letter to my brother

In moving some files around, I found this message, which was part of an email back-and-forth among my siblings and myself when some of them took exception to my choosing to share "publicly" that my parents were lurking around the outside of my house. 

He refused to speak to me after I sent this message, saying that I always have to control the conversation and that I was being a typical narcissist, talking over people as usual (um, it's email, how can you talk over people? I thought the built-in turn-taking was one of the perks of that mode of communication). I read over my message again today, to see if I could understand his point of view. Was I attacking him? Devaluing his point of view? I still can't see it. I'm sharing it below (edits to remove names or provide context made in brackets). Tell me if you can see something in this letter that would cause somebody not to speak to his sister for a year: 

[Brother #1], I'm really hurt that you would diagnose me with narcissistic personality disorder. Really hurt.  Please consider reading more about both NPD and the various ways it affects children of narcissists before handing down a diagnosis like that.  Knowing my history with mom, do you not see how it might be hurtful to describe me as "cut from the same cloth" as her? How is that productive or kind?

This is the FIRST time you have told me (in my memory, forgive me if I'm wrong) that you have come to my defense. I can ONLY know this if you tell me. Thank you for doing that. [Sister-in-law #1], thank you for pointing out to her that she cannot set time limits and that even if I want to talk to her in the future, it may be years from now. I'm glad you both told them that they must stop talking to you about it. That's an important boundary to set. I hope she'll respect that boundary.

We simply disagree on public versus private information. Families perpetuate emotional abuse by putting pressure on each other to keep quiet. It's very well documented in therapeutic literature. And you know what? If mutual "friends" come to you, tell them to come ask me directly, ok? And no, I'm NOT going to stop talking in public about parental estrangement, because SOMEBODY HAS TO FUCKING TALK ABOUT IT. Every single time I post here or on my blog or talk to friends in person, people THANK me. My brothers are the ONLY people in my life who have not shown support and who ask me to shut up.

I also disagree with you about finding fault with parents. Mom doesn't just piss me off occasionally like a normal parent does. Mom routinely devalues me. Routinely. With no "good stuff" in between.

I will not go to therapy with our parents until they show human kindness and decency, a willingness to take responsibility for their own actions, and a respect for my boundaires. PERIOD. I've talked to therapists about that choice and they 100% agree with me that group therapy would NOT be productive right now while the parents are in the shame-and-blame Claire mode.

This is NOT about little mistakes mom and dad made along the way. Every one of us makes mistakes with our kids. Every one of us tries to do better than our parents did, even mom. This IS about continuing, constant disrespectful treatment at her hands. The reason I relate that to events in my past is because those events set the pattern that I see in my present.

I'm glad that she respects your boundaries. She does not respect mine. Ever. From conversations with therapists and oodles of reading, this also appears to be typical of women like her. Again and again I read about the differences between narcissistic mothers' treatment of daughters and sons.

I disagree strongly about Dad's role in this. He had an obligation to protect his children, and he chose not to do it. I have horrible memories of traumatic, inexcusable treatment from Mom and asking Dad for help and him just standing by. Yeah, he loves her. Yeah, he's loyal to her. BUT HE FAILED HIS CHILDREN. Parents have a moral obligation to step in and stop the other parent from abusing their children. If he didn't fail you in that way, awesome. It does seem like he has been there for his sons and for [sister].

I think I mentioned upthread that I DO have good memories, or maybe that's in the email that I wrote yesterday and waited to send. But being treated like shit in the here and now doesn't go away because of some good times and life skills learned. No amount of happy memories makes it ok to routinely treat another person with that much disregard for their autonomy.

Re: visitation rights: Mom told [my husband] straight out that she is planning to sue us. She held it out as a threat. She told him this on two separate occasions, over the phone, about 2 months ago. Dad never spoke to [my husband] about it. We haven't been sued yet and I honestly don't know if she will or if she's bluffing.

Re: calling the cops - that is what I will do if/when she does this again. [my husband] wanted, instead, to go out and try to defuse the situation. I HAVE told her to get lost (but more politely, even while being firm).  I HAVE laid out clear boundaries. She chooses to disregard them and I'm going with the best advice I have, to stop engaging with them.  This is standard how-to-deal-with-stalking advice. Please don't second-guess our decisions. You weren't here.

Re: [Husband]'s parents: actually, YES, [his] parents are better. MUCH better. They're fantastic grandparents, they actually want to know our children for who they really are and value them for that. They focus on them in ways appropriate to each child rather than expecting my children to perform for them or show love for them in the way THEY want it, at the exact time they want it.  Before [son #3] was born we had a confrontation with them about the way his parents, especially his mother, were treating us. Over the course of a year we all did a lot of work and the end result was that they took things to heart, we had some fantastic open discussions, and today I actually have a great relationship with them, for the first time in our history. They showed a willingness to listen, to work, to think deeply. Our mother has shown NONE of that willingness. Every communication with her - EVERY SINGLE ONE in the past four years has been a litany of Claire's faults.

RE: benefit of the doubt - it would be helpful if all of you would offer kindness and support more often instead of festering and making assumptions. It would be helpful if you would ASK ME if you want information. About a year or two ago I started holding back more and actively avoiding discussing this with you guys out of a desire not to have a constant bitchfest going on. You can't have it both ways - either you want to talk or you don't. If you want to talk, I can't know that unless you tell me.

I'm really happy for you guys [bro & sil #1, bro & sil #2] that Mom and Dad are good grandparents to your children. They are NOT good grandparents to MY children. Mom's "good grandmother" phase with us ended before [son #1] turned 2. She and Dad do not play an active, positive role in the kids' lives. My children are fortunate to have two other grandparents who work  hard to relate to them in ways that are emotionally and developmentally appropriate. The kids adore Grandma and Grandpa. They don't adore Nona and Pop. The reason they were "excited" yesterday is because they're excited any time somebody comes to the door, especially people they recognize. They have, unfortunately, witnessed mom's shitty treatment of me and understand (well, mostly [son #1] understands, [sons #2&3] not as much) that some people are unable to be kind to other people. We talk about the importance of treating people with kindness and also the importance of sticking up for yourself.

Submitting myself to mom's poor treatment would be unhealthy. I understand that the rest of you have different interactions with her and I am absolutely NOT asking people to choose sides. I do wish all of you could show more empathy for me, but I understand that that might not be possible.



  1. Well, you told him stuff he didn't want to hear or deal with, so that's probably his rationale for not wanting to talk more. I don't think you were offensive here -- you just weren't toeing the party line & he wasn't willing to invest himself in a dialog.

    You told your truth. I don't think you need to best yourself up over his reaction to this.

  2. {{{{{Claire}}}}}

    "Families perpetuate emotional abuse by putting pressure on each other to keep quiet. It's very well documented in therapeutic literature. [...] And no, I'm NOT going to stop talking in public about parental estrangement, because SOMEBODY HAS TO FUCKING TALK ABOUT IT."

    Count me as one of the "THANK YOU!!!!!" crowd.

    It is very hard to be the only scapegoat in the family, especially where everyone else's attitude is roughly, "Well, it never happens to ME..." with the unspoken implication being that either a) you're lying, or b) you must be doing something to make the NP behave that way, or c) both. Oh, and How DARE you discuss it in public????

    You are taking the steps you need to to protect yourself and your family. Telling the truth about what went on is part and parcel of doing that.

    And so, it would appear, is going "No Contact".

    Short of Mr. Peabody and the WAYBAC machine swooping in and taking everyone back to the beginning for a do-over, most members of the FOO are firmly rooted in the mire of it's the scapegoat's fault. They're going to ignore the situation most of the time, because they can -- hey, it's not their ox being gored. When they can't, they're going to try to push you back into "your" place, because actually looking at the reality of the situation is painful. It threatens their view of themselves, and the easy running of their lives. And hey, you're the only one complaining, right? "Everybody else" sees it differently, right? So it must be YOU, not anything to do with anything other members of the FOO are doing, right? Everything will be just fine, if you just go back to "your" place!


    I really don't want to tell you how many years it took me to look at the fact that "Everybody else" should really read "The main abuser and her three minions". Ummmnnn....yeah...It was only four people: one gorgon who was trying to "squish me into a box", and three who had their eyes closed, fingers in their ears, shouting "La-La-La-La-La-La-La-La-La-La!" as loud as they could, so they wouldn't have to face up to what was really going on, and risk facing the gorgon themselves.

    To quote the immortal Mulderfan, "Fuck 'em". Your email to your brother was reasonable; his response was not.

  3. I vote with Vicariousrising and CassandraSquared.

    No, you weren't attacking him. He does find your statements and example of outspokenness and action threatening in a particular way.

    The minions are trying desperately to pretend to themselves that their parents aren't squashing them into a box that they don't dare even think about making a move to get out of, because they have had demonstrated to them from early childhood what happens if they do.

    They aren't being treated differently, not really, they're just desperately pretending to themselves that they are having healthy normal interactions as they walk on eggshells, while some blindfolded and gagged part of themselves is screaming in agony in their dissociated dungeons.

    Your example is threatening to tear away the blindfolds and gags, and they feel the heavens would fall if they let themselves even be aware of, let alone acknowledge, the real situation. -- quartz