They may love us, but they don’t like us. They have proven that by the way they react to us during times when they should be supportive; instead, they are distant. They roll their eyes when we speak. They quickly get off the phone with us when we tell a story. They talk about us behind our backs. They don’t bother to give us any words of encouragement when we are down, they withhold affection and praise. They spread gossip about us and then lie about saying anything to our faces. They find excuses not to buy things for us or our families. They will not go out of their way to do anything for us.
My story isn’t one I am proud of but I think for purposes of this article, it is one that may help someone who feels like they are the black sheep in their family and no one seems to care about them. Years ago I hadn’t noticed any signs that certain family members just didn’t like me, until I talked to other family who told me so. I asked these family members, who brought me a bone and most likely would carry one back, why? Why wouldn’t they like me? A few attributed it to jealousy and others said that they just didn’t like the choices I made in life. It wasn’t that I had done anything that would cause them to resent or even hate me, I guess I was one of those family members who got along with everyone regardless and some didn’t feel that I should.
When I began to look closer at the way they treated me, it became obvious, they didn’t like me. I reasoned that it was because I didn’t always take their advice, that I didn’t consistently acknowledge birthdays and other holidays, because at times I chose boyfriends and jobs over spending time with them. At first I was hurt by the reality that my family was treating me like a black sheep, why? How could they use the excuse of having no money not to visit me when I needed them most? ( I live 3000 miles away and have been back to see my family several times since my move and no one bothers to come out and see me.) I have made up so many excuses these past four years for them when people asked me about their coming out to see me to the point that I can’t keep track of all of them. How could they acknowledge other relatives with children by giving them their money and time and overlook my children more often than remember them? How could they be judgmental of my lifestyle when they were no angels? It wasn’t like I was a drinker, smoker, or gambler. It wasn’t like I chose someone of the opposite race or the same gender. Maybe if I had done these things, it would be easier to understand why they didn’t act like they liked me very much since those choices went against their views. I thought maybe I gave them too much ammunition to use against me by sharing too many details about my personal life for them to judge me; therefore they wouldn’t want to see me. I became increasingly angry trying to reason why some family members just didn’t seem to want me around. They smiled in my face and talked behind my back. They told one another not to tell me what gifts they bought for other relatives, because they didn’t have enough money to buy my children and me gifts. They created fantastic lies when I approached them about the “he say she say” stories that were retold by other family members. They claimed they didn’t know what I was talking about, they denied ever saying anything, and they acted as if I was the one at fault. I tried different things to make me feel comfortable with the truth. I chose not to talk to them as much if I could help it. I tried to distance myself and contact them only if absolutely necessary, but somehow I would get drawn into a conversation with a family member(s) who I know didn’t like me. I wanted so bad to believe that what I told them would be appreciated, not repeated to others, or used against me. But if I didn’t find out within days, I found out within months that the family member whom I confided in just couldn’t keep anything to themselves and not only repeated what I said but rearranged it so that I looked bad. So I tell my story, so that you will find some relief in knowing that there are other black sheep out there just like you. Why do we bother with them? If we had a friend that didn’t like us, would we continue to befriend them? Most of us wouldn’t. But family they carry strong titles. We grew up with them and they were there at times in life when no one else would bother with us.
Don’t get me wrong when I tell my story, I don’t hate those who don’t like me. Instead, I pray for them and wish them the best. I also pray that any plans that they intend to use against me be stopped before they reach me and I also limit my time conversing and socializing with them. I don’t accept every invitation that they throw my way either. I noticed that when I interact with them one-on-one rather than in groups, they are all smiles and willing to talk to me about anything. But when they are with other family members, they act as if they are all-powerful and will say things to me that they have no business saying. I am not the kind of personality that takes what people say lightly and will state how I feel. So I don’t mind a confrontation, a debate, an argument or if it comes down to it a physical fight, I’m not anyone’s punching bag. But I am aware that the best solution to all matters is to exercise self-control and remain peaceful within despite how much you may be getting on another’s nerves just by your mere presence.
I know my situation looks sad, but I also know that I’m not the only black sheep in cyberspace. I think that the worst family situations are for those black sheep who wear rose-colored glasses. The disliked family member is used and misused for years and doesn’t even know it until one day someone in the family tells them, “Well you know your brother never did like you. Your mother didn’t like you either, but they just dealt with you because you were family.” What a devastating blow to someone who really did go all out for family and demonstrated nothing but love to all? How does one overcome that bitter truth? I remember a boyfriend told me that he noticed how some of my family members behaved toward me and immediately recognized who they favored; I didn’t want to admit he was right, so I argued with him. Who wants to face the reality that family is acting different towards you to an outsider? For years, I thought that if I bought gifts for them, performed well in school, college and the workplace, that I could earn their respect and that they would look at me with favor. But as the years went by and I got knocked down by various life circumstances, I had to face the hard truth that no matter what I did I would always be that person that some family members would not like.
So you may be like me, the black sheep of the family, the one that some will never like. If so, feel free to comment. I learned ever so slowly to move on, to be more concerned with the life that surrounds me now and less concerned with the life I lived as a child. I evolved in my life and am no longer the bratty toddler, rebellious teen, or irresponsible twenty-something young person that they knew when, but some family just can’t or will not accept change. They want to keep reminding you of your past. I also don’t feel that I have to prove that I have changed to anyone, they will either accept the new me or continue to see the old me, that’s their issue not mine. The following are seven other things I do when family say or do things that are meant to belittle me, and make them look all-powerful. They may help you too:
I choose my battles carefully. When I feel the need to talk to someone in the family about something that was untrue or meant to damage my reputation or someone else’s, I confront them about it. But I don’t pick battles that are meant to make me react uncontrollably so that the family member who doesn’t like me has some gossip to spread.
I don’t accept every piece of advice they want to give me. Controlling individuals will use every opportunity they can to tell you what you need to do with your life even when you haven’t asked for their 2 cents worth! You had an illness; they will share with you how they overcame it. You had an issue at work; they will tell you how to best solve it. You have a problem with your children; they will boldly tell you what you are doing wrong and what they did to parent their children. On the surface it looks good and their counsel seems innocent enough, until you hear how critical they were about your actions behind your back. “I couldn’t believe she would give her child that medicine. I knew she wouldn’t last on her job. He was never any good with communicating with people.” Meanwhile, they act as if they have never said anything about you to anyone and encourage you to confide in them.
I don’t bother to call them when they have insulted me. There is a way to let someone know that what they said was rude or inappropriate, just don’t call them. Some will get the message, while others may not, but you act in such a way that lets them know that they are not welcome to say certain things to you anymore. Silence is the best weapon you got!
I don’t bother with family members who negatively impact my life. (Life is simply too short to deal with emotionally draining individuals.) These family members who don’t like you may have been the ones who were the bad influence on you in the past. But as you grew older, you changed! When they see that you are doing well in life, while they are doing bad they will grow jealous and find fault with you.
I avoid staying on the phone or socializing with in-laws who have boldly acted in ways that say, “They don’t approve of me.” I don’t take on the responsibility of winning their support, but I don’t act in ways that would make them say I was disrespectful, impolite or childish either. My relationship with them is similar to a boss and employee work relationship.
I don’t share any information about myself or other family members that I am not comfortable with sharing. Some will want to win your trust by sharing parts of their life, hoping that you will do the same. Since you know they don’t like you, why would you? A personal exchange of information rarely makes someone who doesn’t like you suddenly like you. It takes a whole lot more to build trust such as tragedies, common interests, a heartfelt discussion, resolving past issues, and attending counseling together.
I avoid the temptation to buy or do things to try to win their favor. If I am not being sincere, I just don’t bother doing it. I think too many people associate buying gifts with buying love, I unfortunately learned from these same people. I thought that if I could do something nice for someone that would win them over, but I learned all too often that my efforts only put me in the position to serve them.
Although these points are how I deal with my own family issues, I encourage you to set up your own boundaries as well. When you do, you are protecting your heart and your family. You don’t ever want to put yourself in a position that you are being misused, abused, manipulated, or controlled by a family member, or anyone for that matter, who doesn’t like you!
By Nicholl McGuire