Boundaries are Hard in Families

The title of this post are words taken from my mother’s mouth. This is what she said to me tonight while we were speaking by phone, and she is right.

I am tired. I stayed up later than intended watching Project Runway and I am ready to crawl into bed. My babies are in bed waiting for me to join them and almost every piece of my being is dying to go fall into my husband’s arms. When I got up and started turning off lights and locking up one piece of me rose to the surface and started getting really noisy. She needs a voice and it cannot wait for tomorrow.

I have mentioned before how some stories prefer to be told in the darkness, I think that is why some of us lay awake at night troubled with deep thoughts. Dark pieces, shadow pieces, feel safest in the dark AKA night time.

I mentioned that over the holiday there was family drama that hubs and I have not engaged in.. I have not decided how much I am willing to share yet.. I am processing while I write..

What I can say is that a few years ago I made the decision that there was an extended family member I needed distance from. Every time we (hubs and I) were around this person at family gatherings they made us uncomfortable. It was really more than that though, I cannot put my finger on it, it was something I felt on a intuitive level, there was bad energy coming off of this person, I felt bad and negative when I had to be around them.

Hubs and I made ourselves scarce for a while. We did not attend as many family gatherings with extended family and were choosy about how we engaged with the extended family (specifically who we spent time with and when).

At first my mother attempted to lay a massive guilt trip on me about this but I (we) were stead fast. I have said for a long time that I do not believe in forced anything, including obligatory familial relationships. I have written about this in the past. Well after about 6 months or so this person was at the center of an enormous family controversy and most of the rest of my extended family began distancing themselves as well.

Suddenly no one was giving hubs and I shit for our decision to create this physical boundary we had created. Go figure.

As time has gone on it seems this person has either consciously or unconsciously made more and more decisions that would result in their further isolation from the family, not my concern honestly.

The extended family has up to this point been patient with this person, polite (in most cases), and towed the line. This I believe has mostly been in the interest of not upsetting my aging grandmother who loves her family and would be hurt by any fracture within the family system. So the ever growing crack has been ignored, until now.

Something happened this week and this person has very openly waged war against another family member. Our once dysfunctional but connected family has now been ripped in half and everyone is scrambling to pick a side. It is hysteria. The emotional fallout for some is extreme. Family members are feeling pressure to choose between their relationship with their siblings and their sons/daughters, or their son and grandson, or their niece and nephew.

My extended family, like many, has always experienced a level of dysfunction but it has been manageable up to this point. The pressure of the obligatory relationship, the guilt of disappointing the matriarch (my grandmother), plus religion and familial bonds have kept the family together up to this point. It appears all this has dissolved leaving nothing but confusion, pain, and a massive power struggle.

My parents are caught smack in the middle of the mess. Hubs and I immediately stepped back as a way to preserve our relationship and sanity, this is not ours to deal with. My parents could do the same, it is not theirs either technically, but I know they will not. Doing so would mean they would have to “abandon” family members and I know they will not do it. I put quotations around the word abandon because I want to highlight that it is what I believe their perception is but maybe not necessarily what is objectively true.

Hubs and I have offered emotional support via phone to my parents. I am not willing to get any closer to the eye of this storm than that right now. We have changed our New Years Eve plans and will not be with family now. It is not that I do not love and support my family, I am just not willing to insert myself into a situation that is a raging emotional disaster and none of my business.

This will blow over in time, or it won’t. Either way hubs and I will make decisions over time about what our boundaries will look like as things progress. Our boundaries on this have allowed us to continue to enjoy our time off together even as this fire rages on. I am not the fire department, I cannot extinguish this flame, and I cannot save anyone who does not want to be saved.

I feel good about how hubs and I have been able to offer help, and how I personally have been able to support my parents emotionally. Tonight we talked for a while and I felt good about the conversation, I tried to help them step back from the situation and see it from different angles. At the end of the conversation my mother mentioned how they really need me around right now. This was in reference to me letting them know earlier in the day that we have decided not to come over on New Years Eve. When I originally told her we would not be coming I explained it was because we had made other plans, which is true. When she brought it up again I explained about the boundaries we have set for ourselves right now and that we would more than likely be observing these boundaries until the situation is under better control. We are not willing to get sucked in and this is undoubtedly the only thing my family will be talking about on New Years Eve. We are not interested in starting our New Year in that energy.

I invited my parents over for dinner at our house, and told them we could make other plans with just them but that we would not be spending time with the rest of the family while this situation is fresh.

I could tell be her tone that my mother was disappointed. After years of setting and maintaining healthy boundaries in that relationship though she has learned I cannot be swayed once I have made up my mind.

I love my family very much. It hurts my heart that we are experiencing a fracture on this level. For me there is no love lost on the individual that in my eyes has created this fracture, it does not make the situation any less sad though. This person is experiencing disconnection and has been for such a long time and it has now led to this. Hurt people hurt people, that is what taking place in my family right now. I hope in time this wound is able to be healed, for some if not all of my family members. I am hopeful, I know many do not share my optimism. It will be up to each person to decide how they are going to show up in this moment of time in our family’s history. Personally I am thinking of my grandfather, the patriarch that passed away years ago. I think it would hurt his heart as well to see his family in this state. I believe individually we are all better than this and are capable of the kind of love that heals deep hurts. I hope that collectively we can get there.

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