Advanced search

Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.

Please help... sister and mother.

(17 Posts)
jouu Mon 15-May-17 17:56:26

What do I do about my mother and sister. I need words or ideas of how I'm meant to deal with this. This is long.

I left an abusive marriage two years ago. Didn't tell my mother until after about 6 months when I had already moved out and restarted my life. Was a dreadful time but I knew she just wouldn't be there for me so I did it alone. Leaned on friends, got through the worst, and then told her (I live far from her)

I was right, while she was initially sympathetic when I shared the news, she suddenly went cold/would ignore any attempt I made to talk about my feelings. I found out months later she had assumed the marriage had ended because I must have cheated on my H and been kicked out of the home. I was so hurt. I remember getting actual chest pain when I found that out. I did confront her about that and she apologized. Back story is I had CSA in my childhood, which my mother just sort of ignored and I think she assumed I was just a "slut" (I was a child but hey ho).

Simultaneously I told my sister, who is younger and the favourite. She literally pretended I had not told her. Kept very cheerful but just wouldn't talk about it or allow me to mention the marriage ending. Was excruciating especially when I have been incredibly supportive of her all her life. She then moved away from my area. I took it as a relief. I have found out since that she and her husband have taken the tack of "jouu has ruined her life, it's all just a shame, the poor DC" etc. Never mind the marriage was abusive. She has never asked or allowed me to tell her any details of what occurred in the marriage. Has just decided that is reality.

I just have kept distance. I love my mother and sister but the pain has just been too much. Sent nice Xmas and birthday cards, texted my good wishes every now and again, that's it. Can't face phoning etc. Nothing from sister but a WhatsApp message on Xmas and my birthday. My mother and I have a phone call probably once every 3 weeks.

My sister is now pregnant with her first. She wants to be in contact again, it seems, after about a year of extreme chilliness. Inviting me to visit, sending me updates on the pregnancy. I can't face it. She has been so cruel to me and has frozen me out when I needed love and support so so much. I feel sick thinking of seeing her. I feel sick thinking of a poor child raised by such uncompassionate, judgy people. I'm not really happy for her. I wish I could be, I'm just not. But I'm trying to send supportive replies, etc.

I had a phone call with my mother (who has been more supportive since I confronted her about her cruelty/lack of support) last week. I talked about my plans to see my sister once the baby is here. I am in a great deal of debt due to the split but am working my way out of it, and my custody arrangement is such that I can only leave my area for under a week at a time, but I was explaining to my mother that I will do my best to go and visit my sister post partum to offer what support I can. My sister did do this for me years ago with my first. I am prepared to fulfill what I perceive to be a duty in that sense.

My mother wasn't happy with this and made small exasperated digs about how I need to do more for my sister. I tried to ignore this and talk reasonably about what I am and am not able to do. Mother calmed down after a time.

But after that part of the conversation, I made a big mistake. I said: "I don't really know why Sister wants me there in the first place. She's made it really clear she's not happy with me." Really I was, I guess, wanting my mother to see that I was trying my best in a situation that was not only practically very difficult, but also emotionally taxing.

And my mother responded with a big, frustrated sigh and told me I need to remember, she is my sister and I need to support her.

I felt like I had been slapped and didn't know what to say. Am I wrong? It just was so jarring to hear that. She would never tell my sister the same for me. I want to type so much about what I thought in that moment. I would be here forever. Just so painful to hear. I felt like such rubbish. Discarded and treated worse than shit.

I got off the phone soon after and cried more than I expected I would. Just so hurt at how my family has treated me, that I would be reprimanded by my mother when I have literally just explained how I am going to go against my strong feelings and still try to be there for my sister. It's just never good enough?

Since then I've stewed about what I should or shouldn't say. Are these people beyond help? Should I just ignore and keep low contact? Should I stand up again and tell them both they need to remember I am a human being and there are basic standards for how they need to treat me? Should I scream abuse at them both?? Should I just pretend they don't exist for the rest of my life?

I told my DP about this, he just looked at me for a long time, and hugged me and said "I want you to know I love you just as you are and never want you to change". This is him trying to say, I think, "don't try to get these people to see reality, you've done nothing wrong and they won't change". I wanted to talk to him about it more but I almost can't get the words out I am so upset. So please could you tell me what you think? Maybe after that I can sort out my feelings enough to talk to him as well...

nicenewdusters Mon 15-May-17 18:11:27

The important thing OP is that you know your own truth. You know what's been said, you know what's happened in your life. If two of the people closest to you don't want to hear or understand, then so be it. I can imagine the pain of that is excruciating. But the very fact they are like that means they are extremely unlikely to change.

You can only try so much with people, whoever they are. You don't have to be the one who makes everything ok. You have your own life separate to them, and by the sounds of it a wonderful DP. Concentrate on that.

If they want to contact you, you can decide if/how to respond. Who cares what they think. They sound very caught up in their own little drama, and have cast you in the role of their choosing. If that's how they want to live then they can crack on, you don't have to join in.

I know how hard it is to accept such behaviour from your immediate family. But try and accept it for what it is, on your terms, and decide what role you wish them to play in your life. If it's no role, or a very limited one, then that's fine. As long as you are comfortable with your decision that's all that matters.

jouu Mon 15-May-17 19:07:46

thank you for replying nice.
I feel as if there is no decision with which I could feel comfortable? When it comes to them.

I want a mother and sister. Instead I seem to have two people who want me to be their support, but they will not support me in turn.

Part of me wants to scream and tantrum at them to try to force them into being decent and supportive.

Another part knows it won't change them but yet maybe I long for the catharsis of just saying out loud how I feel?

I feel it all goes back to when I was a child and was abused, my mother decided then that it had happened to me because I had somehow deserved it, and now that I am grown, she still operates with this assumption, that every bad thing that happens to me is my fault so I must lie in the bed I've made, without any support.

But my sister is the innocent angel who everyone must rush to support.

How can it be so unfair? I look at my own DC and despair of how a mother could see her child as my mother seems to see me. It hurts so much.

Still I just can't decide whether to scream into the void (as it were) and inevitably be rejected, vs. moving on quietly without bothering to say a word to them. sad

nicenewdusters Mon 15-May-17 23:19:31

As I get older I seem to spend less time wondering why things/people can be so unfair. I guess I've come to accept that I will probably never find the answer, and the search for it is painful and time consuming.

I think maybe you should just be entirely selfish in deciding between your two options - ie the screaming into the void or the quietly moving on. Which would make you feel better, now and in the long term?

Will anything you say be believed, acted upon, or improve the situation? Or will it just all be ignored, turned against you or twisted. If it's the latter, then why waste your breath. However, if you don't care about the impact and just want one last vent then go for it. Personally I'd do it in one email sent to both of them. Then it's in black and white, they can't deny and twist. Think about your feelings, not theirs.

Like you, I cannot fathom how your mother can blame you for what happened to you as a child. Like you, I would feel nothing but love, protection and outrage on behalf of my child. Thank god your dc have you as their mum. You know your abuser is 100% to blame. If your own mother is questioning that, then she is not someone who deserves to be in your life.

Maybe you should exercise both options. Take your time, write the email, say everything you want to say, don't spare their blushes. Then quietly fade out of their lives.

springydaffs Mon 15-May-17 23:57:07

I identify so much with your story.

I've had a lot of therapy - I suggest you do, too. I went into therapy when my family welcomed with open arms my abusive exH the moment I left him. They were falling over themselves to get to him. He was invited to all family events and I wasnt. He took my place. The pain I felt was out of this world...

You need to look at the scapegoat /golden child dynamic - Out of the Fog website would be a good start. You'll recognise a lot there. For some reason there's very little literature (books) out there for the scapegoats among us. I wish someone would hurry up and write one, it would be such a relief to read it in black and white.

It's not a bed of roses for your golden child sister either but that's not your concern. It really isn't. Imo it's far worse to be the scapegoat (but I would say that!).

Welcome to toxic families survivors group. Plenty of us out here. Getting your family to hear you, much less love you, is doomed to failure. I heard it described as a closed door with a light underneath, so you know someone is in there ; you beat your fists against it until your hands are bloodied, trying to get them to open it, but they never will.

Back up a bit - you're taking this personally. Nigh impossible to NOT take it personally but, this is crucial: it's not personal. It has everything to do with your mother (and father? Your family system), nothing to do with you or your worth. Yes you want a mother and a sister but you will never get what you want and need - and deserve! - from them. I'm sorry. They are incapable of it, they are very disordered people.

It sounds like you have a lovely and loving partner, which is wonderful and priceless. Well done flowers

springydaffs Mon 15-May-17 23:59:13

Read 'Toxic Parents' by Susan Forward.

comoneileen Tue 16-May-17 00:10:19

That's awful. They constantly deceive you. Your feelings don't matter. Only theirs.
It might be wise for your own sanity to distance yourself from your mum and sister.

SeaEagleFeather Tue 16-May-17 08:00:12

It hurts a lot when you are faced with the fact that you are second or third best and they will never approve.

I think you need to face it straight on and turn and lean on your husband.

You are not being selfish in any way, but you know that really don't you?

It might also be best if you quietly, without a fuss, disengage. Phone less; answer messages more slowly; initiate contact less. tell them less about your life. It means that the possibility of support is less - but the reality is that their support is lacking, isn't it? it's never enough, because you're always second best and they make things YOUR fault. Not loving and supportive. No need to cut yourself off completely, but keep a little bit of self-protective distance.

If they start sayign difficult things, withdraw. "I'm sorry you feel that way"; "that wasn't my intention" (said calmly). Imagine a protective glass wall between you and them to protect you if they start being critical or hurtful. it does mean acknowledging that the unconditional love you want won't be there - but I think it's better to face that then endlessly run after the illusion of a loving and equal mother and sister.

Your husband sounds a gem. Try to talk to him, if you can ...

Imbroglio Tue 16-May-17 08:25:12

I recognise the patterns here as well.

I think you did the right thing telling your mum that your sister isn't happy with you. You have identified that something isn't right here and you are doing your best to find a middle way. Stick to your guns. They didn't help you when you needed support and you are not obliged to do more than you feel comfortable with.

Dealing with the pain is another matter. That takes time. flowers

AttilaTheMeerkat Tue 16-May-17 08:43:41


Would second the recommendation to read "Toxic Parents" by Susan Forward.

Ultimately you will need to grieve for the relationship you should have had rather than the one you got. It is not your fault your mother and sister (who seems really to be a carbon copy of your mother, she is very much the golden child in this scenario) are like this; you did not make them this way. They are beyond help and cannot be reasoned with because they are disordered of thinking. You are the scapegoat for their inherent ills. Also you really do not need their approval, not that they would ever give this to you anyway.

The golden child role is a role not without price either but your sister remains unaware of that.

I would seek out a therapist and importantly one that has no bias about keeping such families together. BACP may be a good starting point in this respect.

flapjackfairy Tue 16-May-17 08:55:39

The problem is that when you made that comment you broke the unwritten rule that nobody in the situation is allowed to express any true feelings or emotions.
You should just suck it up and play nice by pretending that non of the bad stuff happened in your childhood or now
No doubt your mother knows the truth but wants to ignore it and rewrite it in her head so she doesnt have to confront the fact that she was a less than perfect parent and that your sister is not a perfect daughter (because no one can be anyway )
It is hard to have relationships beyond the superficial with this kind of dynamic in my experience.

springydaffs Tue 16-May-17 09:34:29

No doubt your mother knows the truth

In a very crucial way, she doesn't. Or she can't see it bcs it's firmly in her blind spot. Yy she could have extensive therapy (if she was so inclined.. but she isn't so inclined: this works for her) to uproot this vicious weed.. but even then it's not certain she'll get it. In fact it's very unlikely.

Very disordered and sick. It is her disorder, not yours. You don't need to take this personally, it truly is not about you, who you are, your worth. It's about her.

That's not to say you won't grieve, as Attila says, for the mother you should have had, the mother you need and deserve but didn't get. That's a process, it takes time flowers

Imbroglio Tue 16-May-17 10:00:22

The way I see things now is that the parent/sibling/whoever is trying in their own way to implement 'corrections' that will make their own life story more bearable to them. They expect you to support them in this, regardless of the cost to you. In your case I'm guessing your mum sees the new baby as an opportunity for you to fix the damage she herself caused by not supporting you when you needed your family.

pebbles1976 Tue 16-May-17 10:06:44

Hey there OP,

Just wanted to say that I identify so much with your story. I was bullied terribly at school and my mother truly believed I had brought it on myself. I also suffered CSA but have never told anyone apart from my husband as I feel my mother and sisters (due to her conditioning them) wouldn't believe me and that it would be somehow my fault.I am 40 and still believe this, but that's another story.
My mother treated me appallingly - I was the scapegoat and my two sisters the golden children. Just last night I asked my husband how a mother could do this is to her precious child - I have a 2 year old and am pregnant with another, so it feels very painful now I've had DC. It's abominable how parents can do this. But, I know that it's her, not me. I feel pity for her. As springy says, it's about grieving the mothers we should have had. It's going to take time.
You're stuck in a place I'm in - I want nothing more than to tell her that she doesn't deserve to be called mother, and to make her remember everything she did to me, but I know it will be turned around and I'll be called an ungrateful bitch because "you had everything you ever wanted!"
So, I keep trying to work things out in my head, try to think of my little own family. The one good thing that has come out of this is that my own children get the mother I never had.

I see my mother once a week and sometimes wish she would do something, so I could go NC. She has been ultra (fake) nice to me since I had my daughter, surprise, surprise. I am a work in progress with all of this. We all are...

Pebbles. x

SoleBizzz Tue 16-May-17 11:12:01

I feel what you are saying.. What do you mean by custody?

AndTheBandPlayedOn Tue 16-May-17 15:07:51

Visit if you need to, but be clear in your mind that you are doing this to check a box that you need to do for yourself. Repaying the visit. Keep it brief and your tight timeline will be a blessing. Leave your memory and resentment at anything you say can and will be used against you. Do not discuss anything personal; do not say anything negative.

I would not vent to them- waste of your time and you would just be giving them more ammunition to use against you. No to the email- that would be tucked away and pulled out in 25 years to show your kids.

It sounds like they will not process any event that has not happened to them. They have no knowledge and perhaps resent it that you may know something they don't they dismiss it out of hand. This is to keep you in your place as scapegoat, lowest in the pecking order.

If they call you out on being superficial- just say that is how they treated you when you went through it <<smug-what goes around >> .

Do not let them dictate what they expect you to do. Set your response, dollar amount, time management etc and anything beyond that: Just say
'no' < a complete sentence
Which could be followed up with a shrug and "I'm just not feeling it" wink You know that they are not interested in what you are feeling anyway.

And speak with your feet. Walk away to preserve your self respect.

Over all though, it sounds like it is not good for your mental health to be around them. Emotionally detach at a minimum. If you need to detox after each interaction, it is a clue to limit exposure.

Springy Go ahead and write that that book!

jouu Tue 16-May-17 15:53:20

Thanks for the replies. Sometimes hard to read, you know how you already know the answer (that is, that there is no solution to this sort of thing), but you keep wishing there was another one?

Sole I mean my custody/residency agreement with my DC is such that I can't flit off with (or without) them for several weeks at a stretch, it has to be no more than 4-5 nights. They are still small

AndTheBand, I do feel an intense need to detox after each interaction. Such a nasty, sick feeling after I've spoken to them. I must withdraw my emotional energy from every single interaction. I can remember I used to do this years ago with them but I think with the split and how hard things were a few years ago, I kind of forgot. I do this... I have a period of several years where I am in a good place, detached and happy, and then I forget and get sucked back in.

Attila yes my mother and sister are very similar to one another. I think they also have carbon copy views of me. I am the flirtatious, transgressive one who gets herself into trouble and blurts out all the wrong things. They are the solid, respectable ones who "do the right thing".

In reality, I'm extroverted, empathetic, and not very fixated on what other people are doing, I tend to be happy for others, enjoy the success of others, not worry too much about others' opinions, etc. They are anxious and envious/jealous types. So when I am succeeding, they have cats bum mouths, assume I have slept my way to the top, and so on. When I am low, they act as if I've got my comeuppance. It's just such a fucking nasty dynamic. sad

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, watch threads, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now »

Already registered? Log in with: