The thing about families … it’s most often the people who are unpleasant who “win” because we don’t want to cause problems. We somehow take ownership of others’ bad behavior.
When we avoid saying something or trying to change something, when we show up even though it’s awful and silently wait for it to pass, we’re letting ourselves be treated badly.
“We don’t say anything because s/he gets angry and it just makes it worse” is a sign of an abusive situation.
Stop placating the abusers.
It’s hard. It breaks relationships, because those people are vested in making everything your fault. You can’t have a rational conversation with them. You can’t reason. You can’t say, “When you do this thing, it hurts me,” because they aren’t emotionally equipped to acknowledge hurting you.
This is really variations on a theme from Sunday’s book quote. They’re taking their hurt out on you. It does not help them to heal, and it makes it harder for you to become/stay healthy.
But it’s wicked hard to set boundaries, to take a step back, for three reasons that I can think of.
1- The immediate situation is hard. Standing up for yourself (or for your spouse, or for you kids, or for whomever) when you know you’re going to get yelled at is hard. It’s hard to summon the courage to do it, and it’s hard to withstand the blowback, especially when setting a boundary is a new thing.
2- People who are not on board with you setting and maintaining a healthy boundary are going to blame you for making The Mean Person angry. You ruined the day by making them yell. (I’m here to tell you it is not your fault.)
It’s really hard, when you’ve just summoned the emotional grit to get through both parts of the boundary-setting (summoning the courage and withstanding the blowback) to get more blowback from others in the room.
They do it for so many different reasons, and I don’t want to prattle on about all that right now. Suffice it to say, until this moment, you were acting in such a way as to protect yourself, and they’re acting in a way to protect themselves. Even if it’s at your expense.
3- People at large expect us to “be nice to your family,” regardless of how you’re being treated. (No one tells The Mean Person to be nice to their family because they spin it so they are the victim. Always.) I know of one person who was regularly hit—as an adult—by family, and was blamed by (former) friends for cutting ties.
If people won’t accept physical abuse as a reason not to show up, they certainly don’t accept mental or emotional abuse. (Don’t get me started on girls being blamed for “seducing” their uncles.)
Don’t let those people weaken your ownership of the problem. (It’s so easy to second-guess yourself. Especially if you happen to be in the role of Family Scapegoat and have always been blamed.) No, you are not perfect. But when reasonable and healthy requests are met with ire, it is not your fault.
I’m here to tell you—there are people who believe you, who empathize, who will not blame you. Find them. They are your lifeline in this journey.
Break the cycle. Find support. Get a good therapist. Take care of yourself.