around - without judgment, condemnation, criticism, etc. We loved him through it! I think that is much better than the judgmental, condemning, hateful, cruel household I was raised in and continued to be exposed to until I decided to not subject myself to it any longer.
For whatever it is worth, a family can be dysfunctional for more than what they DO, they can also be dysfunctional for what they FAIL TO DO (or provide). Neglect is as powerful a reason to protect yourself as physical abuse.

For all the unhappy, unhealthy families who have been mentioned here, my heart goes out to each and every one of you. This is NOT EASY! If you are in a situation where you need help, please LET SOMEONE OF AUTHORITY KNOW.
Be aware of what my pastor calls the 4 “A’s” abuse, addiction, abandonment, and adultery. Those circumstances require special handling, and sometimes, complete removal of yourself from the relationship, until the other party gets healthy.

I found it interesting that you feel a family could “work” simply because no one has been in jail or had drug/alcohol problems…

You misunderstand…that is why my mother thinks our family is perfect, not me. I can site many imperfections not even mentioned in my previous post.

It may be abusive in terms of the attempted manipulation, but again it is not severe. I [I]did[/I] say we were dysfunctional. And while I was venting a bit it does not give the complete picture. No one is swearing at me, people are polite, I’m not in physical harm and my self esteem is such that I don’t feel bad when I am criticized, I feel angry and either ignore it or make a sound retort. I’m not pressed to give my parents money or do other things for them. I feel it is suffocating and overwhelming at times. But I also think my mom is needy for other reasons that she doesn’t even realize she needs to resolve (introspection is not her long suit). Thus her needs are expressed toward her kids in an unhealthy and clingy manner. She loved having us kids at home, never was the type to want to kick us out at age 18. So while it drives me crazy at times I have one thing that a lot of kids don’t; I know I am loved and was a wanted child. My mom just doesn’t know how to let go.

that definitely makes the picture clearer! thank you for rounding it out a bit more and helping me understand.