Luke 17:3 Ministries Inc
Saturday, October 21, 2017
For Adult Daughters of Controlling or Abusive Birth-Families

When Is It Ever Going To Be My Turn?- The Exploitation Habit

 

WHEN IS IT EVER GOING TO BE MY TURN?

The Exploitation Habit- If You Start It, They Will Come!

 

 

By Sister Renee Pittelli

 

 

Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you....Matthew 7:6 

 

 

 

 

Testimonies of the Used And Abused

 

SISTER LAURIE

 

            Laurie and Patty are sisters who were born and raised on Long Island.  Laurie is older than Patty by two years.  Both sisters married and had children within a few miles of their childhood home.  When Patty was 26, she moved to Maryland with her husband and children.  Immediately she began taking less and less responsibility for family get-togethers, holidays, birthday celebrations and regular visits, while Laurie and their mother shared these obligations.  Patty lived in Maryland for almost ten years and only hosted two family celebrations in all that time, although she did continue to drive back to Long Island with her family for most of the holidays at her mother or sister’s houses.

            As the years passed, their mother became less and less interested in doing the work involved in a get-together, and more and more of the responsibility for getting the family together began to fall on Laurie’s shoulders.  Then Patty and her family moved to North Carolina, and a few years later, to Florida.  By this time, Patty had not hosted her birth-family at her house in many years.  Now she went from visiting rarely to almost never.  Once every two or three years, she would make it back to New York for a holiday at Laurie’s house.  She did not bother coming back for any family events, including Laurie’s 40th birthday, their father’s 60th, their parents’ 40th anniversary, or any of Laurie’s kids’ graduations, although she did send cards and gifts.  All of the planning, work and expense for all of these events fell on Laurie.  Patty did not even offer to contribute financially to the parties for their parents.

            As Laurie’s kids went off to college and her husband neared retirement, Laurie and her husband began talking about living out their lifelong dream of moving to Vermont. At first, Laurie’s parents and Patty didn’t seem to take them too seriously.  But as the time for retirement drew closer and they began shopping for property in Vermont, Laurie sensed her family’s resentment brewing.

            Occasionally there was a snide comment or some type of discouragement, but at first Laurie thought it must be her imagination.  After all, her sister had moved away to live her life the way she wanted to and where she wanted to, decades ago.  Surely, after all the years Laurie had spent on Long Island including their parents in all her happy family events, sacrificing and working so hard to make everything so nice for them,  Patty and their parents could not possibly begrudge Laurie her turn at fulfilling her dreams.

             Laurie had always made sure her parents were a part of her children’s lives, so they would have the pleasure of a relationship with their grandchildren, while Patty had removed her children from their grandparents at a young age.  Now Laurie’s kids were out of the house and away at college.  She reasoned that they would be seeing much less of their grandparents anyway, and she fantasized about having big, happy family holidays in beautiful Vermont, when her kids would be off from school and her parents would drive up to join them.

            Laurie and Patty’s parents were in their early sixties.  They were healthy, active, athletic, and vital.  They traveled and kept busy.  They did not need any type of care.  Laurie knew she would be only a few hours away if there was an emergency- much closer than Patty was.  Laurie and her husband offered to buy a house in Vermont that would accommodate all of them if her parents wanted to join them and move as well, but her parents declined.  She assured her parents that they would always be welcomed to visit, and they replied that they were getting too old to travel a lot.  Still clinging to her dream of picture-perfect New England family holidays, and willing to do whatever she could to make it happen, Laurie offered to drive to New York and pick her parents up, and then drive them home again if that would make it easier for them to visit.  She felt hurt and bewildered when her parents turned her offer down flat and repeated that they really weren’t up to much traveling anymore.  It was as if they were punishing her for moving by making it known that if she moved, she wasn’t going to be seeing much of them anymore.

            Laurie and her husband were determined not to be “blackmailed” into giving up their dream.   There was no rational reason for her parents to prevent them from enjoying their retirement on their own terms.   Although up until now, Laurie’s parents had never directly confronted her about their feelings concerning her move, Laurie did all she could to reassure them and hoped that their apparent upset would eventually blow over. 

            Laurie’s husband retired and they bought property in Vermont and began building their dream home.  They put their Long Island house up for sale.  When Laurie’s family saw that their tactics weren’t working and that Laurie and her husband were really going through with their retirement plans, the pressure was really turned up.  Patty began picking fights with Laurie over many things and accused Laurie point-blank of “deserting” their parents.  She complained about Laurie and gossiped about her maliciously to other family members, who, for some incredible reason, (most likely because they didn’t want to have to start inviting Laurie’s parents for the holidays if she moved!) agreed with her and began ostracizing Laurie and her husband and children.

            Laurie’s parents and Patty were on the phone to each other and to other relatives several times a week, badmouthing Laurie and her husband.  They fed off each other, validated each other’s completely unjustified anger, and encouraged each other to say and do things to hurt Laurie and to register their disapproval.  Those who had never lifted a finger to ease Laurie’s family obligations in all those years now felt they had the right to criticize her, but no one suggested anything constructive, such as offering to look in on her parents more frequently in her absence, or to invite them for some of the holidays.   No one stopped to think of how unfair they were all being.  No one cared in the least about Laurie’s feelings or Laurie’s needs.

            Laurie’s parents became very resentful.  For the last year that Laurie lived on Long Island, they turned down every invitation to her house.  They spent the holidays with neighbors and avoided many opportunities to spend quality time together as a family before the move.   Laurie and her husband moved at the end of May, and her mother refused to spend Laurie’s last Mother’s Day in New York with her and her family, choosing instead to go to a distant relative’s house.  Laurie’s parents withdrew their love and support and created a rift where there didn’t have to be one.  It was almost as if they were saying,” Ha!  We’ll show her!  We don’t need her- we’ve got plenty of other people in our lives!”

            Eventually Patty stopped speaking to Laurie altogether.  On the day Laurie moved, her parents did not even come over to say goodbye.  No family member ever wished her well.  No one ever showed a shred of gratitude for all the family functions she had hosted, or all she had done to hold the family together and to keep her parents in their grandchildren’s lives all of that time.

            The unbelievable ending to this whole story is that the year after Laurie moved, her parents bought a condo in Florida near Patty and now spend the winters there.  For people who were getting “too old” to travel 300 miles to see Laurie in Vermont, they don’t seem to have any problem driving almost 3000 miles round trip back and forth to Florida.  The one speck of justice is that Patty finally has to take some responsibility for hosting the holidays, now that her parents are a just few miles away from her for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.

            And so Laurie became an outcast from a large part of her family, just because she finally followed her dream.   After all the years she spent doing for everybody else, when was it supposed to be Laurie’s turn?  Never, if it was up to her birth-family. 

            But, praise God, the Lord sets the lonely in families (Psalm 68:6).  Laurie has grown much closer to several cousins and their families, whom she didn’t see much of when they were all kids because their parents weren’t speaking.  She has a wonderful church family and has made many friends in her new town, and she still cherishes several very old and close friendships.  Best of all, her two children have now married and she has been blessed with three grandchildren.  She has a great relationship with her own children and babysits her grandchildren frequently.  Although she was very hurt by her birth-family’s cruelty, the Lord has healed her and blessed her life.  And it is Laurie’s selfish parents who are now missing out on their great-grandchildren, and Patty, who was never one to make friends easily or form close relationships, who now feels the loss of not having a sister.

            Although I have changed the names and some small details to protect the privacy of the individuals involved, the above is a true story.  And there are many other testimonies that are basically the same, or even worse.  Consider the following true family situations- again, names and identifying details have been changed.

 

 

SISTER JANICE

 

            Janice is 56 years old and has an older brother, Roy, who is 59.  Janice is divorced and works full time, Roy is retired and spends his days playing golf and fishing.  They both live within ten minutes of their widowed 78-year old mother, but all these years the sole responsibility for taking Mom to the doctor, dentist, hairdresser, food shopping, clothing shopping, gift shopping, etc., has been Janice’s.

            Janice has recently been diagnosed with a serious, life-threatening illness.  She will require numerous doctor’s visits, various and debilitating treatments, and at least one surgery.

Roy’s reaction to finding out about his sister’s frightening health problems? “You should still be able to take Mom on her errands, right?” was the first thing he said.  And it hasn’t gotten much better since.

            Not only has Roy not offered to take Janice to the doctor, or even to the hospital for her surgery, but he never even offered to do some grocery shopping for their mother.  Only after an upsetting confrontation did Janice get him to grudgingly agree to help their mother out a little while Janice was going through her own health problems.  And Janice has had to rely on the kindness of friends and neighbors to get her to the hospital and the doctor and to take care of her during her recuperation.

            After a lifetime of devoting herself to taking care of their mother’s every need, now that Janice’s life is threatened by her own serious health problems, it would seem reasonable that now it was Janice’s turn to be taken care of.  At the very least, she should be allowed to concentrate on her own health without having to worry about anything or anyone else.  But selfish Roy’s only concern is how his sister’s possibly terminal illness is going to affect him and his leisure time.

 

SISTER CAMILLE

 

            Camille and Ben married young and were always devoted to their families.  For twenty years, they hosted Thanksgiving dinner for over 40 relatives at their house.  After 17 years of marriage, Camille and Ben were finally blessed with a child.  Their baby Emily was born in October and even though they were exhausted from having a newborn infant, they still hosted Thanksgiving a few weeks later.  No one in either of their families offered to have the holiday at their house or was considerate enough to help out more because of the new baby.  This should have been a gigantic clue for Camille and Ben, but they were just so happy, they didn’t allow any negative thoughts to rain on their parade.

            Within the next year, tragedy struck.  Ben was diagnosed with cancer.  They struggled to maintain a normal life through his treatments.  Camille wanted to make him as happy as possible and let him spend as much time as he could with their daughter and their families.  For the next three years, they continued to host Thanksgiving dinner for all the relatives, and everyone just took it for granted that they would.

            Ben passed away in early November.  A devastated Camille, left alone with her little girl to raise, buried her beloved husband two weeks before Thanksgiving.  Then she and her daughter sat home alone on Thanksgiving, crying their eyes out all day- not because they chose to, but because not a single one of the 40-plus relatives who had spent the holiday at Camille’s house and ate the dinners she had prepared for the last 20 years invited Camille and Emily to join them for Thanksgiving, two weeks after Ben died.

            When Camille first told me her testimony, I could hardly believe it.  I though for sure there had to have been some misunderstanding- like maybe her family didn’t want to “bother” her while she was “in mourning” or thought it would upset her to have Thanksgiving at someone else’s house right after Ben’s death.  However, Emily is now 15 years old.  And never once have any of these more than 40 family members asked her and Camille to join them for Thanksgiving dinner, or most other holidays, for that matter, to this day.  Maybe they’re not up to cooking a big dinner, but consider that every one of these relatives has continued to celebrate the holiday in one way or the other, either in small groups, by going out to a restaurant, by ordering in pizza, whatever, and still not one has invited Camille and Emily to join them.

            I am so personally appalled and disgusted by the incredible lack of caring that Camille’s family has shown for the person who made so many of their holidays so nice, that I can’t even think of words to express my thoughts.  Their cruelty and selfishness is just disgraceful.

             Camille’s neighbors were horrified to learn afterward that she and Emily were alone that first Thanksgiving- everyone had assumed that they would be spending the holiday with family and that their family would step up and comfort them and make sure they weren’t alone.  The neighbors are determined to make sure nothing like that ever happens again, and ever since, Camille and Emily have been blessed to be included in their generous neighbors’ celebrations.  But the family of ungrateful freeloaders has never even had a pang of guilt so far as we know.

 

 

SISTER SARAH

 

            Sarah has three children and is going through a very acrimonious divorce.  She lives in the same town as her sister Beth, whose children are older.  When Beth’s children were in grade school, she asked Sarah if she could put her down as an emergency contact on their school records.  Sarah did not hesitate to say yes.  Numerous times Sarah had to pack her young children up in bad weather and drive to the school to pick up one of Beth’s children, who had gotten sick or injured.  Sarah’s kids would then catch whatever illness Beth’s child introduced into their home, and Sarah would have three sick kids to deal with for the next week or so.  When Sarah’s youngest child began kindergarten, Sarah took a part-time job to help make ends meet.  Several times she was called to leave work for one of Beth’s children, sacrificing her wages for the rest of the day and jeopardizing her job.  Yet she never complained and prided herself on being there for her sister and her family when they needed her.

            Because of the financial fallout of her divorce, Sarah now must work full-time.  Beth’s children are older and more independent, and Sarah’s are now in grade school and junior high.  Sarah is now in the position where she needs Beth to return the favor she did for her all those years.  The job she was able to get is almost an hour away and she needs to list Beth, who is now the one with the part-time local job, as the emergency contact for her kids.  One would think that, under the circumstances, of course it is now Sarah’s turn to depend on her sister. Anticipating her sister’s appreciation for all the years she had helped her, Sarah naturally assumed that Beth would be understanding and more than glad to help her out in return. Sarah was in for a shock when Beth refused, claiming that she could not afford to lose any time from work.

 

 

SISTER THERESA

 

            Theresa and Danielle are first cousins who have been close since birth. Their family is dysfunctional and abusive in many ways, and the cousins have always been able to confide in and comfort each other.  Over the years, their relationship evolved from being fairly two-sided to being pretty much one-sided.  Danielle has become a drama-queen who seems to have problems in every aspect of her life, and Theresa has become the patient and long-suffering “shoulder to cry on”.  Theresa spends hours listening to Danielle complain and vent about her job, her children, her parents, her hairdresser, her car, her financial problems, her marriage and her seemingly endless variety of minor health problems.  Theresa, who has serious health problems of her own and other issues in her life, almost never gets a chance to talk about what is going on with her. 

            Danielle is not interested in taking any advice, and even ignores advice she asks for.  Every real and acute issue in her life, rather than being solved and coming to an end, becomes a chronic issue, ongoing for months or years.  She never does anything constructive to change whatever is upsetting her.  Problems that other people would change without a second thought, Danielle does nothing to fix or improve.  She does not like her manicurist, for instance, and complained about her for almost three years before finally making up her mind to definitely change to another one.  She got several good recommendations from people she knew and was all fired up to find someone she would be happy with.  She was going to make her very next appointment with someone new!  Theresa was relieved that she could finally stop hearing all the complaints about Danielle’s manicurist.  That was two years ago, and Danielle is still having her nails done by the same woman.  Similar scenarios have played themselves out with Danielle’s dentist, veterinarian, job, church, and volunteer work.  Dissatisfactions in her life drag on endlessly while she refuses to do anything about them but complain. 

            Theresa spent many years patiently giving Danielle all the attention she demanded, and rarely, if ever, getting to talk about herself or her own problems.  Then one day, Theresa found herself in the middle of a huge life-crisis of her own.  This situation was all-consuming, and despite doing all she could do to end it, Theresa found that the problem continued for several months.  During this time, she was unable to devote the same amount of attention to Danielle. It was Theresa’s turn to need her cousin’s support and encouragement.  Even if Theresa had not spent years as Danielle’s Agony Aunt, showing love and caring for a family member who needed her was the least Danielle could do. Of course, we could expect Danielle to step up and be there for Theresa, right?  Wrong.

            Danielle made a weak and perfunctory show of empathizing with Theresa’s plight during the first few weeks of her crisis.  She would utter a few quick words of sympathy, and then  turn every conversation back to herself.  After the first few weeks, Danielle became resentful that Theresa could not give her all the time and attention she had in the past.  All pretense of sympathy for her cousin vanished as Danielle became more and more demanding and selfishly burdened her cousin with accusations of neglect at a time when there was nothing Theresa could have done about it.  When Theresa most needed Danielle’s love, comfort, and support, what she got was guilt-mongering, hostility, and an ugly confrontation instead. 

            Now Theresa’s crisis is over and her life has settled down, but her relationship with Danielle has not recovered, and may never.  During her crisis, Theresa had no choice but to set limits on her contact with the attention-demanding Danielle, and Danielle resented this.  When they do speak, Theresa is painfully aware that nothing has changed- their conversations are still 99% about Danielle.  Theresa finds herself wondering when it is ever going to be her turn to get Danielle’s undivided attention and support.  If it wasn’t forthcoming during her huge life-crisis, chances are it will never be.

 

 

SISTER MARYANN

 

            When Maryann’s father died, her widowed mother came to live with her.  She and her husband Mike built an apartment for mom onto their house.  Mom was in her early sixties, in good health, and still drove her car.  She just didn’t want to live alone.  Although mom had her own kitchen, she ate almost all her meals with Maryann and her family.  Although mom had her own living room, she sat in Maryann’s living room to watch TV every night, and then became irritated if the family was not watching a show she liked.  She meddled in Maryann’s life and criticized her housekeeping. 

            If Maryann needed to have a personal conversation with her husband, one of her children, or a friend, she would leave the room, but her mother would find excuses to interrupt her constantly so she could listen in.  If Maryann was on the phone, mom would sit right next to her, pretending to read the paper and making sure she overheard every word.  Maryann and her family willingly gave up a great deal of their family life and all of their privacy to keep mom with them.  They basically supported mom, never charging her for rent, utilities, or food.  Mom was responsible only for her own car, medical (she had health insurance), and personal expenses.

            For Maryann and Mike’s 30th wedding anniversary, their adult children, who were now scattered around the country, chipped in and booked them on a 10-day cruise.  Maryann and Mike were overjoyed- they had not had a vacation in many years, and certainly never anything so nice.  They were such giving and loving people who certainly deserved a nice break. You’d think their family would be happy for them, right?  Wrong, again!

            Mom was adamant that she would not stay in the house alone, and although it was really her place to call her other children and ask them to take over for the ten days, she refused.  Since she had put a roof over her mother’s head for more than seven years, with no contribution in either time or money from either of her siblings, Maryann felt justified in calling her brother and sister, who both lived nearby. 

           How could anyone begrudge her a few days of pleasure and relaxation for herself?  After all the years Maryann and Mike had sacrificed their own lives to take care of Mom, never asking for any help from mom’s other kids, surely Maryann’s siblings would be glad to pitch in with mom so that Maryann and her husband could go on this once-in-a-lifetime,  beautiful cruise and enjoy some privacy and quality time together, right?  Guess again!

          When Maryann asked if they would take care of mom, both her brother and sister refused.  Not quite absorbing that they didn’t intend to contribute in even the smallest way to making her dream vacation possible, Maryann suggested several compromises.  She asked them to take turns having mom at each of their houses for a few days while she was away, and both still refused.  Then she asked if they would come and stay at her house with mom- again, they both refused.  The excuses were many- no time, prior commitments, spouse won’t allow it, we like our privacy, etc.  And both siblings were critical of Maryann for even considering leaving mom and doing something nice for herself and her husband.

            After much aggravation and heartache, Mike and their kids convinced Maryann to just go- and leave it up to mom and sis and brother to decide what they were going to do.  It would  not have been fair to the kids not to go on the beautiful cruise they had paid for, and it certainly would not be fair to Mike, who had always been so good-natured and generous about his mother-in-law living with him.  Reluctantly, Maryann agreed and announced they were going no matter what.

            Although she made every effort to enjoy herself on the cruise, Maryann could not help but worry about what was going on at home and how mom was doing.  Thoughts of her birth-family’s resentment and disapproval and the cold shoulder they gave her when she left intruded frequently.  Instead of having the carefree, wonderful time she deserved, her vacation was all but ruined by unjustified guilt feelings and worry about whether she had caused permanent damage to her relationship with her birth-family.  When was it ever going to be Maryann’s turn to enjoy having something nice done for her?  Never, if it was up to her birth-relatives.

 

 

WHAT ON EARTH IS GOING ON HERE?!
 

            At times like these, a normal person would have to say, “What on earth is going on here???!!!”  Yes, these are all true stories, and every one of us knows of one or two, if not more, such stories, perhaps in our own families.  How can family members have absolutely no consideration whatsoever for one of their own who has given to them unselfishly for years?  How can they use and exploit someone who loves them?  How can they hurt someone who takes care of them?  Why do they expect a giving person to keep on giving and giving forever, without ever getting anything in return?  Why would they expect someone who has sacrificed so much for them already to endanger their own health or well-being in order to continue sacrificing? Why would anyone begrudge a loved one a little pleasure? 

            Where is the appreciation for all the giver has done and is continuing to do?  You can look forever, but you will not find it. Where is the family loyalty?  Where is the love and caring? The using, abusing, selfishness, and exploiting ranges from disheartening to downright outrageous.

            When can the one who always did for everyone else expect someone to do for her?  When the family giver needs HELP, who is there to help her? The answer is No One!  Does no one feel that they owe her even a small debt of gratitude? When does the caretaker get taken care of? The answer is Never!  Not only is no one interested in taking care of the caretaker- they don’t even want her to take care of herself!- not if it means taking time away from their needs!  The caretaker is expected to be like the Energizer Bunny, always running to help everyone else, always sacrificing, neglecting her own needs and her own health, never taking a rest or a vacation, never fulfilling any of her own dreams.  Exploitative relatives are surprised to think that she even HAS a dream because they never actually see her as a person.  She is there only to be used by them for their purposes, not to have any desires or needs of her own.  This warped Cinderella story is played out in family after family.   Again, we have to ask ourselves, “What on earth is going on, here?”

           

 Givers, Takers, And Family Dynamics

WHERE DID WE GO WRONG?

 

            Remember when we were children, how our parents taught us to take turns and share?  In fact, they insisted on it.  Back then, it was important to our parents not to raise selfish kids.  But now that we are adults, for some reason our parents don’t seem to mind if some of their kids are selfish, as long as at least one isn’t- so their needs and wants will still be taken care of.    When you were growing up, your parents assigned chores.  They made it clear that everyone was expected to contribute to the family and to pull their own weight.  Didn’t they insist that you be responsible and do what was expected of you?- go to school, keep your grades up, help out around the house, babysit your little brother, work part-time, pay some of your own expenses? Back then, nobody wanted the embarrassment of raising a bum- but that doesn’t seem to bother the folks now. 

            In fact, the very parents who raised you to do your share, take turns, and pull your own weight now don’t want to do THEIR share.   And they don’t mind it if your siblings don’t do their share either. In fact, they think YOU are wrong for expecting it!  What ever happened to “Share with your sister” or “Now let your brother have a turn”?  We were RAISED to share and take turns, but now we are the “troublemakers” for expecting everybody to share and take turns!  When did everything change? Where did we go wrong?

            In this series, I am not going to analyze what our families are doing wrong in detail- how they may have always spoiled the younger children and expected the oldest to do all the work, how they only want to take turns and share the good things- like ice cream and toys, not the bad things- like work, how they always had a “favorite” child who got away with everything, how birth-order dooms you to be the only responsible family member for the rest of your life, etc.  Much is already written about these things, including many of the other articles on our website.

            The sad fact is that they aren’t going to change, so analyzing our families’ motivations, personalities, and character deficiencies is pretty much a waste of time for the purposes of this discussion.  Instead, I will concentrate on analyzing US, you and me- and just what it is about us that makes people walk all over us!  If we want to stop being taken advantage of, WE are the ones who have to change what we are doing.  We have to break the old patterns and relate to our birth-relatives in new ways.  THEY have no motivation to change.  They like everything just fine the way it is, because it is to their advantage, so they’re going to fight to maintain the status quo.  WE are the ones who desire change; therefore, WE are the ones who have to implement it.

           

 

YOUR ASSIGNMENT IS.....

 

              Every member of every family has a role to play, some are the “serious” ones, some are the “comedians”, some are the “wise ones” that others go to for advice, some are the ones who tend to take on a lot of responsibility (the givers) and some are those who happily let them (the takers).  In non-abusive families, things are a little more equal, and relatives are fair and maintain give-and-take relationships.  In normal families, although each person still has a “role”, the roles are flexible as circumstances change.  The giver may be the one cooking every family dinner most of the time, but if the giver gets the flu or goes away on a ski trip, those who normally eat the dinners will cheerfully take over and cook for a change.  It is natural for them to give the giver a break, and to care for the giver when the need arises. 

            The difference with abusive families is that these roles are rigid and unchanging, NO MATTER WHAT!  With selfish people who take advantage and exploit others for their own ends, once you allow yourself to take on the role of  family “giver”, that will be your assigned role FOR LIFE- and you will be giving until it hurts!  Not only will your family fail to do anything for you in return, they will also resist you doing anything for yourself.  Don’t plan on taking a dream vacation, retiring and relocating, getting sick, going back to college, or doing anything for yourself, especially if it will interfere with being a slave to your relatives. 

            We have heard numerous testimonies from sisters who have gotten up out of their sick beds to do favors for relatives, or hosted major holidays within a couple of weeks of having major surgery.  The selfish demands of these relatives knows no bounds. There seems to be few limits on how far they will go.  One could almost imagine lying in a hospital bed, deathly ill, and having a relative call you up and demand that you come home to take her shopping!

            I speak from personal experience when I say that any attempt on your part to give up some of the “giving”, once the habit is entrenched, will result in hostility, resentment, escalating demands, and possibly end with some of your relatives not speaking to you.  There is no logic to it, there will be no sense of fairness, and you will not be able to reason with them because they will be completely irrational.  In their minds, this is the way we’ve always done things, this is the way it’s always been, and this is the way it’s going to stay!  You have no right to change anything!

            That is not to say that you shouldn’t change anything, just because selfish relatives aren’t going to like it.   If you find yourself caught in this role far longer than you signed on for, and want and need to make some changes, by all means go for it.  There are no slaves anymore- it’s time you enjoyed the freedom you deserve.  Just be forewarned and prepared for the fallout from those selfish relatives, but don’t let it stop you.  It’s never too late to make some changes and enjoy some of your own life. 

            Learn to set and enforce limits and boundaries (see the section about this on our website) and get some supportive therapy to get you over the hump. Learn to accept your family’s disapproval, say “Oh, well”, and move on.  If your relatives only “love” you because you allow them to use you, you are better off without them.  Exploitation is not love.  Domination is not love.  Loving relationships do not break up because a giving person needs to take care of herself for a change, or expects a little in return once in a while.

 

            TWO KINDS OF TAKERS

 

            The first kind of taker is the person who has ALWAYS been a taker.  There are no surprises here- as long as anyone can remember, this was the “spoiled brat' relative- only now he may be 80 years old instead of 8!  People have kissed up to him, catered to him, and treated him like he was special his whole life.  Now, not only does he believe he’s more special than anyone else, everyone else believes it, too!  He thinks he’s the king, and the others are his subjects.  With someone like this, you need to lay low and avoid too much connection.  Make yourself scarce, stay in the background and let others cater to him if they want to.  This taker is almost easy to avoid.  He is easy to recognize because there is no doubt about what he is.  You can spot him a mile away.  He doesn’t even try to disguise his nature, and if he does, you can still see through him, so you have the advantage of seeing him for what he always was.  Avoid getting involved. With this person, as with all takers, you will be sucked dry!  As soon as you see him coming, that’s your chance to run for the hills!

            The second type of taker is more difficult to recognize and deal with, because she wasn’t always a taker.  She developed into one over time.  Somehow she discovered it was much more gratifying to receive than to give, so she’s decided to make a career out of taking.  Some have turned it into an art form, developing their talents of manipulation, guilt, and appearing pitiful so you will keep the attention and favors coming their way.

             Deep in your heart, you remember the way it used to be, when you had fun together, when you had a two-sided relationship that you enjoyed and benefited from as well.  The change may have been sudden, or it may have occurred gradually.  Without realizing it, you got sucked into the giver role with this person.  You’re not quite sure when and where you lost it, you don’t want to believe it’s gone, and you’re hoping any day now, things will go back to normal and you will enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship once again.  This is the taker who does take you by surprise, and it is a very unpleasant surprise.   You just wake up one day and realize that everything has changed, that your loving, give-and-take relationship has gone south, and the person you thought you could count on for support, caring, and advice, is now a full-fledged, blood-sucking, taker.

 

 

NOT ENOUGH  GIVERS TO GO AROUND
 

 

            The stubborn, rigid resistance to a change in the status quo is overwhelming in abusive families, and anyone who “rocks the boat” can expect to draw the ire of the other members, and be the target of their manipulation and abuse.  In any given family group, because so few members allow themselves to be exploited to this extent, most of the relatives fall into the “taker” category; hence, there are too few “givers” to go around.  Unconsciously, the family knows this and realizes their ability to keep on taking depends on keeping the giver in her place.  The stability and survival of the “pack” is at stake. 

            If one giver, or worse yet, the ONLY giver, rebels and decides to stop giving, or to not give as much or as often, then who is going to take over that role?  No one else wants to volunteer to be victimized all the time, that’s for sure.  If givers are permitted to stop giving, eventually the takers aren’t going to have anyone to take from. 

            No one can be permitted to disrupt the family hierarchy by deviating from her assigned role.  The “pecking order” has been established long ago and must be respected!  The kindest and most generous (translate: “weakest”) member is ganged up on by the others.  Think “Leave It To Beaver” meets “Lord of the Flies”.  The family bands together and lays on the guilt and pressure to discourage the giver from abandoning her assigned role, so they will still have someone left to use and exploit.  They want everything to remain as it has always been- advantageous to the takers, exhausting to the giver!  And they will fight tooth and nail to keep it that way.

THE “SUPERWOMAN” EXCUSES

 

            It is a HUGE MISTAKE to allow your family to think of you as “Super-Woman”, who can multi-task a dozen different chores, never get stressed out or exhausted, and handle anything and everything that gets thrown her way. 

            There are two excuses that takers and freeloaders often use to justify their selfishness. These excuses cause a “mental block” in their minds when it comes to reciprocating or sharing the burdens.  At times, they may even voice these thoughts to you, in so many words. 

            One is that they convince themselves that you really ENJOY doing all the work and WANT to do it all.  A variation on this theme is that they decide you like to CONTROL everything and don’t really WANT anyone else to “interfere” (translate: pitch in).  So they are actually DOING YOU A FAVOR by not helping out or taking any responsibility!

            The second roadblock that often causes others to hesitate about taking their turn at family obligations is that you appear so competent, you intimidate them.  They feel that their efforts will be compared to yours and they will come up short, either in their own minds, your mind, or other people’s minds, and their egos cannot handle that risk. 

            If they don’t do what they consider as good as job as you, it usually won’t be because of incompetence, but because they really didn’t want to spend all the money, devote all the time, or do all the work that you did- so they did a half-hearted job.  They pressure themselves to be competitive with you, but they really don’t want to expend the effort, so they just forget the whole thing and let you continue doing it all.

             

NIP EXPLOITATION IN THE BUD

            To the many younger Sisters who are just starting out in their adult lives, who perhaps are just getting married and starting to have children, or have started working and are living on their own for the first time, I have some advice for you.  DO NOT START ANY HABITS WITH YOUR FAMILY THAT YOU DO NOT PLAN ON CONTINUING FOR THE REST OF YOUR ADULT LIFE.  Do not allow something you don’t mind doing once in a while, or something you like to do occasionally, to turn into an obligation which you MUST do. 

        Sometimes, you are doing it willingly and enjoying it, never realizing that is it turning into your permanent job.  This is what happened to me.  Exploitation sneaks up on you.  One day you will wake up and find out that you no longer have a choice, and even if your circumstances change, you are still expected to do what you have always done, whether it is living in a certain location, hosting all the holidays, or being the one everyone else comes to for advice or money.              

        Although you can change things down the road, it will be much more difficult and cause you much more pain than if you just refuse to allow being the family “giver” to become a habit in the first place.  If you start your adult life right off alternating taking your parents to their doctor’s appointments with your brother, you will not be expected to shoulder the entire responsibility for their health care in the future.  If you move into your first new home, and start right off alternating the holidays between your house and your mother’s and sister’s, you have made known that you expect everyone to share the burdens as well as the pleasures of family gatherings equally, and you have established that routine right from the get-go.  It is much easier to never allow a particular routine to take root than it will be to undo the damage years down the line.  Prevention is nine-tenths of the cure.

                  At the start of your adult life, when you are setting the course for your future adult relationships, you may love being the giver.  It usually makes you very popular with the rest of the family (the takers), and wins you much approval from them.  You are trying to demonstrate your love, and let’s face it, doing so many things so well makes you feel proud, competent, and good about yourself.  But one day you will regret it, and being trapped into repeating the same “jobs” forever will get really old.  It may take decades before you wake up and realize that your kindnesses are no longer appreciated, but expected.  You will be stuck in the “giver” role, and it will be very hard to escape.

        In the testimonies we’ve discussed in this series, the truth is that each victim could have avoided volunteering for the victim role in the first place, right from the beginning.  The trouble, as I’ve mentioned, is that exploitation tends to sneak up on you. 

          

 

 Fairness and Sharing the Burdens -A Better Habit To Start

 

            Once you realize a habit has gotten started, can you do anything about it?  Absolutely, and quickly, before it gets even more firmly entrenched.  At any point along the many years of each testimony we have discussed, each victim could have taken steps to change the course of events and restore a give-and-take equality to the relationship, if only she had taken a step back and realized what was happening.   The key is to keep your antennae up for that subtle shift in the relationship, when your relatives are starting to take you for granted- when they are not giving back to you as much as you are giving to them.  It is most accurately referred to as a “power shift”.  That is the time to nip it in the bud by taking preventative actions.  Let’s look back at the testimonies we’ve discussed and think about what each victim could have done differently to affect the eventual outcome of her family issues.

 

Same Testimonies, Better Endings

 

SISTER LAURIE

 

            In our first testimony, Laurie willingly took on far too much responsibility when it really wasn’t necessary.  When Patty lived in Maryland, Laurie was not so far away that she couldn’t have packed up her family and gone to Patty’s house for half the holidays instead of volunteering to host them all herself.  As soon as she had hosted three or four holidays in a row, Laurie could have informed both her sister and her mother that she needed a rest and they would have to take over the next time.  Laurie did not communicate to Patty or their mother what SHE expected of THEM.

             For the family parties, Laurie should have made it clear to Patty that her presence was expected, as well as her financial contribution for their parents’ parties, but for years, Laurie led Patty slide.  There were things Patty could have helped with from a distance, like sending out all the invitations for her parent’s parties.  If Laurie was hosting a holiday or get-together, Patty could have arrived a day or two early and helped out. Over time, Patty came to believe that she didn’t have any obligation to her birth-family at all, and a major reason for this was that no one had ever voiced any disapproval of her disappearing act, nor made it clear to her that, even though she had moved, she still had family responsibilities, and that she was still expected to do her share.

            Laurie also needed to make other plans once in a while, instead of being available to be used  every single holiday.  A winter vacation with her husband and children every couple of years instead of spending every holiday with her parents would have given everyone the opportunity to get used to the idea that Laurie also had a life of her own, just like Patty.  Laurie would have also made the point that she had the RIGHT to another life, just like Patty did.  When her parents objected, she could have reminded them firmly that she wasn’t an only child and they did have another daughter and suggested that they make plans with Patty.  Family obligations did not have to be split 50/50 with Patty, but 100% Laurie and 0% Patty was a recipe for disaster.

            Laurie did finally do the right thing for herself and her husband by pursuing her dream and for that she should be applauded.  But her retirement move would have gone far more smoothly if her birth-family didn’t feel so entitled to exploit her because of her endless patience and willingness to be victimized.

 

SISTER JANICE

 

            Janice is another woman who willingly took on 100% of the family responsibility and let her brother get away with 0% for many years.  It is natural that a mother’s care falls to her daughter.  Both mother and daughter usually prefer it this way, and often enjoy their excursions and time together.  But what if mom had no daughter- only sons?  Who would take her to the doctor then?  Perhaps the mother is much more comfortable having her daughter take her to the doctor to discuss “women’s problems”, or maybe she really feels strange about going clothes shopping with a man.  This is understandable, but it is not understandable that her son cannot take mom to the dentist or food shopping either, if his sister is doing the rest.  Especially if one sibling is retired, it is not fair for the one who has to work to also cover all the family obligations, while the retired sib plays golf.

            The best way for Janice to have handled this, right in the beginning, was to choose a few chores she was willing and able to do for mom, given her work commitments, and inform mom of what they were.  If mom required anything else, Janice then needed to have MOM call Roy and ask him, just like mom had always managed to ask Janice.  It would have been much more difficult for Roy to turn down his mother than it was for him to turn down his sister.  And it could be said that mom should rightfully take some responsibility for raising Roy to be such an inconsiderate, uncaring, selfish, immature oaf who doesn’t even care about his own sister’s health, but we won’t go there!  But seriously, especially after  Roy was retired and had plenty of free time which she did not, Janice needed to subtly make sure that mom was getting to her important doctor’s appointments, and then back off and leave the rest up to mom and Roy. 

 

SISTER CAMILLE

 

            Camille and Ben’s story is just tragic and sad, and compounded greatly by their family’s hard hearts.  Again, perhaps they would have been appreciated more by not allowing Thanksgiving dinner for 40 people at their house EVERY year to become a “family tradition”.  After the first few years, it was time to make it known that it was now somebody else’s turn.  If no one else stepped up, then Camille and Ben could have started another, wonderfully rewarding “family tradition” of serving dinner to the homeless at a soup kitchen every Thanksgiving, where they surely would have been blessed and appreciated.  When Camille gave birth to Emily just a few weeks before this huge gathering, she could have very rightfully said it was just too much for her to take on and left it to the rest of the family to decide who was going to do what, while she recuperated from childbirth, took care of her baby, and rested up from getting no sleep with a new infant in the house.  But she failed to take advantage of this golden opportunity to introduce the idea of “doing their share” to her relatives.

            Camille fell into the “Superwoman Trap”.  Her willingness to continue being used by her relatives even though she had a wonderful and perfectly understandable reason to beg off after Emily’s birth, just reinforced their willingness to exploit her.  The mindset is that if she could do Thanksgiving after just having had a new baby, then why can’t she do it after just losing her husband?

            Camille’s family is really so inexcusably low that there is probably nothing she and Ben could have ever done to turn them into kind, thoughtful, caring people.  However, they could have avoided being taken advantage of for two decades by cultivating traditions with others.  If Camille and Ben had not allowed themselves to be taken for granted by 40 ungrateful freeloaders since they were first married, they might have started making different Thanksgiving plans, with normal people like their wonderful and generous neighbors, years earlier.  A much better “family tradition” to start would have been hosting their neighbors one year, and going to their neighbor’s house the next, and forgetting about their extended “family” altogether.

 

SISTER SARAH

 

            In Sarah and Beth’s case, Sarah could have declined to be Beth’s kids’ emergency contact, because she had young children that she did not want unnecessarily exposed to illnesses.  Believe it or not, Beth would have found someone else.  Maybe she could have worked out a reciprocal agreement with the mother of one of her children’s classmates.  The problem was that Beth did not want to EVER be stuck stopping whatever she was doing and going to school to pick up a sick kid- not even her own, much less someone else's.  So she sure wasn’t interested in sharing with another mother. 

            If refusing seemed too harsh to Sarah at the time, another solution would have been to compromise.  She could have agreed to pick up Beth’s kids on her days off only, but explained that she could not be disturbed at work and that Beth could not give the school her work number.  On Sarah’s work days, Beth would need to have an alternate contact. 

            Sarah could have agreed to pick up the kids no more often than once every two months.  She could then have suggested to Beth that she make sure several different people were on her emergency list, not just Sarah.  If she began getting called more frequently, unless there was a REAL emergency which genuinely warranted her involvement, the best thing for Sarah to have done was to let her answering machine take the call and not respond.  After all, what was going to happen if the nurse called and Sarah really wasn’t home?  She would simply call the next person on the list- or horrors, call Beth herself!  If no one could be reached, the nurse would take care of the child until she could contact a parent- that’s what she’s there for.  And in a true emergency, she would call 911. 

            Beth needed to take some responsibility for her own children and to make sure the school knew how to reach her or her husband, not someone else.  But she didn’t need to take any responsibility at all as long as she had her sister on call. 

            Another fair solution, which would have benefited both sisters, would have been for Beth to babysit Sarah’s children once in a while to thank Sarah for inconveniencing herself and risking her job and her kids’ health to pick up Beth’s kids.  Then Sarah could have gotten some shopping done, or gone to a doctor’s appointment without having to drag her kids along, but again, Beth was not looking to reciprocate, and Sarah was not bold enough to ask for it.  So Beth got into the habit of Sarah being the giver, while she was the taker, and when then tables were turned a few years down the road and Sarah needed her, Beth balked at this change in roles.

 

SISTER THERESA

 

            In Theresa’s case, she needed to set limits early on the amount of free time she could devote to Danielle.  Like all narcissists, Danielle did not understand that Theresa had another life beyond her and her needs.  Theresa needed to refuse dinnertime calls, for instance. She needed to inform Danielle that she had plans and would not be available to talk at certain times. Screening calls with the answering machine and calling Danielle back when convenient would have avoided Danielle getting into the habit of thinking that Theresa was going to drop everything any and every time she wanted to talk.

            Another option for making it clear to Danielle that Theresa wasn’t just there to be used by her, would have been if Theresa spent more time talking about her life instead of just listening to Danielle.  It probably would have been necessary to interrupt one of Danielle’s monologues and state point-blank that she wanted to talk about some things as well, or that she would like a turn to tell Danielle how her day went.  Danielle’s response would have clued Theresa in much earlier as to whether they could establish a truly give-and-take relationship, or if it was always going to have to be all about Danielle.

            Somewhere along the line, Danielle had morphed into a drama-queen.  Her issues went from being acute to chronic.  Problems which should have been short-term and easily solvable, were dragging on forever.  Danielle had lost interest on actually solving any of her problems, in fact, it was to her advantage to keep them going on and on because she was loving the attention and sympathy she was getting from Theresa.  She turned every small thing into an ongoing situation, and when she had squeezed every last drop of mileage she could out of a particular problem, she simply went on to the next one.  Most of the things she got herself all worked up over were normal issues that everyone copes with in their lives without making such a big deal.  The “situations” she found herself involved in were ordinary and even boring, but because of her exaggerated sense of entitlement, she persisted in blowing them all up out of proportion and then expecting to use them to monopolize Theresa’s time and attention.

            Theresa’s problem, on the other hand, was failing to recognize the point at which this began happening, and to start setting limits before Danielle got completely out of hand.  Like all such victims, Theresa was left asking herself, “Where did I go wrong?” when she had her life-crisis and Danielle couldn’t have cared less.  She was stunned that Danielle had no interest in supporting her, and shocked by Danielle’s anger at not getting all the attention she was used to during the time when Theresa needed to deal with her crisis.  For years, the inequality in their relationship had been progressing, but in this case, because it happened slowly, Theresa did not recognize it.  Finally it progressed to the point where Danielle felt entitled to all of Theresa’s time and attention no matter what else was going on in Theresa’s life, and Theresa realized then that she had indeed created a monster.

 

SISTER MARYANN

 

            And lastly, we come to Maryann and Mike.  Maryann’s fatal mistake was having mom come to live with her in the first place.  There was absolutely NO need for this at the time.  Mom was, and still is, healthy, competent, vital, and still drives.  She used the death of her husband to guilt Maryann into letting her move in because she “didn’t want to live alone.”  To this day, there is absolutely no reason why she cannot maintain her own household.

            When mom did move in, no limits were set.  Mom was not appreciative that she was a guest. She decided it was her place to push Maryann aside and be the matriarch in her daughter’s home.  Mom has a controlling and manipulative personality, which is the main reason she lacks a social life with friends her own age, and Maryann and Mike allowed her to take over their household.  They had expected mom to cook for herself and watch her own TV shows- that is why they built her a kitchen and provided her with her own living room.  But when she balked, they welcomed mom to join them for meals and evening relaxation. They had assumed she would prefer to stay independent and that they would have some privacy and family time with their kids, but when it wasn’t working out that way, they did nothing to make it happen. 

            Important issues like this need to be discussed and agreed upon BEFORE you take a relative into your home.  Even after she moved in, Maryann and Mike could have insisted on some privacy by simply telling mom she was welcome to eat with them or sit with them for three or four evenings a week, and that she would need to make other plans the rest of the time.  Maryann should not have thought twice about asking mom to excuse her when she wanted some privacy on the phone or to have a conversation with Mike or one of her children.  Somewhere along the line, Maryann lost sight of the fact that this was HER house.  She just surrendered control of her home, her family, and her life, to her domineering mother. 

            Mom did play the poor pitiful widow well, so it can be difficult to see her for what she is and admit that she is domineering.  Domineering people don’t necessarily have abrasive, forceful, overbearing, or aggressive personas.  Many come across as sweet, harmless, sympathetic figures in one respect or another, but if you consider what they manage to convince you to do for them, you will realize that they are indeed controlling and dominating you.  This is called “manipulation” and most takers are highly skilled and extremely clever at it.

            Financial compensation was never discussed, another issue which should have been  settled BEFORE any moves were made.  Maryann and Mike fed another person every night, did her laundry, and paid for all the utilities that mom enjoyed. They took out a second mortgage and footed the entire bill for adding mom’s apartment onto their house, and absorbed the resulting increase in property taxes, heat, air-conditioning, and insurance without complaint as well.  All this while mom lived with them, rent-free, after selling her home for a nice piece of change.   Where else could she have lived without paying rent, mortgage, utilities, and taxes? Mom had a generous retirement income and dad’s former employer paid for her private health insurance.  Yet Maryann was reluctant to ask her mother for money, and so she didn’t.  And mom didn’t offer.  Mom was not oriented to thinking that way, because she is a TAKER.  “Need” is not the issue-other people are EXPECTED to do for her.

            So yes, Maryann and Mike should have insisted that mom chip in for the groceries and pay rent- if not the going rate, then at least a fair sum.  And the proceeds from the sale of her house should have been used to finance the construction of mom’s apartment, rather than Maryann and Mike burdening themselves financially by taking on another mortgage.  Mom did not even do any chores to help out.  There was no reason why she couldn’t have done the laundry, for instance, or some of the cleaning.

            As long as Maryann’s mother was living with her, she should have expected her sister and brother to pitch in somehow, if not significantly, with the family obligations.  Since she had taken in their mother, then perhaps all the holidays could have been at her brother’s house, and sis could have taken mom on a two-week vacation every year.  Or she could have informed her family that she would be expecting mom to spend one weekend a month at each of her other children's homes.  This would have given Maryann and her family two weekends a month to themselves, and made the point to mom and the other siblings that Maryann was not an only child, and that she wasn’t going to do everything while the others did nothing.  Letting her sister and brother think that they were going to have a free ride while she did everything for their mother, without them contributing anything at all, set the stage for their refusal to pitch in when she wanted to take her cruise.  By then, they didn’t think she had the RIGHT to expect them to do anything.

            Another mistake was for Maryann to take it upon herself to contact her siblings and ask them to “take care of” their perfectly fine, able-bodied mother while she was away.  Maryann was in denial about their selfishness.  The stark reality was that they had never done a single thing in all those years to relieve Maryann or help out mom.  Why would she think they’d help out  now?

            Further, there was absolutely no good reason why mom couldn’t have managed just fine on her own for the ten days. Why even put the thought in mom’s head that she couldn’t? If she had any problems, Maryann’s brother and sister were nearby. If mom thought she needed to be “taken care of”, it was her place to call her other children.  Maryann should never have put herself in the middle- she was just borrowing trouble.  It would have been far better to just inform mom she was going, tell mom to call her other kids if she needed anything, and say “see you in ten days”, rather than putting herself in the position of having to defend her decision to take a well-deserved vacation and wind up arguing with her entire family.

 

Undoing The Damage Once a Habit Takes Root

 

OPEN YOUR EYES

 

            Chances are someone you love is a taker, because almost all families are comprised of mostly takers, and one or two unfortunate givers.  So if you are a giver, the probability that just about everyone you love is a taker is very high.  Perhaps hardest of all, is to take off the rose-colored glasses, and see those we love as they really are.  This is especially difficult when a relationship that was once two-sided gradually shifts to being one-sided over time, because often we don’t realize it is happening.  We would all prefer not to believe that those we love are selfish users, but wishing doesn’t make it so. 

            Although it is painful to admit that a parent or sibling is exploiting us, burying our heads in the sand and choosing to ignore reality is not going to give us that big, happy family we all wish for and deserve.  What is going to happen is that we are going to be worn out, used, and abused for years, until one day, for some reason, we need to break the usual pattern.  Then our family’s true colors will come out, they will become nasty, demanding, and angry, things will get ugly, and the big family blow-up we were hoping to avoid all along will happen anyway.  The only difference will be that, if we had not volunteered to be the family patsy years earlier, things might have still gotten ugly when we set our limits back then, but at least we would have spared ourselves years of unappreciated slavery.

            While we certainly don’t want to keep score of every favor and expect tit-for-tat payback, never underestimate the value of setting a “one hand washes the other” precedent early on.  You should not expect your relative to “re-pay” you each and every time you do something for him.  But every fourth or fifth time, you should expect someone else to take a turn, just so it’s not ALWAYS you!  Relatives need to be reminded of their family obligations, and that they are expected to share the responsibilities and burdens as well as the fun.  Before our families get into the complacency habit, and learn to just sit back and be waited on, we need to make it very clear that we expect everyone to pitch in and share because we have no intention of doing it all!

 

TRY A LITTLE EXPERIMENT

 

 

           Think of something that your relatives just take for granted you will always do. Pick something that has become your permanent job, and, next time it comes up, shake things up a little. Surprise everyone by doing something unexpected, and then pay close attention to their reactions.

 
 
 

    If Christmas is ALWAYS at your house, for instance, try an experiment this year.  Don’t invite anybody.  Don’t mention it.  Just don’t bring it up. See how long it takes your family to bring it up.  And note what they say when they do bring it up.  Do they just assume you’re going to host it, as always? (“What time should we be there on Christmas?”)  Do they think that maybe you just haven’t gotten around to calling them? (“Haven’t heard from you yet about Christmas, so I figured I’d give you a call.  What’s on the menu?”) Or does it even enter their heads that perhaps YOU are the one waiting for an invitation this time? (“You know, you’ve had us all for Christmas for the last five years, how about coming to OUR house this year?”)  If they call but do not invite you, be bold!  Tell them firmly that you’re tired of always hosting the holidays, you figure it’s their turn this year, and ask what time they want YOU to be there! 

 

 

STOP VOLUNTEERING TO BE EXPLOITED

 

            The hardest thing for a giver to learn is to STOP VOLUNTEERING for everything.  Your reputation for being the good-natured, reliable patsy that the family can always count on is killing you!  Give up your need for everyone’s approval!  You shouldn’t have to earn your family’s love!   Just DON’T DO IT.  Sit back. Hesitate.  Buy time. When you are about to take on yet another chore, bite your tongue!  Give someone else a chance. 

            If someone imposes on you, don’t allow guilt to rule you.  Learn to say no.  You don’t have to agree to everything- you are allowed to turn down other people’s requests.  Think first.  Come up with other solutions.  Suggest ways in which everyone can do their share, and if they refuse, then DON’T STEP IN and do it all.  It is not your job to fix everything!  It is not your job to solve everyone else’s problems!  Let the chips fall where they may, but don’t YOU do it. (“ Yes,  mom, I know there’s no pumpkin pie tonight- Kelly didn’t bring it, so you’ll have to discuss it with her.”) 

            If someone dies, stay calm and think before you invite his perfectly healthy, independent spouse to give up her home and move in with you.  Do not make any decisions for at least a year after a major loss.  If dad passes away, by all means, YOU move in with mom for a couple of weeks until she gets her bearings.  Help her with paperwork and donating dad’s clothes to the thrift shop.   When you’re ready to go home, set up a schedule of frequent visits and calls.  Ask her friends, neighbors, and other relatives to look in on her.  Invite her to visit you FOR A FEW DAYS in a month or two.  Make sure your siblings know that they are expected to do the same.  But whatever you do, do not, while the family is in a highly emotional state, sell mom’s house and move her in with you.  The biggest favor you can do for mom is to encourage her to stay independent, have a social life in her own town, and make friends her own age.  Down the road,  if mom’s health or mental abilities begin to decline, you can always rethink this.  The key is not to take on any major family responsibilities BEFORE it is actually necessary, or if there are ANY other viable solutions. 

 

DISCERN THE SITUATION

 

            Analyze and anticipate when a favor or responsibility you may agree to do has the potential for becoming your JOB.  Then decide if you are still willing to take it on, knowing you’ll be expected to continue doing it forever.  Just because you don’t mind doing something once in a while, doesn’t mean you’re going to appreciate it becoming your permanent assignment.

            Be alert for subtle shifts in your relationships, from two-sidedness to one-sidedness, and take appropriate steps to restore the balance between you and your loved one before things get ugly. 

            Be willing to support a loved one going through an ACUTE AND SERIOUS CRISIS.  However, barring serious illnesses, set limits on your availability for ongoing, chronic problems that never seem to be getting any better.  See clearly when a relative is always making mountains out of molehills.  Realize when someone has become a drama-queen and refuse to let her take over your life and drain you or overwhelm you with her “problems”.  When was the last time you had a two-hour conversation with this person that was all about YOUR problems?

            Periodically assess your relationships for reciprocity.  When we love someone, we jump to help out whenever there’s a hint of need.  If this is our concept of showing family love, then it follows that if THEY love US, they’ll be jumping to help us out whenever we have a need, as well!  If they don’t care about our needs, then we need to admit we are in the middle of a one-sided relationship, and start changing things.

 

BE LIKE THE LITTLE CHILDREN

 

            For another lesson in group dynamics, take a trip down memory lane back to childhood, or think of the last time you observed children playing together.  Periodically, the din of activity, laughter, and giggles will be punctuated with a child loudly proclaiming, “IT’S MY TURN, NOW!”  And shortly thereafter, the others let that child have her turn.  There are no hard feelings.  Everyone gets to take a turn, and anyone who doesn’t think they are being treated fairly will protest.  After a child gets her turn, she will then allow another child to have a turn. 

            Selfish children who refuse to share are avoided and wind up with no one to play with.  Left to themselves, children make and enforce their own rules about taking turns and sharing.   There may be a spat or two, but in the long run, groups of kids play together peacefully, treat each other fairly, enjoy each other’s company, and remain friends, even though each one insists on getting her turn.  Understanding that they must take turns is natural to those who wish to remain a part of the group.

            Years ago, we were one of those children on the playground. We had no problem insisting on our turn, and protesting if we didn’t get it.  We never thought of ourselves as “selfish” for demanding our turn, we simply thought that’s what was fair.  We insisted on being treated fairly- and it worked!  When did we lose that ability to stand up for ourselves?  When did we stop believing we have the right to be treated fairly in our relationships?  Somewhere along the road to adulthood, did we decide it was a sign of “maturity” to let others walk all over us without ever putting a stop to it, or even protesting?

            When someone we love is a taker, or has become one, we need to admit it to ourselves, recognize it for what it is, and take steps to remedy the situation, and bring some equality back into the relationship before it deteriorates to the extreme of the testimonies we have discussed.  We need to pay attention to what is going on in our relationships.  We need to stop allowing ourselves to be taken for granted before we “create a monster”.  It is not selfish to expect others to give back to us in return once in a while.  It is the only way to prevent a very unhealthy pattern from developing.  Let’s not let the takers become so firmly entrenched in taking that they no longer give.  Exploitation is a habit that never has to get started in the first place.  And if it already has, then it’s not too late to kick the habit. 

            Dear Sister, you are not a slave.  You are under the dominion of no man, or woman.  The only one we serve is the Lord!  Step up and take your rightful place as a daughter of the King!  Glory to God! 

 

 

            No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon…..Luke 16:13KJV

       Don’t you realize that whatever you choose to obey becomes your master?...Romans 6:16NLT

       Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than human authority”…Acts 5:29

       But you are not to be called “Rabbi”, for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth “father”, for you have one Father and he is in heaven…Matthew 23:8-9NIV

       Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord….Ephesians 6:4NIV

       Father, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged…Colossians 3:21NIV

       For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord’s freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ’s slave….1 Corinthians 7:22NIV

       Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve….Matthew 4:10KJV

 

       Blessed Holy Spirit, thank you for your word and for your grace to complete this article.  Use it according to your will- thy will be done, Abba Father.  I praise you, Lord. I worship you, King Jesus.  May I decrease so that you may increase. All honor and glory is yours, Lord.  Amen.

 

            For more help and ideas, please read the sections on our website on Setting and Enforcing Limits and Boundaries, Happier Holidays, Claiming the Victory, and the book reviews in Reading Spotlight.

           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright 2002-2017.-All articles on this site are copyrighted. Permission to copy is granted for non-profit use only.Please help yourself to anything we write if you can use it to help others. A link back to this site is our only requirement. Please contact us for any commercial or other use. All e-mails, letters, and other correspondence become the property of Luke 17:3 Ministries, Inc. Due to the large volume of e-mails, we're sorry that we are unable to personally answer every one, but we do lift everyone who writes to us in prayer to the Lord.
The Lord specifically called Sister Renee to minister to Adult Children, not their parents, estranged siblings or friends, abusive or abused spouses, or victims of other types of abuse, although what we write here can often be meaningful for those folks as well. Because of this, our ministry and website have a narrow focus which we will not be changing. We simply can't cover everything. In addition, it is not our purpose to help you re-establish contact with someone who felt it was necessary to cut you off for the sake of their own well-being. We do not keep a list of resources for estranged parents or any other type of abuse and suggest if you are sincerely interested in making amends with an estranged relative, you do an internet search for a website or group that will be more relevant to you. If you cannot find a group or site that you can relate to, we suggest you start your own, and bless other people in your position as well as find support for your personal issues. 
For Adult Children and others as well, please understand that we cannot give you personal advice concerning your particular family relationships.  We are not therapists or lawyers, we usually do not have enough information to form an opinion, and time does not permit us to give enough thought to each person's individual situation to do it justice. If you need personal advice, we urge you to contact the appropriate professional, depending on the problem you have- your minister, therapist, attorney, police department, local domestic violence hotline, etc. In reading this site, you acknowledge that nothing you might read here qualifies as or substitutes for professional advice. Please note we cannot recommend or refer you to a counselor and we do not have a list of therapists or recovery groups in your area. The only Counselor we recommend is the Holy Ghost, and we encourage you to read the Bible and learn for yourself what the Lord says about the issues we write about.
Our articles are strictly our personal opinions and testimonies and are not intended to give or offer any advice. All who access this site do so with the understanding that we are NOT professional counselors and we strongly recommend that you discuss your individual situation with your pastor or therapist and pray for the Lord's guidance before acting on anything we write on this site. Unfortunately, the abuse we discuss is all too common, inflicted on countless victims by countless perpetrators. All names and identifying details in our articles have been changed to protect the innocent as well as the guilty. Any resemblance to a real person or persons whom you might know is strictly coincidental.