It's that time
of year again where we celebrate the awesomeness of families. But if your home is more like Arrested
Development meets Jax Teller's family from Sons of Anarchy, then this will be a
super tricky period.
about mean families is taboo, especially during big holidays. While child
abuse, emotional abuse and physical abuse is rampant, many 'nice' people prefer
to close their eyes to all that nastiness. They go about, refuting the idea
that not all of us have a warm loving home.
So if you
want to talk about your emotions and circumstances, you might hear incredibly
stupid, and downright dangerous advice like,
your family, forgive them."
don't mean it. Just don't listen."
must have done something. Just pray and be good to them."
how you end up in hospital because mummy dearest went overboard this time with
the beating or daddy finally convinced you that you're so worthless you actually
went and slit your wrists.
family are horrible, this post is to help you navigate through some decisions and
to offer you some practical advice.
#1 HOW TO
DECIDE IF YOU GO OR OPT OUT
to go home and act as if you're a Disney family where all is peace and love can
be overwhelming. Also, abusive families tend to do a good job into conditioning
victims to keep coming back for more. And their helpful enablers are there to guilt
you into it, too.
you end up talking yourself into going home, only to get there and think,
"Doh! How did I forget?"
Now we're a
few weeks away, I think it's important to ask a series of questions.
If you go:
you in physical danger, as in does you family hit, slap or threaten violence?
your family harass or tease you until you are visibly upset and/or can't take
your family treat your partner like rubbish?
If you can
say yes to any of these, then my question would be, why go? If they can't even
meet this low standard of human decency, you are under no obligation to put
yourself or your partner into such awful circumstances.
decide to skip it, here's how to do it with minimum fuss.
1. Don't announce your intentions in
advance. If you say you're not going, you get all the flying monkeys, the screaming
hordes who think it's best for you to go and have a terrible time because it
suits their notions of 'what looks right'. Plan not to go, and keep it secret
so you're not pressured.
2. On the day, send a text and claim
you missed the flight, bus or had to go into work. Then switch off your phone. Then
do what makes you happy. If that means tickets to the beach resort, awesome!
3. After the holiday, you can choose to
engage and reset the rules. Or you can choose to walk away for a year or
4. Remember: your family don't own you.
Disengaging can take some doing (you may need to move home or switch phone
numbers) but there are lots of people who are estranged and they thrive. Just make sure you're safe as you go about it.
#2 IF YOU
WANT TO GO BUT LIMIT YOUR ENGAGEMENT
also the system for if you skip this holiday and then engage later but want to
change the rules)
thinking over what usually happens. Like, most families have a set pattern of
behaviour that governs the abuse.
It starts with the soup. Mum serves up a bowl
and Dad will point out that I'm too fat and should skip this. Ten minutes
later, they're both telling me I won't marry, am in the wrong career, and
basically that if I were just completely different, they'd be much happier.
last few times they went at you through your head and work out how they work.
out what the abuse does to you.
You must warn
the family in advance where your boundaries are, so write it down.
resolve what you will do if it happens. Like, one warning and then you leave.
and this is the tough step, you need to announce your new hard limits. This is
best done via text.
our example, you'd text to mum and dad:
"Mum, Dad, this year I want no personal
remarks about my body, my career or anything else. It's not 'advice' and it's
not helpful. It's just mean."
take it lying down. Abusive people enjoy their power and they will gaslight
you, harass you, play the victim and more. Expect,
"You're so sensitive."
"You're our child. You're not allowed to
tell us what to do. "
"We never say things like that. You're imagining
it. Also, your mum has fainted from your totally false accusations."
text from Uncle Ken who rants, "You're so ungrateful! I'm disgusted by
at this point you can still choose not to go. Seeing you've opened the
conversation, you may consider being up front, "If you feel that way, I'll
skip this year." Or, just say nothing and on the day tell them you won't
promise better behaviour, then you need to go to step two: harness your support
have uncles, aunts, cousins or friends who attend who will back you up when the
abuse starts. Talk to them in advance so they know what's going to happen. If
trouble strikes, they may defend you but most likely they will only be willing to
redirect the conversation.
"Dad, I told you, no personal remarks.
They're hurtful. Aunt Peg, do tell me about your garden. How's it going?"
have a friend or two who is on your side stand by on text.
remember that if your boundaries are ignored, you must do as you said and
leave. This is important because your family need to learn that you are serious
about demanding respect.
best done in style. Don't yell or scream, just exit. Again, abusive families
will pretend to be sick, have fits, hurt themselves and will threaten to cut
you off forever. Don't fall for their playacting! If you go back, they'll
bully you until the end of your life. Just
once won't fix it but if you keep walking out when they're being mean, they
will eventually learn to behave themselves.
I know it's
tough and you may be scared of what they will do. But believe me, it's better
to be away from all that hurt than volunteering for it. I hope this helps.