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Estranged Toxic Mother and the Family Fallout

(137 Posts)
OPGangnamStyle Thu 14-Feb-13 02:10:04

Hi, Wise Ones!

I would really value some input on my situation please. I am actually in a really good place, but would like some insight re my brother's behaviour. I also think I just need to get it all out.

This is going to be looooooong.
I shall try and be as succinct as possible, whilst imparting what I think is relevant information.

My father left the family home when I was 12, and my brothers were 10 and 7. My mother raised us as a single parent, my father barely saw us, and when I reached adulthood, I officially cut ties with him as I felt he wasn't that bothered about any of us. Haven't seen or heard from him since I was 21. I am now nearly 40.
My mother did her best, struggled financially. I know she had a lot on her plate, and no help. All of her siblings live on the other side of the planet, and her parents were dead before I was born. The only tangible family I had were her and my two brothers.
She has always been opinionated, bossy, critical, grade A never enough; why didn't you get A+, her way or the highway, stubborn, strict, overbearing. I don't think she managed well when we hit adulthood and had our own opinions.
We all muddled along ok for the next 20 years, didn't all see loads of each other (her, my brothers, me): this seemed to suit us all, as we all lead independent lives, and I don't think we have much in common.

More recent times!
I get married, we have a son, born autumn 2010 (first and currently only grandchild). Straight away the opinions come in, I should do this, do that, that's not how it's done. We used to do this in the seventies, times have changed, mother, I tell her that current research supports this or that, HV is happy with newborn and development etc, he is thriving, happy, thanks for your opinion, please feel free to offer me advice once, but if we (husband and I) say we are doing it another way, you drop it. We aren't going to change our minds just because you go on and on about it. You don't have any say in how he is raised. But she couldn't ever stop, and I felt undermined, belittled, nagged, stressed. When our son was 13 months old, I felt he was really starting to understand that I was being undermined, criticised, and I didn't feel this was a healthy environment for any of us, so I said more firmly to her, that she had to stop. She said no, she could say what she liked, regardless of my feelings (if you recognise this, yes, I did post about it on here at the time, and was told by most of the people replying that she was toxic and I was being reasonable to distance myself: indeed, I should, for the benefit of my child). I was so stressed, her visits sapped my joy and my strength, and I'd had enough. She stopped visiting, yippee.
A few months later, my husband got a new job and we moved a 90min flight away. I feel relieved. I feel like a weight has been lifted.

A poster on my original thread warned me to watch out for the family fallout. Well, here it is. My brothers have only recently been made fully aware of the situation.

Autumn 2012, six months after we moved away, my brother sends a group email to me, my mother and other brother. Just general chat, nothing great. I reply to both brothers, cutting my mother out of the CC field, as I do not correspond with her any more. My brother demands that I reply all in future, and I say no, his mother and I aren't speaking. Both brothers push to know why. I don't feel it is fair to colour their judgement of my mother, so say it is between her and me. They get some info from her, obviously, so I give my version, pretty much as spelled out above. They don't get it at all, and tell me I must let her into my life, she should be able to say whatever she wants, she is our mother. I say no, I don't need the stress, thanks, and I am very happy with how things are.
My younger brother emails me to tell me he thinks I am pathetic and cruel, that when he has children he'd love our mother's input oh how I chortled at that and blocks me on Fb. I don't see why he felt the need to take sides, our relationships are separate, in my mind.

Xmas 2012 my eldest brother sends my husband the following email. I will change the names to protect our identities, and rather than DS, DB, DH etc, I'll give us names as with it being from my brother, I think it will get confusing.

I will be Opal (OP for short!).
My husband is Harry.
My son is Stan.
My friend is Felicity.
Eldest bro is Brian.

I'll do it in the next post, as this is already long, and I think it will make it clearer. I would like some insight please into what my brother is on, basically! I don't feel any great need to respond to him (the email was to my husband, he didn't reply). I feel he does not enhance my life, and is no great loss. In the 18 months of my son's life, before we moved further away with my husband's job, when we lived a 30 minute drive from this brother, we saw him maybe three times. So, really, no great loss.
My younger brother was CCed in on the email to my husband, replied all just basically saying he agreed with the other brother.

Today I get an email from him, CCed to other brother and mother, all breezy, hi, how's everyone, just checking in! Like nothing had happened, and he wants a reply, despite sending that email at Xmas to my husband. I think I should just ignore him, draw a line under my family, and focus on my lovely husband and son. Or should I reply?

Thanks so much if you have read to the end!!! Ach, it was good to get it out anyway.

OPGangnamStyle Thu 14-Feb-13 02:12:52

His Letter

Something has to be done about this. If I am the guy that has to do it then so be it.
I will no doubt be on the 'banned from seeing Stan ever again, and don't ever speak to again list' but someone has to point out that this behaviour is completely unacceptable. 

I have only recently been made aware of exactly how bad this is and how Opal has continued to treat our mum and as you may have been able to tell from my reaction,  I am furious, but in equal measure ashamed and disgusted with my sister. 

I appreciate Opal is your wife, and your loyalty is of course to her, but she is my sister and I am not going to mince my words, for the sake of nicety. I am actually embarrassed that a sister of mine can act in such a cruel manner, and also that everyone has just let this drag on with no one actually telling her quite how wrong, spiteful and horrible her behavior is. 

She is pigheaded and stubborn to the point of it actually being detrimental both to her and those around her. She seems to have this 'I'll make my decision, whether it's right or wrong, and stick with it, so sod the rest of the world' attitude.

She is now doing that to mum about Stan. 
I have said to her before that she cannot expect anyone to respect her views when she cannot respect others. This is not how you have an intelligent adult conversation, and ultimately it weakens her position on matters she takes so seriously. 
You cannot have a debate when one party refuses to take any viewpoint other than their own, and dismisses it out of hand. This is what Opal does, and this is now happening with this situation. 

I am hoping that you have been blind to quite how bad she has become Harry, because I would hope that as a decent human being, and out of respect for my mum, as her son in law, that if you were fully aware you'd put your foot down and stop it, or at the very least give a reasoned alternative view as to how wrong it is. 

Are you aware for example that, presents my mum has bought and sent for Stan have been returned? Do you know how hurtful that must be for my mum, an elderly lady who lives on her own and doesn't exactly have a massive support circle around her. Opal has you., Opal has Stan, and using him to hurt my mum is disgraceful. Whether she thinks she is using Stan to hurt her or not, is kind of irrelevent, because this is exactly what is happening. 

She also had nothing at all on her birthday either from Opal but far far more importantly from her Grandson either. Another attempt to hrt her feelings? Well guess what, it worked.  

I am not saying anything I wouldn't expect someone to say to me if it were my wife.

Harry, I have spoken to mum and she is in agreement that mothers and grandmothers will often disagree on the upbringing of the child but that ultimately it's the mother's choice. 
Your wife however has taken something minor and purposefully magnified it to suit her agenda, which is  'I am Stan's mother, and i will defiantly make my own choices, and s*d everyone else'. I would wager that anything mum did or said would be pounced upon, such is Opal's fierce determination to be both different and defiant, and to prove she can do things 'her way'. 

This has to be sorted. 1 year? I'm ashamed that this has gone on so long. 
Opal's arguments to me are actually also based on nothing. I could take her email, dissect it, break it down and do a very good bit of psychoanalysis on where she is going wrong and why she is completely misguided in this 'crusade' of hers, but I will resist for now. I know full well that if her and i had a debate about this in front of independent people, I would wipe the floor with the rubbish that's come from her just yesterday.

Her arguments are pretty much null and void. Comparing our relationship with our father to what she is now doing to our mum is more that a little desperate. It no more relave than comparing a minor spat over what to watch on TV to World War 2. Yes they are both conflicts, but they are not the same. Not even close.

I studied psychology. I take a keen interest in understanding how certain people work. I work in sales. My job is to go in front of serious business people and understand their mindsets, and how different people work.
I also know quite a lot about depression and other mental issues that are commonplace and more socially accepted these days- I have several friends for example that have had issues.
I only mention this as I am also concerned that perhaps my sister needs some help, and. or someone to give her a bit of perspective on this, as this is not the normal loving and caring person that I have known for 36 years.
Her actions go against everything she supposedly stands for. So let me get this right- she has an almost militant love for random animals and their welfare yet can act in such a purposefully cruel manner to her own mother? It doesn't add up. I think it might be worth considering if she needs to speak to someone. Have you considered any effects of things such as post natal depression? I'm not saying she has it, I'm just saying I am so shocked and appalled by her behaviour, it's like a different person. 

I am now getting involved. If I get a 'lifetime ban' from seeing my own nephew then again that will be her ill judged choice but I am not prepared to sit back and do absolutely nothing or pander to her warped and misguided sense of what is right and wrong. 

She is wrong. 100% wrong. 

Harry, I am not trying to tell you what to do here, but if this was my wife, I would not stand for this. I would put my foot down.. This is not a sexist thing. If i was acting like that to my mother, I'd expect my wife or girlfriend, friend to properly kick my arse and pull me into line. 

With Opal, we seem to be treading on tip toe for fear of upsetting her further. That is not healthy for anyone. 

She says she has the welfare of Stan at heart but ultimately I think she will do things that will be detrimental to him in the long term. 

Let me know your thought because this has gone on for far too long., and I am going to take action is no one else will. 

Harry, let me know your thoughts on the points i raise above. I will be speaking to and informing any 'cousins' who Opal seems to have bonded with of exactly how she is treatin our mother as step one. I twill then speak to someone who I knew as a friend well before Opal was best mates with- Felicity Smith, as I fully expect her to be as appalled as I am. 

If I can't speak any sense into her, and if you won't or don't want to, then maybe one of the above will be able to make her realise just how unjustified and horrible she is being to our mum. 

I look forward to your thoughts Harry, and again, please do not take any of the above as having a go at you, it's not meant that way. I am a man of action and enough is enough.


OPGangnamStyle Thu 14-Feb-13 02:17:04

Now. A few quick points from me, and then, over to you, please.
The typos are his, I didn't bother amending them, I wasn't sure what all were.

Presents from my mother, and returning them. My mother bought my son some inappropriate clothes in a sale, merely because they were in the sale, regardless of whether they would be the right season to suit his age, e.g. a pair of beach shorts for a two-month old, given in winter. By summer, he'd be seven months old, they wouldn't fit. Shoes that were too small, and actually, I had already said we didn't want to put shoes on feet that weren't even walking yet, etc etc. I did return this all to her, telling her perhaps she could regift them to someone else, thanks anyway. They would just go to waste otherwise.

My husband and I make our child-rearing choices together, as a team. The above makes it sound like they think it's all me!
I didn't, and don't, have PND or anything similar. I am blissfully smitten with my bundle of joy, and could not be happier (except if I had a second child, currently TTC!). My husband doesn't think I need psychiatric help, he regularly tells me what an awesome job I am doing with Stan (I am a SAHM), and he is as instrumental in the choices we make for our child as I am.

My brother says he studied psychology. Actually, he dropped out of college and didn't complete the course. Does it show? smile

I don't know why 'cousins' is in inverted commas! They are our cousins! I have made close friendships with my cousins, visiting them when I was mid-twenties, living there for 18mo, one made me godmother to her child, one made me her chief bridesmaid, she was BM at my wedding, they are wonderful. It is a shame they live overseas, but we catch up on Fb and email etc. I have already told them about all the strife, so I don't know why my brother, who has said he is not bothered about having a relationship with any of them, and can probably not even name all of them, let alone all their children or their spouses, thinks emailing them will help his cause.
I have also told my friend already, I don't know why he thinks I wouldn't! Both she and my cousin are sympathetic to my situation, and fully supportive.
Interestingly, my cousin, whose mother is my mother's sister, has pretty much exactly the same situation with her mother. So yes, she understands!

Thanks so so much if you read all this! It helped to get it out, even if I don't get any replies. But I'd really like some! Thank you. thanks

WankbadgersBreakfast Thu 14-Feb-13 02:30:18

I have absolutely nothing of assistance, but whatever crack your brother is on, I don't want any.
I've heard narcissistic parents can have "scapegoats" and "golden children," d'you reckon she's narcissistic?
Sorry I can't be of more use, good luck with it all.

monsterchild Thu 14-Feb-13 02:33:22

I think your brother's a twat.

I think he's basically saying exactly what your mother is saying, that you are wrong and he is right. I don't blame you for taking the position you have taken!

I'm sorry he's gone and been so horrible then acted as though nothing has happened, that's just annoying and weird.

I don't have much else to add, but I can completely see where you are coming from. If he knows so much psychology he should know right and wrong in social situations is very subjective!
And his being a sales person just somehow made everything he says a little oily.

Jengnr Thu 14-Feb-13 03:50:18

What a pompous, self important dickhead.

Whitewineformeplease Thu 14-Feb-13 04:20:37

Jesus, that's awful, what an arrogant asshole. There are so many shock points in the e-mail, like saying he doesn't understand how you can not listen to anyone else's opinion, then saying you are 100 percent wrong, saying to your husband I'm not going to tell you what to do, and then telling him what to do; and worst of all, the threats to 'out' you to your friend and your cousins! Not to mention the pompous 'I used to study psychology, I have an innate understanding how people work' bullshit. When he dropped out! It would be laughable if it wasn't so sad. I have no good advice I'm afraid, I think getting into a long e-mail exchange would make it even worse. Maybe you and your DH could send something along the lines of, "Your e-mail and its 'advice' is insulting. We have not made these decisions lightly and we resent your interference, your threats and your attitude. Please stay out of it."

CleopatrasAsp Thu 14-Feb-13 04:20:39

What a patronising arse. Ignore!

thepixiefrog Thu 14-Feb-13 06:56:52

Is he likely to have any DC of his own any time soon?

When he does he will look back in this and cringe at just what a sanctimonious pompous twat he has been.

He has nothing to offer you or your family.

drizzlecake Thu 14-Feb-13 07:22:55

I think men are easily led when it comes to close relationships. They seem able to switch off when it comes to toxic rellies etc and just cut out what they don't want to see. (will no doubt get slated for not knowing what I talk about).

But when someone is ranting, in this case your mother, others can be drawn in and, because they feel sympathy for the ranter, will take their side without thinking it through.

There is also sibling rivalry and in my slightly toxic family some members were affected more than others (this is 50 years on by the way) so you might hold quite different memories of childhood.

So I would ignore DB, or perhaps just send a v brief note saying he only has DM's version of things so isn't in a position to judge.

But his email is a mix of sibling past resentments/ perhaps an overprotective attitude to DM (maybe as eldest son he felt more responsible for her happiness after your DF left)/ and a naivety about how protective mother's feel towards their DCs.

Also I wouldn't assume that he will understand how you feel after he has DCs as DM might act quite differently then. Relaionships between DMs and DD or DSs can be very different.

Sugarice Thu 14-Feb-13 07:25:53

He's a man of action is he? hmm.

What a twat, more like.

I'm sure both you and your dh are treating this email with the scorn that it deserves.

Ignore, ignore, ignore.

Aussiebean Thu 14-Feb-13 07:33:32

Wow. Just wow.

I think you have a great attitude to the whole thing And doing it right. Ignore ignore ignore.

I am sure if you do a lot of reading in the stately homes thread and other places you will be able to work out a little of what the hell is going in his head.

But it sounds like you are fine. You don't need to get involved and you are perfectly fine without any impact from them.

You could always reply and say for him to get back in touch when his first child is 12 months and you can talk again then.

ChasedByBees Thu 14-Feb-13 07:40:09

What an idiot. I like how he says he's not being sexist in a letter to his BIL asking him to sort out his wife. I think I'd see less of him too - it sounds like he's just going to put pressure on you regarding your mother. Trying to get others to take sides against you is particularly nasty. Would you really do that if you suspected someone had PND? Actually I don't think he thinks you have PND for a moment - I think he's implying you must be unbalanced to be so unreasonable. Thinks a lot of himself doesn't he?

HotDAMNlifeisgood Thu 14-Feb-13 07:46:44

Just ignore it.

I know it's hard, because it's personal, and from a close relative, but really: he's not going to change his mind, or acknowledge your point of view. Or if he ever does, it won't be down to anything you say or do.

Ignore. Don't reply. Rise above it.

ll31 Thu 14-Feb-13 07:46:56

Agree with above posters. Only one thing i'd disagree with you on is the returning of presents when you had a relationship with her, think that's just rude. Couldn't you have put shorts on ds, taken photo to show her, then given them away-I just think there's something v unpleasant about returning presents, suggesting she re-gifts. .. I'd be v hurt and I'm hard to upset.

Gunznroses Thu 14-Feb-13 07:52:00

Poor OP! [SAD] please neither you nor dh should reply to this email, your silence will kill them! i think its wonderful that you've also move far away from them all. What worries me about your brother's email though is he keeps saying he will 'take action', 'somebody has to do something' what exactly is he planning ? hmm....what an arrogant, pompous git!

Walkacrossthesand Thu 14-Feb-13 07:56:30

He writes in such an 'oh no not again' weary way, as if your 'behaviour' is sooo predictable - ''I've said to her before that she can't expect anyone to respect her views if she doesn't respect anyone else's ' - has he ever said anything like that? Is there 'history' of antipathy between the 2 of you, or maybe an unseen GF ( as well as DM) pulling his strings for some reason? Of course the entire contents can be attributed to him not having the wisdom to recognise that you can't comment on a situation involving 2 people when you only have 1 person's version of events. Pity he doesn't have the insight to see that. Analyse, dismiss, ignore! Glad you have a supportive DH.

Gunznroses Thu 14-Feb-13 07:59:46

walkacross - him not having the wisdom to recognise that you can't comment on a situation involving 2 people when you only have 1 person's version of events.

he must have missed that particular class on his Psychology course smile

Walkacrossthesand Thu 14-Feb-13 08:00:52

ll31, I think op explained that the clothing gifts were not carefully chosen but bought in a sale, one item off-season and the other something she specifically said she didn't want for her DS but DM bought it anyway.

thepixiefrog Thu 14-Feb-13 08:08:53

For what it's worth I think you're doing great. It takes real courage to cut a toxic family member out of your life, and you are an inspiration.

I hope you and your little family continue to flourish.x

HilaryClinton Thu 14-Feb-13 08:09:43

He's such an eejit. He's a nincompoop and to be ignored.

olgaga Thu 14-Feb-13 08:10:19

Bizarre email! Ignore it. Pompous ass!

VivaLeBeaver Thu 14-Feb-13 08:17:12

I would be fuscking furious with your brother. How bloody dare he judge you like that, and all that pompos self absorbed drivel about psychoanalysing you. I'm wound up on your behalf. And it is fucking sexist to email your husband. Basicly saying whip your naughty wifey into line. Bastard, bastard, bastard.

And how dare he threaten to report you to your cousins and friends.

If I were your dh I'd reply back to that email, politely and just pull every point to bits one by one. Making sure its very clear that your dh supports you and doesn't appreciate your brother's email.

I'd also be tempted to have as little to do with your brothers as possible. They sound as nasty and manipulative as your mother.

I've just cut my mum out my life but my brother supports me having done it for 5 years himself once. Though he's speaking to her now.

DeckSwabber Thu 14-Feb-13 08:18:46

How often does this brother see your mum? If the answer is 'not very often' my guess is that your brother feels guilty about his mum being elderly and lonely, but has been thinking that her having you and a grandchild to think about lets him off the hook.

He is angry with you for not being there to do all the dutiful child stuff, and he us also blaming your husband for not stepping up and making you - this allows him to feel angry and self-righteous instead of guilty.

DeckSwabber Thu 14-Feb-13 08:20:40

And how did it take him a YEAR to realise something was wrong? Because he wasn't around?

Also wondering how much interest he takes in his nephew.

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