Social Question

augustlan's avatar

Would you open this card?

Asked by augustlan (46609 points ) December 17th, 2012

About 5 years ago, I wrote my mother a letter telling her I had to cut off contact with her in order to preserve my own mental health. I explained exactly why, and that I wanted no contact with her whatsoever. I had excellent reasons for doing so, as many of you probably know. I was as kind about it as I could possibly be, while still being very clear and firm.

For quite a long time, she followed my wishes, and I heard nothing from her. Then, this past August, she sent me a birthday card, which I opened. I guess I was curious as to what she had to say after all that time.

In it, she’d written “Five years is long enough” and gave me her current contact information. Nothing else. It was very apparent that she still doesn’t ‘get it’. It’s like she thinks that my reasons for breaking off our relationship were to punish her, and that, like a prison sentence, the punishment should have a finite end date. Nothing could be further from the truth. I wish her no ill will, but I can’t have her in my life for my own well-being. That won’t change. The whole thing made me anxious and a bit angry, honestly. I did not respond.

Today, there is a Christmas card in my mailbox, with her name and return address on it. A big part of me thinks I should throw it away without opening it. Another part of me is curious again. What would you do?

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78 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I’d open it, only because I almost never do the reasonable thing.

harple's avatar

Personally I’d struggle not to open it, because I don’t often do what’s best for me and curiosity would probably get the better of me.

However, from what you’ve said, you don’t want to accept this contact from her, for strong and important reasons, so I would do a “return to sender” with it unopened. This also sends a message to her that her correspondence is not welcome.

ucme's avatar

I have no definitive answer, but know this is very sad.
I can understand your actions & appreciate entirely your viewpoint, but still…

KNOWITALL's avatar

While I agree with @harple in your case, I have struggled with this myself with certain relatives, and I always feel too guilty to cut them completely off. It’s hard, and people sometimes find regret as they get older, so it’s hard for me not to allow them healing.

marinelife's avatar

“The whole thing made me anxious and a bit angry,”
I think that you have written your answer right there. Why would you want to subject yourself to those feelings again? It is like Charlie Brown and the football. She still won’t get it, and the outcome won’t change.

That said, curiosity would probably win out for me, and I’d open it. With a drink nearby.

WestRiverrat's avatar

I would write ‘REFUSED’ in big red letters on the envelope and send it back. So I guess I agree with @harple and @KNOWITALL.

augustlan's avatar

I’m anxious and angry now, even though it’s still unopened. Just the fact that it’s here at all is doing it. :(

bkcunningham's avatar

If it bothers you and you kept the card not sure what to do, IMHO, then you really haven’t cut her from your life. It sounds like you have unfinished business. I have no earthly idea what happened nor any of the details of what you say was an unhealthy relationship. But honestly, @augustlan, sweetness, if you allow yourself to feel angry and anxious after just receiving a piece of mail from her, she is still controlling you in many respects.

Bellatrix's avatar

I have exactly this situation with my brother. We don’t speak. I have told him I don’t want further contact (for the second time). I asked him not to send me birthday cards. He ignores me and every year it arrives like a little black mark on the day. Same as your mother, no attempt to acknowledge his part in why we don’t speak. I get my husband to open it just in case there is something in it he feels I should know and then he bins it.

syz's avatar

If you truly have no interest in renewing relations, then it’s clear that she is no longer honoring your request. Toss it.

Jeruba's avatar

Oh, dear, if you really want to know what I’d do, it’d probably be the same thing I did when I received unwanted mail from an old boyfriend.

I steamed it open very carefully, read it, resealed it, and THEN wrote ‘refused’ on it and sent it back.

Put this unhappiness out of your life, darlin’.

harple's avatar

I just think that anything other than sending it back is allowing her to have contact and sending the wrong message. If you just bin it, she may well believe that you are reading them and continue to send them. Making contact with her to tell her to stop sending them is also still making contact, so again she wins. “Refused” is the only method that sends the message without giving her the idea that this is a way of re-opening communication with you.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Dear @augustlan I would not open it. I would also write REFUSED on the front and toss it in with out-going mail.

I’m sending you BIG HUGS right now.

Bellatrix's avatar

@Harple, I told my brother directly “do not send me birthday cards. It upsets me and unless you acknowledge your role in why we can’t get along, I don’t want to hear from you”. It is a passive aggressive little game as far as I am concerned. He knows not to send the card. I am sure @augustlan‘s mother knows not to send the card.

My feeling is if I send it back with rejected on, he knows I saw it and he knows (and he is right) it caused me concern. Even if it was having to write ‘rejected’ on the card. When it’s someone you really do love but know you can’t interact with, I don’t know how you stop it from hurting. So I find not seeing it and it going in the bin avoids feeling that pain. Only you know which option will work for you @augustlan.

YARNLADY's avatar

This is a dilemma that could have been solved a long time ago with the proper counseling.

I would send it back unopened.

WestRiverrat's avatar

@YARNLADY counseling only works when all parties involved buy into it and work to make it successful.

augustlan's avatar

@YARNLADY We’ve both had a ton of counseling, and it was my own counseling that finally prompted me to make the break.

chyna's avatar

It’s easy for me to say burn it or trash it or send it back, but in reality I have no idea how it would feel to have that happen to me. Whatever you decide, {{{hugs}}}.

wundayatta's avatar

Well what could she say? Many options come to mind.

She might say Merry Christmas, and it’s time to talk to me again, just as in the last letter. Probability high.

She might get all medieval on your ass just to get out her anger at you. That wouldn’t be very strategic. Probability low.

She might have written a letter explaining she understands what is going on and what she did and apologizing. Probability low.

She might write saying she is selfish and really doesn’t care about you. She wants to see her grandchildren. Probability medium to low.

You’re her daughter and mother of her grandchildren. She probably misses you and wants you in her life. She probably has no clue what she did to you. Or if she understands, she doesn’t believe it. It’s not real to her.

In any case, would you like to see any of those messages? Are the chances of the message you want to see high enough that it’s worth opening the letter? Does she have other ways of talking to you—perhaps passing a message through a third party?

A letter is pretty passive-aggressive, I think. It’s a low cost way of bothering you. I think if she was serious, she would find someone to pass her message on. So personally, I don’t thing there’s anything in the card you will want to see. If there is, she will try again, and she will try in a more serious way. This just isn’t serious, and it is not worth your time and energy to open it. Throw it out without a second thought. Let her wonder. Do not send it back. Let her wonder if you even saw it.

Symbeline's avatar

I’d probably open it out of curiosity, but yeah, in your case I think I might get angry too, since your mother doesn’t seem to get the message at all, based on your details. What I would do after is send her another letter, trying to explain it again why I don’t want any contact at all. Other than ignoring it, which might not work…not sure what else I could do.
Honestly though, explaining it once should be enough, but if she doesn’t realize you’re not punishing her, but rather are doing this for yourself, there is a difference and she has to understand it.
Now I have absolutely no idea what the deal between you and your mom is, but one thing to consider is maybe it’s hard for her not to see her daughter. sure as hell ain’t the case with my mom XD Or so I imagine, which might make the explanation hard for her to swallow…but if you think you can get it through to her, you might want to try breaching the no contact to explain it again?
But yeah I’d open the card, not entirely sure why I would, other than curiosity as I’ve said. Except not being in your situation, that’s to be taken lightly, as I can’t imagine what the whole thing must be/feel like.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

Awww, sweetie. I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with this. What if you just write “return to sender” on the front, put it in your mailbox, and forget about it? I don’t know what I would do in that situation, and it sucks all the way around.

Just remember that we love you and support you, no matter how you choose to handle it. (((HUGS)))

bkcunningham's avatar

Why would you want to open it, @augustlan? Have you asked yourself that?

Ela's avatar

Have someone you trust won’t tell you what (if anything) is written in unless you absolutely need to know it. Reseal it using a dab of glue if you have to. Shred it. Place it in nice Christmasy envelope then send it back to her.

edited in: Sound mean? Sorry, but honestly, who is she to you that you need to extend niceties to?

PhiNotPi's avatar

I feel like I am missing a huge backstory. Care to fill me in (via PM)?

Given that it does not seem like you have had absolutely no contact with your mom for quite a while, you have no clue what she might be thinking. You are only speculating on her motives for sending a card, knowing only what she was like five years ago. This most recent card might offer an explanation, without which you will never understand why she is re-initiating communication.

On the other hand, it might contain nothing but her contact information, which you have already received.

My question is: What is the worst thing that could happen if you were to open it? From my point of view, the worst thing that could happen is that the letter simply reaffirms what you already know.

Your only enemy is your own mind, the words cannot harm you, your mother will never know that you have opened it, and the truth will set you free.

glacial's avatar

I would probably open it out of curiosity, but that’s me. And yeah, with a nice glass of single malt handy. This is the Christmas following your mother’s attempt at first contact; it is probably just a card and a similar note. If she had more to say, I would guess she would not do it while sending out a pile of other cards.

If you can decide not to open it, and then let the thing go, without wondering what was inside, then perhaps that is best. You made that decision for a reason. But it’s okay to let yourself off the hook if you want to read it. Wanting to read a letter that was sent against your wishes is not an endorsement of your mother’s action.

mrentropy's avatar

If it were me, I would open it because despite everything I’m still an optimist. People can change, however unlikely it may be. More importantly, though, since my dad passed away I think it would kill me to know a family member tried to reach out to me before they passed on.

But that’s the way I think.

janbb's avatar

Were it me, I would probably need to open it but steel yourself for your response. As you say, you are anxious and angry already anyway.

Unbroken's avatar

Hugs. It isn’t easy. A letter having that much impact on you. The old wash of guilt anger shame the games… If she is manipulative they will be there.

Nice usually hurt. Lonely sad. But that isn’t your burden.

Whatever you do. Do knowing you are strong and that you have a good life in spite of her. That you owe her nothing.

But if you don’t send a clear message now it will probably escalate.

augustlan's avatar

For anyone who wants the backstory, see the short version here or a longer version here.

filmfann's avatar

If your mental health is conditional on having no contact with your mother, put the card away unopened, and perhaps some day you will be able to have the strength to have that level of contact.

marinelife's avatar

@augustlan I am so sorry that noone protected you when you were an innocent child. I do not blame you at all for ending your relationship with your mother, Thank goodness you are now safe as an adult and your abuser is dead. It is appalling that your family members, knowing he had abused you, would let him anywhere near other children.

PhiNotPi's avatar

@augustlan Well, that’s a horrible story…. (profanity removed)

You have to weigh two things in your mind: How much do you want to know what is in that letter, and how much do you want to convince your mother that you never want to communicate with her again?

LuckyGuy's avatar

My curiosity would drive me crazy. I’d open it.
Then I’d burn it in my woodburinng stove changing it into BTUs and sending the vapors off into space.

PhiNotPi's avatar

Is it possible to send the ashes back to your mom through the mail? (I hope this isn’t too extreme)

PhiNotPi's avatar

Well, whatever you decide, I hope everything works out. I don’t want you to suffer from your abuse for the rest of your life.

augustlan's avatar

I’m not going to send this one back “refused”, but if she keeps it up I will probably eventually get there. Somehow I feel like that would be a form of communicating with her, and that she will read something into it.

My curiosity is getting the better of me, and there’s nothing she can say that will hurt me more than I’ve already been hurt, so I’m going to open it. I’ll read it, then toss it.

augustlan's avatar

Ok, it was just standard Christmas card stuff, if a tad ironic. The pre-printed message reads:

“May this special season find you in warm and loving company. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.”

She signed “Love, Mom and <husband>”.

Maybe she thinks that doing this semi-regularly will wear down my resolve or something.

gailcalled's avatar

@augustlian; My therapist had me write the letter that I wanted my mother to write to me. I did and he read it; then he told me to mail it to her, ask her to sign it, change nothing and mail it back.

I did.

She was incapable of doing what I asked. She wrote a defensive response but did acknowledge, reluctantly, a few issues.

However, I felt better knowing that she at least read what I wanted to hear from her.

My issues were nowhere as fraught as yours are so this is simply a suggestion that helped me a little. My mother could no longer pretend not to understand.

reijinni's avatar

Open it, read it, and then trash it if it is too much for you.

blueiiznh's avatar

I am so sorry to hear and read the struggle and origin.
My initial response to the posted question would have been there is no harm in a card. After reading both versions, the answer for me would be clearly to throw them in the trash.
You have done much work to get where you are. I personally would not risk opening and reliving a single one of those painful memories.

augustlan's avatar

@gailcalled Before I cut off the relationship, we’d had the “what do you want from me” conversation many times. I’d tell her what the problems were, what, if anything, she could do about them, what I felt she should have done to protect me, what she could do or say now, etc. Every time, she’d act like she got it, but every time it was soon like that conversation had never even happened. She has Borderline Personality Disorder and she’s pretty much like that for any unpleasant event. So basically, in her mind, my whole abusive childhood may as well have not happened. That was probably the hardest thing to deal with. When my uncle returned after five years in another state, she invited me to his welcome home dinner! Very painful.

bkcunningham's avatar

It probably helps her stay in denial, @augustlan. “I haven’t heard from her in five years. I don’t know what her problem is. I sent her a Christmas card and never heard back from her.”

augustlan's avatar

That’s a definite possibility, @bkcunningham. I can see her saying/thinking that.

gailcalled's avatar

@augustlan: Excruciating. Given the BPD, you may want to consider from now on sending any mail back as “refused.”

My mother was not as ‘out there” as yours.

burntbonez's avatar

Looks to me like @wundayatta had a pretty good guess about what you were going to find.

I think your policy of not responding to her is the best one. But in the future, she’ll do this again. I seriously doubt you’ll find anything more than what you have already found. Nothing scary. But perhaps that is worse than actually finding something meaningful, because then you would have to figure out what to do about that.

I agree with you about not sending anything back as refused. That is a passive-aggressive message that says you really want to talk to her. The true meaningful response is none at all. That says what you want to say, which is to say absolutely nothing.

tinyfaery's avatar

You and I have such similar stories when it comes to our parents.

Once a year or so my dad will show up and with him comes the scared, anxious 14 year old I used to be. You know this.

Me, being me, would HAVE to open it. I would have to know.

So there is no chance that she has changed? No chance she just wants her daughter back?

I always feel that I owe it to myself to give my dad a chance. I always think, maybe, one day…

But you’re a bit older than I and maybe I’m on my way to doing what you have. But as of now, I’d open the card, put it on my mantle and feel horrible every time I looked at it. Maybe I’m a masochist.

hearkat's avatar

@Auggie: I have debated for a long time whether or not to cut-off my mother for the exact same reason. I have forgiven her for her inaction an for not protecting me, only through me realization that she could not possibly ever comprehend the depths of the trauma I experienced, nor live with the guilt if she ever did come close to “getting” it. I’ve learned that in cases such as these, denial is a self-preservation mechanism. However, my mother is otherwise fairly stable and has been important and helpful in raising my son, so I have a healthier adult relationship with her—but we will never be close. I am not looking forward to when she has health issues, since I am physically the closest, so I have power of attorney and such.

My father, on the other hand, I did cut out of my life. I had tried to establish an adult relationship with him, but he inevitably disappointed me time and again. So when he moved out of state – and disrespected my then-boyfriend and myself in the process – that was the end of it. I opened his cards and put his checks through the shredder. I allowed my son to cash the checks he sent to him and they stayed in touch via email. After five or six years, my son called to tell me that my father had died. I felt nothing, and after nearly 3 years, I still feel nothing. To me, it means that I had made the right choice; I had left no unfinished business, and had grieved for the relationship I can never have with my parents. There was no lingering sense of guilt or lost opportunities.

I did read that you decided to open the card; but I wanted to respond anyway, because I do get the sense that you haven’t finished all your business with her if just the receipt of a holiday card is enough to upset you. I suggest you keep working on putting these issues to rest so that you too can be at peace with yourself regardless of what she does, and so you won’t have emotional baggage when she dies. I’d be glad to discuss this further here, privately, or in another forum, if you’d like.

JLeslie's avatar

This is so much like my sister and my father. I hope I don’t say anything that sounds dismissive, because that is not my intent, but here goes…

I am completely understanding of the pain you had during your childhood and why you are angry at your mother and why her presence in anyway, even a card, is anxiety provoking.

I also understand why it feels like prison to her. I feel like my sister has my father in a prison. Psychologists often recommend the person who has been cut off do little things to show they still want contact, to make it easier for the person who is angry to know they have an opening. If you put yourself in your moms place, she wants a relationship of some sort, probably any minimal contact, would give you control about where and when, and she might worry by completely obeying your original wish, zero contact, you might never come back to her. That if there is any hope, she wants to show you she is not angry, it’s ok, she wants a relationship. Repair is impossible if you are never in touch. So, she tries, she probably does not understand how just seeing her hand writing might freak you out. She also knows there is no chance unless someone does something, so she has tried. If she respects never speaking to you again, wouldn’t some part of you be saddened she was able to just walk away from her daughter seemingly easily? Respecting your wishes shows she respects your wishes, but abiding by it also probably feels to her like it is saying she is ok with no relationship, which she obviously isn’t.

Maybe she understands she royally fucked up, wants to apologize or make things better. If you want to hate her, then it won’t matter what she says. But, if you want to forgive her, maybe you will feel better? Forgiveness can be a huge release.

It is punishment in a way for her. She loves you, she probably wants a relationship with her grandchildren, it must be very painful for her. I know she kind of dug her own grave, I understand that. At the same time it is not a punishment, it is you just trying to preserve yourself, I totally get that. I would never say your should sacrifice your mental well being to please her, but I see with my sister that possibly she would feel mentally stronger if she let go of some of her hate. The bad things that happened to her stay alive, etched in her brain. I don’t know if there is anything to really be done about it or not, my dad is like a PTSD trigger.

Your situation is not exactly the same as my sister’s of course, so I don’t mean to presume it is, but it has some similarities.

JLeslie's avatar

One last thing, my dad the few times he has talked to my sister always “fucks it up.” My sister wants to hate him from what I can tell. He apologizes and she freaks out, he tries to say what she wants to hear, and it is never right. My sister has a specific script in her mind I guess, and my father for whatever reason can’t fully understand what he is supposed to do and say, he doesn’t quite understand why what he does is stressful for people. I know for a fact my dad feels horrible for some of the things he did as a parent, and had no idea the impact on my sister at the time, but now sees why it was too harsh, and why she is traumatized. He believes it, knows it, admits it, but my sister still think he doesn’t “get it.” What more can he do? He is limited by his own mental short comings and he is incredibly sorry for any pain he has caused.

augustlan's avatar

@JLeslie I actually don’t hate my mother at all. It was heart-wrenching for me to decide I couldn’t have her in my life anymore. I’ve long since forgiven her (as much as I can), because I get that she is mentally ill.

But dealing with her is impossible for me. I tried all other methods first, like setting strong boundaries and such, but nothing gets through to her at all. It’s sad, but this will never change.

JLeslie's avatar

@augustlan My sister tried to set some boundaries too. My dad has said things like, “I never had a clue she would cut me off.” My dad would never cut a family member off, so it just didn’t occur to him, so he would push and push. Now that she did the cut off, I think he gets it. Finally. He has to be obedient if there is any hope of any contact. Possibly your mom is in a similar place? I will go out on a limb that your mom was abused also, and her way of coping might have been to push it to the back of her mind, repress, and be in denial. So, she might not identify with your reaction.

I’m not trying to pursuade, really I am not. I respect how difficult this is for you. I am just communicating how I see it from my family’s situation. I have total empathy for both my sister and my father. I don’t think one is right and one is wrong. However, I do know my way of coping is different than my sister, I think I tend to brush things off more. Can be a bad thing sometimes.

CWOTUS's avatar

I haven’t read everyone else’s advice or opinion, and I have some people in my own family that I’ve cut out of my life, so I understand (at least from my own point of view) some of what you might feel.

I’d open the card. I keep hoping for the best in people. I’m often disappointed, but always hopeful. She might just surprise you some day. In a good way, I mean. If you’re not opening the card, then you’re not open to the potential for that surprise, and that’s a sad thing.

I suppose I’d have a glass of wine handy, because the chances are that the lottery ticket you rub off is not the sweepstakes winner – I’m not stupid, after all, and even if you’re open to the surprise it’s probably going to be a bad surprise more often than a good one – but still, if you don’t rub the ticket or open the envelope, you’ll never know if it might be a winner this time.

ZEPHYRA's avatar

Open it sweetie, remember none of us are here permanently. You don’t have to change how you feel, just make space in your heart to read what is written and take it from whence it comes.

Shippy's avatar

I’d throw it away, once I make a decision to never have contact I don’t that person ceases to exist for me.

Ela's avatar

Now that it’s opened, what are you going to do with it, if you don’t mind my asking?
Will you toss it and considerate it done or ship it back? Either way, I get the feeling there’s a good chance there will be more. Will there be any less anxiety when the next one arrives? Doing nothing offers you no form of any closure, imo.

I agree with those who’ve said to send it back. Personally, I think she would see you keeping it as an acceptance from you. After reading your story, I think it should be sent back (in tact) with a simple note that says something like “I can’t do this (insert her name). I wish you no ill harm. Goodbye.” I feel calling her by name distances yourself more at a time where I feel she is trying to get close.
Shame on her for putting you in this position.

“ill harm” doesn’t sound correct for some reason but i can’t think of what it should be. it’s not wish you well, though

wundayatta's avatar

@Ela If she does that, she is opening a dialog. She is saying she wants to talk to her mother. She is actually communicating with her. If I understand her correctly, that is the last thing she wants, and therefore she shouldn’t let her mother have any information from her at all.

Ela's avatar

I respectfully disagree @wundayatta. Doing nothing keeps this door open in her mother’s eye. She said “five years is long enough”. The woman just doesn’t get it.

Sending it back with a very brief good-bye, would close the door, imo. After that, any further communication (and I get the feeling there will definitely be more) on her mother’s part should simply be returned unopened.

edited

JLeslie's avatar

@Ela @wundayatta I think returning it unopened or just not responding is basically the same. Either way the message is @augustlan is not going to communicate with her mom. My dad keeps trying to make things better with my sister. He left her alone for a few years at first, but then tried and tried things. My sister does not seem to remember at all that he obeyed her wishes for years. That he can be obedient. She just sees him as still being the same person, selfish, wanting to control the situation, and wanting his way. For whatever reason it serves her to think this way of him. That is separate from whatever anxiety his presence brings on in my opinion. Again, I sympathize with my sisters anxiety and that her main goal is protect herself, not hurt my dad. I can’t speak for @augustlan though, I am not comparing her directly to my sister. My point here was how her mom is acting like my father in a way.

Ela's avatar

Sorry @JLeslie, but I just I don’t see returning it and not replying as basically the same. I believe that some parents think that just because they are your parent, you have to accept them (if that makes sense). I can see not replying getting twisted into an unspoken truce or acceptance by the mother. But I don’t know her, it’s just a feeling a get.

janbb's avatar

After a very tumultuous relationship, I made peace with my mother during her final years – while still acknowledging the difficulties. And yes – she had minimized and not protected me while I was abused. I feel cleaner for it now. I would never tell anyone what they should do in regards to this, however.

Ela's avatar

You’re absolutely correct @janbb, no one should tell anyone what they should do in regards to this.

JLeslie's avatar

@Ela I think you are thinking only from the daughter’s point of view. By saying that I do not mean the daughter view is incorrect, I only mean you are not understanding the parent’s view.

I do think most parents feel there should be some reationship with them, even if minimal, I agree with that. It is so complicated really.

marinelife's avatar

@JLeslie The parent’s action (and inaction) in this case make the their point of view irrelevant. I consider it obscene to even give it any credence.

JLeslie's avatar

@marinelife I am basically talking about the parent reaction. But, I understand what you are talking about. This is why I told my father to get angry with my sister, hate her, go through the final steps of grieving for himself, “bury” her, tear his clothes, whatever he needs to do figuritively. He can’t. He wants to hold onto hope. He at times wants to do something, but never takes the final step mentally or in any sort of action.

FYI: my father never physically abused my sister. He can be difficult to handle, upsetting and overwhelming, and there were a few instances in my sister’s childhood where his reaction to some things were not the best to put it lightly. In my opinion her reaction to completely cut him off is extreme, but she seems to need to.

JLeslie's avatar

I want to add that me stating the parent’s possible point of view is not me saying the child has to understand it or be empathetic with it or care about. But when the said child doesn’t understand why the parent does what she does, it probably is because they are not understanding the parents point of view. There is a theme with these sort of things, the kids and the parents, or the one cutting off and the one being cut off, whether it is parent child or another relationship, seem to more or less have typical emotions and reactions.

Bellatrix's avatar

@Ela, I mentioned up there being in exactly this situation with my brother. I have directly told him NOT to send me birthday cards. It is not possible that he misunderstood my message. Still, every year he sends a card with just my name and, love you and his name. If I send that card back it acknowledges his little game. His silly passive aggressive act. Sending the card back, unopened or marked rejected or whatever, acknowledges receipt and that you in some way engaged with their game. I concur with @Wundayatta that the best thing to do is bin the card.

These people know us very well. They know receiving that card will cause us some pain. They shouldn’t and perhaps we do both need more counselling (want to go halves @Auggie) but as much as you sometimes know you have to cut off a family member and you go ahead and do it, it isn’t an easy choice and the pain that caused that decision is still there.

As I said up there, perchance my brother has some emotional breakthrough and manages to finally understand that there needs to be a meeting somewhere in the middle for us to even start talking, I get my husband to open the card. He checks to ensure there is no miraculous change of mind and heart and pops it in the bin. It takes away the emotional impact for me. I don’t have to see it or wrangle with ‘what to do’ about this card.

JLeslie's avatar

@Bellatrix You said if your brother has some sort of breakthrough, how will you know if he did?

I can’t speak for your brother, but I know my dad had no clue sending my sister cards or letters trying to apologize completely freaked her out. This is part of my father’s problem he has no understanding of why that would be painful. It is part of the reason he has caused her pain in her life. Sending her letters is him trying to mend things, not cause her harm, but unfortunately it backfires. Again, I am not saying he is right and she is wrong, just saying my sister does not get my dad as much as my dad does not understand her. I know all this because for so long I was the one in the middle, it was horrible for me, and in some ways still is, but it has relaxed some now. My mother is tortured with it more at this point, which makes me feel sick.

Bellatrix's avatar

My husband would tell me the card signified that.

My brother knows how I react to the cards because I told him. He is a very intelligent man. An emotional cripple I admit but still. If my brother wants to extend an olive branch through a letter, he can do that. He hasn’t. Someone said up there for a situation to be resolved, both parties have to meet in the middle, my brother won’t even move from his corner. Yet he sends these cards. There comes a point where you have to say, this is harmful to me and I cannot play this silly game any longer. I reached that point a number of years ago. So I now have my husband open the cards, check for an attitude change, and drop them in the bin.

augustlan's avatar

@Ela I tossed the card after I opened it.

@everyone I don’t expect or even hope that my mother will have some sort of breakthrough. She is the way she is, and even after years and years of her going to therapy, that didn’t change. It never will. I don’t expect or hope for any sort of closure or reconciliation at this point, and I’ve made my peace with that. I hope she lives a long and happy life, but it will be without me in it.

If she continues to try to communicate with me, I’ll be going through this again next year. Hopefully it won’t make me as anxious, and I’ll be able to handle it with less drama.

Thanks for all the advice, jellies, and just for being there for me. <3

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

How ‘bout some more (((HUGS)))? And chocolate. And rum. And bacon. Maybe a whipping.

augustlan's avatar

I’m in. :)

JLeslie's avatar

@Bellatrix I genuinely am trying to understand, and if it is too painful to discuss please tell me to stop asking questions. Some of the answers help me understand the situation in my own family better. So, you told your brother to write you a letter and specifically not to send cards and he sends cards? Or, you never told him you want a letter?

gailcalled's avatar

^^^Why not take this to PM?

JLeslie's avatar

Fine. Sometimes I don’t because I think we can all learn something from the discussion and it is in social. But, I’ll PM, I don’t care.

burntbonez's avatar

Leave it here if you can. I’d like to know about her experience, too, if she feels like talking about it.

Bellatrix's avatar

I am happy to explain but I will leave it to @augustlan to say if she would prefer it to be through pm or here. This is her thread.

augustlan's avatar

Please, carry on! I think it helps all of us.

Bellatrix's avatar

I’m not going to go into the whole back story because I could write a novel. In addition, the foundation for this story is so ridiculous as are many family feuds. However, the outcome is that I have been ostracized by most of my family because I stood up for myself. I take an equal share of the blame for the initial rupture in family interaction. However since then I have tried to resolve the problems through phone calls, letters, emails and even invites to my wedding. The invites were refused and I have routinely been excluded from family occasions while my children were invited. They chose not to go without me.

After quite a few years of this treatment, teamed with an expectation that at Christmas I will show up to the usual family event and pretend all is rosy in the garden, I realised I couldn’t keep pretending. So I refused to attend a Christmas event but suggested we needed to resolve the underlying problem in the New Year and the shit really hit the fan! I then decided my family were causing me more emotional harm than joy and I broke off contact. At that time I told my brother not to contact me, including sending cards. He ignores my wishes.

I would still be prepared to go to counselling or something to try to find some middle ground but that’s not something my family would do. Until they are prepared to resolve the underlying problems, I am not prepared to have anything to do with them and I don’t want my children further dragged into this. I never stop my children seeing or contacting them. They are adults and do keep in touch which I am pleased about.

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