Why do people continue to visit with family assholes?

I’m perusing the Holiday Drama thread in MPSIMS, and I’m struck by the stories of family members who continually treat them like shit.

I can see if brother is a jerk, and he’s at mom’s house, but you still love mom, so you end up sharing the party. But why go to see parents who call your kids assholes and things like that? Particularly if they live far away?

I have a dad who’s a drunk. I only talk to him before 4pm, when he starts drinking. If he calls after 4pm, I let the machine get it. If he or anyone esle started to get obviously abusive toward me or my family, I would cut him off, no question. I love my dad, but I love myself and my immdiate family more.

Why do you keep going to see them?

Guilt and a feeling of obligation since they helped you when you were younger (or, in the case of my mom the only good reason I can really come up with is “at least she didn’t abort me.”) makes me feel like I owe it to them to go to their stupid gatherings and put up with the crap. I wish I could get over that feeling of obligation and just not care.

In my roommate’s case, as he is poor, the only way he has to travel across the country and see his beloved grandparents, aunt, sister, and friends is to have his horrible parents pay for it.

Plus a lot of people get major grief from others if they mention wanting to cut jerks out of their lives. “They’re family!” “You only get one father/mother/etc!” “What if so-and-so died and you’d never made peace, you’d carry that guilt for life!” Even similarly-treated family members can be the ones laying on the guilt trips.

I’ve often mentioned my abusive, bipolar father-in-law. My husband never cut him off years ago because he wouldn’t get to see his mother. Well, years later he begins to think of it as ‘well, mom never stood up for us that much when us kids were abused’ and he learned of a few incidents where she was going to file divorce but got talked out of it by him and/or changed her mind. (She came from a wealthy family who stayed in touch with her and would have supported her, so that wasn’t it.) So losing touch with his mom has become less important to him now.

Then we have the other siblings. Some of them don’t want to lose touch with their mom. Some seem to have a fair amount of “Stockholm syndrome”, in which they seem to have sided with their dad because he had the power in the family all through their childhood; they learned their mom wouldn’t really be that effective in helping them avoid abuse, so they desperately tried to stay on their dad’s good side against anyone else. I’ve seen that even today - blaming their mom for things that probably aren’t her fault, or dishing dirt to their father on their siblings rather than risk cross-examination by him on why they aren’t measuring up to his standards.

We’ve become estranged from my husband’s father, but as a result, since he and their mother must be invited to family holidays, this means we haven’t gotten together with his siblings for quite a while. My husband is planning on re-establishing relations around his mom’s birthday, with (hopefully) a no tolerance for BS policy around that time. I’m half-tempted to just not go since his father has little love for or understanding of me, but on the other hand I feel compelled to be “backup”/moral support for my husband.

If I don’t put up with my mother, I don’t get to see my nephews or my brothers.

OTOH, both Littlebro and myself refuse to visit the Grandparents from Hell, and both of us have made it very clear to Mom that if she’s got them “visiting,” we will not “pitch in to help.” Take into account that Mom’s idea of “pitch in to help,” in my case, would be:

  • sleep at Littlebro’s,
  • go to Mom’s before 9am,
  • run all errands,
  • do all the cooking, with one hag sitting on each shoulder criticising (and by the way I’m a better cook than either one of them),
  • do the majority of the cleaning, including wiping with disinfectant anything Gramps has touched (he’s got a colostomy bag and very unclean habits),
  • while the TV is on at maximum volume, the two ancient ones say anything at the top of their lungs, and Mom whispers to me stories of ancient offenses, some of them from before she was born,
  • and not leave before 10pm.

Fuck, NO!

My dad died while I was estranged from him (drank himself to death), and I have very little guilt over it. I gave him chance after chance when he was alive, he chose to act like an asshole instead of a human being, and one particularly miserable Christmas, I’d had enough, and that was the last time I ever saw him. If there comes a point where you figure your life is better without an asshole than with it, I say you should cut ties. I’m not one to tell people to put up with bullshit forever just because of an accident of birth.

To answer the OP’s question simply, sometimes you still see the family members you can barely stand because you haven’t reached the breaking point yet. When you do, you stop.

Humans tend to go out of their way for reasons of propriety. Most cultures place heavy emphasis on family, and especially the importance of honoring one’s elders. People will put up with enormous amounts of bullshit just out of a sense of obligation to keep up a charade of family functionality for the benefit of some (often imaginary) “audience” that will judge them harshly for not keeping up these traditions.

The other that comes to my mind is the “hope springs eternal” mindset, that no matter how shitty your relatives have been in the past, there is something magical that will happen this time that has never happened before that will change the whole dynamic.

I’m another one who doesn’t really get it. I don’t see much of any of my family and it’s not because they’re arseholes or I really dislike them, more that I just don’t have anything in common with them and I don’t particularly enjoy spending time with them. On the other hand we have the situation with my father and his family (he got divorced from my mum and remarried and I have another two brothers through that marriage) where we’ve had fairly strained relations but I’ve tried to repair things and it’s really not achieved very much. So I’m pretty much reaching the point with him where I say “screw this, clearly you’re not interested” and cut my losses. If he were to tragically die whilst we weren’t talking it would be a shame but I imagine I’d feel like that was the way he wanted things as I did what I could - you can only take responsibility for yourself after all.

Whilst I agree that blood is thicker than water, it doesn’t have to be thicker than glue.

As I mentioned in the family drama thread, my sister-in-law is a very difficult person to like, let alone get along with. Fortunately, she’s in the Air Force and apparently plans to retire to Florida, so she’s not a day-to-day presence, and won’t be for a while.

Unfortunately, when she comes here to visit her family, it’s usually during the holidays when I can’t beg off from familial social obligations without looking like a bitch myself. I just have to sit at the other end of the table and not engage her in any sort of conversation.

In terms of my own family dysfunction, we visit at Thanksgiving for a week, and maybe one more week during the summer. I don’t care if I see them or not, but I don’t think it’s right that the sprog not know my family just because I have issues with them. And not all of my family are assholes; some are OK.

This. although I should probably just give up on that false hope.

My parents have only gotten worse (more judgemental, more verbally abusive) as they have gotten older, and my wife has certainly had it with them. My kids have also had their fill of them, after this year.

We’ve booked a trip over X-mas once in the past; I think it’s time to do that again over the holidays in 2010.

One reason is that by cutting of a particular relative, you end up oing the same with others. In my case, that made me continue seeing my parents for more time than I should have. There’s also the sense of “how can you be such a bad son?!”

When I stopped seeng them it meant missing a couple of births, baptisms, first Communions and other stuff.

Still, although hard it was worth it.

I’m so glad I have a wonderful family.

Next year come spend the holidays with us!

Because it’s possible to LIKE a person and hate his/her behaviour.

I used to have a friend Debbie was always late, she was always late, get that. No matter what, Debbie wasn’t on time.

Everyone would complain, and I’d be like, “Well it’s not like you don’t know this. She’s ALWAYS late.”

And then they would complain some more, and I’d say “Well then don’t hand around with her anymore.”

But while Debbie was late, Debbie was a heck of a lot of fun to be around. A minute after Debbie arrived (and arrived late) you’d forget it because you’d be having a good time.

Some people are jerks, but you can like them anyway.

In addition to the “you only get to see nice person X in conjunction with asshole person Y” already stated, their is also the randomness factor that person Y may only be an asshole some of the time.

For example, both of my wife’s sisters (and my brothers in law) are Orthodox Jews while we are totally non-religious. Some nights we all get together and have a great time with them, and other times it becomes a “why are you such a bad Jew?” evening, which makes us want to walk out in the middle of dinner. Likewise, my own sister goes between totally awesome and loving to “fuck you - everything has to be my way or the highway” at family occasions. It seems to be dictated by how much of a pain her kids have been earlier in the day. Even if the asshole factor can sometimes be in the 90% range, we still cherish the 10% that isn’t. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst…

It’s about choices, I guess. My family is extremely dysfunctional. Some of the family members were dysfunctional in a way that hurt me deeply. Others had histories of dysfunction or hurt others but were supportive to me. When you’re a kid growing up in this kind of environment, you’ve got no choice but to cling to the people who show you love, regardless of their other flaws. That is why some of the most cherished people in my family have been abusive monsters to others–just not me. It’s either that or nothing.

For some family members, it was in my best interest not to see them any more. For others, it was in my best interest to establish some distance. They make me sad sometimes, but their choices don’t really affect me that much. I’m an adult. If things turn abusive I can walk away. I’ve done it before, I can do it again.

It’s one of those things, you have to take the bad with the good, or you have nothing. I totally believe in some cases nothing is the best option. But in a lot of cases, acceptance can be the difference between whether you have somewhere to go during the holidays. And that feeling of belonging, even if it’s belonging with a psychotic mess of a sorry excuse for a family, is worth more than most people realize.

Darnit Steve! Stop breaking the fourth wall!

:laugh track:

In my case, the offender are quite often 50/50 as to being a jerk. Go to b-day party, offender is all wonderful! Ah, they’ve finally snapped out of it! I’ll bring family next time, and we’ll have a grand time. At Thanksgiving, 1/2 jerk, 1/2 cool…Hmmmm…maybe I did something, and I’m misinterpreting…At Xmas-total creep! Forget the jerk. Never again.
Call comes in on NY day from creep: Hey, hh, we all loved seeing you at xmas, and the kids want you to come to the special musical they’re giving on Valentines day, and they even made you some NY days candy! Come on by! BTW, I got that book you mentioned…
Same thing in 2010.
Hope springs eternal.


Our society is driven by Guilt and a desperate need for external approval.

Guilt. The guilt is overwhelming. It’s easy for someone to say, cut them off! Don’t go over there! Have your own holiday! But it’s not like we have a lot of family left; and what there is, dysfunctional as they are, are such pathetic specimens it would be a sin to leave them to founder through the holidays alone. Excrutiating as the holiday visits are, the guilt is not worth it. I know, I’ve been there. Best to man up, go put in your time, smile and nod, and get out of there as soon as possible to go home and be free to enjoy the rest of the holiday.