31 answers

Need Advice on a Family Member That Keeps Causing Problems

Hi I was wondering if anyone out there has advice on how to deal with a family member that keeps "stirring the pot". This family member seem to keep putting her nose in where it doesnt belong and believes no matter what she is always right. I will give a example. She was told information we did not want shared about our child (i know our mistake). Well I am sure as you guessed it, it was shared. We found out by other family members calling us about it. So she was called out on it and said well I thought you should tell everyone by now/I thought they already knew. So she was reminded how she found out and that we were disappointed. Then decided to tell us how we were going to ruin this child's life and bringing old stuff up that had nothing to do with the situation and try to hurt us. She now wants it all to be ok and its not. How can shut her down because she does this to everyone without starting a war and completely ignoring her?

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What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thanks for all the advice. We are gonna have to think about at it all , and probably keep doing what we are doing is not give her anything at all to throw back in our face.

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Dannnnnnng!!!!! Are we related? We have one of those too. I think every family does. When we confront this person...they usually cut us off for years at a time & then they do it all over again. Some people never change. You just take them for what they are & keep them at an arms length.

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Wow! Can I ever empathize. I'm going through the exact same thing right now. My situation has been going on for years and over the holidays got so bad that I was in tears for days! So after discussing this with several close family and friends this is what I did. I sat down and wrote her a long letter explaining exactly how I felt in a non threatening, diplomatic but very honest way. I apologized for nothing and I didn't say anything that made the other person feel better about her actions. When I received a letter back from her with an apology, I read it and discarded it. No response necessary. From here on out, I will be civil and warm but I will share very little in regards to my children or private life. "The kids are fine, I'm doing fine, thank you". If she says something to me that I feel is inappropriate or uncomfortable, I will leave, immediately. (I can't go far as these are out of town family members) I can simply take a walk around the neighborhood. I hope you get many good ideas from the other Mama's but I've learned the hard way that this is the only way to keep my sanity and protect my children.

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Hi, H.,

I don't believe you can change this relative. Beside not sharing anything with her you don't want known by the public, I would recommend that when she gives you unsolicited advice, tell her, "Thanks for thinking of us," and then drop the subject. I think that she will eventually get tired of feeling as though she is talking to a wall and will get the message that you are not interested in her advice. I'm a proponent of being honest and open, esp. when someone oversteps her bounds, but this approach might be more effective than telling her to mind her own business.

L. E

More Answers

*adding this: Sometimes, you just have to tell the person point blank: "Do you realize you cause so much misery to EVERYONE? Do you LIKE being this way? Do you LIKE being the person that everyone calls a trouble-maker? Do you like that people avoid you because of your personality and mean ways? Do you LIKE knowing that you are HARMING other people and their happiness?" Sometimes, a person has to hear this. Then after telling them... stop. Don't get into a 'discussion' about it or argue about it. Just stop, walk away, then let them deal with it and look at themselves.
*In my situation...no matter what I did to remove myself from the situation & no matter what I did to 'censor' myself, it continued. ie: because my sister, would then create trouble for me by using other people...manipulation at it's highest! So sometimes, you cannot just handle a person by ignoring them or giving them generic exchanges.....you really have to get them out of your life, even if its family. It was either my sanity or nothing. Some people do NOT leave you alone no matter what you do. THIS is what I learned. Fortunately, my sis got counseling/therapy for herself. As she even had this problem with everyone in the world. Fortunately, she is much better now.

Does this person have a family/husband/children/friends of her own?
If not, she could just be resentful, jealous, and trying to 'control' others because she is so out of whack.

Never mind her. BUT... you have to protect your own well being, your children and your Hubby.

My sister, when younger, used to be this way. She caused so much grief to everyone, my parents, me, my Hubby, and our children. She acted as though she was the authority on everything, and yes, did not keep personal things private. She trampled on everyone's boundaries.

My friend, also 'had' a Mother-in-law like this. She caused GREAT misery for everyone, including her own Husband.

The point is... you cannot 'control' her. You cannot 'change' her. You cannot make any sense to her, because they themselves will not 'respect' anything or anyone. All they do is create drama and trouble for everyone.

In my case with my sister... well, we cut her out of our lives. At one point. It was that bad. At every drama or trouble she tried to make, we just shut-her out and shut-her down. We just did not respond to her. Eventually, we learned she sought counseling on her own, because SHE was so miserable and unhappy... and FINALLY realized that she had no right, controlling the entire family and making everyone her slave to misery. So now today... we all get along. She has completely changed. But.. I still keep an eagle eye on her and trust my instincts about it.

In the case of my friend.. well they 'disowned' this Mother-in-law. And, the trouble still continues. But, they have nothing to do with her. So she makes trouble to everyone else. She is just so toxic. There was no other way around it for my friend and her husband and children. She was DAMAGING even her children. They are just so much happier now, and their lives are now 'normal' again. They feel they did the right thing. Not according to what anyone else told them to do. It was 'right' for their family and well-being. This in-law is just so so mean.

In your case... well, some people won't change. Some will even back up this person, even though they cause trouble. So, you and Hubby have to decide what is 'healthiest' for you and your children. Or, you let someone like this make you miserable and cause dysfunctional vicious cycles to continue.

I know it's not easy... but it reaches a point where you and your family's well being is at stake. And you have to keep this foremost in your mind. People like this can severely handi-cap other people and their lives. It's just no good.
So, be a hostage to her toxic ways, or not.

You AND your Husband can try and sit her down and talk to her. But, being the way people like this are.....she will turn it into another drama...and digress and rant on about other things, dragging everything into it and the kitchen sink. So, I don't know if it will be successful. But you can try that route. The point being, you AND Hubby have to lay down the rules. Point blank. Telling her her behavior is simply not acceptable, anymore... OR, there will be consequences...such as: she has to see a counselor, you & your family will not be a part of her life.... she will not be allowed in your door, do not call you, if she wants to be a part of your lives then she has to comply with your 'rules' etc. But, she has to also recognize that she has a problem and causes heartache and trouble to everyone.

All the best,
Susan

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Susan shared experience that is very valuable!!

I too, and I think everyone, has one of those friends, relatives or whomever that thinks they know everything about everything.

For me, my friend issues got so deep that I had to sit her down and lay it out on the table. I can't deal with this, I don't have the time or the energy to keep reminding you how your actions effect the rest of the world around you...she was shocked and angry, and needles to say we aren't friends anymore.

The final straw for me was when she told ALL our friends I was preggers before the dinner where I had planned to share the news...she wanted to get people on her bandwagon of being against my doing it on my own and not being married. At any rate, it killed me that she couldn't just be an adult and accept me for who I am and the choices I was making for me.

So, my advice to you is do what is best for the health of your family and YOU. Don't worry about someone else's unhealthy lifestyle and if you have to just cut them off. It's sad and awful, but my life is no worse for wear without my friend.

Good Luck!

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I would completely shut her out. This is not as difficult as it sounds - even with frequent family reunions... just be polite (hello and goodbye) and brief. Talk about the weather. Be terse. That's it. Since she can't handle herself, you have to protect yourself. There is no need for drama, no need for giant, ugly show downs.

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Love SH's advice on this.
Am currently going through something similar with my mom. And even though it was hard to shut her out of my life, HOLY COW! is life so much more pleasant! One thing I would encourage you to think about is leaving the door open, not for her to hurt you/your family again, but what would signal you that she has changed? I prayed a lot about it and wrote my mom explaining what needed to change for her to be allowed back in our lives INCLUDING the one thing that would let me know that she "got it" and would make an effort not to repeat her past behaviors. She hasn't done it, and may never do it, but her being involved in our life is now up to HER. I know I tout these books a lot on here but they really helped me: "How to forgive when you don't feel like it" and "Boundaries" Kind of gives you a blueprint of how to deal with toxic folks. Hope this helps.
:-)
Jen

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Dannnnnnng!!!!! Are we related? We have one of those too. I think every family does. When we confront this person...they usually cut us off for years at a time & then they do it all over again. Some people never change. You just take them for what they are & keep them at an arms length.

1 mom found this helpful

Wow! Can I ever empathize. I'm going through the exact same thing right now. My situation has been going on for years and over the holidays got so bad that I was in tears for days! So after discussing this with several close family and friends this is what I did. I sat down and wrote her a long letter explaining exactly how I felt in a non threatening, diplomatic but very honest way. I apologized for nothing and I didn't say anything that made the other person feel better about her actions. When I received a letter back from her with an apology, I read it and discarded it. No response necessary. From here on out, I will be civil and warm but I will share very little in regards to my children or private life. "The kids are fine, I'm doing fine, thank you". If she says something to me that I feel is inappropriate or uncomfortable, I will leave, immediately. (I can't go far as these are out of town family members) I can simply take a walk around the neighborhood. I hope you get many good ideas from the other Mama's but I've learned the hard way that this is the only way to keep my sanity and protect my children.

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Dido to SH. You can't change these kinds of people. My M-I-L is like this. We have told her but she is still right, all that does is make her tell more stories about how horrible you are. Just talk to her about simple things, infact let her be the one to talk, I don't care if you listen or not. Just do the uhuh's and yeses. But she doesn't get to know anything about your family except basics (she is fine, she has a cold, he is doing well at school, he is going to camp etc). No personal details. Then don't go out of your way to visit her, and don't sit with her for long periods, get up and use the bathroom or say excuse me I need to ask so & so something. Or I want to get something to eat, (Get lost for awhile hide in a bedroom, call a friend. But the less you talk to her the better. If she asks about personal things give the simple answer and change the subject ( that turned out well for us, did you hear that next year in school they are going on a camp-out field trip, we are so excited for her to go). If she gives you advise simply say I just might do that, or that's a great idea. Leave everything vag. Then do what you want, if she ever asks why you did it your way, you simply say we thought about lots of options and decided this worked best for all of us. Then ask her about her life to change the subject. (Hows your job, or how is your back pain have you found any relief). Always focus subjects on them, then they are giving their oppionion on themselfs, plus they think you care about them cus you are concerned and asked. So you can't possible be a paid person.

I don't know the ages of your children or if you have any, but they need to know this also, so that they don't slip up and tell her something she can run with. They don't need to know everything, so keep your explaination simple. Simply tell them that if they have a conversation with this person to keep their answers simple and don't give this person any info that she might be able to spread around. The kids will watch you and pick up from their, how to deal or answer her.

Good Luck! It's sad that we have to come to this to keep peace, but peace is better then war. You will be the bigger & better person or persons for this. J.

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Hi H.,

I am a family life coach and I work with this type of situation all the time. My advice would be to accept that you are and always will be 'related' to this person. However, creating a relationship with this person does not work for you. Shutting her down, unfortunately, is not an option. And ignoring her will only 'stir the pot more', you're right about that.

Here's the deal: She is who she is and trying to change her will only increase your frustrations. So, like I said, "be related" - that looks like, you being civil, having small talk with her at family occasions, for example, "hello, goodbye, nice party, nice day, nice weather, etc." When she asks you how you are doing, reply with "great, wonderful, kids are great, husband is great, job is great, house is great, etc." Refrain from giving her additional information or personal information, not out of fear of what she will do with the information, but out of empowerment of yourself as a wife and mother and what you stand for in relationships. Don't worry about what she thinks of you, quite frankly, what she thinks of you is none of your business and the more you invest yourself in trying to get her to think differently, the more frustrating the situation becomes for everyone. Simply be related, but don't create a relationship. In other words, don't make plans with her, don't sound interested in her life, don't pretend that you care when you don't, be present with her and ask her how she is doing, listen, but leave it at that. Don't offer a helping hand, don't offer advice and especially DO NOT GOSSIP with her or about her. Gossiping will only make the situation bigger. The idea is to lessen the power of her behavior, especially the control it has over how you feel.

With love, power, and magic,
K.
www.kristinecastro.com

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My sister is this way with me, my hubby and my aunt and Uncle. She is the expert on everything though she has no children of her own and whatever we do or say about our kids in wrong. We just avoid any pertinent topics with her and just keep contact to generalities and politeness (as hard as that sometimes is) on the occasions we are around her. No matter what she will always be right in her mind so we don't bother trying to straighten her out anymore. I find that this is the case with most people who are ignorant on the subjects they "know" so much about. good luck. I know how difficult it is.

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Hi H.:
You've already recieved some excellent advice,but I'll throw in my two cents. I've known individuals like this. Because, she is a family member,this makes it very difficult for you to cut her off. It's unfair,to deprive yourself or child from going to family functions, or holiday get togethers,because you must deal with her. You may wonder why she is like this.Who knows....She may feel very inadequite,insecure,It builds her up, makes her feel important to be the first to spread the news. or she may simply be very selfish, and inconsiderate. Which ever it is, you aren't going to change or convert her. She is who she is. The way I took care of the problem,was I excluded this person from any important, or private matters. I never told her anything, that I didn't want the whole world to know. lol Matter of fact, just for the heck of it, I fed her some bogus info,just to see how far it would go. lol. I was surprised it didn't hit the 5:00 news! lol. I suggest you keep tight lipped around her, and if she does happen to hear and voices her opinion about the way you live. Tell her..Shes entitled to her opinion,but you intend on raising your family the way you see fit.Tell her you would appreciate her keeping her personal preferences to herself. If you hear of her comments from other family members,tell them,you don't want to hear it.If and when she has a family of her own, she can make her own choices. I wish you the best. J. M

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You've been given excellent advice on minimizing contact and not telling her anything. Keep everything you tell her positive, friendly, with no content. If this person has no ammo they can't shoot you. It’s just a matter of taking care of yourself and your family. No need for you to ever feel guilty about it.

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Hi, H.,

I don't believe you can change this relative. Beside not sharing anything with her you don't want known by the public, I would recommend that when she gives you unsolicited advice, tell her, "Thanks for thinking of us," and then drop the subject. I think that she will eventually get tired of feeling as though she is talking to a wall and will get the message that you are not interested in her advice. I'm a proponent of being honest and open, esp. when someone oversteps her bounds, but this approach might be more effective than telling her to mind her own business.

L. E

Well, there is one of those in every family. And just like with your friends you have to deal with them in the catagory that they fall in for example with your friends there are the one's youcan tell secrets to and the one's you just can't. There are one's you can lend money to and the one's you just can't. You be as polite and the situation calls for and you just don't allow that family member to get in any farther than you feel comfortable. And love them from a safe distance.

I also agree with what a lot of the other moms have to say. Probably talking to her first is best. If she doesn't "get it" after that then just cut her out of your life. You need your sanity to be able to provide proper care, love and attention to your children and husband. Being stressed or bothered by some dummy in your life is no fun. Life is too short and precious to waste on people like that, even if it's family. I myself just told my husband this week I am no longer taking calls from his mom. He will have to deal with her. I just can't take her anymore. It's driving me nuts and that just isn't fair to my kids. My husband also just cut out his drug-addicted brother and problem niece from our lives a month ago (his decision, not mine as it's HIS family). I must say it's hard when the kids ask about them, but it has been so much more peaceful at our house :) And maybe, just maybe they'll all get the hint to "mind their own business and grow up" or we don't want them around. You get tired of things like my MIL calling me just to say "your kids don't like to read anymore - is it because thy watch too much t.v." Well, hello woman. When you turn on cartoons they are NOT ALLOWED to watch, of course they want to watch that rather than read a book, duh!!! Best of luck to you!!!

H., I'm sure you already figured out that it is not wise to share anything that you do not want public with this person. What goes on in your home is none of her business. If she continues to bring issues up that are none of her business, change the subject. Repeat as necessary. And be sure not to listen to her when she starts talking about other family/friends that are none of YOUR business. It will be hard, but effective. Good luck.

As Dr. Laura would say, Be polite, but don't tell her anything and just say, Thanks for the input.
You have all the control to "shut her down" by reduce conversation where you are going on about a situation.
Reduce contact and be friendly, but that's it.
You are in control of this!! and you can do it. Being family doesn't give or make inalienable rights to butt in. Good luck D.

there is no way to fix her. she's not going to change. stop seeing her. be polite and say hi at family functions etc, but tell her nothing and don't spend any time with her at all.

You can't feed the fire if you don't give her any wood to burn, next time do not tell her anything you don't want her to blab... don't blame the messenger, sounds like she has no self control or respect for others. Its not up to you to turn her mouth off, just learn your lesson , here.

Note to self, you're never going to change the other person, so take it on yourself to stop sharing with this person period. The only way to shut her down is to not give her any ammuntion so keep it light and polite. If they become mean and hurtful in their quest for a response stop talking to them period. Trust me, that get's the point across. It's crucial that you and your husband have the same approach, and that you support each other. You can only talk out and resolve something with a person who is looking for resolution. Sadly, it looks like your family member is only looking for a drama. It's your choice whether you participate or not. Good luck.

H.,

Well my only advice is to distance your family from her at least for the time being.

How she found out originally was obviously by accident, so don't leave papers laying around, allow her to babysit and answer calls, or involve her in that aspect of your family's life.

She needs to learn how to mind her own business and not interfere with your parental decisions and situations.

Good luck.

C. B.

I am speaking from experience on this one. You can be civil to this family member, however, you do not have to spend time with her nor tell her anything about you or your family.
You learned this the hard way. It is your mistake if you continue to be around this person, or listen to her "advice".
She is toxic to you and your family and this problem will never go away until she realizes it is none of her business.
She feels "justified and right" about what she feels is the correct thing to say and to with your family.
This is the time to set boundaries with her, firm ones. What can you handle with her, (5 min conversation about the weather, seeing her for 1/2hr a week, month, etc, holidays with her on your terms, etc) and then do that.
There is no good to come with keeping her in your life right now. It is time to focus on your family...........
Good luck.

That sounds like my Mother In Law! The only way that we have found to keep the piece is to not tell her things we don't want the entire world knowing. When she starts gossiping e tell her we will wait to hear about it from the people it involves and tell her not to judge. I'm sure she takes some of it personally, but it's her personality and always has been evidently. We mostly just ignore her. I know it sounds mean, but it's the only way to live with all she does. She is always trying to cause problems so she can solve them and be needed. I don't know if that is what is guiding your family member or not. If confronting the problem will hurt more then help, then realize that fact and just be aware of her history and remember not to take anything she does personally...and don't tell her anything else you don't want shared! :)

If this is a pattern with the relative and it has been recognized as so for a long time, then it is time to see your part in the drama. When sharing private info. with a known gossip, our intention is for the drama to continue. This is an unconscious attempt at attention and creating yourself as a victim due to their transgressions. There are no accidents, you create what you intend.

You can't shut her down. These kinds of family members believe that no matter what, they are right, and if people accuse them of "stirring the pot", they are the victim.

My advice: Do not tell her, or anyone apt to share with her, anything of importance. You can continue to be polite with her and seeing her at family functions, but in order to protect your own sanity, keep it civil and polite. That's it. Talk about the weather, celebrity gossip, current events, but nothing in which she, or you, get riled up. Accept that this is who and how she is. As my grandmother always said and actually did, Forgive, but never forget.

Good luck!

Some people - and we have relatives like this, too - are simply unable to stand it when others do things differently. They honestly, truly feel that everyone should do things in the exact same way, and if someone does anything difeerently, well, they're just wrong and uninformed. They are just sure that everyone's life would be better if everyone did what they themselves decided on. There is no room in their universe for opinions. Some people are also unhappy unless they are the center of attention, and they'll do anything to stay the center of attention. One easy way to do this is to talk about everyone else. They also feel the need to demonstrate that they know things that others don't, and the best way to do that is to spread information, or even rumors, about others. They are also almost always truly baffled when they've hurt someone's feelings. Since they are sure that they're right, and they're sure that what they're doing is for the best, it takes them totally by surprise when someone gets angry or asks them to stop. Unfortunately, THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT HER PERSONALITY.

Don't try to fix her, to get her to understand, or to explain to the rest of the family why you're hurt. She won't "get" it. Obviously, never share personal information again. And when she starts telling you what to do with your child, your husband, your LIFE, say something like, "Oh, are we trading? If you get to make my decisions for me, I must get to make your decisions for you!"

She will never understand why you feel this way. She will be hurt. Maybe you'll get phone calls from other relatives asking why you upset her. Just stand your ground very calmly and tell people that it is between the 2 of you, and you won't discuss it with anyone else. Remind this relative, and anyone else who needs to hear, that we all have quite enough to be responsible for in our OWN lives, without trying to take on someone else's choices. One size does not fit all when it comes to life choices!

I don't know how close of a family member it is because you did not specify, but what I would do is either limit your interaction with her if possible or limit talking with her to only unimportant things. If she is a very close relative, I would also make sure to supervise my child's interaction with her as well. I think most people do seem to have a know it all relative in their family. Another thing you can do is if she gives her opinion about anything important in your life is to say, "thank you for your advice, I will consider it." That always works well for me, because you are not engaging them in conflict and it is hard to turn a statement like that against you. The very best wishes in regard to your situation.

This is YOUR family and protect them...

COMPLETELY IGNORE HER. Dont hold back, these are your children. She will get the mssg and wont be hurt because she already knows she's wrong. SHE IS A TROUBLE MAKER who is not in the best interest of your children.

Wendy

My opinion: People like this are so unhappy with themselves that they have to mess with others to make themselves feel better/more important. I would remind her that by sharing the personal & private information that was told to her violated the trust that you had with her and that will take time to be rebuilt. After that I would be nice but however keep all personal information out of her reach. The saying, grin & bear it comes to mind. I ahve a family member like this as well and I treat her as though she is just a person that I met on the street. Kind yet share nothing with her. If she does again bring up the past, I would let her know that her opinion was not asked for and that you will raise your shild the way that you see fit. Good luck with this as I know that what I have said is easy to say but hard to do. :)

it sounds like you could just keep her out of the loop and still talk to her about things, just not things that are secretive.
i had a friend like this once who almost got uc kicked out of our apartment and just about ruined my marriage becuase of things i confided in her, thinking she wouldnt take it on herself to act on it and report things i had told her in confidence.
i had to stop telling her things that were important to me. but we managed to remain friends.

basically, dont tell her things that are secretive or important that you need to keep from other people. if not everyone should know, then she shouldnt either. but still talk to her and let her know you love her.

I'ms o sorry to hear that happened. Look, we don't pick our family members, so there's no "guarantee" yu're going to get along, be friends, or even like each other. I would say it's best to stop talking to that person. You can be nice at family gatherings (when you have to be with him/her) but there's no rule that states you have to do anything else. Ask yourself this, do you ever think she/he will ever change? Especially after an incident involving your child, that would be a deal breaker for me.. Good luck.. You have other people that will love & support you.. and not hurt you..

Family is a tricky thing...
This person should know that you are allowed to have a personal life, beyond what she or your family thinks. You and your husband have a right to make decisions about your lifestyle.

If this is your Mother in Law, your husband should deal with her out of respect for you.

Otherwise, be tactful and graceful (which will annoy the heck out of this person) and I agree with the others... do not share anything that you don't mind the world knowing.
Soon she will realize that you don't have a juicy life worth sharing with others.

So, your secret is out? You have a right not to discuss personal issues. Just say, this is personal between my husband and me. "Please respect my wishes".
End the conversation and set your boundries early.

When somebody is simply stupid around me.... I learned to say: "Is this helpful to me?"
Ask hubby for his back-up plan...

HOpe it helps,
M.

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