Standing up to Dysfunctional Relationship Part 2


dysfunctional relationship

My last post (click here) was about standing up to my husband regarding our dysfunctional relationship, that I was mistreated and disrespected and how he was willing to listen to me. Unlike him, not everyone was willing to meet me half way with my desire to change and become my own person instead of a robot that existed to restore everyone else’s value.

I cancelled hosting a family reunion because my mother and my brother were up to their trouble making tricks, and I was just sick of being the one in the family that was never heard, never valued, always expected to just “take it” and always the one who was wrong.

My mother and my brother we up to their trouble making antics again; apparently, there was this big “family horror” going on behind the scenes because I had told my sister in law about some of my childhood, and some of the things that my mother did, and she told my brother who told my mother… and well as you can imagine the you know what hit the fan. Before anyone talked to me or asked me about it, the whole family ~ aunts, cousins ~ everyone had all been contacted, questioned and informed about my “talking”. It wasn’t even what I talked about that was the real problem, it was what I MIGHT have talked about that he was trying to find out.

Did I keep the family secrets, or was I revealing them to everyone? Of course, these kinds of people make sure that they discredit you with each conversation. It is all about control and making sure that the family member who is “talking” is painted as a psycho with issues right from the beginning of the conversation, just in case that family member really has revealed the family secrets. These phone calls were about damage control as well as investigating the damage itself. It would have gone something like this: “Darlene has been saying things about her childhood, that are not true, she has made up this story about (whatever) and I am trying to find out what else she is going around saying. Did Darlene say anything to you about me? I just want to know if she has said anything to you about it don’t believe her because it isn’t true, she is a bit crazy and has been on anti depressants and seeing a therapist you know.”

I didn’t know this was going on of course. My mother called one day and said that she had decided to tell me that she was worried about something I was doing and she told me about this conversation that I had had with my sister in law 6 or 8 months earlier and what a problem that I had caused. (I am assuming that they had been talking about this with each other for 6 or 8 months.)

There were a couple of things that struck me odd;

a) That she totally believed everything that she had been told, without even asking me.  

b) And because several things she heard and was upset about were actually the truth.

To the things that I said to my sister in law that were true, I responded, yes, I did tell her that, so what? My mother seemed stunned and didn’t know what to say about my admission or my honest reaction. So the truth was ignored. The fight became about the false.

 There were some things that had been exaggerated, and a few things that I had never said but when I told her that I had never said them, my mom said “Darlene, she wrote it down” and I said “that makes it true?” (that was ignored too)

The real fear behind the call was about the stuff I hadn’t told yet. I realized that later. She was actually calling to warn me to keep my mouth shut and to re-establish her control and power over me. She wanted to reprimand me but good, and I didn’t think so. I was finally sick of it.

So a few weeks later my brother called like nothing was going on, telling me all the dates they booked and their schedule for this family reunion that I had agreed to host. (Everyone in my family lives in a different Province or State from each other so arranging this was kind of a big deal.)  I told him that I had heard that he was saying all kinds of things about me. He admitted it and told me about how he called everyone in the whole family. (It surprised me when he just told me he had done all that, but that is the degree to which he thought HE was right and that it was right for him to call everyone and he was right to discredit me ~again without ever talking to me first) and we got in the first real fight we had ever had. (I had never dared to stand up to him before) He was ranting and raving and yelling and bullying me so much I started to shake.

I stuck to my decision to cancel hosting or attending the family reunion ~ which stunned everyone!  They thought it should be just family as usual, how dare I make a fuss. (How dare I stand up to him or my mother.) I caught him so off guard that he expressed his disappointment but at the same time insisted that the whole thing was my fault. No matter how many times I repeated that nothing I said to his wife was a lie and that I had a right to talk about MY childhood; those statements were NEVER addressed. Again, it was really all about what I MIGHT say. Don’t tell the family secrets. Be who we say you can be. Do what we say you can do.

If I was the problem, like I had been told for so long, then what the heck did they want to be around me for?

(Because I was the biggest servant of the whole family? Because I would do all the cooking? Because there is no real love lost between us? Because they wanted me to believe that they “loved me” enough to “accept me even with my problems”? Because I always complied in the past and never stood up to myself, and suddenly I realized that I had equal value?)  

I thought they should be happy and celebrate that they didn’t have to spend a whole week with me! I thought they should have a party to celebrate getting RID of me!

But you know what? They didn’t really want to lose their victim now did they?

Please contribute to this post in any way that you would like to. I look forward to the conversations we have here at Emerging from Broken.

Exposing truth; one snapshot at a time,

Darlene Ouimet

47 response to "Standing up to Dysfunctional Relationship Part 2"

  1. By: Christina Posted: 25th March

    Darlene, I appreciate the fact that you are able to openly talk about the dysfunction in your family. So many people are in denial in a dysfunctional family that those of us that get counseling, speak up, and speak the truth are labeled as “troublemakers.” The fact that both of my parents are in the medical profession and like to keep a “good appearance” to the outside world but inside the family they keep secrets and refuse to seek counseling or acknowledge the death of my brother to a drug overdose, the horrible family gatherings with abuse and inebriated adults while being a child was difficult. As a teenager I sought out psychotherapy to cultivate skills on how to cope with my life. (when my parents found out they called my psychotherapist to say that they were “not bad people.”) They continue to insert themselves into my life in an inappropriate manner (I am in my 40s!) and I feel like I just cannot be open with them anymore. The hardest part of existing in a dysfunctional family has been the fracturing of the sibling relationships. My adult brother relies on my parents to care for his children and other things and refuses to acknowledge or be supportive. I recently moved closer to home; however, I have had to draw stricter boundaries as I cannot deal with the dysfunction and history of denial and family secrets. The worst part as my parents refuse to acknowledge their role in how I feel! I appreciate your advice on standing up for yourself by canceling the family reunion. It is sad when we give and give and others take and expect us to be quiet. I applaud your courage!

  2. By: Maria Posted: 8th October

    Please please please share more incidents like this – if you can – or maybe examples… It is so incredibly fog destroying! Thanks! Your descriptions of actual conversations and acts help me so much especially when you explain it! I feel a bit silly since it is obvious but I know you and everyone here understands what I mean… Thank you Darlene! I am so happy it is so clear for you and that helps me realise the truth and keep going forward! Bravo Darlene for doing what you do!

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 9th October

      Hi Maria
      So glad that you enjoyed this! Thanks for your feedback!
      hugs, Darlene

  3. By: Kate Posted: 29th August

    Hi Darlene,
    You are so right. Finding support and validation from others is crucial when we embark on our healing journey. I live in Australia, where professional coaches are not very common. In fact, I had no idea that a professional coach can specialize in the way you do. That’s fantastic.
    Support, love and validation can come from many different sources, as I’ve discovered.
    I don’t know where I’d be without my psychologist. She has held my hand through some very tough times. I also have a massage therapist who counsels me with love and compassion.
    A previous psychologist, though, revealed herself to be unsupportive, in fact destructive, for me. In 2009/10 I found myself having to work through the damage that she had wrought at the same time that I was dealing with my husband’s cancer diagnosis, and undergoing the awakening to my mother’s emotional abuse.
    So, I would really like to emphasize that it can sometimes take a while to find the right people to support us in our journey.
    That’s why your website is so important, Darlene. Thanks for your commitment and empathy. When we feel alone and isolated, an online community like yours can give us that feeling of being understood and hugged, when we need it most.

  4. By: Kate Posted: 29th August

    Hi Darlene,
    I have just found this website, and want to give you and the other posters a big rave.
    There is so much wisdom here.
    I am 53, and have spent the past 3.5 years acknowledging, and coming to terms with, my severely abusive childhood. My father was narcissistic, possibly sociopathic, and sexually abused my sister and myself over many years. He abused alcohol, and emotionally abused my mother and all of the 4 children. Both he and my mother physically abused us, and my mother also emotionally abused us. I have only relatively recently realized (as a result of therapy) that my mother has been emotionally abusing me my whole life. I was a people – pleaser, controlled by toxic shame and low self-esteem.
    Like others here, I have plunged myself into a dark abyss of emotional pain in order to confront the demons that have plagued me through my life. I began that process reluctantly, having sought therapy to help me cope with my elderly mother’s increasingly bitter and hateful behaviour towards me, her main carer. However, events took over with a series of family dramas, and I have found myself undergoing a full “emotional renovation”.
    Over that period, I have cut contact with my father after he attempted to reestablish an incestuous relationship with my sister (he was 80 at the time, and asked her to become his wife….);
    my sister and I subsequently reported him to the police and claimed victim’s compensation;
    I acknowledged the damage that I was suffering by continuing a relationship with my mother, and cut contact with her;
    after my aunt died and left me her estate, my siblings reacted with what I believe to be shame-based anger, and attacked me, resulting in estrangement;
    my father died before the police managed to question him;
    and just as a final touch, my husband was exposed in his 3 year affair.
    I know that I will probably never forgive my father and mother for their abuse, although I have gained enough knowledge of their childhoods to understand the deprivations and abuse that led to their dysfunction. I never would have imagined that I could live at peace with no contact with my mother, but in fact, 2 years later I am perfectly happy, even though I know that my action was part of the reason for my siblings cutting me off. I dared to change the dysfunctional family dynamic, and I was punished.
    In April, as I was still attempting to resolve the estrangement with my siblings, I was forced to put that aside in order to face my husband’s infidelity. Fortunately for me, he was immediately remorseful, cut all contact with the other woman, and committed to do whatever it took to restore our marriage and my trust.
    The truly amazing thing that came out of that betrayal is that I found myself. After the initial shock and pain had subsided,I contemplated the possibility of having to live alone, without husband or family except my 2 adult children.Suddenly and spontaneously, I felt a transforming experience take place, and became empowered for the first time in my life.
    As a result, I have been able to move towards a place of understanding,compassion and forgiveness for my husband.
    Please understand, I am not a Christian, and I always believed that adultery was a marriage-breaker. I’m amazed that I have been able to process this additional trauma and find a peace with it.
    Now, I am attempting to use my experience of forgiving my husband to find some sort of peace with the estrangement with my siblings.
    It is so profoundly sad that we are all still acting out the roles that were imposed upon us as children. At least I have insight into this, but I’m pretty sure that they don’t. So I am pessimistic that we will ever reconcile. I am working towards forgiveness, and peace, from a distance.
    The other contributors here are at different stages of the journey. There’s no doubt that the journey is painful and frightening. I would say that it is essential to have lots of support, professional if possible. A compassionate therapist who specializes in abusive families. Non-judgmental friends and family.
    There are times when I, and others, I’m sure, have despaired. At times, I have felt that my life was not worth living. But, with that help, and many, many hours, days, months and years of work I have persevered, and ultimately, I have emerged strong, resilient, optimistic and empowered – a new person.
    I want to offer reassurance and hope to those at the beginning of their journey. All that pain, all that despair, it’s worth it. No way would I go back to what I used to be.I now value myself for own worth as a human being. I know that I have the power to live my life the way I want to live. There may be a hole in my life where my family of origin used to be, but I am looking forward to filling it with a new family, of people who actually love and respect me.
    You can achieve this too.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 29th August

      Hi Kate
      Welcome to Emerging from Broken! There is so much that I could comment on! ~What a nightmare your childhood must have been. There are many here who have lived that nightmare too ~ you are not alone! Thank you for sharing your victories with us.
      ~ That is awesome that you found peace with your husband and through that whole thing! Thanks for sharing that.
      I have written a lot about the role of forgiveness in healing and in my exp. forgiveness has been a result of the process.
      Thank you for sharing and for your encouragement to everyone here!
      Hugs, Darlene

      I want to add to the readers that professional support is not limited to therapists; I am a professional coach specializing in abusive families and overcoming the belief system born in dysfunctional families. I have very few openings at any given time (and sometimes I have no openings) so normally I don’t mention my professional practice. I have great success with my clients and coaching typically works much faster then therapy. ~ Darlene

  5. By: Alice Posted: 26th August

    I am so sorry. The skapegoating is awful and it hurts terribly.

    I just read this today “Blood relations are overrated, they are like patriotism on a smaller scale.”

    I just had an experience with my sister who pretends to be empathetic and understanding, only to turn around and tell my mother and whoever else she feels all about my personal life and puts her own selfish stance on it – no matter how much I try to talk to her about my abusive childhood, or how I have literally shown her that I do not get angry and I have gotten help – she pigeon holes me into being angry over things that I have learned do not even concern me.

    I stood up to her in a very calm, collected, and assertive way and I haven’t heard back. She immediately labeled me “angry” because I questioned her. I have realized it doesn’t matter what I do, if she wants me to be agry about something, I will be to suit her reality, no matter what the truth is. I could question her with a big happy smile in a cooing voice while offering cotton candy and she will still label me angry.

    I did get angry after the labeling, and it was the labeling that pissed me off, not her selfish personal life that I was questioning simply because she had told me something to the contrary, then turned around and did the opposite. I was simply curious.

    My brother stifles me and belittles me when I try to tell him the truth. So far I avoid him as much as possible. I still haven’t mustered the guts to get rid of him permanently, which is easy to do, I just have to stand up for myself and I’ll be rid of him, and he’ll get just as hostile and defensive as usual in the face of the truth.

    They all end up telling me I’m the one with the problem, and over time I have come to realize that they are partially right, they are my problem and I need to get rid of them, but I am not to blame for it like they love to pretend.

    Sorry if this is kind of fuzzy its just hard to convey myself without wanting scream bloody gore sometimes.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 27th August

      Hi Alice
      None of what you posted is fuzzy to me! This is what this whole website is about and you sound clear. Abusers, controllers and manipulators spend most of their time trying to make sure their “prey” NEVER realize they (the victims) ARE NOT the one with the problem. and you are so right; they are YOUR problem.
      Thank you for sharing!
      Hugs, Darlene

  6. By: Michelle Posted: 10th August

    @ Nancy, your words are not a coincidence. I think I really need to hear them.

    I go to a weekly support group. My father also was alcoholic, verbally, emotionally, physically abusive, sexually inappropriate, and my mother was also emotionally abusive, negligent, and unaffectionate. At the support group meeting last night, one group member’s words made me so angry I threatened to leave the room because I didn’t want to hear any more. She has taken a 2nd job to support a man who won’t even look for a job. They’ve lost their home and she is sleeping in a tent in his mother’s back yard. She is a doormat, a people pleaser, and I just wish she could stop letting people take advantage of her.

    After I spoke (trying actually to knock some sense into her) another member of the support group said that they would support her and I just felt so bad for having said what I said. I really wasn’t trying to be mean, I just want this person to open their eyes and stop allowing people to walk all over her.

    “The biggest therapy that helped me was the view of detachment. I learned an ability to remove myself from the emotions that overwhelmed me and allowed myself to truly look at all my demons and fears and my past from an observers viewpoint.”

    I feel bad for saying what I said. I wish I could have detached, not cared so much about knowing what was right and what was wrong and just listened and not gotten angry.

  7. By: Nancy Posted: 10th August

    So much time and energy is wasted on the concern we place with other people’s problems. Even in reading the column as well as the responses I see numerous statements about “now I will be the bad guy”, “my family will say…” “everyone thinks I’m the one with the problem”.. Truth can create victimization just as much as lies. It all depends on what you do with it. What I mean by that is don’t get too attached to your recovery because it can stall you from the next steps just as much as victimization can.

    I have come from a severely sexually and emotionally abusive background as well as alcoholism. I can relate and understand all of these posts. What concerns me is that once we realize and acknowledge our victimization and loss of self and personal power, there comes a phase where we may begin to use the truth as a shield which also keeps us victims. I believe it is a necessary part of the process, however please PLEASE don’t get stuck here.

    The biggest therapy that helped me was the view of detachment. I learned an ability to remove myself from the emotions that overwhelmed me and allowed myself to truly look at all my demons and fears and my past from an observers viewpoint. It was cathartic to say the least. This wasn’t easy. It took years to develop. But it was the key thing that allowed me to just let things go and no longer care what my family or even other people thought of me or my decisions. Oh sure I’m still afraid sometimes. Have some trepidations when speaking up and pointing out BS. But it’s what I feel now is a normal feeling about a normally difficult process for anyone. I’m still angry…that will never completely go away.

    What I know from personal experience is that as long as I am focused on what OTHER people are doing and saying I will lose all control and descend into worry, doubt, frustration and tears. Now, in all situations the first thing I ask myself is “what about me? Where am I at here and am I allowing this persons energy to overtake mine?” If the answer is yes I have strategies to immediately get very calm and detached which makes me feel like a mountain!! It also allows me to squelch anger which is my nemesis.

    It’s changed my relationships dramatically because we are part of the equation when dealing with other people. When we no longer allow for the conditioned response they expect they are thrown out of their patterns and will likely first retaliate to regain position.

    Now we are challenged to stay present in the moment, not get overly angry and restate our position without falter.. and on it goes. When you refuse to accept what people dish at you you force the others position to change…and they HATE IT!!! We must relinquish our needs for them to see or even acknowledge our position…that is simply a power play. When you can detach from THEM and attach to YOURSELF it is the most remarkable place!!! Because they don’t matter anymore and there is no battle for you. There may be one for them but that is there choice and there problem….not yours.

    Please understand I know how hard this is. I know how painful and terrifying it is. I have and still struggle daily with trust and my own patterns of behavior that ruin good relationships and send me scurrying back to bad ones…but the strategies I’ve described have proven that while I still operate as a wounded being, my recognition and turn around time is sometimes immediate and this is a HUGE success!

    My girlfriend and I have a simple trigger word we use for each other when we are spinning the shit talk about ourselves. We simply say to each other, or ourselves the word “gentle” It is our trigger to remember that we are deserving of care and consideration as any helpless child would be…because that’s when all our crap was put here. As children. We ask ourselves ” Would I speak to a lovely innocent little child like this?” Of course not. It allows us the ability to be better to ourselves. I encourage you to try it.

    As I’ve said here before…people are assholes. Let them be assholes…it has NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU. Be good to yourselves and ALWAYS put yourself first in the equation…that way the math always works out 🙂

    Peace everyone, please be good to yourselves. This life is so very short and you deserve to live it all to it’s happiest.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 10th August

      Hi Nancy
      I am not sure who you are addressing your comments to but I think that the healing process is fantastic in all its aspects. I think that there is a stage that many need to go through where they have to acknowledge the fear of the wrath and reactions of others. This website is about the healing process and all of its stages. I encourage people to share what ever is real for them without judgement on any of it. I had to grow at my pace. Many will get stuck and not push through but I find that the chances of pushing through that stuck place greatly increase with permission to be in the process whatever that looks like.
      I want to encourage you to have hope re the anger issue. Mine is completely gone away. I am angry at what happens to people but I don’t have an issue with anger anymore.
      Hugs, Darlene

  8. By: tammy Posted: 9th August

    It’s our secrets that keep us sick.

  9. By: Michelle Posted: 26th March

    I empathize with every word you have written. I am 29 years old and have been mistreated and controlled by my family. Recently, I refused to attend a family reunion and have stood up for myself more than I ever have. My whole family has turned against me and that is their choice. I have god, a husband, and children who love me.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 26th March

      Hi Michelle
      Welcome to EFB
      Good for you for standing up! You are so right, that is their choice. It is really hard to fathom that our own families would make such a choice but I have a choice too. I choose the freedom that comes with living in the truth; I am valid, iI am worthy, I can think for myself and be who I am.
      Hugs, Darlene

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