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keobooks's avatar

How do you deal with relatives or friends who can suck all the happiness out of you?

Asked by keobooks (12502 points ) December 30th, 2013

My husband and I accidentally packed two very small minor presents for his family in my family’s basket. So Christmas Eve, we show up at his family get together and we are mysteriously two presents short. One family reacted the way you’d expect. They said it was no big deal and we could get it to them any time. They were surprised when we showed up a few days later. They didn’t think they’d get it back for several weeks because they live so far away from us.

The other family—the mother—my sister in law—went on the rampage. She chewed out my husband and me. Then she chewed out my mother in law (because she gave us the gift suggestion from a list of things she got from the kids. Had she not done this, the gift would have been “safe” in her baskets rather than in our unreliable family basket) She demanded that we stop everything on Christmas day and drive over to her house to drop it off before we went to see my family (we didn’t)

I was told that she just acts this way from time to time and most people in the family just weather it out and don’t take it personally. She never apologizes or admits she over-reacts. She just shows up one day at a family function and she’s nice to you again. I’d heard about this, but this was the first time I’d been on the beating end of the stick.

I don’t want to pretend this never happened. She went nuts. I don’t trust her anymore and I don’t want to be anywhere near her. Unfortunately, we show up at the same family events so we have to be together. How can I attend these events and family gatherings and not get angry every time I see her, knowing that she is either getting over some minor gripe or chewing someone out mercilessly every time I see her?

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18 Answers

KNOWITALL's avatar

Smile and move on, that’s what I do. If they can’t be polite and mature, I’m not wasting my time and energy on them.

Aspoestertjie's avatar

Be the better person and ignore her attitude. Be friendly to her and keep your side clean. That way she will change towards you in the end.

Smitha's avatar

You can either create strong boundaries or simply ignore them completely. Let go off people who breed hostility. Don’t allow them to ruin your happiness and rule your life. Some people never grow up. Only you can determine how you will react to them. Just close your mind completely to anything negative they are saying, and try to respond to their negativity with positive remarks or a smile. Smiling helps to keep yourself calm, and may even disarm the other person. Always try to keep your own energy on a positive level. When you feel strong and good about yourself no one can ruin your happiness.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Is there any chance you are talking about my SIL? Are we related? ;-)
She does stuff like that and later, with a finely honed selective memory, ignores it – and expects others to do the same. Like it never happened.
I have learned not to call her out on her crappy behavior. If she were my sister that would be different. But she’s not, so it isn’t my place. Thankfully
I do my best to ignore and avoid her. She does not get invited when I can.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@LuckyGuy Let me tell you the other side, the one where you tell them exactly what you think of their poor behavior.
My uncle asked me to be honest after a decade of her abuse of our family (her in-laws) and her spouse (my uncle) in front of us at holidays. I was honest and told him exactly how her negativity affected our family and he got furious. She is his wife and will take her part always, right or wrong.
So now none of us hang out much. It sucks.

zenvelo's avatar

Do what others say about being gracious and ignore her. But don;t ever invite her to your house unless the absence would be noticed by the whole family.

You were right to not cave into her dictates and drop everything to get the present before you went to your family.

Does your husband support you on this? It is his family of origin, so he needs to take the reins as far as any necessary confrontation in the future.

Jonesn4burgers's avatar

Next Christmas, make her gift a certificate to go skydiving, and offer to pack her parachute. Maybe an experience of having to trust someone with her life will affect how she treats people.

YARNLADY's avatar

I have observed this type of behavior in people with a Bi-Polar condition. You need to treat it just like you would if they had an occasional, chronic arthritis attack. It’s not their fault.

antimatter's avatar

I feel for you and to be honest I got more or less the same weird and twisted family.
The best way to handle it is simply to ignore, smile and move on.
Remember people like them are negative because they don’t have inner peace within them.
The best thing you can do is to cut out negative people like them because we don’t need negative people in our lives we need positive people.

JLeslie's avatar

Story time…

My father has a sister. She emails me around her birthday to tell me how horrible my father is because he mailed her a check for her birthday, which he does every year for a long time now, and the check was made to her maiden name. She has been married for over 40 years (her husband died a few years ago, but it doesn’t matter, her name is still her married name). She was pissed. I could not understand why it was a big deal. I thought it was funny and cute. I wrote her back asking her if she told me dad. She said yes, and he kind of laughed and said no problem he would send her out another check. So, I wrote back something like, “oh, ok, so sounds like it was fixed.” She ranted on and said along the lines of, “well we’ll see if he sends it out.” I ased her if my father has ever said he would send money and didn’t. She never really answered.

Fucking bitch. My dad is a pain in the ass sometimes, but he is very generous with money to his sister. She is an adult and he is still sending her birthday money to help her. She felt like he purposely put her maiden name to taunt her. Completely ridiculous. My dad still sometimes spells my married name wrong, because he spells it how he thinks of it. Kind of like if my name was Stevens, but he is used to spelling it Stephens his whole life.

Your SIL who went on the rampage, I figure she did not believe you had bought her a gift, and was insisting on it right away to prove you were lying. She does it froma place of hurt. Feeling left out or overlooked, or feeling that way anyway, too often in her lifetime. I have two other people in my life besides my aunt who are like this. They see their childhood as horrible, have a lot of anger, and have a lot of trouble trusting people.

That’s my psychoanalysis anyway.

What I usually do now in these situation is just let them rant and let it go. Once ina blue moon I bother to try to correct their thinking, but they are very black and white. You can be more grey and just have empathy for them.

LornaLove's avatar

I love @YARNLADY ‘s answer. There is a difference between being a difficult personality and meaning no harm and being a person who does mean harm. I have been thinking this very question myself recently. I have a family member who is out to harm people. To me I know I have to avoid this person entirely. (Sadly). Some people are just difficult or edgy or even toxic, but the good thing is you have to spend very little time with her. That is the good part about having choice. The fact that it effects you so badly points to you really and why you let it. Perhaps just let go and accept some people are just annoying. They are also not black and white, they have areas of grey too. The icky bits.

__I am Bi-polar and am grateful people who love and care for me ignore my strange behavior at times__

JLeslie's avatar

@LornaLove Funny, I just added the black white and grey bit at the end of my post before I saw your post. I think we said the opposite though.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@LornaLove The person in my family would never admit that her abusive behavior was abusive. It’s hard to sit and watch someone you love (reminiscent of Jleslie’s dad’s situation) be treated poorly consistantly without saying something. I think we owe it to that person to stand up for them when we see unacceptable behavior.

The lines of ‘acceptable’ behavior sometimes are blurred by a mental condition, but I don’t feel that the best way to handle it is to not confront it, but that’s just me…lol

LornaLove's avatar

@KNOWITALL Oh absolutely, if it is harmful, no matter what it should be dealt with. Most times I am harmful to myself. If I am harmful to other’s I will take responsibility for it. I get very annoyed with people who use their illness as an excuse. (Aside from when they are psychotic then they have no responsibility for it at that moment).

JLeslie's avatar

My aunt definitely is not bipolar, but I do think she is limited mentally in some ways. I don’t mean IQ, she has a masters degree, I just mean she has trouble coping with some things. I don’t know her very well really. She feels like the victim always I giess, that is what I would say about the other two people also, and their push back is to try to prevent feeling victimized again. I can identify with the feeling in a way. The person wants to prevent feeling abused so they try to control things to avoid the feeling. If that makes sense.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@JLeslie Sounds like my aunt exactly. A teacher who is scared of people, I think.

livelaughlove21's avatar

My mother and sister can suck the happiness out of you in no time. I wish I knew the right way to handle it. I just deal with it and try not to mouth off at them too much – sometimes I succeed and sometimes I don’t.

YARNLADY's avatar

I’m sorry that some people have to deal with adults that act out, but each one of us is in charge of our own feelings. When someone acts out around me, I decide whether I want to feel bad about it or continue to be happy. They don’t control how I feel, I do.

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