“You’re Dead to Me” – Family Conflicts

Those are pretty strong words.  But in families where the solution to conflict is to cut each other off that’s basically what they’re saying. I used to think it was an Italian thing, since that’s who we are in my  family. But as a therapist I learned in grad school that this is a multigenerational type of family dysfunction, in people of many ethnicities. I see this in my office all the time.  I also see that the pattern in families is that there are the cut-offers and the cut-offees, if you will.  Each knows who they are, and each knows who has the power: the cut-offer. Because the cut-offee will often eat a lot of bad behavior in order to “keep the peace”,  causing terrible emotional indigestion!

In our family my father and his brother did not speak for over 20 years (I think my father was the one who did the cut-off, over money…) They reunited when my father was on his death bed and my uncle came to not only say good-bye and make peace, but also to reassure my father that he’d look after my mother financially. Funny how the money thing came full circle… Right now my mother is not speaking to her sister, my brother is not speaking to me, my kids are not speaking to each other, and my 99 year old grandmother, one of 5 sisters, will go to her grave  having cut off for over 20 years  a sister who lives 10 minutes away.

Growing up, the absolute worst punishment we could get was my mother not speaking to us, looking through us as if we were dead, totally ignoring our existence.  Talk about abandonment issues!!!

Sad, isn’t it?



2 Responses to ““You’re Dead to Me” – Family Conflicts”

  1. SanityFound Says:

    I felt so sad reading your post, I know that feeling all to well my mother was similar until I gave it back to her – after a while she couldn’t take it anymore and I set down the rules of engagement one more sniff of that and its tickets does that sound harsh? I hope that it all works out for you and that forgiveness perseveres Mwa

  2. wpm1955 Says:

    This sort of thing went on in my family, too! My mother wasn’t speaking to one of her sisters for many years. Later, my Dad wasn’t speaking to my brother. Then he wasn’t speaking to me. Now he doesn’t speak to either one of us, but has also stopped speaking to numerous “friends” over the years. My brother and I were hurt and confused by this behavior, and it took us until we we were in our 40’s to realize it wasn’t US, it was THEM!! I have found the confidence not to let this behavior affect or bother my life any more; my brother isn’t quite there yet.

    Thank you for writing about this important issue.

    Madame Monet
    Writing, Painting, Music, and Wine

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