Hi Friends. I am struggling this year with the dysfunction in my family with parents. I have been no-contact with narc mom and enabling dad since another aggressive act of family mobbing against me at my nephew's wedding in August. I posted earlier about that whole scene. I had a lovely Thanksgiving yesterday with my husband's side of the family and for the first time nobody told me I was doing something wrong, food wasn't cooked right, house was too small, they dominated conversation, etc. These past few months without my parents have been the happiest of my entire life. I'm starting to feel guilty about it. I wonder if it's just the holidays and all the commercials of large happy family on tv.

My enabling dad told me repeatedly through the years that he did not care whether I ever talked to him again as long as I still always talked to my narc mom. Now I talk to neither of them. They won't have their youngest daughter around for the holidays. Mom has moderate dementia. I know my absence doesn't help things.

I am thinking of calling my dad and telling him I will re-establish contact only during conditions of 1) a turn in health, 2) they need assistance with a practical issue such as bill paying or arranging for home care (no visits, no shared holidays, no casual phone calls). By the way, I am looking for a therapist who specializes in narcissistic personality disorder.

In the meantime, I know others have NPD family. What is your experience with setting boundaries after a "no-contact" period? From what I've read, things tend to get worse. Wondering what others have experienced. Thanks.

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I am no therapist, but there is something about the way you're approaching this that strikes me.

This re-establishing contact thing -

By the way, I speak as someone who stays no contact if I decide to go no contact. The rapprochement part is not a speciality of my house! Just so you know.

Anyway. You have told your Dad - your vulnerable Dad whom you love, even if not uncritically - that you will re-establish contact only if x, y, z.

The trouble is that the x, y and z are things that your parents are in control of. They are conditions which your parents have to meet. Who decides whether an illness merits contact? Who decides whether a given task is strictly practical? They do. I know you have to agree, and you can decide against, but by the time you do that you're already in contact with them. With them pleading and you trying to say no.

No no no no no. That is not how boundaries work.

Your boundary must be something of which *you* have complete control.

E.g. I will call at intervals of x days/weeks/months for a health update.
I will visit on Sundays between 11:00 am and 12:30 pm, leaving earlier if I am made uncomfortable.
I will keep a To Do list which I will attend to on ___day mornings/afternoons.
I will keep a pay as you go cellphone for use In Case of Emergency.

As much or as little as you like of these or other examples. But the *key* thing is - who decides? It's got to be you.
Helpful Answer (28)
rovana Nov 2018
Excellent advice!
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I truly think this is an “all or nothing” situation. You really cannot pick and choose whether you will be in contact with your family “on the third Friday of the month only when there is a full moon and the Beagle howls in the woods at midnight.” And, I have to ask, if things are going so well with Hubby’s side, why in the heck would your want to throw a wrench in the gears? The Holidays are stressful in the best of times. Throwing a dysfunctional family into the mix and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Then you’d be right back at square one.

If you feel you need acknowledgment from these people, go to Hallmark, buy a nice, generic box of cards and send them each one. Write no notes, just your name. Then get on with your now happy life.
Helpful Answer (16)

A hot topic for so many of us.

I have been incommunicado with YB since last Jan after a "family council" about mother's ongoing and increasing need for care blew up in my face. (YB is her primary CG and jailer-she lives with his family and he has taken this "job" to the extreme.)

I have seen Mother a few times this year. I call her occasionally, she NEVER calls me (same phone # for 41 years, she simply doesn't call, ever). Taken her to lunch as I am not allowed in brother's home.

Ridiculous, right?

Holidays will be as such: I will take mother out to lunch one day in Dec. I will give her a small gift and then I will call her on Christmas Day. That's it. I will also send out the mass email to the rest of the sibs to remind them to please not forget her. Some will bother to visit, some won't. Can't control that. We cannot have family parties anymore--too much tension.

Trying to manipulate people into doing "the right thing" is bound to fail.

If I were you, I would send a nice card. Mother's on a fixed income, so I always give her a GC to a favorite lunch place or the grocery store-or just a $50 Visa card.

I am happier and saner staying as far away from the crazy that my family has become. Don't even talk to my MIL as per her request, so that's a no brainer. DH has to get her gift to her and take her out to dinner or whatever.

We all want the Hallmark movie Christmas. It's not real. Make your own holiday with the people who love and cherish you. Too many Christmases with me crying in the bathroom--I'm too old for that. Toxic people have no place in your life. A lesson learned late in life for me.
Helpful Answer (15)

I would advise against any attempts to reestablish contact - I  frankly don't see any urgent need for you to do so at this time.  Narcissists (and their enablers) are very sneaky people and you, though well-meaning, are providing them a way to haul you back into their dysfunction. (Which is what they live for.) What good purpose would it provide at this point?
As for your "guilty" feelings - I suspect that at Thanksgiving you had a wonderful experience of what good family life should be.  And.. of course you wondered why your family of origin couldn't be at least more like this.. but you need to realize that their dysfunction has been well established over a long time and would need professional guidance for them to even understand what good human relationships are. Please keep in mind that you cannot fix them. Change is really up to them. Meantime, rejoice in your husband's family life.
Helpful Answer (14)

There are 168 hours in a week.
Plan to use them in a happy, wise way.
Reading, researching, and thinking about narcissists or how to deal with them, then trying to figure out how to deal with the negative emotions in the aftermath can be done in July 2020, if ever you would want to schedule ten minutes for that.

Understandable, your feelings are familiar, missing the emptiness of wanting, needing, the caring of another person who was supposed to love you but cannot.
Take 3 days to go thru withdrawal, then again in 30 days when you start doubting if you made the best decision for your health.

Another thought: Our family nearest us should not have to hear,: "Do you know what my Mother/Dad said to me?" Rehearsing that to them just makes you kinda like an ugly person. I understand, one must get that toxic pain out, so share on here, or with a therapist. After a time of no contact, you will have less and less thoughts about what they said/did to you in the past.

Detach from the toxic chaos, with love. I am liking the idea of sending cards.

P.S. Except for the fact my hubs Mother will complain: "Why did you not just send me the money you spent for the card?" and: "Do not send a birthday card, you can send a mother's day card", OR "Thanks son, for the money, I know your wife sent it, does this mean she is speaking to me again?".

See? Get it? Rehearsing the shock, confusion, and chaos just makes me look bad.
Helpful Answer (14)
janeinspain Nov 2018
Sendhelp this was a missing piece for me, its been running through my mind all day:

"Another thought: Our family nearest us should not have to hear,: "Do you know what my Mother/Dad said to me?" Rehearsing that to them just makes you kinda like an ugly person. I understand, one must get that toxic pain out, so share on here, or with a therapist. After a time of no contact, you will have less and less thoughts about what they said/did to you in the past."

My poor husband! He has not only tolerated my whack-job family all these years, but has also tolerated me working through the recent messes. I could also say this about a few of my friends that I've leaned on too. The kindest thing for all of us is to jump off the hamster wheel and let it come to a stop, along with the pointless mental rehashing of the past. Thank you for sharing your insight :)

Ok, some personal experience here. I was completely out of contact with my Dad for 12 years. Yes 12, more than one decade.

My mother was 3 years.

I have only in the last two years had contact with Dad and only in the last couple months with Mum. They divorced years ago.

It took that long for me to develop the ability to walk away when they start to act up.

For the sake of your own well being, please continue as you have been, stay safe, and stay away.

As well as NPD, we have a family member with Borderline Personality Disorder. The only way I can manage is to have very strong boundaries. Those boundaries are in place even though one person has dementia. I have been told to go visit, but I know it will make no difference to the well being of the person, but will harm me.

Enjoy your joyful holiday season with your husbands family.
Helpful Answer (13)

We have gone no contact here with both my mom and my husband's parents. When we started establishing boundaries as young adults - the @$# really started to fly. We did the "I love you, but I need to hang up now / go now" and finally went no contact for a few months. When we re-established contact - for a birthday or some holiday - if the @#$# started, we repeated the "I love you, but I need to go now. I will not let you speak to me that way".

Eventually they all "got it". No apologies ever for their behavior. No questioning us as to why we would exit when they started in. But somehow - through our being consistent with boundaries, over time, the boundaries were respected. [always tested though].

Boundaries do not change your parents or family one bit. But they change what you have to put up with and the feelings of sadness, anger, resentment, etc when you are trampled.

Boundaries have made my life so much better. Learning to say "no" and set a boundary is liberating.
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It's nice that you have figured a way to stay happy and drama free lately and without the dysfunction. I say yay and why not continue as Ahmijoy says. I love the idea of sending nice holiday cards and not attempting to contact. That way, it sends a positive message, without getting caught back up into it. IMO, we all have dysfunctional families. It's just how much of it can you tolerate that's the question. lol Seriously, some are pretty tough and I don't think that I could deal with it.

But, if someone has dementia, like you say you mom has, I'd try to lower my expectations. Even if she was very narcissistic before dementia, you can't hold her meaness, rudeness or lack of insight on her after dementia. It might not be fair, but, you really have to overlook a lot, due to their brain damage. And, if you can't do it, then there is no disgrace from stepping aside. I get it. Sometimes, the situation is just too toxic to handle. And, if you dad is thinking clearly and not helping matters, then, he may have to take the full responsibility. Whatever your choice, I'd try to stay out from the drama and enjoy your holidays.
Helpful Answer (12)

Detach with love.
Try not to become your own worst enemy over this.
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LOL Amijoy, I too was thinking GingerMay should just send a card. And hey, the phone lines work both ways , there is nothing stopping them from reaching out to you, is there?
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