“You won’t be able to survive without us.”
Not exactly the kind of thing you want to hear from a family member. But this is exactly what my grandmother said to me when I told her that I was going my own way.
After years of abuse – verbal, emotional and mental – at the hands of my stepmother, I knew that if I didn’t get away from her I’d end up in a mental institution or worse.
So despite my grandmother’s warning, I left home at 18. For years I worried that she was right and on a daily basis I doubted my decision to go no contact.
But as the days passed and as my mental and emotional worlds improved, I became confident that the decision I made was the right one for me.
Yes of course there were times that I felt alone and full of doubt. And there were plenty of times that I wished I had family to fall back on. But those were also the times that I discovered just how resourceful and independent I could be.
And yes, I worried what other people would think when I told them that I was estranged from my family. I worried that I’d never be able to find lasting friendships or be in a relationship with someone who’d love me despite my family.
On a very deep level, I feared that I wasn’t lovable and without my family I’d never be able to create a loving one of my own.
Making the decision to cut ties with family, to preserve your own health and well being, is not easy to make. And when that same family tries to scare you away from your choice with an endless list of “you’ll nevers and you won’t be able tos,” it becomes a thousand times more difficult.
If you can relate, this post is for you.
Today I’m sharing a few ideas that will give you some perspective, on these unsolicited opinions from family, that I hope will help you see through the bullsh*t.
Now I certainly can’t speak for every family and I can’t tell you whether or not the choice, to go no contact, is the right one. But I can tell you that you have the right to make that choice in the name of preserving your health and well being. And in some extreme cases to save your own life.
Once you’re finished reading, I’d love to hear from you.
How have you handled unsolicited comments from your family on the choice to go no contact? What insights, from your own experience, can you share with someone else who’s going through something similar right now?
Leave your thoughts in the comment section.
Remember, your voice, experiences and insights are vital to this community. And what you have to share is not only unique but it may be exactly what someone else needs to read. And that someone could be you.
As always, thanks for reading!
Until next Tuesday,
P.S. This Friday, September 15th at 1pm Eastern, I’ll be hosting another Growing Up Chaotic LIVE on Facebook. So mark your calendar and plan to join me live:)
#1 Opinions Are Not Facts
This first tip was inspired by this quote from Marcus Aurelius,
Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact.
Whether we’re talking about the opinion of a random stranger or an opinion that flies right out of the mouth of a relative, the same idea applies.
From personal experience, I know how easy it can be to take a family member’s opinion personally. When my grandmother told me that I’d never be able to survive without my family, I believed her and I feared the outcome of her warning. But there was also a part of me that instinctively knew, even in the presence of doubt, that I was taking the right steps for my health and well being.
So when a relative makes a comment about your choice to go no contact try to take a step back and remember that opinions are not based in fact. If your mother thinks that you’ll never find someone to marry because you don’t speak to your family, remember that that’s her opinion based on her own fears and perceptions. Take her opinion for what it’s worth and keep it moving.
#2 Widen Your Perspective
Although I completely agree that living in the past isn’t the best way to heal the future, I do believe that understanding your past along with the most basic characteristics of the dysfunctional family system can only support and enhance your recovery.
For example, in his book, The Adult Children of Alcoholics Syndrome, author Wayne Kritsberg outlines the differences between an alcoholic or dysfunctional family system and a healthy family system.
He points out that in an alcoholic or dysfunctional family, family members are never free to leave. The family relies on an unhealthy sense of loyalty. Whereas in a healthy family, members are free to leave the system. Although each member is part of the family, their individual freedoms, wants and desires are respected and acknowledged.
Understanding this difference can help you understand a family member’s reaction to your decision to go no contact. From this perspective, their reaction makes sense within the context of the dysfunctional family. So it isn’t that they’re necessarily speaking from the truth but that their reaction is more aligned with or typical of someone entrenched in a system that’s rooted in some degree of dysfunction.
When you consider their opinions from this perspective, what they say or the dramatic outcomes they predict, start to make sense. In a larger sense, by choosing to go no contact you’re challenging the system that holds the dysfunction in place.
So their opinion isn’t necessarily a reliable prediction but more of a reaction.
Of course, I’m speaking in a very general sense here and I’m certainly not saying that this idea applies to all families and all situations. Families are complicated and to assume that we can make sense of someone’s reaction in one blog post, I realize, is absurd. I just want to give you another perspective to consider.
#3 Everything Is Temporary. Even Opinions.
Deciding to go no contact today doesn’t mean that tomorrow or a month, year or decade down the road you can’t change your mind.
For your own sanity, it can sometimes help to remind yourself that going no contact doesn’t have to be a forever and ever deal. It can just be what’s best for you right now.
And when you realize that your choice is temporary and subject to change, you can also remain aware of the fact that any family member’s opinion of that choice is also temporary.
And if their opinion is temporary how important can it really be?
Going back to my earlier example, if you decide to go no contact with your abusive mother and she is of the opinion that if you stop talking to her no one will want to marry you, who’s to say if your mom started therapy and really looking into her own issues that her understanding of your choice wouldn’t change?
From this perspective, your mom’s opinion isn’t based in reality or some facts that she has access to but it’s really more about her own fears. Perhaps her response to going no contact is more about what that means for her and less about what the future may or may not hold for you.
Clearly, the choice to go no contact with a family member is a difficult and deeply personal one to make. I hope that what I’ve shared with you here will give you the confidence to think through your options and choose what’s best for you.
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