The Emotional Roller Coaster of Fundie Relatives
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10-09-2013, 11:35 AM
The Emotional Roller Coaster of Fundie Relatives
Sorry for the Long Post!

So this issue has been percolating for some time. A very short bit about me - while reading philosophy in college as part of a pastoral degree program I had the awakening experience that brings a person here. Fast forward 18 years, my fundie sister continues to torture me with the "wheel of misery."

What I mean by that is that her life is, as most fundie's are, stuck in a wheel of loving Jesus, then sin, then repentance, then receiving "forgiveness," then feeling absolution, then normality for some period of time. But between us, replace the word "sin" with "Judgment of Brother."

Here's the thing though - my sister is OCD (and part OCD in general) about the jesus, so magnify the intensity this pattern times two.

Next throw in we were really close when I was younger, she thought I was going to be the pastor for our generation (Grandfather was a pastor, uncle was a pastor, and I was in line). Instead I'm a godless attorney who lives 1200 miles away to get the hell away from the constant judgment of my family, mainly my sister (and also because I LOVE where I live).

In the fall of last year I approached my sister about flying each of her kids out when they graduate high school for a week just to see the mountains and try something they don't normally get to do because they are pretty broke - 7 kids on a teacher's salary. I wanted to start to get to know these kids as adults. What they care about, what is important to them, who they are as people.

She said she thought that would be fine, which was a bit of a surprise but I was really excited to finally start connecting with my nieces and nephews. I spoke with her oldest about it and he seemed genuinely excited about coming out to ride dirtbikes or go snowboarding or whatever, his choice. I am very good at both of these sports so I thought I could go to the trouble to arrange for equipment and lift tickets and an airplane ticket all myself - all they needed to do was show up.

Then in May I got an email saying under no circumstances would they allow it even if the kids wanted to. An email of all things - and it really broke my heart. After 6 months of getting really excited about it, wham. In the interim I had developed some expectations and excitement, and I had done it the right way - by approaching her and her husband respectfully to make the decision up front and avoid any embarrassment for me if they would not approve.

So let's just say this was a bit of a final straw as I've been getting a lot healthier in my personal relationships and drawing very firm lines with people in my life to establish healthy boundaries, and this was just one of a long series of emotional rants I had been subjected to at the hands of an "angry" self-righteous sister. I angrily asked, via email which I grant was a mistake, but the receipt of the email rejection infuriated me that it was not even worth a phone call, so I pushed the envelope a bit and asked why they had changed their minds. Then comes all of the judgment about my godless lifestyle, blah blah blah. This, given that I had told her there would no drinking around my nephew and that I would effectively hide anything that may cause him trouble with his faith, and that I would not address religious topics whatsoever.

Long story short, I get the phone call this morning of her crying, and wanting to be siblings again, and wanting to reconnect. (and presumably, she heard from my mom that she will NOT be invited to my wedding). My problem is - I have been down this road before many, many times. The cycle seems to be - she feels love for me but hates my life without god and begins to develop serious judgements about me and what I should be doing with my life, she kindly or unkindly voices these opinions to me in a loving or harsh way, depending on her emotional state, I tell her that those are her beliefs and to keep them to herself, she gets angry with me, time passes, she misses me, calls crying and says she's sorry and seeks "forgiveness," I accept her back, things normalize, then she starts to build resentments against me again and the cycle starts all over.

Over time, these apologies start to seem as hollow and shallow and seemed to be based on a short-lived emotion of regret. My question is - at what point does my self-value and self-worth require that I simply stop this abusive and unhealthy relationship from occurring in my life? Now mind you I have cut my sister off from any relationship with me for years at a time, but somehow we always circle back to me forgiving her and then her offending me with her silly religion. I am always respectful, and I don't say - your religion doesn't make any sense because of all of the reasons I debate about online, but recently I told her that if she wanted to understand what I went through to get to this point- she had to watch Evidence's series on why he isn't a christian. She started to watch it, but couldn't finish it, and then the whole series of events above happened. Now mind you, I am about twice as educated a biblical scholar as she is, so we don't debate because she gets handled and she knows it.

Sorry for the long post - but at what point is a family relationship that could be really important to me too unhealthy to go back to the cycle of judgment and forgiveness? I really want to have a relationship with her, but her emotional swings really makes me question her ability to make any commitments to me that she will genuinely keep later. Does anyone else live through this cycle of extended rejection and then seeking of forgiveness when you cut your family member off? How much is too much for my personal health, and the health of the atheists in my family who deserve so much more than to be the recipients of this judgment?

Sorry for the long post, but this is one of the hardest issues I've ever dealt with. After 18 years, you would think I have it figured out, but I FEEL like I am just going back to an abusive relationship time after time. Thoughts?

Don't sell yourself short Judge, you're an incredible slouch.

Martin Luther was the "father" of two movements - The Reformation and Nazism.
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10-09-2013, 01:54 PM (This post was last modified: 10-09-2013 02:19 PM by Reltzik.)
RE: The Emotional Roller Coaster of Fundie Relatives
I don't have many intelligent answers for you, because too many of these are "you" questions. They depend on things such as your tolerance, your resilience, so on. How much is too much for you depends entirely upon you.

If you don't trust her to keep long term commitments without randomly breaking off the relationship, then don't. I've had friends that I could never make plans with because they'd just forget them. Not as painful as outright religious rejection of me by blood after I'd spent months planning, true. But I was able to stay friends BECAUSE I didn't trust them to keep promises. I simply learned to recognize that mid-term plans were beyond them, and adapted my expectations and time with them accordingly.

My advice is, don't approach the relationship as a binary yes/no thing. You do have the ability to set ground rules, and make promises to yourself about how much you're willing to take. One of those ground rules might be, she doesn't get to heap judgement and invective on your family, and another might be, if she starts in on you you don't stay still for it. Cut her off before the second sentence, or just leave. You don't owe her a target for her abuse. Think of relationship "blast doors", mechanisms to isolate yourself and the rest of your life from explosions. And maybe, if she goes too far in the worst way, one of the ground rules says that's it, that's the last time, the blast door closes forever. Find ways to curtail, discourage, or contain the negatives in your relationship. But also identify all the positives and find ways to nourish them.

I'd say, if after a few days of reflection you're still uncertain, to have a serious talk with her. (But only if you're still uncertain. If you come to the decision you don't want anything more to do with her, stick with that. I'm not trying to urge you into something that deep down you don't want.) Lay out the problem as you see it -- that it seems a relationship with her comes with these strings attached, and they're not acceptable. Be clear with her on the distinction between forgiveness of past wrongs (whether or not you hold a grudge) and reasonable expectation of future behavior. This is about a second chance (or a seventeenth). Have a candid talk about how and whether renewing the relationship is possible. Go in with negotiables and non-negotiables, the ground rules I was talking about, and ask your sister what sorts of deterrents or "blast doors" would be reasonable, but also talk to her about all the good things in your relationship and ask her how they could be maintained. Emphasize to her that it's not WHAT she believes that's a problem, but HOW she executes those beliefs. And maybe you come away from this conversation knowing that it won't work out and that's it, or maybe you come away from it with the healthiest relationship you've had for years.

I'd be very surprised if there weren't (non-clergy) professionals who could help sort through this sort of thing, and it sounds like you can afford one. Look into that.

And also? Get your fiance's input. Letting your sister be part of your life makes her part of your fiance's life as well. Especially if it puts your sister in a position to make a fuss at the wedding.

((Disclaimer: All of this advice is me talking out of my ass. First paragraph is most important. They're "you" questions.))
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10-09-2013, 02:43 PM (This post was last modified: 10-09-2013 02:54 PM by Skippy538.)
RE: The Emotional Roller Coaster of Fundie Relatives
Thank you. Very smart advice. Thanks a lot. I will digest this.

The thing that sticks out to me is the repetitive patterns of the semi-abuse. I think I need to sort out what is worth saving in the relationship and what I want to discard. I really appreciate the response. Just having someone objective look at it without my glasses of past pains is really helpful.

Don't sell yourself short Judge, you're an incredible slouch.

Martin Luther was the "father" of two movements - The Reformation and Nazism.
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10-09-2013, 07:27 PM
RE: The Emotional Roller Coaster of Fundie Relatives
It looks to me like she is using you like she uses her "God". She does something wrong or hurtful, then asks for forgiveness, but keeps doing the same thing. She never changes her actions or how she treats you. She says she is sorry and expects you to forgive her, much like she asks God to forgive her for something she did the other day.

I would have a serious talk with her, and if you decide to cut off all ties because you can see that she isn't going to change, stick to it and don't budge. She is probably expecting you to forgive her because you have many times in the past, but when you don't it will send a strong message. Enough is enough. You don't have to keep taking this abuse.

Hope it works out for the better.
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10-09-2013, 07:40 PM
RE: The Emotional Roller Coaster of Fundie Relatives
(10-09-2013 07:27 PM)slydog Wrote:  It looks to me like she is using you like she uses her "God". She does something wrong or hurtful, then asks for forgiveness, but keeps doing the same thing. She never changes her actions or how she treats you. She says she is sorry and expects you to forgive her, much like she asks God to forgive her for something she did the other day.

I would have a serious talk with her, and if you decide to cut off all ties because you can see that she isn't going to change, stick to it and don't budge. She is probably expecting you to forgive her because you have many times in the past, but when you don't it will send a strong message. Enough is enough. You don't have to keep taking this abuse.

Hope it works out for the better.

Agree in principal, and with anyone else this would have been handled 17 years ago - Byeeeeee. The sticking point is that I only have one sister, and I have seen how good of a person she CAN be. The problem was, to get that treatment I have to be in the club. Mind you - she has been ok to me about everything BUT religion, but since I left the faith, religion has been about 90% of what I hear.

I am going to talk with her, and this is probably it. She needs to know I am not willing to cross my own boundaries anymore for any relationship. I guess I want to try a little bit more because if I end this, there is not a real good chance of having any relationship with my nieces and nephews. I don't know if I am going to have kids - and the idea of not being connected with my own family seems so cold and isolated. I know family is what you make it, but I don't think I'm willing to give up yet. Maybe if I explain what I need better, I can get it.

Don't sell yourself short Judge, you're an incredible slouch.

Martin Luther was the "father" of two movements - The Reformation and Nazism.
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10-09-2013, 08:46 PM
RE: The Emotional Roller Coaster of Fundie Relatives
I would agree with Reltzik about the boundaries. You should have a heart to heart with her about where you are, how you feel about your relationship with her, and how you'd like the relationship to continue.

Be clear that you would like the relationship to continue, but that in order for that to happen there will have to be boundaries that she will have to abide by. If she crosses a boundary, you are well within your rights to cease any correspondence with her until she cuts the shit and apologizes (and no emotional crying apologies begging you to forgive her, just a calm recognition that she crossed a line and a promise that she will try not to do it again).

It's either that, or you A) stay stuck in this cycle, or B) cut off ties for good.

(or C) some other well thought out option that I don't know of because, like Reltzik, I'm talking out of my ass too, and you should only take what I say with a grain of salt because I've never been through a situation like this so I'm no expert, but that's my 2)

Good luck bro! I wish the best for you.

But now I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.

~ Umberto Eco
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11-09-2013, 08:26 AM
RE: The Emotional Roller Coaster of Fundie Relatives
Thanks guys. I just wrote the letter to my sister, and frankly, I'm a little surprised at what came out. I basically told her that I feel it is impossible for her to show a basic respect for my beliefs and the journey that got me here, and that it was unlikely that we would be able to have any relationship, apart from basic civility at common functions, because of this.

I told her that a basic pre-requisite to any relationship was respect, and that because she constantly allows her religion and emotionality to overcome this basic value and offend my views, that I would likely not be willing to reconcile in any meaningful way. I did say, however, that I would think about what may be salvageable in our relationship and on what terms, if any, I would consider reconciling.

It was odd though. There was no malice in my words, and I had an incredible peace delivering this fairly bad news. I typed the letter 4 times, and the last draft from scratch was one of the most direct, honest, and insightful things I have written to her. I knew it was right.

It was like having a girl break up with you, someone who you thought you might spend your life with, and how for the longest time you just wanted to reconcile. And then from nowhere they approach you to reconcile, and you realize that you have healed and moved past that part of your life. That you have found a way to be whole without someone you couldn't have imagined your life without. A deep, abiding peace that what I've done is right, and that the problem isn't really mine. I've known this intellectually for a long time, but feeling it emotionally is a much different thing. Quite profound.

Thanks for the help everyone. I appreciate you all for your responses, they helped. You guys kick ass on this forum. I'm really happy to have found this place.

Cheers.

Don't sell yourself short Judge, you're an incredible slouch.

Martin Luther was the "father" of two movements - The Reformation and Nazism.
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11-09-2013, 08:49 AM
RE: The Emotional Roller Coaster of Fundie Relatives
(10-09-2013 07:40 PM)Skippy538 Wrote:  
(10-09-2013 07:27 PM)slydog Wrote:  It looks to me like she is using you like she uses her "God". She does something wrong or hurtful, then asks for forgiveness, but keeps doing the same thing. She never changes her actions or how she treats you. She says she is sorry and expects you to forgive her, much like she asks God to forgive her for something she did the other day.

I would have a serious talk with her, and if you decide to cut off all ties because you can see that she isn't going to change, stick to it and don't budge. She is probably expecting you to forgive her because you have many times in the past, but when you don't it will send a strong message. Enough is enough. You don't have to keep taking this abuse.

Hope it works out for the better.


Agree in principal, and with anyone else this would have been handled 17 years ago - Byeeeeee. The sticking point is that I only have one sister, and I have seen how good of a person she CAN be. The problem was, to get that treatment I have to be in the club. Mind you - she has been ok to me about everything BUT religion, but since I left the faith, religion has been about 90% of what I hear.

I am going to talk with her, and this is probably it. She needs to know I am not willing to cross my own boundaries anymore for any relationship. I guess I want to try a little bit more because if I end this, there is not a real good chance of having any relationship with my nieces and nephews. I don't know if I am going to have kids - and the idea of not being connected with my own family seems so cold and isolated. I know family is what you make it, but I don't think I'm willing to give up yet. Maybe if I explain what I need better, I can get it.

I completely understand that. It's your family, the people you have been close to and grew up with. You love them and I am sure they love you as well. I hope you can have an enjoyable relationship with your family. You just don't have to take their religious bludgeoning every time you see them or are in contact with them.

Quote: Thanks guys. I just wrote the letter to my sister, and frankly, I'm a little surprised at what came out. I basically told her that I feel it is impossible for her to show a basic respect for my beliefs and the journey that got me here, and that it was unlikely that we would be able to have any relationship, apart from basic civility at common functions, because of this.

I told her that a basic pre-requisite to any relationship was respect, and that because she constantly allows her religion and emotionality to overcome this basic value and offend my views, that I would likely not be willing to reconcile in any meaningful way. I did say, however, that I would think about what may be salvageable in our relationship and on what terms, if any, I would consider reconciling.

It was odd though. There was no malice in my words, and I had an incredible peace delivering this fairly bad news. I typed the letter 4 times, and the last draft from scratch was one of the most direct, honest, and insightful things I have written to her. I knew it was right.

It was like having a girl break up with you, someone who you thought you might spend your life with, and how for the longest time you just wanted to reconcile. And then from nowhere they approach you to reconcile, and you realize that you have healed and moved past that part of your life. That you have found a way to be whole without someone you couldn't have imagined your life without. A deep, abiding peace that what I've done is right, and that the problem isn't really mine. I've known this intellectually for a long time, but feeling it emotionally is a much different thing. Quite profound.

Thanks for the help everyone. I appreciate you all for your responses, they helped. You guys kick ass on this forum. I'm really happy to have found this place.

Cheers.


I hope it all works out for you. Smile
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