Complex relationships with family/parents - how often do you talk?

ninja

MyPTSD Pro
My parents, brother, and I all have complex relationships with each other. I live 3k miles away from them (moved >6 years ago). I'm wrestling with how to navigate my needs/wants in terms of frequency of contact/communication with them. It's pretty clear with my brother - we don't talk. I'm finding it tricker with my parents, and that is what this post/question is about.

I haven't been in contact with my mom since the beginning of June because we got into a conflict, she was pushing something on me, I laid boundaries clearly, she didn't respect them, I laid them again, she didn't respect them, etc. I told her I was going to stop responding if she continued, and she reacted by saying something she often used to say when I was a kid - it pushed me over the edge. This is the first time I am deliberately not in contact with her. I'm in my late twenties.

The space from her has highlighted how much guilt I felt and still feel within the relationship and more generally, with both of my parents. The guilt is heavy and taking time to unravel. In the meantime, I don't want to talk to either of them (Please just leave me alone!!!). I'm tired and exhausted, even though the relationships are much better than when I was a kid. I think a lot (but probably not all) of these feelings are from the past, and I'm questioning how much I should let them influence decisions I make about current communication/relationships.

My dad tends to message on weekends wanting to talk. It's not even excessive asking with him - the last time we spoke by phone was two weeks ago. We talked for several hours. We have exchanged a text here or there since then, but that's about it. He's not making excessive demands, so why can't I bring myself to message him back or call? I feel guilty for wanting to be left alone. I feel guilty when we do get on the phone and talk. He says, "let's not go so long between talking again, ok?" and in my head this immediately translates to guilt.... because I don't feel the same way....I know many people have parents who don't want to talk to them. It makes me feel ungrateful and selfish. I am concerned I'm being unreasonable.

How often do you talk to your parents, particularly when/if the relationships are/have been.. complicated? Or more generally, how have you navigated these kinds of things?

Thanks so much.
 

arfie

MyPTSD Pro
is there such a thing as simple family relationships? i estranged from my parents 40 years before they died and the relationship is STILL complicated.

i NEVER talk to my parents or siblings, but my rule of thumb for how and win to break a complicated relationship silence is to wait for the simplicity. when the time is right, if ever the time is right, the simplicity will be there.
 

Roland

Confident
I blocked my dad, took a while to get there. I just didn't respond for a whole year. He STILL messages me, I only know because I recently got a new phone and I didn't know I had to reblock him. If you come to the conclusion to completely cut them out, don't feel bad about it, just boldly do it. Stop engaging. If you feel you can, and it's healthy for you to rekindle a relationship at your terms and boundaries, then great. Wasn't the case for me, my dad abused me for 17 years and the only reason the number isn't higher is because I won't let him do it anymore :) There's no shame in cutting contact, I know it feels bad, but THEY are the reason you do it. The disrespect of your person, emotions, boundaries, body, and resources, it has to end, I won't put up with it. But it is hard to get there. You feel you're doing something wrong, but you definitely aren't. The guilt is deeply engrained in you, the people pleasing, but it's not warranted.
 

coraxxx

Sponsor
I ended up going no contact with my dad and unfortunately it did complicate the relationships with the rest of the family. Every time I speak with them something guilt tripping goes off, because they don't get the reasons.

Or still, kind of.

There has been a point where I decided I preferred to be estranged than having to bear all of this. I don't want to be depicted as this disgraceful person I am not. I did try. I did try for now three decades. And enough is enough. It didn't really come with one big decision, but rather a growing feeling of resentment that morphed into annoyance that reached indifference. I can't make myself to care anymore. Once I got cleared off the guilt there simply was nothing left.
 

Huxley

Learning
It was normal during my childhood and early adult life that I only spoke to some siblings via telephone twice a year - Christmas and birthday. I saw them a couple of times. It was normal that I only spoke to / saw any extended family (grandparents, aunts, cousins, etc) for an hour or so every few years. Those communications were polite, rather formal, but cordial. I knew nothing else.

As an adult I made an effort to stay in contact and to create more contact, by planning joint trips, going for visits, making the time, etc. (Realize that under our family paradigm this meant maybe once a year during prosperous times). I tried to phone a couple of them a couple of times a month, which was ”often”, it seemed to both parties.

It all fell apart when I became problematically symptomatic during my 50s. I ultimately went “no contact” (as if what we had was what most would consider contact in the first place), and it turned out to be a very good decision for me. I am far better off without them in my life, despite what society at large says. I went with my gut and it worked for me.

they of course made no attempts to reconnect with me themselves.
 

Weemie

MyPTSD Pro
How often do you talk to your parents, particularly when/if the relationships are/have been.. complicated? Or more generally, how have you navigated these kinds of things?
I am no contact with my father. It's complicated. He did take me in and feed, shelter, clothe me. We're very alike. Gregarious and outgoing and friendly. We look alike. I'd went my whole life without even knowing what he looked like, and at 18 his then-wife reached out to me and I discovered I had a whole side-family.

This was all at a time when I was very vulnerable. I was a teenager and just settling into the world after years of organized violence. He also sexually abused me as an adult. He enabled my drug addiction. It was my choice and responsibility and I do not blame him for me doing drugs but at the same time I was not legally competent, not really. I was essentially catatonic.

He also spent $60,000 of my money because he insisted that my welfare payments be made in a joint account.
I was too incoherent to disagree. He would take the money and get Dilaudid (we called them hydros) and crush up the little balls inside the capsules and that's how my dad parented me.

What truly cinched the decision was
when his friend Blair came and gave him crack, which he gave to me. Instantly he started watching hardcore pornography which triggered me. And then he masturbated while I had pressured speech and instead of leaving (my judgment was impaired due to being intoxicated on crack) I was just verbal diarrhea-ing aversive details of my abuse, which had included elements of bestiality, that my father found arousing and he masturbated to that. I was in a severe crisis and was suicidal.

That was a fracture in our relationship that I could not overlook. It was a one-time event. He did not sexually abuse my sisters. I made certain of it. I watched him like a hawk. But after that I simply cannot muster up respect for him in any capacity. As a human, sentient person? Yes. As my father? No. Certainly not.
 

Livi

Learning
Our situations sound pretty similar. I was on a never ending quest to find peace and a sense of calm which I couldn't find with my family around.
I can relate to the tiredness and exhaustion navigating family life. I don't talk to my family much at all. I have no contact with my parents and my sister. Limited and cordial contact with my brother (like twice a year emails that's all!) In the end I made the decision based on my capacity to cope with highly emotional outbursts and threats of self harm from them. To put it simply - I couldn't cope and therefore no contact was the only option to keep my sanity. I still have the guilt you talk of, I don't think that will ever go, but I am much more able to cope and much more emotionally regulated. It's a process! However you choose to navigate I hope you find your peace and calm.
 

Friday

Moderator
Family is complicated.

I come from a great family. And my parents are good people. Just to baseline.

On one end of the spectrum
- I’ve gone years without seeing or speaking to anyone in my family.
- I’ve gone years with very limited contact with certain individual members of my family (a few phone calls a year, or meeting up in person for a few hours or days a few times a year), whilst not having any contact with the rest.

Somewhere in the commonly occurring middle
- I’ve spent years having regular contact with a few people, and incidental to no contact with the rest.

On the other end of the spectrum
- I’ve seen &/or spoken by phone with at least one or more people in my family daily.
- I’ve lived with my family.

^^^^
Where I’m at ON that spectrum? Depends entirely on what is/was going on in my life.
 

Charbella

MyPTSD Pro
I second the notion that Family is complicated. For me I have contact and it’s not always good, see other posts for examples. But I’ve also cut them out before. Most recently last year when I went 6 months of not talking to my mom. Honestly I think periods of drawing a line in the sand make things better in the end.
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
Ah,that never ending guilt and the push/pull of those family relationships. I've talked to my T about this *a lot*, in a stop start way, and backing off at certain points.

Where I am now with my parents is: I speak to my mum maybe every couple of months, briefly. And see them a couple of times a year. That's what suits me now.
Previously, I would speak to them weekly and see them monthly, and stay with them a couple of times a year.

I started backing off when they accused me of making up the abuse my brother in law was inflicting on my sister and the kids (and my sister colluding with it), despite the police being involved and child protection services, and brother in law being sectioned. That was the final straw that made me see my parents are disfunctional. And it's what spurred me into therapy. The pandemic then hit and I used that as a perfect excuse not to see them for 18 months?
I needed that break.
They remain upset with me, and I am *not following the rules*.
But I have dropped the guilt and the worry and the responsibility of the state of the relationship.
Two people need to fix relationships. And when the other side is incapable, all you can do is decide how you want to remain in relationship with them or end that relationship.
I've decided not to go 'no contact', and just have contact on my terms at a frequency that works.

I stil have blips and doubts and questions and and and.
But much kinder to myself.
And I get much less agitated and stressed by them.

I hope you find the way that works for you.
 

Freida

MyPTSD Pro
I'm lucky - I was very close with my parents until their deaths. But my brother? I havent talked to him in years. I don't have any ill will towards him, I just can't have his drama in my life.

It took some serious therapy to get me that point though - because somehow in our family dynamics he became MY problem. Not intentionally - it just happened. So bailing on him meant leaving him on his own. Funny though, the minute I did he managed to find wife #1, then wife #2, now wife #3.

What did that mean to me? That I wasn't as necessary in his life as I feared - which meant I could walk away guilt free.
 

whiteraven

MyPTSD Pro
I actually am super close to my mom. No abuse from her, but she did stay with my dad until after I moved out. She is the person I'm closest to now.

My dad? Well, my sister cut contact years and years ago. She also cut contact with me because I did not cut contact with him (last time I saw her was in 2008 at my dad's funeral, but I haven't talked to her since around 2006). I talked to him until the day he died. I just knew that I would regret it if I stopped talking to him. I did set pretty strict boundaries, and he mellowed a LOT as we both got older. I started to see him as an individual with a lot of history. I don't believe people are born evil; I believe their environment shapes them.
 
Top