Dysfunctional Extended Family ~ The Mean Aunt that I Loved


dysfunctional mother daughter relationshipEven as an adult, in a dysfunctional family system I did not even have permission to decide who I didn’t want to be around anymore.

Having been denied permission to exist as an individual as I mentioned in the previous blog post, I grew up a mal functioning adult woman not knowing my own identity. Being denied autonomy, I also grew up without personal boundaries. I struggled with depressions and was taken advantage of by most other people and really didn’t have a clue why any of that was my lot in life.  I kept trying harder to please everyone.

I believed that if I was compliant that everyone else would treat me the same way back. In truth, accepting devaluing and unfair treatment, gave the message that I would accept devaluing and unfair treatment.

When I began to try to face the truth about some of the past, I was told by the rest of the world to “just get over it” and “put it behind me” all the while being told and taught contradicting statements. One of these statements that kept me the spin of confusion was that I was told “the most important thing” was to have a relationship with the people that had caused all these problems in the first place. I am talking about my dysfunctional Aunts and other extended family.

I was constantly told “Put the past behind you, don’t be so negative, why do you always have to bring this stuff up?”

My Mother had a sister that I fondly remembered as “my favourite Aunt” and I went to live with her for a couple of months when I was 19 and had relocated by myself to a new City on the other side of the country from my immediate family. She was the wonderful and fun loving Aunt that I remembered, for the first couple of weeks. Then she became like an extension of my mother. She would often ignore me and shoot me dirty looks, as though my very existence was in her way. She gossiped and lied about me to the rest of the family. Living all my life in an “obligation system of love” I had to be grateful that she was allowing me to live with her. I had already been groomed to just be quiet and put up with it. I tried harder to please her, to stay out of her way and to figure out what she wanted. I knew not to rock the boat. I had learned “obligation” well and I was now obligated to put up with this devaluing treatment and the uncomfortable awkward atmosphere while living with my Aunt without questioning the effect on  my own self worth.

She invited another one of her friends to come and live with her so of course I gave up the guest room to her friend. Her dog kept peeing on my bed in the basement, and my aunt thought it was funny. I had to wash all my blankets sometimes every night.  My Aunt and her friend laughed about it. They made it so uncomfortable for me that I rarely came out of my bedroom. And today I know that that my reaction (to retreat and withdraw) was exactly what they wanted.

One night I came up the stairs and they didn’t hear me, and I overheard my Aunt say that if I didn’t like her dog peeing on my bed, then I could move out. They roared with laughter.  I heard lot of other nasty things about me too that night, all mean lies and exaggerations, and it was clear to me that I better get out before I got kicked out. So although I was 19 and only 2 weeks into a new job in a new city, I found a way to leave.

I moved out but I never said a word about the way that things were for me there. At least not yet. And here is the crazy part. I still went to my Aunts or my Cousins for Christmas every year. We all acted like nothing ever happened. We were all “close family” and exchanged gifts as though we “loved’ each other. I think we thought we DID love each other.

As a child I learned that I was wrong to feel wronged. I had NO RIGHT to feel wronged. I carried that belief with me well into my adult years.

When I was about 35, I was sick my mother’s dysfunctional family causing trouble and decided not to see any them anymore.  I questioned if I “had” to accept all this horror, and if I was “obligated to love” these people. They were so mean. But when I told my mother that I was done with having any contact with them, she was horrified; she lectured me countless times about the importance of family. The truth about my side of it was NEVER addressed. She just said things like “they are all you have” and blood is thicker than water”.  I remember thinking ‘what does that even mean?”

All the while my mother was part of the gossip herself. She knew all the trouble that they caused, half the time she was in on it, the other half they were doing the same things to HER, but still in her view, the most important thing was that I not walk away from them. Not stand up to them, not rock the boat, but just “take it” and worse than that was that it was always inferred that it was my defect that caused all of it! Both sides of it ~ that I could not stand it, and that it happened! This is the most common dysfunctional family relationship fog in the world.  Today I wonder if the “family is so important lecture” was because she was afraid that I might stand to her too.

People are shocked when you tell them that you do not visit your own family. Even if you disclose the abuse, it is like the whole world is brainwashed that family is the most important thing. Just take it, ignore it, get over it, you are imagining it, just don’t speak about it; BUT WHY NOT?? Why can’t we stand up to it? Why did I have to play nice and try harder? Why did everyone think that this family dysfunction was normal? AND why was my mother surprised when I said that I had had enough! Why did she try for SO LONG to make me change my mind? Why was she so upset 5 years later when I told her that I didn’t want to hear anymore stories about all the problems SHE was having with them either, if she wasn’t willing to do anything about it?

I think she was jealous because she didn’t have the guts to say that SHE had had enough because like me, she never knew any different system. The fear of having NO family was worse than having a nasty horrible one.

Looking back I am really stunned to realize how much dysfunctional relationship that I put up within the sick family system I lived in.  I moved out of my mother’s home when I was 17, because I could not take it anymore.  Two years later, I lived with an Aunt in the same type of sick dysfunctional mother daughter relationship situation that I had lived in with my mother and stayed there until the last possible minute, never recognizing that I was once again back in the same dysfunctional relationship, being treated like nothing, being devalued, disregarded, and shamed. Still believing that the burden of the relationship fell on my shoulders! Believing STILL that it was up to me to make it work which is why even though I moved out, I still kept going back. Never exposing the truth. Always putting myself last and never having the understanding that I didn’t HAVE to put up with it.

I believed that I HAD to be in those relationships; because I grew up never having a choice. I believed it because my belief system was cemented with hundreds of lies. I believed it because that was all I ever knew and I thought it was “normal.” And to me it WAS normal. It was MY normal. Dysfunction was the daily fare. I never had the right to say no as a child and I didn’t learn that I EVER had that right, and I believed that it was always something that I did wrong in the first place.

Even though I walked away then, it was years before I realized that I had done nothing wrong, so I lived with the guilt of walking away from my mother’s dysfunctional family system.

There is no obligation in the real definition of love. There is no pecking order. There is no accepting abuse and mistreatment.

Please share your thoughts and feelings;

Exposing Truth; one snapshot at a time

Darlene Ouimet

The Emerging from Broken book is ready for download! If you find that the subject matter I am writing about resonates with you, get this book today! This 197 page, downloadable, printable, live linked e-book will put you on the fast track to healing.  Get yours here through the upper right side bar or click this link~ Emerging from Broken The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing

Please visit the category button marked “Family” for related posts

“Experience has taught us that we have only one enduring weapon in our struggle against mental health illness: the emotional discovery of the truth about the unique history of our childhood.” Alice Miller ~ The Drama of the Gifted Child



89 response to "Dysfunctional Extended Family ~ The Mean Aunt that I Loved"

  1. By: Edward Schline Posted: 28th May

    I so resonate with this post in a different way. I did not know abuse included the yelling and disrepect I knew the rape was. I just thought this is the way the world is this is how people are, to me anyway. The reason my marriage is ending now is I refuse to be abused anymore. I do believe my wife did the best she could and she has no clue she was abusive. Only seperated for three weeks but I still catch myself trying to do something exactly right so I don’t get yelled at or chastized. I know it is never too late I am 51 years old and finaly putting up boundaries and the people who refuse to respect me are no longer welcome in my world.Once I started therapy and started changing my wife became more desperate to control me even resorting to punching me but I knew I was not going back to my old ways. She even called the police again and this was the first time the cops saw what was really happening and threatened to lock her up. Every other time she called them I got locked up and was found not guilty. When she drank wich was very often she would not remember what she did the day before. I tried to help her paying for two rehabs but she still drank. I suggested marriage counceling she said no. Now I’ve moved to Canada, she does not have a passport and I feel safe. I sleep better knowing I will not be attacked while asleep.It was not easy for me to grow up after CSA but all the work was worth it.My priorities are so different I am learning to live again. So for me it was not my family it was me I put up with abuse for so long and finally I am free from abuse because I don’t deserve it and won’t tolerate it at all. Love your post Darlene.

  2. By: joy Posted: 28th May

    ps am glad I have a great counselor and found you and some other really positive people. I know the healing takes time but I have nowhere to go but forward: Joy

  3. By: joy Posted: 28th May

    Darlene accordinng to “their thinking” I never will have rights except the right to obey my mom and that I stepped away from obeying I have lost my right to respect..as an adult. THey are so good at quoting and condemning me yet never made a move to heal all my brokenness…I understand now though..that as her child I can only honor which is honorable and am not expected to respect what is not.. and really in my life there was not a time that I felt loved or honored or cared for . I understand i remind her of the fact I was just a transaction she made for money.. and that getting rid of me
    can somehow cancel that transaction.I get it. but I am not going to allow that as I been through too much . survived too much ..so I am out of her life the entire familys life so i dont remind her of the fact i was just the result of easy cash.


  4. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 28th May

    I am so glad to hear that you didn’t stick with that therapist! YIKES Sounds like a big fog storm. (and they get PAID to cause that kind of harm!)
    Thanks for sharing.

    What you shared about your parents don’t want to hear you but want you to hear them ~ this is one of the biggies. When do “kids” get to be equally valuable? The honour your mother and father thing ~ they didn’t teach you how, so I guess that is their fault. Love and respect (honour) has to be MODELED. A child will honour and love parents who have first honoured and loved them. That is one of the key things that we are talking about in this blog.
    Hugs, Darlene

    Hi Vicki
    Thank you for the compliment. I have a system for reading and answering comments. I can’t answer them all, but I try!
    Hugs, Darlene

  5. By: joy Posted: 27th May

    Thank you ..


  6. By: Vicki Posted: 27th May

    Darlene, I admire you for being able to handle all the comments you get. I get all the comments too, b/c I’m subscribed to them, and one day’s comments covers 3 pages of my email list.
    I’m a paramedic, and they told us we have to pace ourselves in order to avoid burnout. Just looking at all those comments made me feel overwhelmed.
    I’m impressed with your ability to stay rational and nice no matter what comments you get. Impressed and amazed.
    I’m not in the most positive mood today, so I’ll stop here.
    But thanks for listening.

  7. By: Kate Posted: 27th May

    GOOD for you!! This sounds great!

  8. By: joy Posted: 27th May

    With my abusers there is never a two way communication.. I have had to cut them off.. They would call. .and tell me a whole line and when I try to talk cut me off. I had tried to talk about where the blame should lie but that was only answered with obscenities . dont now if I spelled that right.and restating that I need to turn my life around and start seeing their way and then I get the commandment about honoring monther and father..etc.

    On their end .. they dont want to hear me but they want me to hear them. .My therapists helped me see that for my well being, I cannot continue to listen ..so have cut them off. but its not been easy. They would call from numbers not their own. Now I don’t answer the phone at all.. all people go to voicemail . .so I dont have to listen to the wrong people.

    And on the emailing, I have put their email to go to delete, then they come in emails that are not their own.. so I am fighting even while having the best boundaries in place.

    I am getting there .


  9. By: Kate Posted: 27th May

    Actually, she said that cancer comes from not “forgiving” your ex

    I would say that ill health results from excusing abuse, and “forgiveness” is sending the person with the offense away, and as Laurie has shown us, telling the person how to make it right, since, obviously they are not going to suggest what is truly healing to you, only you can do that

  10. By: Kate Posted: 27th May

    Gotta love massage therapists, and other “professionals” who know just enough language to be dangerous. Went to a new one yesterday. Covering her own personal shit with these kinds of statements to me: cancer comes from being bitter over your ex-
    Why did you marry him in the first place? What lessons did you need to learn that you married him in the first place? He gave you three great kids; look at the positive.
    This was all unsolicited, BTW.
    (Oh,yeah,Darlene, I hear you now saying, “And just what is THAT supposed to mean??”)
    OMG! I get it now, though…
    immunity is worn away, and cancer may result when:

    healthy boundaries do not exist, abusers are excused, abuse takes its toll, lies take their toll,

    yeah, tell the truth to yourself and the abuser, it is not about being bitter about being abused, it is about being bitter over not getting away from the abuse,
    sorry if I am stepping on toes, I am just trying to detox from this wretch crossing all the wrong boundaries

  11. By: Kate Posted: 27th May

    And I love what you said to her because it was so clear and you weren’t cutting her off. Her behavior cut her off. You left the possibility for relationship restored!

  12. By: Kate Posted: 27th May


    I love this clarity that yo uprovided in your dialog with your mother:

    I told her we could talk IF she was ready to admit to specific incidents of abuse and to express real regret for them. She said “Jesus has releived me of so many painful memories.” (OMG have I heard THIS before!!!AND I FELL FOR IT!!!) I told her other people would just call that denial.
    For the first time, I didn’t ASK her something, I TOLD her, firmly but politely, that I never wanted to talk to her again,until such time as she was ready to admit to her abuse of her children, and to try to make amends. It wasn’t easy, but it felt SO good.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 27th May

      I can also relate to that Kate, when I finally stood up for myself with my mother, I didn’t ask her anything. I told her that she could no longer do (xyz) and I told her that IF she wanted a relationship with me, that it would be based on mutual respect.
      I don’t think she liked that. 😉
      but I stuck to my new resolution! I am free and really happy / healthy now!
      hugs, Darlene

  13. By: Kate Posted: 27th May

    I just told my son, 16, that his step-dad wants to watch Citizen Kane, and had he ever heard of it? It is supposed to be the greatest the movie of all time, etc., and he asked what it was about and I was explaining about the misuse of power, and that he is a narcisist. My son wanted to know what that was, so I said it is a person who is all about themselves. He replied that he knows a couple of those.

  14. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 27th May

    I hope that I didn’t offended you, there is nothing wrong with choosing to believe she did her best or the best she could do. I very often write for the benefit of all readers, and I personally was stuck for many years excusing my own mother and it kept me from healing. I am really glad to hear that you use the whys to prove that it was nothing you did!
    hugs, Darlene

  15. By: Star Posted: 27th May

    I don’t excuse, but I chose to believe she did the best she knew how to do. It is how I came to be able to leave pain and guilt behind. I don’t forget, and I don’t excuse…but it did enable me to begin my healing within myself all those years ago. The finding out the why’s came long after the healing began (I don’t think it ever “finishes”). They why’s are just another tool that prove it was nothing I did.


  16. By: joy Posted: 27th May

    Am sorry about that..that is just terrible.
    That is really not nice at all.
    Some people don’t have much sense.
    I am sorry for your son too 🙁


  17. By: Kate Posted: 27th May

    PISSED at the x
    just sent a b’day card to our son who is turning 16 tomorrow, and no check included…what parent sends a child a b’day card, like they were an acquaintence? OK, don’t answer that question…we haven’t all suffered the same types and amounts of devaluing, but devaluing is devaluing, and usually there is some kind of gift!
    and he knows that his dad has money

  18. By: joy Posted: 27th May

    Dear Kate

    I think the “sex scandal” in that church already had me wondering and the fact I was told to keep silent .. by them .. the fact that when abuse came up they moved the abuser to another place, never telling the congregation he was leaving from or going to that he was an abuser..has caused me much interior trouble. As an adult I was told to keep silent again and this after all the bad stuff of the church has been exposed; this shows me that there is a pattern of silencing victims and hiding the abuser.

    While they ask great patience and consideration for the abuser that is caught they are quick to condemn, kick out and shun people who have committed lesser or no crime at all. Seems like a grave imbalance of favoritism. The abuser is excused and the abused is accused..

    I am sorry you have such an experience, Kate, with that controlling priest and I hope he didn’t do that ..accuse the litle altar girl.

    I also hope he is not another hidden abuser..waiting for the next victim.

    I don’t think all churches are bad ..but there are so many cases right now …it makes you wonder .. and it makes one angry.


  19. By: Kate Posted: 27th May

    oh, and I also said that I bet that that priest HAS already offended, oppressed, or abused her in some way…and this is just more in the continuation of it…they are so depraved in the ways that they seek attention, from an entire corwd, which would rather sit in a fantasy world and ignore…

  20. By: Kate Posted: 27th May

    I don’t go to church anymore. However, last Sunday, I went with my spouse, who sometimes contributes musically in a place where his brother is a paid (slightly) organist. The building is majestic. We think that (some) music is the only good thing that goes on there. We watched a known control freak priest tell the altar girl to go away and he lit only 5 of her 6 candles for her. I said, “What do you want to bet that he will go complain that SHE didn’t light all the candles and therefore, must not be allowed to be altar girl anymore, and gets in trouble at home, or something like that?” And this is in front of the entire assembly; this is how accomplished some of these perverts are. And I mean perverts. Their sex drive is rerouted in all the wrong directions, and for no good reason; it doesn’t accomplish a thing. It is not “For the Lord…”

  21. By: joy Posted: 27th May

    Dear Darlene

    Thank you for your support and yes its so different talking about something I kept hidden for so long as it was said to be someting sinfull and shameful to talk about.. I am only beginnng. to speak about things..Its hard to even speak it without seeing my mom with her hand raised ready to hit me should I dare.. My siblings are backing her in telling me to be quiet …let things alone and move on..but how can i . I got abused a second time and had nothing to protect myself as i never learned the right ways . or things.. just learned to be quiet and accept what is given as my due.. ..I am grateful to sites like this and all the people here that are willing to be supportive and share.. their stories and things they find help them heal. Thank you . am very grateful . Joy

  22. By: joy Posted: 27th May

    Dear Laurie. I don’t know what I believe right now .in way of religion..but I know there have been too many reasons in the old to turn me away from it .. I believe in angels and love and that there are good people and bad.. and Some Divine Being decided when I was little I was not going to lose my life from anything dealt me ..and n my adulthood provided help where the church I had belonged to closed their eyes.. I am just beginning to heal and just beginning to learn to think and understand that I wasnt a mistake i was born or that i am still alive after allthat has happened..there is a reason .. and its slowly going to be shown me as I heal am sure. joy

    ps am so sorry you suffered the pain of hatred of another, Laurie, I know how that feels. joy

  23. By: Laurie Posted: 27th May

    I am no longer religious, because I have trouble trusting any group of people who use the same literary source as grounds for being cruel. They pick and choose passages to justify their unjustifiable actions. No child asks to be born, but it’s easier to blame the child than to admit the parent did something shameful, regardless of why they did it.
    My youngest son is the result of spousal rape, but he is the love of my life. He looks like my late mother-in-law, who hated me, but again, that’s not his fault. We don’t choose our genes.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 27th May

      Hi Joy,
      Thank you so much for sharing your story with us! It is so helpful and powerful when we realize that we are not alone, that others have also been there. After a life time of being constantly told that we were exaggerating, that we were lying, that we didn’t have it that bad, that we deserved it and all those other lies… it is such a freedom to bust out of that fog and say to each other “YES it HAPPENED” and YES it was wrong! And have others hear us and know we are telling the truth. And we do NOT have to stay silent! We can find our voices and use them to set ourselves free!
      Hugs, Darlene

      Hi Star!
      Welcome to EFB! Great to have you here! It doesn’t matter if there are reasons or not, it is so important for us to focus on healing without excusing anything, before we try to understand what might have been the problem or reason for how messed up someone else is.
      so glad you are here!
      Hugs, Darlene

      Joy and Kate
      ~ the people who perpetrate all these crimes against us are so afraid of us telling! To me that is a huge indicator that they KNOW what they are doing is wrong. They know! And all the sheep that follow, all the victims that go along with “yes keep silent, obey, don’t rock the boat” all because they are afraid of more abuse. It is a crazy system ~ Darlene

  24. By: joy Posted: 27th May

    @Kate: when i started therapy and learned it was not so good to keep silent..it really just shook me up .. after 2009 happened. my familyl didnt ask me how i am ..after such torture ..they were concerned i would seek counseling i .didnt want to because i felt talking was betrayal .. of family ..and that was somewhere defined by the 4th commandment..and i was confused. They..famimly told me if I talked .. I was cut off. even the chuch afterward even past easter come over and told me i need to go to confession get back to church and move on . at a time when i was triggered by aloneness of the holiday. i was told i was in sin for not being there. when i called for help in 2009 ..i was told to get myself out of the mess. and i had given 10 years of my life free service playing organ ..teaching ..cleaning church evey saturday….ITs all confusing to me. My friends left me because they dont want to associate with someone who ‘left the true church’ .It’s been very rocky..emotionally its very painful..

  25. By: Kate Posted: 27th May

    I am speechless for now. However, I notice one large presence looming out of your entire story; it is the church, once again, telling abuse sufferers to be silent!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.