Here come the holidays…and the boundaries!


The Cast:

Me: Codependent in recovery, rejector of permanent victimhood, wobbly on my emotional feet but improving every day, aware of shadows and working on them, striving for release of way old stuff that no longer serves me. I have forgiven myself for feeling like any/all of my abuse was my fault. I have realized that I can only control what happens in the present and that the past is [thankfully] the past. I do not allow myself to live in the past but I am aware and accept that I am compromised.

H: More self-aware and accepting than ever, working toward healthy relationships but can still bully, judge, and manipulate through anger and/or toxic control/behaviors. Not likely to ever step in and protect me, though it is more likely than it ever has been, whatever that means. Totally forgiven.

Mom: Probably narcissistic or BPD, wounded, relatively in denial, good intentions mixed with blind spots of selfishness and manipulation, somewhat vampiristic, codependent, enabler, tries to be supportive of me but struggles with jealousy and preference for my brother because she sees him as “weak” and “in need of protection”. I have forgiven her and even feel empathy but I have to be constantly on guard because her habits/behaviors have not changed but the methods have.

Dad: Wounded healer, recovering alcoholic, enabler, codependent, supportive of me, well-meaning, protective of me but will choose protecting little brother or Mom first, deeply scarred from life but always willing to listen. I have forgiven him a long time ago for abandoning me and enabling my mother’s abuse, which could still continue if I allowed it.

Brother: Passive aggressive, insecure, addictive behavior, codependent, lies a lot, lost, means well, victim “caught in the middle”, charming and manipulative, lacks courage to be himself, enabler, unable to take responsibility for his life and his choices though he talks an impressive game. I forgive him for abandoning me but it would be stupid to forget.

Jane: Niece of H, bipolar, vampire, manipulator, controlling, insecure, histrionic, drama queen, liar, narcissistic, thrives on anxiety, intelligent, good heart but terrified to be who she is, sneaky. I’m working on forgiveness here.


I have invited H to spend Thanksgiving with me and our boys at my parents’ house. We’ve been getting along nicely and I’ve actually enjoyed his company as of late. (He’s also asked me to “come home” for the Christmas holidays because my not being there is going to be rough on him. I’ll deal with that request later.)

re: Thanksgiving: I knew exactly what was happening when my Mom moped on the phone about her “dream” of having both of her kids home for Thanksgiving. I figure she’s 73 so she has a right to want this, all things being equal. Any mother would want this. The trouble is that my brother is married to H’s niece, we’ll call her Jane, who is a big part of the reason I’ve divorced H’s family. Jane is a rude, immature, bipolar trashy gal who seems to enjoy presenting herself with extreme anxiety with a side of “look at me and feel sorry for me because I’m such an f’ing mess”. (Whatever.) Shortly after my brother married her 3 years ago, there was the epic Italian family lynching (of me) that was compounded by his and his wife’s involvement in another epic family destructive incident that took place this past February. Jane and my stepson’s wife (Bella) couldn’t get enough of trashing me and spinning the gossip, which my brother assisted and facilitated. I have not spoken with him since around that time and even then it was about a 2 minute convo because he was “busy”. I decided to let the relationship go as part of divorcing the in-laws.

Fast forward to now, my brother is in a 12 step program for alcohol (good for him). Jane and he have “made up” with my parents. (snark: how nice.) The holidays are a perfect smokescreen for delusion and I am not surprised. My family is awesome at denial-based delusional living, however, I’m “trying to quit” and doing ok, thanks. I’m in my own version of a 12 step program and can now soundly reject all invitations from in-law family situations that feel uncomfortable. When discussing Thanksgiving with my Mom she said it would be a “neutral” zone. OK.

I do not want to allow the dark, mostly hateful feelings to creep back in. Working toward alleviating the enmeshment, I forced myself to deal with these things and decided [mostly] that the weight is too heavy to carry. Let it go. So this leads me to wonder how will we say hello? Hugs and kisses are common for Italians but for the life of me I cannot even imagine being in the room with Jane, let alone kissing/hugging her hello. I’d rather wrap my hands around her neck and squeeze until she turns blue. [Then I’d let her go. Just ’cause.] What will we talk about? I don’t want to give Jane anything she can take back to Bella. This means that details of my work, my life, anything, will not be shared or discussed that day. Since Jane has exhibited insane jealousy of me and is a classic bully who adores verbal abuse, I think it best to give her nothing to feed upon. But how will that work?

When boundaries are encroached upon, one doesn’t usually have warning and the situation can knock us off our respective centers. How to prepare?

  1. Ground and shield: remind myself that I may/may not allow encroachment. I have a choice.
  2. Remind myself not to worry about appearing to be rude because I do not engage Jane or my brother in personal conversation.
  3. Stop caring about what anyone else thinks because I will be the one left to deal with reopening of my wounds if I allow it. No co-narcissism.
  4. Remind myself that there is a good chance Jane will bail at the last minute. If she does, remind myself that is not my problem.
  5. If Jane shows up, I will remind myself NOT to be affected by her pathetic anxious behavior. I will not feel responsible nor will I feel like I have to do something about it.
  6. I will remind myself that sometimes catharsis is not possible or healthy. I do not want a relationship with Jane and her family [my inlaw family] so there’s really nothing to discuss.
  7. I will stay close to my boys and H all day.
  8. I will avoid one-to-one conversations with my brother, and of course, Jane.
  9. I will not participate in any “reconciliation” talks initiated by my mom or dad because it is not the time and place and I have not granted my consent to participate.
  10. I will avoid getting trapped in the “girls in the kitchen” conversation while the guys are off doing their thing.
  11. I will NOT respond to any manipulative comments or “intervention” attempts made by my mother or anyone else that infringes upon my boundaries.
  12. I will not preoccupy my thoughts that day with all of the “what ifs” and anxiety-ridden false predictions my head may manufacture.
  13. I will remind myself that I am fresh into recovery and that I might not react the way I would like to in every situation.
  14. I will keep my emotions regulated to the best of my ability and channel all of my efforts into staying in the “OK” zone.
  15. I will remind myself that it is ONE DAY and for one day, I will channel all of my energies into positivity rather than into a victim mentality.

I was prepared for my mom’s manipulation in this case. I told her it would be fine and, after all, it is her house. I didn’t think Jane and my brother would agree to come for dinner anyway so I thought it was low risk. The level of risk increased when they agreed to come but that’s not a sure thing. The level of risk may increase further if they actually do show up. I have to be ready and in a good place to handle it. I’ve been doing a lot of shadow work and intend to use that work to build solid coping strategies. There are scads of lessons to be learned in shadow work and it excites me to face down the ugly.

Let the preparations begin.

5 thoughts on “Here come the holidays…and the boundaries!

  1. Pingback: Thinking of Alienated Moms & Dads Today | Moms' Hearts Unsilenced

    • It was absolutely fine. I was very grounded and quite centered so not much was going to get to me. I didn’t want to get into anything and, fortunately, nobody else did either. We ate turkey, laughed at my dad and my cousin who argue like little kids, and went on our way. Just like acquaintances. That’s a little sad really, but that’s life.

      The net-net is that sometimes family relationships are merely biological and shouldn’t be anything else. This was a big illusion buster for me, for so many [mostly codependent] reasons.

      Thanks for the follow up question!

  2. I know exactly what you mean. We put all these hopes and expectations on our family, and are devastated if they can’t love us as we need them too. There is plenty of love out there in the world. The family of origin stuff is so tricky!!!!

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