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Being bullied by close family - how did you put a stop to it?

(59 Posts)
Ramblingrose22 Mon 31-Aug-20 12:01:58

I want to cover families only, not workplace bullying, although I know that both are another form of abuse and equally upsetting, disempowering and deplorable.

Given that bullies are often damaged personalities I've often wondered if their undesirable and inappropriate behaviour can really be stopped.

I am interested in hearing if anyone on the receiving end has managed to put a stop to it once and for all without having to use the nuclear option of no further contact.

Perhaps their answers would help other Gransnetters who are suffering this type of abuse.

Namsnanny Mon 31-Aug-20 12:49:27

Sorry to be negative but my answer would be a big fat NO.
I think the saying leopards dont change their spots is true where bullies (family or otherwise) are concerned.
My experience anyway!

Starblaze Mon 31-Aug-20 12:56:34

No, sorry. Maybe there is something I didn't try...

I kept all interactions positive.

I tried not giving any personal information that could be used against me.

I tried explaining if something hurt me calmly and kindly whilst emphasising that they were important to me and I wanted a good relationship

I tried all the forgiveness and letting go

I tried having less contact

I generally made a huge effort to be a great daughter/sister

All for YEARS

It got worse not better and if someone is a genuine bully and enjoys hurting you, I don't think anything stops it unless you do

Susan56 Mon 31-Aug-20 13:07:54

Starblaze,I could have written your post.I spent years using all the tactics you used in trying to keep a relationship going with my elder brother and sister in law and in the end decided the only way forward was to stop seeing them.

There was no drama,we just stopped seeing them about six years ago.Almost immediately I felt like a burden had lifted.

My sister in law was the main culprit and has alienated many people but my brother enables her bad behaviour.Sad but my whole little family feels better without them in our lives.

Hithere Mon 31-Aug-20 13:08:13

If the bully realizes he/she needs help and changes, there could be hope.

Otherwise, you stand up for yourself and remove yourself from the bully's presence. If it means they don't want to change, too bad they choose not to have a relationship with you.

greengreengrass Mon 31-Aug-20 13:11:07

Yes agree, kind of like if someone threatens to beat you with a stick, no good fighting back as it runs the risk of you getting hurt too.

The sane answer is to take the stick away. Meaning either low or no contact.

lovebeigecardigans1955 Mon 31-Aug-20 13:13:18

It's very difficult, as Nams has said - leopards don't change their spots. My dear late husband noticed that I always seemed upset after visiting my parents - due to a controlling and bullying father. DH arranged for us to move house so that we were at a distance to get us away from the situation.

The best thing is to try not to give a bully ammunition - easier said than done. My dad loved to argue. The worst thing (for him) was saying that you had no strong feelings "for it or agin it" then he had nothing to fight against. A practiced bully has a way of getting under your skin and they're simply doing it for entertainment value. After upsetting people they walk away unscathed as it's just a game to them.

OTOH you could give as good as you get and watch them squirm if you're really cruel - but you're not are you? They know that basically you're too decent to behave like that.

Starblaze Mon 31-Aug-20 13:42:58

My husband and I used to joke that my mum was poisoning me because I was ill every time I saw her and occasionally other times.

I went to the doctor and had IBS. I still get it at times but not anywhere near the way I used to.

Its not just an emotional toll it takes, bullying and abuse has physical consequences too that we often aren't aware of as connected to the issue. Anxiety, stress and depression all have mental and physical symptoms.

Sometimes that's just not a toll worth paying if you are dealing with a person who just hurts you because they enjoy it rather than something else they have going on they struggle to control.

Smileless2012 Mon 31-Aug-20 13:48:03

Totally agree with Hithere.

Ramblingrose22 Mon 31-Aug-20 14:00:04

Thanks to those who have replied so far.

The bully I am thinking of gets hysterical and uses threats and intimidation. She is neurotic and a control freak and will do anything to get her own way.

She does this because it works with a lot of people. They find her manner so frightening and unpleasant that they give in to her just to end the conversation.

We have tried telling her to calm down and she shouts back through gritted teeth "I am calm" so that gets us nowhere! Perhaps a better tactic would have be to say "I can't have a conversation with you when you are so worked up. You need some time to calm down. I will go now and speak to you when you are calmer."

A more assertive version of this would be "You are shouting at me and are hysterical. I will not listen to people who shout at me. If you want to speak to me, speak calmly and I will listen to what you have to say."

I will keep an eye on this thread in case someone has a way that worked for them.

Starblaze Mon 31-Aug-20 14:09:32

Ramblingrose if she doesn't like to be told she is angry despite you thinking she is, might be better to say something a bit less inflamitary...

People don't like being told how they feel, it makes it worse.

Some people would tell you that I come across hurt when I am angry and angry when I am hurt. The ones who know me well lol

Honestly I would suggest just listening until the steam runs out and then if you don't know what to say, ask to go away and think about it.

Active listening and validating that people feel the way they do, even if you don't agree they should feel that way, often calms things down.

Smileless2012 Mon 31-Aug-20 14:23:53

And there in lies the problem Ramblingrose "She does this because it works with a lot of people".

It's difficult to know what to advise, not knowing what your relationship with this family member is, that said IMO the more assertive approach is the right one.

Threatening and intimidating behaviour is out of order and waiting for her to 'get it out of her system' is tantamount to saying that it's OK to behave in that way.

If she sees that she will not be listened too when she behaves this way, that may be enough to encourage her to make some changes.

M0nica Mon 31-Aug-20 14:24:21

Fortunately I have never suffered bullying at home, but I did face a bullying manager at work once. He got me into a small office with glass walls for maximum exposure. We briefly discussed a fairly minor problem with a member of my staff and then he got going on his well known shouting and humiliation ritual. When it started I looked at him hard and then got up and walked out of the room. It had never occurred to anyone to do that before. He was completely non-plussed and he never did anything like that to me again.

Reading your post above, Rambling Rose, and the others. Why do you waste time and emotion trying to reason with such people, they are immune to reason and you are only serving their purpose in engaging with them and trying to kind and reasonable? Next time they start winding themselves up and getting noisy and unpleasant, just turn your back on them and walk out of the room - and keep doing that until they get the message. It could take a lifetime, but it would save you a lot of hassle.

Tea3 Mon 31-Aug-20 14:28:37

It took me years, decades even, to realise my elder brother has always thought of we three (not much) younger siblings in the same way as he did as a child. He's been encouraged in this dismissive, mocking attitude by a sociopathic father. During a family trauma, ten years ago, I was so irritated with my brother that I didn't contact him for ages. He didn't contact me either but made sure my name was mud around the extended family. After a few years we both came face to face at a family event and I just spoke to him normally. He struggled to say anything and looked daggers at me the whole afternoon. A few family funerals later and he is able to interact in a way that passes for normal for him with his siblings. Sometimes I wish I'd cut him out of my life for good. Mostly I find there is less stress in not having everyone think we are at daggers drawn. There are plenty of folk in the family ready to pour on petrol, enjoy the spectacle etc although that may be a speciality of my family only! So my experience is that childhood jealousies and resentments never go away and it's no good trying to engage.

Tea3 Mon 31-Aug-20 14:31:59

MOnica - your post went up whilst I was typing mine. I completely agree with your last paragraph re what a waste of time and emotion!

dontmindstayinghome Mon 31-Aug-20 14:43:58


You could be describing my daughter. I would gladly just walk away and let her get on with it but she has a young child who would suffer if we walked out of her life.

I have taken significant 'steps back' and things are definitely getting better. She knows now that I will no longer 'lend' money - which we never get back and I no longer just go out and buy things that she says her daughter needs.

If she starts ranting at me I just leave, I also just cut her off if she starts when on the phone.

Unfortunately my husband is very weak and gives in to her all the time (probably the reason she is the way she is). He will always hand over cash when she asks for it- it drives me mad! So unfortunately its an ongoing battle.

Starblaze Mon 31-Aug-20 15:14:22

I found a good link that explains it, it really is a useful skill for anyone in any situation but it can diffuse arguments before they even start.

I learnt about this recently and find it very helpful in all areas and especially with my children as adults/teens

It also stops you reacting by focusing on what they are saying... When people are trying to push your buttons or wind you up in to saying or doing something you regret so they can make you look/feel bad... It helps you stay calm, centred and grounded.

Ramblingrose22 Mon 31-Aug-20 15:21:02

Some interesting replies.

Starblaze- I agree with you that telling her she is angry/shouting/hysterical could be inflammatory but if I let her go on and on she'd think I was prepared to listen to her nonsense for as long as she wants.

M0nica - I have no intention of trying to reason with her. She is completely irrational anyway. My plan is to focus only on her behaviour and inform her that it is unacceptable. I am not going to discuss anything that she wants to talk/shout about.

Tea3 - sorry to hear about your issues with your brother. You are right about childhood jealousies never going away. This has a lot to do with what has been happening. I am resented for being clever and knowing more. It's been going on for years and making me feel upset is one way of getting back at me for this.

dontmindstaying home - your daughter is just being manipulative. It's good that you are able to walk out. People hate being ignored mid-rant!!! A shame that your DH is weak and gives in to her. It's like the person I complain of - they do it because they know it works.

I suppose half the battle is to move beyond the "I shouldn't be treated like this" feeling, which just adds to the stress and upset caused and to move on to accepting that I am dealing with a damaged personality who is incapable of change and put up a barrier so she knows that I will not listen to it anymore.

Starblaze Mon 31-Aug-20 15:26:05

PS i've taken to active listening to comments on social media too and its often very helpful when people are trying to wind you up to read the comment a few times or very slowly instead of just reacting to the one bit of the comment you don't like...

You can then respond calmly or not respond or just not read that person's comment at all if a pattern emerges.

Helpful for people that cannot be avoided in life and always leaves you the better person

geekesse Mon 31-Aug-20 15:28:31

If one is a younger generation than the bully, the ultimate way to escape is to outlive them. That works really well, in my experience.

If they are one’s own generation or younger, the toddler treatment does the trick. Completely fail to react to bad (bullying) behaviours, but respond positively and generously to acceptable behaviour. People who are bullies don’t stop being bullies, but they pick and choose their victims, and if you refuse to respond as a victim, they give up trying to bully you.

Tea3 Mon 31-Aug-20 15:41:07

Starblaze - I read the article. This probably works if you are speaking with a normal, balanced ( non family member maybe) human being. My brother's conversational MO has always been to engage in every conversation about anything as a game that he is going to win. It was calmly detaching myself from a very upsetting exchange with him that led to the coolness in the first place - 'the little sister was not playing by his rules any more'. He is very wary of me these days so...
Ramblingrose22 you are right about putting up the barrier. I'm reminded of one of those daft little social tics that was popular with kids a few years ago, 'Speak to the hand, the face isn't listening', well, something like that anyway.

Starblaze Mon 31-Aug-20 16:10:40

Sometimes things are worth trying if you don't want to go the no contact route as OP asked.

I don't think it would have worked on my mum either and I have always been more of a listener than a talker... Online I am able to speak more but still get talked over lol

But it may be helpful to someone, most people don't really listen. I think it upsets people sometimes though that I remember so much of what they have said previously and now end up listening to the same stories a lot with my mouth shut about it lol

Starblaze Mon 31-Aug-20 16:12:45

Also with abusive people, it's often your reaction they want. Attention for them or a reaction from you. I'm not in the business of giving abusive people either these days smile

maddyone Mon 31-Aug-20 16:26:12

My mother, who I do love and still look after, used to abuse me, verbally not physically. She deliberately said things to wind me up or hurt me in some way, and sometimes laughed at my responses. She also made up lies about my husband. She never really changed until I started to challenge her. Now she is very old I have a better relationship with her. But the things she said have affected me for my whole life and I will never understand why she did it.

maddyone Mon 31-Aug-20 16:29:27

My sister hides behind her mental illness diagnosis. She can be very nice but she can be poison. Of course she was brought up by the same mother that I was, and our upbringing undoubtedly affected us both. She can be absolutely vile when it suits her. I have little to do with her now, having reached the end of my tether with her nasty remarks.