Family: a group of people who are related, sharing common ancestry.
Here’s the problem – you’re not my family.
We live in an interesting time. Family had often been thought of as the people you’re related to. Then you grow older and you start to consider other people your family. The group of people who first welcomed you into their family. The mother figure who took you under her wing. The friend who’s become more like a sister. The co-workers who’ve shown they’ll always be there when you need them.
Then you start to compare them to your family. You realize the differences between how your biological family treats you and how your chosen family treats you. You start to question if you’re better off without your biological family.
So this is for you…
You are not my family. We may share blood but that is it. Family doesn’t always find something to fight with you about. Family doesn’t ignore you for weeks on end and then get angry when you finally throw in the towel and call them out on it. Family doesn’t call you every single name under the face of the sun. Family doesn’t blame everything on you and claim you’re the one with all the issues. Family is willing to do anything needed to make a relationship work – including going to talk to a family therapist. Family doesn’t block your phone number and block you on social media simply because they disagree with you. Family calls you back when they see you called them at 12:30am. Family treats you with respect and listens and tries to understand. Family doesn’t jump down your throat all the time and family doesn’t bring up things that happened years ago that should have been settled. Family communicates with each other and if they don’t, they work together to figure it out. Family doesn’t end up in a cycle of everyone being angry all the time. Family doesn’t think it’s a joke when they’ve made a member of the family cry and on more than one occasion. Family doesn’t continue to push each other until they’re upset. Family doesn’t think they can control your emotions and call your emotions stupid. Family understands that your feelings are valid – no one can decide how you feel. Family doesn’t lie to each other. Family is the person or people who you should always be able count on no matter what, who would drop everything to be there when needed, who you would do absolutely anything for – and I’m tried of giving and trying and crying. I’m tried of always being there no matter what and being treated like crap in return. I don’t deserve it.
Family doesn’t abuse each other. That’s what it is – it’s mental abuse. And it’s been physical abuse at times. Abuse is a hard word to use but that’s what it is. When you start calling someone names and trying to rip them apart, it’s mental abuse. That’s exactly what you do.
I can’t say anything to you without a confrontation. If you say something I disagree with I can’t disagree with you or you’ll resort to name calling, trying to rip me apart, throwing a fit, calling my feelings dumb, and acting like you’re always right. But I also can’t agree with you without lying to myself and I refuse to sacrifice myself any longer. So I try saying nothing but that doesn’t work either because you always end up upset that I’m not responding. If I say something and you disagree, I just leave it at that – a disagreement. I don’t get hung up on you having a different opinion – that’s part of life. I tell you I’m not trying to start a fight but that’s where you always end up – starting a fight. Only I don’t want to fight, so I don’t and then you get more upset. You can’t upset me anymore – I’m done giving you control over my emotions and mental health.
You want to sit there and threaten me that you’ll block me, that you’re giving me one more chance, that if I don’t answer the phone that we’re done – I don’t care – why would anyone want to live like that? If you truly cared as much as you claim, you would meet me halfway. But you refuse to because you think you’re always right – there’s no possible way you could be wrong. Relationships work both ways. I know that I’m at fault for how our relationship has turned out too, but at least I’m trying to fix it and the first step is me admitting that I don’t know how to fix it – literally everything I’ve tried hasn’t worked and I have run out of ideas. I’m asking for help – I’m asking for a family therapist. I don’t know how to communicate with you without you getting upset which means I’ve landed on not communicating with you until a therapist gets involved. And I can live with that, so I know it’s the right choice.
You think your wants are more important than my emotional and mental health – and they’re not. You can call me immature – that’s cool, at least I’m mature enough to talk to you like an adult without resorting to name calling. You think all the issues are mine – great, but you need to understand that family issues are just that – family issues. You think you can call me every name possible and you’ll break me – fantastic, but you can’t break a person who you’ve pushed to the point of numbness. You think I’m in this solo – awesome, but I’m not – you have no idea how many people I’ve talked to about this, how many discussions have been wasted trying to sort through this mess, how many people who thought I should have put my foot down a long time ago while I convinced myself to try one more time – I have multiple people in my corner who have proven they’ll be there and that I’m not in this solo. You think you can attack my relationship with God, well, I’ll just let God handle that one.
But you are not my family. I’ve known that for a long time and it’s taken me a long time to say it out loud. I have wasted more tears on you than you deserve. I have wasted more hours of my life talking about how you treat me than I should ever have to. I have wasted more time trying that I clearly should have.
But here’s the thing – it’s not in me to quit trying. But what is in me is to draw my line in the sand. We need a neutral third party to talk to and that is not negotiable. I’ve tried every single thing I can think of to make this family work and I have run out of ideas. I’m at the point where I have to choose – my emotional and mental health or continuing to live this way. I choose myself – I choose my emotional health – I choose my mental health. And that is not selfish and I will not apologize for taking care of myself.
And it’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be hard. I’m not used to putting my needs before other people. But after years of trying, I feel more peace with this decision than I ever have before. It’s going to hurt and I’m sure I’ll cry a few more tears as my heart rips apart fighting between its need to protect itself with its love for its biological family.
However, at the end of the day, I am confident that I have tried every possible thing I can think of to make this family work. We’ve had discussions more times then I can count – we’ve expressed what one does to bother the other and made promises to stop although that never worked – we’ve had discussions in coffee shops – we’ve taken a trip together – I’ve suggested we all read the same book – you’ve said that if I want to talk to come to your house, I tell you I’m coming to verify you’re home, you claim you are, I get there and wait over an hour and you never show – I’ve told you we don’t communicate well and asked what you need from me so I can communicate with you better while you brush it off and claim it’s not a problem – we’ve ended up in a cycle of arguing, you blocking me so you don’t have to communicate, then me just letting it go without addressing the problem – I’ve spent years just excepting that you were easy to anger and perhaps that would never change – I’ve tried to talk to you about it so many times but you never want to listen and immediately get defensive – I’ve reflected on my own time in therapy, searching for something that could help, trying to communicate those same things I learned and you don’t listen – I’m done. I don’t know how to fix it or even if it’s fixable – I just know that I will not become the next member of this family to sacrifice themselves because of the crap that goes on.
I understand you could say that it’s how we were raised, but we’re adults now and adults have choices to make. I understand that it’s not all you, but claiming it’s all me isn’t going to help anyone when you’re just as much at fault. I understand that talking to a therapist may be scary, but they’re some of the best neutral third parties around. I understand that you don’t think you’ve done anything wrong, but it’s not just me. I understand that this is all we’ve ever known, but don’t you remember the promise to change?
I’ve always hated when people try to bring dead people into a disagreement. It seems childish to bring up someone who has no say in the current situation. Plus, they are unable to speak for themselves so talking about them seems rude.
I do want to take a moment to mention my dad – I wonder if this is how he felt? Did he feel like he was the punching bag all the time? Did he want to fix the family but he wasn’t sure how? Did he start taking us to church as a way to try to change it? Did he lay awake at night trying to figure out what to do? Did he pray that one day everyone would wake up and change? Did he want it all to end? Did he question everything about his life? Did he wonder how he had ended up with this family? Did he hold strong to his love of his family despite the utter hell we all put him through? Did he cry because the family he always wanted had turned into his own personal living nightmare? Did he wonder where he had gone wrong? And was he relieved when he realized he was dying?
If you understand nothing else, you need to understand this – this is not a new problem, the issues are not in my head, nothing will ever change if no one puts in the work. This is a generational problem. It has been around since we were born and the behaviors we learned have been around since before we were born. We learned them, but we can also fix them. The door is always opened. I’ve been working on myself for years and I’m still no where near perfect – but I try and I’m willing to put in the work because I know where I want to end up and I know I won’t end up there without putting in the work.
So the question remains – are you willing to put in the work? Are you willing to try to fix this family? Are you willing to make an effort?
But you are not my family – at least not right now. You have not earned the right to be my family.
Family doesn’t treat each other like crap and then get upset when called out on it. Family works together. Family is always there for each other. Family respects each other.
I love you. That will literally never change. Sometimes loves morphs into tough love. This hurts, but I know it’s what I need to do. It’s for my mental and emotional health – but it’s also for the overall health of the family that maybe we’ll be one day. My love for you is in no way affected by my line drawn in the sand – agree to see a family therapist or leave me alone. I can protect myself and love you at the same time.
But you are not my family!