Hi Everyone,

This is one of the few resources that I had for support when dealing with my Grandma's decline -- so with affection and respect, I find myself once again posing family dynamics questions to you all!

I left an abusive/controlling/manipulative family and was doing OK in a different state, until I was laid off. My church has supported me for over a year, but as you know we're in a recession, so good paying jobs are thin on the ground. I"ve put forth a valiant effort to retrain and get rehired into a similar role, but doors keep closing.

My family has been pressuring me to go back to another state for a visit of indeterminate length, since my Dad went into intensive care. My Dad was an alcoholic narcissist, so it was imperative that I stay out of his orbit. He's since died just recently, and now the pressure continues for me to go back...Either for the standard sort of memorial gathering, or to theoretically comfort my remaining family members (who wanted as little as possible to do with me after my Grandmother passed, and all chose to side against me--blowing with the financial wind provided in the form of my progressively deteriorating, millionaire father.

In the aftermath of Dad's death, one sibling has made great efforts to mend the fence between us, and even convinced my Mom to cough up a significant amt. of cash in case I wanted to make a pilgrimage back to my Dad's bedside. Unfortunately, when asked by this sibling whether he was still pissed at me, Dad replied that yes, even after being terminally ill, essentially he still felt entitled to his behavior toward me. So I chose not to go back for more abuse.

Now I'm faced with either perhaps entering a homeless shelter with my dependent teenager (in a comparatively wealthy area with a wonderful climate, mind you,) or following my exasperated and somewhat ignorant (of abusive family dynamics) all-male pastoral staff's idea that I should go back to the same economically desperate state, and just "find out for myself" whether the cash they sent for travel expenses was really indicative of behavioral change.

The pastoral staff are mostly well-intended, yet also bone-headed when it comes to the needs of women in my situation--although they're generous, they have no plan other than quick, temporary fixes--and that's what this is. I've explained to the ones who would listen that previously I have had to use the Quick Exit Door to escape from family entrapment.

I have a very bad feeling about leaving the thin social support network we have in this state, to go back to what has repeatedly proven to be a nearly non-existent one in the state where I came from. I know that abuse tends to be cyclical, but I'm not sure my male pastors have any clue about that. My family has proven to be unreliable & abusive, and I really can-t figure out why they would want me around again, except maybe to temporarily soothe their own egos or entrap a convenient female caregiver (the role which abusive Dad tried to coerce me into since I was a teenager.)

My family of origin barely knows who I really am, since they bought into Dad's divisive role assignment. My mother wasn't always as bad as my Dad, but she is incredibly immature; throws adult tantrums, has major boundary/entitlement issues, etc. Not the sort of woman I would choose to spend time or live with--and yet this is exactly what everybody seems to expect from me!

I had to cut off contact due to her drunk phone calls, etc. and now people seem to think that because my Dad is gone, her behavior will have somehow magically improved (!) I have told extended family that my sibling had my parents' POA, in the hope that they would leave me out of it.

My Mom has long shared my abusive Dad's belief that whoever has the most assets is entitled to behave manipulatively and arbitrarily with them, and I have no evidence of that changing, since it was only via my sibling's very slow intercession that the one-time only travel funds were dispensed.

I've had to avoid disclosing personal info of any kind to my Mom in the past, because she uses it all against me (typical abusive narcissism.) And this is the person/situation that my comparatively ignorant pastors suggest that I return to with my teenager!

If I did this I would be going back with just an old car full of possessions, leaving my furniture in storage in the other state (several days drive away.) My gut says that because I don't have backup (am expected to rely on my Mom's hospitality,) it is likely to be another trap. My family is adept at waving financial carrots when it suits them, just for their own entertainment/sense of control.

I'm even afraid to have verbal contact with my Mom because she is so off the map, and now people expect me to become dependent on her hospitality/fulfill the dutiful daughter role...???

I could really use your insight on this one, thanks for sharing your wisdom!

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Hi Birdsong,
I think in many ways you've answered your own question. You list many negatives - the only positive being temporary financial help. If there is a way that you can to and test the waters, that's what I'd recommend. But don't cut off any support from where you are now until you see if some members of your family have changed. People do change, so we don't want to write them all off. But they also can be manipulative, as you've seen only too well.
In the end, you'll have to follow your own gut. But I don't see why it has to be either/or. Try for something temporary. Maybe go and apply for jobs, etc. while you are there. But don't but yourself off from the support you have now. Test the waters first.
Good luck,
Helpful Answer (0)

If your gut says NO, then don't go... and last I checked, there were more than two states in the US... sorry you are having such a hard time, but there are other states you can get a fresh start,possible finanacial aide and a new begining.... One of my favorite sayings is, "I can be had, but I can't be bought".... do what you think is going to help you get on your feet.... if the family is as you say, money isn't going to change that.... good luck... let us know what happens...
Helpful Answer (3)

I agree with Ladee - we have intuition and gut feelings for a reason...I would go with that; especially from what you have described. My heart goes out to you and the present situation you are in. If you don't get the support you need from your family; the "non-support" you may experience could feel worse; at least that has been my experience. Testing the waters is a good idea if it is possible.

You need all the strength you can muster to move forward; and you need to focus on you and your child; your plate is full right now emotionally and from what you have described, I fear you could be walking into a mine field.

I will keep you in my prayers and send hugs and hugs to you.
Helpful Answer (2)

Thank you so very much for your expeditious replies, ladies. Your willingness to share what you've learned is a priceless gift. :) JMHO that as we slowly raise collective intelligence about these dynamics, it will become easier for those of us who have to resist (i.e. most women & children in the world!)

I must say again, while dealing with my Grandma's decline, I was only able to get support from my college counselling office and this website! Everyone else was either unhelpful or wanted to be paid...The community here really saved my sanity (as has having counselling from women's shelters, etc. in the past.)

You encouraged me to keep the focus on myself & my child going forward, instead of being manipulated by people who could afford but wouldn't accept help they couldn't control...Your compassion and immediate grasp of the situation empowered me to stand my ground countless times afterward, when faced with the same ignorance and entitlement....; )

My brother still has the idea that when my surviving Mother gets out the booze and starts negative attention-seeking, I could just "hide in my room" as we had to do while growing up! I told him that is no longer possible for me, and I am not exposing my teenager to what I endured.

I have learned to maintain active social networks in different quarters ; ) so will proceed on that basis, and check back with updates...

Helpful Answer (1)

Birdsong, read your entire post carefully, as if it were written by a stranger. What would your advice be to this person? I think the answer is in your post.

Is this a trap? Yes, it is. Perhaps not everyone on the other end intends it to be a trap, but that is what it will turn out to be nevertheless.

Reread your description of your mother. How many days could you live with her before despair sets in? Then what? Do you have funds to return after you've "tested the waters"? I believe that people can change, but generally not without making an intense effort, and in your mother's case probably not without professional help. You say that there is no evidence that she has changed. Believe the evidience, or lack of it.

The male pastoral staff apparently doesn't have a clue. Your description of them reminds me of social worker Jane in a long post by survived2. Jane's life goal is reuniting families where there is an estrangement, and she can't accept the fact that sometimes estrangement is the healthiest response to a toxic family. These people mean well and they may be highly competent in other areas. They just don't get abuse.

Good luck. And keep us informed as your story unfolds.
Helpful Answer (1)

Thanks Jeanne, Yes I can't even imagine where to start trying to have a conversation with my Mom that doesn't revolve around her, or involve disparaging me and my son (!)

She once sent me a sad little note saying she doesn't know what she did wrong...A mature person could clearly see that's the problem (denial, lack of desire to change...)

I fully expect the manipulation to start in again if we stay for any length of time, and am trying to choose between not taking what I see as bait/empty promises or just taking my chances in a shelter here. If I go back and give them a chance to screw it all up again, of course it will be me left high and dry on their turf, with other people's assets once again stacked against me.

Thinking I should try to consult a shelter case manager here, too.
Helpful Answer (1)

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