Dear Toxic Family Member,
I know you’re not speaking to me right now (again) because of the whole silent treatment thing (again). But, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. I guess you could say all this silence has really left me alone with my thoughts. In fact, there are a few things I need to say.
First, I’m tired of the emotional games.
I understand you’re upset (though, I’m not exactly sure why). But, can we please stop with the emotional manipulation? Instead of talking about things, we seem to fall into this same trap. Finding out I upset you from another family member is not the right way to solve problems. Before I had kids, I had time to figure out what was wrong. I could play the game of repeating “I’m sorry” and work my way back into your good graces. Now, I don’t have the time. So, can you do me a favor and tell me if I upset you? It will save us both a lot of time and energy if we skip the silent treatment/passive aggressive comments/long drawn-out fight cycle.
Second, I’m not a therapist.
I know we’re family, but that does not mean I am at your beck and call every time you have a crisis. Long gone are the days when I could stay on the phone with you for hours to listen to the retelling of your latest drama. I can’t keep track of your text messages. I can’t emotionally place myself into your problems anymore. For now, I have to play the “I have kids” card and ask that we keep the drama to a minimum. I don’t want to have to explain to my children why I’m upset, especially when it’s because I’m upset over something I have nothing to do with. I know you recently told me I wasn’t there for you when you needed me. To clarify, “being there for you” should not mean long, drawn-out conversations that surround the drama of “what if.” I cannot rehash your mostly-fabricated scenarios that you want to stress over. I can’t “be there for you” like I used to be, mainly because I have other obligations. We both have families – can we both agree that spending time with them is more important right now?
Third, it’s not you; it’s us.
I know calling you “toxic” seems pretty harsh, but I’m not out to make you the devil. You are a pretty awesome person. You have so many redeeming qualities, and I know many people love you, myself included. You’re a good person. I’m a good person. However, we are not good together. For whatever reason, we don’t jive, and I’ve accepted that fact. I know since we are family, there will be times we cannot avoid each other. But, I also think there are times when we can avoid each other. We don’t need to have weekly phone calls to check in with each other or monthly lunch dates to “catch up.” Texting? Not necessary. I’ll see you at the next family get-together, and I promise things won’t be awkward. In fact, won’t it be nice to see each other and not be upset? I’m removing all expectations of each other from the table. I’m putting you on the “pay no mind” list, and you can do the same.
Finally, I’m sorry.
I know I seem like a jerk right now. Sometimes I feel like a jerk. But, when I stop and think about it – what have I done to you? What serious wrong have I committed to deserve being treated like an emotional punching bag? Countless times I cried and fretted and beat myself up thinking about what I could have done to be a better friend to you. But then, I look at my kids and realize that I am supposed to be there for them. How can I be the mom they need me to be if I’m busy putting out other people’s fires? I need them to see what a healthy relationship looks like. Unfortunately, our relationship is not good for me. I know we are family, but I want my children to know that family does not equate respect. So, our one-sided relationship has to end. I’m clocking out as your therapist, and I’m removing the label of “scapegoat.” I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to find someone else to abuse.