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Contact family, or not? And if so, how?

(11 Posts)
Backwater Sun 05-Jul-20 18:35:41

I've name-changed for this as I prefer to spend my time on these boards doing more fun things and I don't want this to be associated with "me". Apologies, this is going to be long and a bit of a rambling mess. I need to unpack it and decide what to do, or not.

I've been non-contact with my family for around 2 years. I don't know if I always want this to be the case and obviously, the pandemic has brought this to the fore

My mother is the reason this has happened. She is anxious, paranoid, controlling and manipulative. She needs attention, as any human being does, but has no idea how to get this positively so creates or hijacks drama if none is naturally occurring to her. My father and brother are on the autistic spectrum, my brother with some additional learning difficulties. They haven't the emotional or practical tools to deal with her behaviour so take the path of least resistance and opt for a life of passivity. My adult life is an oasis of calm and I have no patience for that behaviour anymore, not helped by the fact I haven't been quite well for some time.

My mother is very possessive of my brother and has told both myself and my father lies about his mental health to prevent us from communicating without her interference. That said, he is the last family member I spoke to on the phone. My mother was forced to let me talk to him as they had an IT issue and he is the only one with any IT knowledge, having been sent on a basics course to aid job seeking. I was suspicious about what my mother had told me so I confirmed the lie with a single "yes/no" question. She had forbidden me from talking to him about it "in case it upsets him again" and I didn't want to alert her to what I was asking. The lie was specifically constructed to stop my brother and I communicating over email, a medium in which she is uneducated and therefore unable to interfere. The lie was the final straw as to stopping contact. I was angry at her and at a loss as to how to communicate with the rest of my family openly.

My brother functions well enough to have a job but not well enough to get that job by himself, or maintain a household, or pay the bills, or shop for himself, etc. It's as much to do with the fact neither of were taught life skills as his condition. With the right support, there would be some hope he could live at least semi-independently but my mother has not sought that support, using the excuse that my brother doesn't want to leave home, ignoring the fact that, one day, whether he moves out or not, she will not be around to micromanage him. If he doesn't start to get help before they both die, getting him help will be complicated by the fact I live the other side of the country and am tied here by my job and my partner. My partner in turn is tied here by his job and his family. I don't know whether any attempts to get support have been made since I was last in contact but one of my fears about getting back in contact is that this will either prolong or renew the procrastination.

My more immediate issue is that I don't think I want them to pass away without ever speaking to them again and so, I've been trying to write this post for the last three months. I would prefer contact to be through my father but my mother is almost certain to be the one to pick up the phone and I don't want to tell her that directly. I think she realises on some level that I don't like her, and I certainly don't, but I don't hate her either and I don't want to twist the knife because I do feel sorry for her and how miserable she makes herself (as much as anyone else). I have considered writing a letter to my father, but I couldn't guarantee she wouldn't intercept the letter, whether the envelope was in my handwriting or not, and either fail to tell him or, worse, manipulate and twist the contents.

The only recent attempts they have made to contact me have been birthday and Christmas cards, which have not been reciprocated. The last time, that I am aware, that they have tried to phone me was a week before Christmas 2018. They wouldn't normally phone but this was three weeks after I would normally have done the pre-Christmas visit. I didn't respond and shortly after my landline ceased to work so I don't know whether any attempts have been made since. My mother is very much a creature of habit and does not subscribe to the idea that if you keep doing the same thing, you keep getting the same result. She doesn't include anything in the cards other than signatures and it wouldn't occur to her to try my mobile, even if she has the number which I'm only 50% sure she has.

If you got to the end of that, thank you for reading. If you have any advice, thank you in advance.

OP’s posts: |
Aussiebean Sun 05-Jul-20 21:49:01

I think you need to decide what outcome you want and how you will feel if you don’t get it.

Have you tried that stately homes thread? That might help you clear your thinking and decide if you can cope with any possible outcome.

NCAhsleigh Sun 05-Jul-20 22:14:25

I've NC to reply to this too as I have an estranged family member who I don't know if they read MN or not.

Do your father and brother not have their own mobiles or email addresses you can use to contact them separately to your mother?

Backwater Mon 06-Jul-20 13:22:19

Thanks for replying, both.

My family is a bit like a fly caught in amber from the 1970's. The only tech is a laptop I bought them and a very old tablet I bought my brother. I'd been suggesting getting a computer for ages as so much stuff is done online now but my mother only really got on board when her payslips went online only. It didn't help as she's too paranoid to use it. A windows update screen upset her so much it got the laptop and router pretty much put away, as far as I know.

My brother is a little more interested in tech and does have an email address, but she has frightened him out of using of using either the laptop or the tablet and in any case has put his password away. He picks up very easily when she doesn't approve of and is frightened of something. She telegraphs it by biting her nails and looking anxious and occasionally making taut ominous remarks. She has covered her tracks by telling me he was making strange hallucinatory stuff up with a strong tech theme and telling me I couldn't ask him about it in case it set him off again. I asked him, yes or no, whether one of the incidents had happened and he, sounding completely puzzled, said "No, why?" He hasn't the ability to be that plausible on the hoof.

OP’s posts: |
pallasathena Mon 06-Jul-20 18:15:27

You really don't like your mum OP so why bother?

Aquamarine1029 Mon 06-Jul-20 18:20:57

In think all you'll accomplish by contacting her is to start the cycle of abuse and misery all over again.

Sidewinder30 Mon 06-Jul-20 18:41:43

Your mum does not want to contact you. Most mums would do whatever is required to stay in contact with their dc; yours won't send a text message. It is impossible to tell from your post if your Dad does not want to contact you, or fears his wife's reaction, or has another issue (possibly related to autism).

You sound like you know that this whole thing is quite toxic. Your mum may have mental health issues. But the end result is that she prefers you not messing with the life she controls with your df and db.

The only relationship worth salvaging here is the one with your db, I think. You can stay in touch with him as much as possible, just to be a friendly voice and presence in his life, let him know you will always be there for him.

How old is your db? What can be done to open a direct line of communication?

Backwater Mon 06-Jul-20 19:35:15

Thanks again for the replies.

The reason I would like to bother is that I would still like a relationship with my father and brother.

DB is 40. It simply wouldn't occur to him to pick up the phone or write a letter. Nor my father. Not to anyone, not just me. I've emailed DB but no response. Again, I don't think he's ignoring me, exactly. I think he just hasn't signed into his email for over 2 years.

The last post is correct, I think. It's not just about whether I want a relationship with them. It's about whether they want a relationship with me. I think I'm going to have to assume they, or at least my mother, doesn't.

For anyone with experience of adults who need support, what is likely to happen to my brother if my parents don't sort anything out?

OP’s posts: |
NCAhsleigh Mon 06-Jul-20 21:27:19

I'm sorry OP, I think others are right too - you want a relationship with your dad and DB, but with your mum controlling things to this extent (which sounds very worrying) it's a question of whether this is in any way achievable practically.

Are you in a different place in terms of how you might cope with contact with your mum? If so, it may be worth attempting to re-establish contact so that you can also hopefully be in contact with your dad and brother. But the whole situation will also be complicated by the fact that by cutting your mum out of your life, you decided to also cut them out and I expect they'll have feelings about that too.

I was struck that you say your mum probably has an inkling you don't like her. I would say cutting off all contact for two years sends a pretty strong message to that effect. You also pretty much washed your hands of your brother two years ago when you made your choice to cease contact with them all. Perhaps you felt like you had no other option at the time, but leaving aside your mum and if you could somehow be in touch with your DB after all this time, how do you think he's going to feel about that?

Paperthin Mon 06-Jul-20 23:50:08

Sounds like your dad basically ‘enables’ your mum.
If I am reading this correctly your end goal is to get some relationship back with DB?
If your DB has a job can you email him at work ? Re establish contact. If anything happened to them, and yr brother cannot live independently I assume social services may get involved.
Has he ever visited you ? Can he travel to you to meet somewhere? I think you might have to try to gently get back in his life without them, finding a way in.

Backwater Tue 07-Jul-20 00:58:27

Washing my hands of my brother wasn't my intention. It was partially to try to spur them into doing something instead of apparently kicking the can down the road. My father agrees my brother needs help but he is simply not someone who could negotiate the system himself. I have wondered about phoning social services.

My brother doesn't really seem to feel much at all. Not these days. Each day is the same. He does my mother's hobbies, he watches her tv programmes, he does the same job as her, he has no friends. He has basically become a shadow of her. Anything like the tablet she will make him anxious until he doesn't want to do it anymore. I've heard the term Enmeshment on these boards a few times and it rings a bell.

DB works as a cleaner (with my mother, of course). He hasn't a work email. He can't travel on his own. He went to college a couple of times on the bus then got lost one evening. My mother wouldn't let him out on his own again. I've offered to meet him off the train/coach, but no.

Thank you for your thoughts, all. I think I've come to the conclusion that, actually, they don't like me much either and I will leave them to it.

OP’s posts: |

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