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LifeQuestioner's avatar

How much leeway do you give your family when it comes to letting you down?

Asked by LifeQuestioner (3695points) December 26th, 2023

I can’t tell you how many times in the past I’ve been made to feel like my feelings don’t matter or my opinion on something doesn’t count for anything, but after a while, at what point do you decide you’ve had enough of being manipulated?

Here’s the situation. We had a get-together planned for this Saturday. We did not get together on Christmas Day because it was put forward that we should have it at my apartment and I then requested that we wait until the following weekend because I had a very busy weekend before Christmas and then had to go to work today, the day after Christmas. The other partys involved were all off on vacation for anywhere from 10 to 16 days. Everybody said they were fine with that and we made plans to go out and eat at a restaurant and then come back to my place and exchange gifts and hang out.

My sister got covid about a week ago and although she’s pretty much over it, she’s still suffering a lot of side effects from the Paxlovid that she was on, mainly dizziness and nausea. So she messaged me earlier today and said she wasn’t sure how much she was going to feel up to doing on Saturday and that she may just want to go to the restaurant. I told her that of course I understood given the circumstances and that I would bring her and her husband’s gift to the restaurant

I then texted my other sister to let her know that our other sister might not come back to the apartment in case she wanted to bring their gifts to the restaurant. Now she has told me that her and her son are not coming back to my apartment either, and for no good reason except I guess they don’t feel like it. So I told her that, while I didn’t mind bringing my one sister’s and her husband’s gift to the restaurant because she had a good reason for maybe not feeling up to coming back to my place, I didn’t want to have to bring four gifts to the restaurant. It’s Saturday, it’s going to be busy, and like many restaurants seem to be doing nowadays, you cannot make a reservation. I don’t think there’s going to be that much spare room for five people to bring gifts for four other people, with a total of 20 gifts being passed around and being kept track of. So I told my second sister that if she didn’t want to come back with her son to my apartment, then we could wait until a later date to exchange gifts, which is when I was going to give her daughters their gift.

She had already let me know that her two daughters were not coming and I decided this year that I wasn’t just going to be the invisible Aunt who provides gifts but never gets to see them, so I let her know that we could plan a later get together, at her house if she wanted or they could come over to my place and then I would give them their gifts.

Now the second sister is not returning my texts and I’m just to the point that I’m just fed up. These are the same people that bullied me horribly when I was taking care of my mom and also constantly criticized me for not paying my mom rent when I was taking care of her for 3 years as her dementia worsened. Not to mention that my mom, while still very much in her right mind, had asked me if I would move in with her because she didn’t want to be alone and told me that I didn’t have to pay rent. I had just lost my full-time job and was making very little money. It was a four-bedroom house so there was plenty of room and I chipped in on the utilities.

I just think that at some point, if you keep getting disappointed by people letting you down, that’s probably on you. I’m getting to the point where my family can no longer hurt me because I’ve just put up a wall, which I hate, but I’m tired of being disappointed in them.

How would you handle this? Am I being too harsh about the whole restaurant thing and the fact that people, some of them without good reason, are just canceling on our plans?

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25 Answers

Caravanfan's avatar

I give them a lot of leeway. Family is important.

JLeslie's avatar

I give family a lot of leeway. To the point that it felt like it probably shortened my life from the stress sometimes, but I handle that better now. Typically, no one will help you like family when you wind up needing help. No one cares about you like family usually, there are exceptions though.

I think I understood your story, and it sounds to me like overall you are being reasonable.

One thing I would suggest is the adults could stop exchanging gifts if it would make Christmas less stressful in the future. I’m not sure if that is adding to your stress, maybe you enjoy the gift shopping? It would reduce your gift count from 20 to just gifts for the children in the family.

As far as the current situation, if you want to go to the restaurant, don’t worry about 20 gifts at the restaurant just bring them and let it be a mess, or just bring the gifts for the kids and do a sister exchange a week later.

I understand how shitty it feels to be manipulated, but if you can reframe in your mind to let them have their way because they have to have control you might be able to let go of feeling so frustrated and run over by them. Sort of like they are the bitches and you are the laid back one. Just pick your battles and protect yourself from doing things that really harm you. You can say what you think is the best idea, and then if they don’t go with your idea, and you were right, you get to know you were right. Maybe eventually they will see it your way if they think it is their idea. You just might get no credit for it so be prepared for that.

For 30 years I have wanted Christmas with no gift giving at my husband’s family Christmas and finally this year it happened. It’s not “my” family or my holiday so I couldn’t say much over the years except a little mention one on one with certain relatives. I very much appreciated it this year that the deciders went with what I think they should have done a long time ago. Last year was outright horrible in my opinion regarding gifts; maybe finally so horrible that someone spoke up who is allowed to have control (I’m not) and finally said no to the whole thing, but I don’t know what really happened, I’m not privy to it. So it was their idea, but really they finally did what I have thought would be best for a long time.

I would not push yourself to get together with them for Christmas to the point of utter exhaustion since you work over the holiday. I worked retail for years and it is exhausting already. Don’t agree to a late dinner when you worked that day and have to get up early the next day. Just no. You will wind up getting sick. At least your family is flexible about not having to get together on the 24th or 25th, that’s good.

jca2's avatar

Why not propose a date later in January that’s good for everyone, where you can all spend some time, do the gift exchange and hopefully it won’t be a stressful time of contention?

I agree with @JLeslie that not doing gifts in the future might ease things up a lot. I proposed to friends a few years ago that I no longer wanted to do gifts. They were resistant but I insisted. I don’t need anything and I really don’t need to run around during the busiest shopping season of the year, buying overpriced things for people just for the sake of handing them a present.

Another thing that is cumbersome is the idea of bringing the gifts into the restaurant. Restaurants tend to be crowded enough without shopping bags full of boxes and gift bags all over your area. If you do meet in the restaurant, tell everyone you’re going to leave the gifts in the car and you can walk out after you eat and hand each other the bags. My friends used to be into everyone opening the gifts in the restaurant, which is a big pain in the ass. There’s limited space, there’s food on the table, the restaurant floor is dirty so the whole space is small and basically dirty and not conducive to opening gifts and looking at everything, and dealing with boxes and gift bags and shopping bags and tissue paper and wrapping paper that then needs to be thrown out. It’s too much to deal with and it probably annoys the restaurant staff, too.

JLeslie's avatar

What about Jan 6th? Three Kings day is a gift giving day if that date works better for everyone.

LifeQuestioner's avatar

To address what everybody is pretty much saying, it’s not about the giving of gifts, it’s the fact that I don’t want to have to do it at the restaurant. And as far as doing them outside afterwards, supposed to be pretty cold and with me being anemic, I don’t really want to linger outside my car after I leave. But I also spent a good bit of time this past weekend getting my place ready for people to come over and now everybody’s just blowing me off, although again, I understand my one sister may not feel up to coming over. I don’t mind is exchanging gifts, it’s just the fact that everybody is changing plans on me and I feel like it’s inconsiderate.

JLeslie's avatar

@LifeQuestioner Understandable that you are frustrated and disappointed.

My gut feeling is don’t go out of your way anymore for them. Don’t spend time getting your house ready if they are likely to not bother to come over. Think ahead how they might disappoint you and guard against it.

Just focus on what is easiest going forward. That’s what your siblings seem to want to do, something less effort. You’re working, but they have kids, and so they deal with driving the kids around. I don’t like to have to go to two places in one night. You will be going home, but they will be driving to your house from the restaurant and then having to drive back home. Would you want to go to their house after the restaurant?

Just curious, whose idea was it to go to your apartment in the first place?

I think do the gifts at the restaurant. Wait until after dinner when the plates are cleared. It will be fine. Bring a big plastic bag to take your gifts home in. It can be a trash bag if you don’t have a Macy’s bag lying around. A folded trash bag will fit in your purse. If you need it you have it. Don’t bring gifts for the kids who won’t be there if you don’t want to, wait to give them their gifts when you see them.

Next year maybe it can be at your house and do a potluck and everyone bring something to eat if you rather be in your house. People don’t have to cook, they can buy food and bring it if they want. It doesn’t have to be a full blown dinner, people can eat at home before or after if it isn’t enough food.

Or, maybe can you switch it this year and just have everyone come over and forget the restaurant? Tell your sisters you understand that two places in one night is a lot; let them be right about that, and make it easier for everyone. Why do they need a “good reason?” Almost everyone in the country is tired, overwhelmed, and partied out at Christmas time.

LifeQuestioner's avatar

@JLeslie it was my sister’s idea to have it at my house, and we did the same thing last year. Last year we ordered some food and it was a real nightmare because after figuring out what we wanted to get, my one sister showed up that day and didn’t want to get food from that restaurant and that muddled all our plans because then we had to wait to eat until she went somewhere else to get the food that she wanted. Because I didn’t want to go through that hassle again, I suggested going to the restaurant and then coming back to open gifts and they were both on board with it. There’s not a bunch of shuttling of kids around. My one sister does not have any kids and the one who does, they are all of age 20 or thereabouts. And my house is right on the way home from the restaurant so it’s not like it’s a huge burden to come by there.

canidmajor's avatar

I no longer give them any leeway.

There is an absolute social mandate that indicates that you should tolerate everything (except extreme physical abuse) from family because “family is everything” or some such.
It took me a long time, but I finally realized that the verbal and emotional abuse was more damaging than not.
They are dismissing and diminishing your efforts and your feelings, you are the one they expect to do the stuff.

Think hard about how much contact you really want, and what you are willing to do. You have mentioned some physical issues, do they respect that there are some limitations that go with that?

People are horrified when I tell them that I walked away from my Family Of Origin, and they react badly. Sometimes I miss them, not very often.

There are a number of websites that will help you figure out how to handle some of this, and what measures you might want to pursue, One that I like a lot has many resources and covers all sorts of topics. It is anonymous, and the people are kind. https://outofthefog.website/

This is a difficult thing for you, good luck!

JLeslie's avatar

@LifeQuestioner Oh wow. The history makes it so clear why you are fed up.

I vote for the restaurant and do the gifts there this year.

Next year for Christmas, I’m inclined to say just make your visits to their houses and don’t all try to get together if it is important to you to trade gifts. Do it at your convenience.

Just take the control back for yourself when you can.

kevbo1's avatar

@canidmajor, wow, what a cool website. I’ve been taking in info about personality disorders for a few years, but never came across this.

canidmajor's avatar

@kevbo1, yeah, it has helped me a lot. :-)

LifeQuestioner's avatar

I couldn’t respond earlier because I was at work, but I did text with my sister today and I stood my ground. I also took the time to explain to her how she had hurt my feelings and I felt like she didn’t care about our plans whether or not my other sister was going to make it there. The ball’s in her court now on if she wants to reach out to me but I also told her that this may be the last year I do this at my house because I don’t want to have to go through this every year. She is constantly canceling on me or changing her plans, or showing up insanely late like she did a few weeks ago when we were supposed to ride together to an event. She hadn’t shown up at my place for 30 minutes and she hadn’t texted to let me know what was up, to the point where I was worried she had been in an accident. Finally I just decided to drive on to the place, which she ended up doing as well. When she eventually got there, she was mad at me because I didn’t just wait around indefinitely for her to show up. This is a perfect example of what my older sister does all the time. And I’ve just gotten to the point where I’ve decided I’m getting too old for all this nonsense.

canidmajor's avatar

When you present boundaries, they will be annoyed. I hope she responds favorably for you at some point, but she may not.
Stay strong and resolved to stand up for yourself, you deserve respect from your family.

LifeQuestioner's avatar

@canidmajor thanks! I plan to. I guess maybe this is one of my undeclared New Year’s resolutions although I’m starting a bit early.

JLeslie's avatar

@LifeQuestioner It certainly sounds like your sister doesn’t respect the efforts you go to or your time. As far as her being late in your example, did you try to call her to see if she was still coming?

If your sister is always late, can you give her an earlier time when you have no choice but to deal with meeting up with her? Otherwise, I would avoid relying on her in general for rides that matter if you are on time, I think you are right to avoid the hassle.

Also, if she is always late, don’t expect her to be on time, you are just setting yourself up for frustration. On-time people are almost always early, and late people are almost always late. I find on-time people will get completely bent out of shape even though they know the other person will be late. Years ago I dated a guy who was always late, so we agreed within 20 minutes no one gets upset. He could be 20 minutes late and it was like being on time. If he came to pick me up and I needed another ten or fifteen minutes to finish getting ready, also no complaining. It avoided a lot of conflict. I stopped being worried about being ready on time, I learned to be more relaxed about it when it didn’t really matter. When it does matter, like for a dinner reservation or theatre tickets, that’s a different thing. I don’t know if that helps you in your situation.

I think you were right to say something and take your power back. Make your life easier, don’t plan things with them that will be frustrating and disappointing. For sure don’t do Christmas at your house next year. Maybe they are agreeing to do Christmas together because in their head they feel they are supposed to, but don’t really feel like doing it, or they are just ridiculously flaky. Either way, their heart does not seem to be in it. Maybe your sisters will be fine with some of the changes you want to make, I hope so. Might be easier for everyone.

snowberry's avatar

It would be interesting to see how your sister deals with doctor appointments. Does she show up 20–30 minutes late and still expect to be seen?

Caravanfan's avatar

@snowberry In 33 years I’ve never turned away a late patient. I always see them. But that’s just me. A lot of my patients have to come on buses, and parking around our hospital is a hassle.

YARNLADY's avatar

I try to convince myself that my expectations do not always mesh with theirs.

LifeQuestioner's avatar

@snowberry she only goes to the doctor if she is sick and then I suspect she goes to an urgent Care type facility.

seawulf575's avatar

For me, how much leeway I give really depends on what the social transgressions are, how impactful they are, and how frequently they occur. In the situation you mentioned, you are trying to organize a get-together for several families. That is always a difficult thing. You can get everything in place and one little change seems to cascade to many more. I have been in similar situations before and finally hit a point where I just gave up.

Being sick and not being able to attend is one thing…it is a reasonable excuse (true or not). Deciding you don’t want to show up for no apparent reason seems rude. Expecting everyone to bring gifts to the restaurant is unreasonable as you pointed out…not fair to the restaurant, the other customers, and is awkward for all of your party. One present for one person is doable, 4 people exchanging gifts really isn’t.

In the times I have had to do these things, if I run into a lot of nonsense like that, I just tell the people to forget the whole thing. Family or not, common courtesy is still needed. I’d tell them to forget the dinner and the party and you will just drop presents off for send them. Telling them you will send them is likely to get a louder response since it says two things: (1) their company is wearing thin and (2) they will now be expected to go through the effort to mail your packages as well.

I hear the answers that family is important and that they will be there for you when you need them. But really, will they? This is something that is important to you and they are finding excuses to not be there for you. Do they share the same value that family is important and that they should make the effort?

flutherother's avatar

I give family a lot of leeway especially around Christmas. Think of it this way. The baseline is spending Christmas on your own with no presents so everything else is a bonus. My children are starting families of their own and while I know I am a priority for them around Christmas I know they have other priorities as well, my ex wife, in laws, travel considerations etc. Some years, like this year, it all works out very well but next year may not. We may all go on a summer holiday instead.

If someone is being deliberately awkward you can only bend over so far to accommodate them. Beyond that it is their loss.

JLeslie's avatar

@snowberry I am very often late for social gatherings, but almost never late for doctor appointments, reservations, zumba class, we can’t assume.

@Caravanfan That makes me incredibly happy. Most doctors take patients who show up late, but two months ago I was at an office that turned a patient away and I felt terrible for them. I couldn’t imagine they couldn’t juggle a patient who was there early, or do something, even if the late patient had to wait an hour. Sometimes it takes 5–10 minutes just to find a parking space at that office, so I know to show up very early.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

As long as they forgive me when I let them down too. I usually keep to myself. Other than my mom and one sister, and Fluther friends, I don’t have much of anything to do with anyone else.

Caravanfan's avatar

@JLeslie “I am very often late for social gatherings,”
You’re not late, you’re Jewish. You arrive exactly at Jewish Standard Time.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I’d give up on holiday madness altogether and just do random get together at lakes and parks in the summer.

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