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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 Sat 16-Feb-13 23:47:50

ihadonetoo, letters plural! Geeze! I hope your GPs know what she is about.

It's so pompous, isn't it! Astelia, I don't know about contacting him/having DH contact him. Mostly I feel he isn't even worth the effort. I don't think he'll feel he's in the right, in the long run, especially when no result is forthcoming. I am hoping he HAS spoken with someone outside of the family, and that they have put him straight. Because bottom line, whatever his course of action is, no one can force anyone else to have a relationship with someone else if they don't want to. Bullying me into relenting isn't going to produce a pleasant relationship if I'm there against my will. I can't believe with all his study of psychology he doesn't know this!

Thanks, Angelico, I agree. But it seems it is not uncommon a tactic! I am glad you are able to work things out with your mother. Mine, I feel, has lost me. I cannot believe someone could be so stubborn to prefer being able to speak their mind incessantly/nag her daughter/trample on my feelings, to being respectful of our simple wishes and enjoy a lovely, easy relationship with me and my child instead.

ihadonetoo Sun 17-Feb-13 19:23:21

Sadly, mine is rather more skilful than your amusingly preposterous brother, OP (oh dear, he's erm, not very impressive, is he?grin). Mine's more along the lines of, "I'm dreadfully upset, ihad's been horrid to me. But it's a cross I have to bear. It's such a shame she's like this."

Which of course winds my nice aunts and uncles up like little clockwork toys to try to "fix" everything. <sigh>

And for years, bizarrely, I have responded to this by saying, "She's not really quite as you think," BUT STILL KEEPING SCHTUMM ABOUT DETAILS! The secret-keeping is so ingrained I've carried on with it, feeling like a naughty 12 year old who'll be told off! Arrrgh.

MN is changing all this, and has helped me cut contact with her. I don't post much about her (hard to talk about) but reading threads like this helps soooo much. thanks

Sorry to you, and everyone else, also going through it.

ihadonetoo Sun 17-Feb-13 19:38:15

Sorry for using your thread to dump on, OP.

zookeeper Sun 17-Feb-13 19:49:37

I'm not sure what to think; you sound as bad as each other. Returning the presents was wrong, and your excuse that your mother doesn't like waste is not very credible

OPGangnamStyle Sun 17-Feb-13 21:15:34

Dump away, ihad. It is helpful to me too, to know I am not alone. Both with the crazy letter-writing, and the secret nonsense. That especially. I really struggled with that one growing up.

Your mother does indeed sound more cunning. I am sorry your aunts and uncles aren't seeing through it. That style is far more my mother, if she were to write anyone a letter, it would be like your mother's. But I don't think she has, or will. She likes her secrets too much.
thanks I hope you are doing ok.

zoo, I take that on board. But it IS something that my mother does herself, within our immediate family, and it was not an act of spite or aggression on my part. The gifts were genuinely useless to me, in that my son was never going to be able to wear them, and I really thought she'd prefer to regift them than see them go to waste. I have never returned anyone else's gifts tbh, none have been so inappropriate, but felt that between family, it was ok. And this was before things were strained.

OPGangnamStyle Sat 16-Mar-13 23:24:37


I have enjoyed a lovely peaceful month since I last wrote. I blocked the obnoxious letter-writing brother on Fb, and just got on with enjoying my husband and son.

Yesterday, obnoxious letter-writing brother sent my husband this email. I would value some advice re whether we continue to ignore ignore ignore, or write one final email, and if the latter, what, exactly, should we say, and do you think I should reply, or my husband! Thanks.

His latest missive:


Hi Harry,

Seeing as I've now been blocked and barred by my own sister on FB for no reason, and she's ignored my non confrontational email to her from weeks back, I'll assume (as suspected) the plan of leaving stuff be, and letting it all work itself out hasn't worked.

I do not know what goes on in her head, but you'll have no extended rant from me this time. For the record- I think it is an absolute disgrace.Genuinely pathetic.

Just so I'm clear and up to date on this bizarre 'family' of mine- can you let me know for sure if we're all dead to her now for good?

It would just be nice to know where I stand. For the record, I will not go out of my way to blacken her name with any of our mutual acquaintances (there are many) but at the same time I won't cover up her behaviour and defend the indefensible. If people ask me about my nephew or her, as often they do. I will tell the truth. Nothing more. Nothing less.

If we are now (as I now strongly suspect) dead to you, then it would be nice if someone would have the courtesy to let me know.

If I hear nothing then I guess that will answer my question.

Peace out Harry- you're a decent guy and I wish you well.


Hissy Sat 16-Mar-13 23:41:06

I'm in two minds....

First thought is to email him and tell him to fuck the fuck off and how dare he email your H, to try to get him to get you to 'see sense' angry.

but then, A REACTION is what the sad little wanker wants. he wants that closure so that he can blame you liberally and with the evidence to hand. he wants a reaction from you so that he can show it to others, and destroy your image. Don't give him that satisfaction. don't give him the ammunition he will use against you.

the thing is, those that love you and know you will know where you are and how to contact you. If they want to know how your DC are, they will ask you.

If he is asked, he can say nothing, and tbh, who cares what he says.

He is utterly deluded.

Maybe one day he will see the truth and feel shame and embarrassment, maybe he won't.

The fact that you have enjoyed being without this person in your life, have enjoyed the peace and calm that getting shot of him has granted you, then tbh, that is enough of an answer for anyone.

I would say to your DH that if the emails bother him in anyway, then he can feel free to delete them without telling you, and if he wants to block or filter that is totally his call.

OPGangnamStyle Sun 17-Mar-13 00:04:19

Thanks so much for your reply, Hissy. Many good points.
You are absolutely right that our mutual friends can indeed ask me directly how I am, and how DS is! What is he on! smile

I would be interested to know if he ever does realise one day what an idiot he has been over this. I will probably never find out. I can't imagine myself ever wanting to build bridges with him even if he does apologise and have an epiphany, he's been so utterly vile.

And yes, I feel so much freer since cutting them all out. I have people in my life who enhance my life, not sap my strength and happiness.

He writes so obnoxiously, doesn't he!

EldritchCleavage Sun 17-Mar-13 01:06:46

Agree with Hissy.

My reaction to the letter you originally posted about was that there was a lot of projection going on. It seemed possible that repressed anger at your mother (what he said about you chimed with your description of her, and I remember your other thread) was being redirected at you, a much safer target. That, plus some jealousy at the way you've found the strength to go your own way and declare what you will and will not put up with.

There's nothing to be gained by any kind of response.

LineRunner Sun 17-Mar-13 01:16:47

The only possible response I can think of to that latest effort is, 'Go away, Brian, and grow up. Harry.' Otherwise, as advised, silence.

i would ignore. by responding, you are letting him know that he can get you to respond by sending a few emails, and he will never stop trying to contact you in some way.

he sounds like a big headed arse! you're better off without all of them

KeatsiePie Sun 17-Mar-13 01:42:52

I remember the first email! I remember laughing in shock at it. Can't believe your brother is back with another one, though I guess it's not surprising.

I think this "For the record, I will not go out of my way to blacken her name with any of our mutual acquaintances (there are many)" is very telling. "There are many" makes the statement come across as a threat.

And this "I'll assume (as suspected) the plan of leaving stuff be, and letting it all work itself out hasn't worked." -- what the heck? How was that his plan? That wasn't his plan. He just made that up just now!

I don't have experience of toxic families so am hesitant to offer advice. I guess based on the first round of this the best thing is to just not reply? If I were your DH I would be tempted to just write back and say "Opal and I are united in our decision to distance ourselves from her/your mother. We won't be discussing the decision with you or other family members. All best to you, and do look us up if you're ever out this way." Just to close the chapter. But I supposed with toxic family dynamics that would not actually close the chapter?

OPGangnamStyle Sun 17-Mar-13 01:45:27

Thank you, Eldritch and LineRunner.
Very good memory to remember my first thread, *Eldritch'!
I will have a bit of a think about the projection idea (but not give him/it too much of my precious time and headspace). I am just baffled he's gone so apoplectic with rage, when he knows exactly what our mother is like. I'm also shock that he thinks I blocked him from my Fb 'for no reason'. Is he so dim as to think that I wouldn't see that first email to my husband, and work out that possibly this was my reason for blocking him? Does he think that obnoxious email would warrant no repercussions? I think he's a bit emotionally stunted. Or something.

OPGangnamStyle Sun 17-Mar-13 01:53:56

Thank you, DavidT and Keatsie. Ok, it's looking like an overwhelming ignore ignore ignore vote. Apart from your last line KP, about looking us up if he's ever over our way! Er, no thanks!
It does sound like a threat, like he's lining up all our mutual friends and will tell them 'the truth'. And oh, how grateful I am he's not now going to blacken my name after all! His first email said he'd ring up my friend and our cousins and tell them all about how horrible I am bring to our mother. Hm, wonder what happened to that!

KeatsiePie Sun 17-Mar-13 02:09:16

I really do love the threat thing. It's like "Now Harry, of COURSE I'm not going to go out of my WAY to tell anyone that Opal is a psychotic bitch, but if they happen to ask how our relationship is ... or ask how she's doing ... or ask how I'm doing ... or mention my mother ... or mention their own sister or mother or anyone else's sister or mother ... or even look like they might be thinking of their sister or mother ... or if a woman who looks like a sister or mother walks by while we're talking ... well, in THAT case my back would be against the wall and I would HAVE to tell them EVERYTHING."

OPGangnamStyle Sun 17-Mar-13 02:10:50

grin grin grin

SergeantSnarky Sun 17-Mar-13 02:23:38

Another vote for ignore

Opposite of love is indifference and that has more of an effect on people than any kind of reaction your side.

He sounds like an attention-seeking control freak and it remains audacious how he slags you off to your own husband.

So just ignore entirely - as he says himself if he hears nothing that will indeed answer his question (controlfreakery)

Enjoy your husband and kids.

OPGangnamStyle Sun 17-Mar-13 02:31:38

Sergeant, that's so true, about slagging me off to my husband. So out of order. And to put my husband in the position he did.
I will enjoy my lovely husband and beautiful little boy. Thank you!

BerthaTheBogCleaner Sun 17-Mar-13 09:05:54

If I didn't know better I'd think that was written by a rather immature 12 year old in a strop. Although I'm also imagining a fat purple-faced middle-aged Victorian with dented pride and a frustrated power-complex. You know in books when they say someone is "apoplectic"? Or maybe Mr Dursley. Does your brother look like Mr Dursley? grin

Definitely ignore. Any reply at all will just fuel the next ridiculous attack. Ignoring him will send the best message - i.e. 'you are not worth a second of our time'.

I wouldn't worry about him "blackening your name". Let him get on with that - give em enough rope! Anyone worth knowing will listen to him and think "what an idiot, poor Opal".

Would your husband be willing to block emails from him too? I really don't think you need periodic emails from your brother. Not until you're able to look at them and laugh.

Have you got some good real-life friends you could show the emails to, btw? Because their reaction will be shock/horror/outrage for you/helpless laughter at him, and I think it might really help you to see that.

I do think you should print out and keep all the emails though, just in case they're ever useful in the future - when family members are ever denying that things were said.

LittleBairn Sun 17-Mar-13 09:09:48

non confrontational email wtf is he out of his mind, that was one of the most confrontational meals I've ever read! I plying you have mental health problems, are a disgrace and embarrassment and a bad mother.

Personally my vote is for No reply, it will drive him absolutely mad. grin

I cut a large portion of my family out for toxic behaviour, is been 5 years, it has been the best decision I ever made the relief is immense.
Personally of you are happy to cut them out permantly then you need to make the decision, draw a line under it all and move on.
Change phone numbers, emails addresses and block on Facebook.

Whocansay Sun 17-Mar-13 09:22:24

I don't think it needs saying now, but I'm another one for ignoring it. What a totally pompous moron he is. He has zero self awareness. Cut them all out.

I love the threat about blackening your name! If he does start slagging you off to general acquaintance, start forwarding his lovely emails to people. And point out that they were sent to your husband. They're all the defence you'll ever need.

I'm sorry your share genes with such a twat. flowers

Hissy Sun 17-Mar-13 09:35:25

H is no in a no-win, especially if he actually replies to the prick.

If he replies to placate, he sides against his (mumsnetting) wife. Never a good idea.

If he replies to tell the twat to FTFO, it'll be a reply that is hawked around the entire family to show what a rotter and meanie he is, and how Gangnam is a total bitch, and has him under her thumb.

So the only answer, as far as I can see, really is NO answer.

That in itself, by being put in that position in the first place isn't ideal either as he's still been involved.

Arithmeticulous Sun 17-Mar-13 11:32:12

No answer, no acknowledgement will leave your brother really perplexed. After all, he is clearly right. How come your husband cant see it? Surely he can't agree with you, his wife... no, no that just won't do

kalidanger Sun 17-Mar-13 11:50:24

OP, I read page 1 then skipped to this page and agree with everyone saying 'ignore!' Especially arthritic he'll be so bemused you aren't falling into line.

Some thanks for you, for your troubles and your sense of humour grin

AttilaTheMeerkat Sun 17-Mar-13 12:01:20

Have received similar crap directed to my salt of the earth DH from his mad as a box of cut snakes narc of a brother.

Ignore, do not get pulled in. They don't like it because you are no longer playing their mind games. Brian is also a narcissist to my mind, he is Mothers current favourite.

Would also suggest you read "Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers".

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