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Cutting These People Out Of My Life Has Been The Best Decision Ever

These are the people I stopped speaking to seven years ago.

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gif illustration of scissors cutting off branches from bonsai tree, removing people
Eden Weingart
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It’s been seven years since I've spoken to my siblings and in-laws. At times, the silence is deafening, but mostly, I feel relief. Removing myself from the toxic relationship we shared was necessary for my mental health and a decision that I don't — and never will — regret.

We were once a close-knit family of six that spent our afternoons playing tag in the backyard and evenings gathered around the television to watch reruns of The Three Stooges. The youngest of four children, I adored my older sisters and brother. We had the usual sibling squabbles but, for the most part, enjoyed each other's company in a home filled with fun and laughter.

There was more drama as adults — most of it involving relationships with the siblings’ spouses. It seemed like our home had a revolving door with the number of divorces and second marriages my sisters and brother went through, causing shifts in the family dynamics.

Despite these changes, my husband and I remained open-minded and welcomed each new spouse into the family with open arms.

That changed after my brother Robbie married his second wife, Kris. They were happy at first, but it wasn't long before we noticed she had a quick temper and narcissistic traits. She often belittled my brother publicly and, if that wasn't enough, aimed her thinly veiled insults at my sisters and me under the guise of "constructive criticism." Nothing was off limits. Kris targeted our marriages, homes, parenting styles, jobs and even our physical appearance.

Another red flag was her inability to be happy about anyone else's success if it stole her spotlight. She became irritable and sulked when she wasn't the center of attention. For this reason, many of our family gatherings were strained, but my parents ignored Kris' behavior to avoid further drama. Robbie seemed oblivious to his wife's rudeness, but his unhappy demeanor spoke volumes. He had become a cynical, angry man and was nothing like the easy-going brother I remembered. When my sisters finally attempted an honest conversation with Kris about her attitude toward them, their directness was met with months of silence and toxic gossip. I was not as brave as my sisters and allowed Kris' passive-aggressive remarks toward me to continue for years without defense.

Raised with my parent's "turn the other cheek" philosophy, I tried to ignore my sister-in-law's criticism, but that only made me an easier target. And Kris knew precisely where to aim — straight for my Achilles heel (my children), often berating me for my "boring occupation" as a stay-at-home mother. The thought of staying home to raise kids was a foreign concept to her — she was a workaholic who was very proud of her income and made sure we knew it.

Unfortunately, I was foolish enough to let her judgmental arrows hit their mark, allowing her criticism to lead me down a path of self-doubt about my identity as a parent. My brother's marital stress became more apparent over the years until one night, he confided to my husband that he was unhappy. But he never had the chance to improve his relationship with Kris after a series of events that caused further cracks in our family foundation.

Robbie suffered a major stroke, followed by the unexpected death of my father and oldest sister. Without a patriarch to hold our family together (and Robbie's complete dependence on his wife), Kris became more powerful and manipulative. I should have challenged her authority like my sister often did, but I was too intimidated by her temper and bullying. I had my limit, though, and when Kris decided to boycott my daughter's baby shower, I had enough.

Rather than confront me about something that upset her, Kris called my mother the morning of the party and accused me of gossiping about one of her children — something completely false. She also made derogatory remarks about my sister, and my mother was in tears by the time the baby shower started. It was as if a switch flipped inside me, and I wondered why I'd surrendered my dignity for so many years to such a cold, calculating woman. Suddenly, everything became clear when I realized Kris needed to be in control and belittled others to mask her own insecurities.

I knew in that instant that I had to cut all ties with my sister-in-law, even if it meant sacrificing my relationship with my brother. In time my sister admirably forgave Kris's behavior, mending their relationship, and expected me to do the same to be one big happy family again. But I couldn't return to the unhealthy atmosphere of feigned happiness when my mental well-being was at stake. Nor would I apologize for something I never did based on false gossip from a narcissistic in-law who was gaslighting the family.

My unwillingness to make amends caused a rift between my sister and me — to the point that we rarely spoke anymore. It was the same with my brother, except for a few occasions when we ran into each other and shared a brief, awkward conversation. But there was always an emptiness in his eyes as if all the light had gone, leaving nothing but the burden of his regret.

When my mother became gravely ill, I ran into my siblings and in-laws at the hospital. Through forced smiles, I pretended that all was well for my mother's sake, but once I left the hospital, I felt like I could finally breathe again. Sitting in my car that day, I realized that my conflicts with my family went beyond my dislike of Kris. I had changed in ways my family could never accept. They were staunch Christians with conservative policies and corporate jobs. I was the wild child with progressive views, purple hair and tattoos who refused to conform to the outdated perception of who they expected me to be.

Other than the fact that we share the same DNA, the glue of our commonality had deteriorated. Trying to patch our differences with a unicorn bandage and artificial kindness to appear as a united family was pointless. We had outgrown one another, and the decision to keep our distances needed to be respected.

After Mom passed away, there was a bit of haggling over her estate, but most disagreements were quickly resolved. However, I was shocked when my sister called one night about a gold ring missing from my mother's jewelry box — an item that had been promised to Kris. She

warned that I'd need a lawyer if the ring wasn't found soon. It was her not-so-gentle way of telling me the family suspected I stole from my mother as revenge against my sister-in-law. I was shaking with anger after the call, stunned by the accusation and my family's disdain. If they thought me capable of thievery, they never really knew me.

They found the ring several days later in my mother's bathroom drawer, but none of them apologized. Instead, they acted as if nothing had happened and went about the business of dividing up Mom's belongings.

When I walked out of that house for the last time, the weight of my anger quickly melted away. I was finally free of the negativity and judgment hanging over me like an albatross for so many years. On a quiet Sunday morning last fall, my brother passed away. Grief washed over me upon hearing the news from a nephew, but I took comfort in knowing Robbie was at peace after years of lingering complications from his stroke.

Once the date of his funeral was announced, Kris had her adult children inform me that my husband, children and I were not to sit near her family at the funeral nor attend the brunch she hosted after the service. I understood and respected her decision — it would have been hypocritical to expect anything more. Instead, I watched the church service from eight rows back with my own family as we sat beside one another in silent solidarity. As bad as I felt for Kris, my heart hurt more for my nieces and nephews, who had lost their beloved father.

After the service, I headed outside, briefly pausing to look back at the church. My sister was in the doorway, her arm wrapped protectively around Kris's shoulders. I felt no resentment — only relief that at least they had each other for comfort. Watching them embrace, I realized that blood wasn't always thicker than water, but forgiveness went a long way in boosting my resiliency and inner peace. My husband held out his hand and asked if I was ready to go home. I looked at my children standing beside him and smiled. My heart had already found its way home.

Have any of you stopped speaking to a family member? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow Article Topics: Relationships