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A Troll In the Family

Jan13

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Hi Amy,

I’m having a problem with some family members and it’s really starting to wear on me and cause stress. Both of my parents come from large families, my mother is one of seven as is my father, which makes for lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins. My husband also comes from a similar background, his father is one of four but his mother is one of nine… so the amount of family we could potentially be surrounded by is enormous. All of my father’s family lives 1,200 miles away, my mother’s family is scattered but most live a good 4-8 hr flight away as well. My husbands family, well… we don’t talk to them much, not because we don’t like them but they all seem to keep to themselves.

My problems lies in “my side” of the family, recently I was made aware of a voicemail from an aunt who spewed so much hatred into a 8 minute message I was shocked. The reason behind the hatred you ask, because I posted a Facebook picture of us putting Christmas lights up on my parents’ house and we didn’t have the decency to send a $5 gift card to the girlfriend of my cousin who was having a baby shower. A cousin I’m not anywhere near close to, a girlfriend I DON’T EVEN KNOW. The aunt went on about how I had to money to blow to go to a wedding for my best friend, one who I have been friends with for 18 years mind you and I think of as a sister, and how we spent an entire week there on vacation (which we had SAVED money from our taxes to be able to do). She yelled and screamed about how we didn’t send anything for this baby shower and only spend money on things/people we want to spend money on. She yelled at my mom who flew up at the end of the week to watch the kids so I could spend the entire day with this friend, helping her get dressed for her wedding. She complained that my mom had the nerve to make visits to her family but not to theirs, my mother did this to visit my grandmother who was dying from cancer. She sat at her bedside as she died, it was hardly a vacation. Did I mention that the aunt who called was NOT even the mother of the cousin who’s girlfriend is having the baby? Not to mention she broke every etiquette rule in the book by not only expecting a gift but then yelling at us for not sending a gift, for a baby who isn’t even born yet and we possibly would have sent something once that occurred.

Since this I have been told snippets about some of the things she has been saying anytime I put a picture on Facebook or say something in my blog about the activities we are doing leading up to Christmas. We are out shopping it up, wasting money. It’s beginning to wear on me because I am starting to feel like a horrible person, even though all the activities we’ve been doing are free, local events. I want to email or call her (which my dad, it’s his sister, has told me not to) and explain that look my family doesn’t have that much money, I’m taking advantage of FREE events. Heck, I barely pulled together presents for my children for Christmas. I saved money from our taxes and any extra money we had for an entire YEAR to go to that wedding. Yet this is making me sick, it’s ruining my holiday and making me think twice before I post anything anywhere. Please Amy, what do I do? Am I a horrible person for not sending a gift card to a person I don’t even know, who I’m sure I will never ever meet?

Signed,
Family Troubles

Wow, your aunt sounds like a real piece of work, which is always what my mom calls someone when she’s trying to be polite and not use more specific words, like batsh*t crazy. Bless her heart!

A couple things I’m wondering here: First, who is “sharing” these delightful snippets with you and why? Why are they listening to this garbage in the first place, without telling this woman off or simply telling her they don’t want to hear about it — if she has a problem with you, she should take it up directly with you. And why is your dad telling you not to defend yourself against a slanderous family member? Why isn’t HE defending you against her?

And also, why haven’t you blocked this crazy woman on Facebook yet? Because seriously: She sounds crazy. An eight minute tirade over not sending a gift card to…hold up, I need to copy-and-paste this because I have already lost track…the pregnant girlfriend of a cousin, but the cousin isn’t even her son, and shrieking at your mom (who isn’t even her sister) over weddings and vacations that she’s creepily been tracking and counting and cyberstalking? What the hell?

If I may use a personal metaphor thing for a second, but as a pretty visible, decently-trafficked blogger, I’ve always had to deal with the fact that there are people and places out there who simply LOVE to jump all over things I post and rip them apart and over-analyze them in order to support their unshakable belief that I am a bad person or a bad mother or a liar or a bitch or whatever. I quickly learned that there was nothing I could do to appease these people — I could write something that literally flew in the face of their criticisms and mixed-up facts, explicitly explaining that such-and-such was a JOKE or SARCASM or I was QUOTING A MOVIE in that tweet that was being held up on some message board as an example of what an idiot I was — and they’d just find something else to get worked up over.

Finally, I just began ignoring them. And I mean, ignoring with a VENGEANCE. I stopped checking my referral stats so I wouldn’t have to see the traffic coming from those places. I resisted the urge to click over and see what they were saying, and ABOVE ALL: My friends were given a strict order not to tell me about any of it. No, I don’t care what you just “happened” to read about me on some blog or message board somewhere. No, I don’t want the link. Eventually, I stopped mentally composing endless responses to the crap they were saying, or letting them get in my headspace when I was writing, worrying about what they’d find to say about me THIS TIME.

Every once in awhile I get emails from…well, let’s just call them Concern Trolls, who are people who claim that they are Huge Fans and Love Me but OMG, They Saw This Link Where I Am Being Made Fun Of And Ripped To Shreds And It Just HURT THEM SO MUCH To Read It And So They Wanted To Make Sure I Saw It Too So My Feelings Could Be Hurt And Maybe I Would Write About It Or Respond In Some Way And Mwa Ha Ha MAXIMUM DRAMAZ ACHIEVED.

Tl;Dr version: You need to block this aunt out like the troll she is, sweet lady. It really sounds like she might be a bit…unwell (maybe that’s why your dad doesn’t want you contacting her directly?), but that’s really not your problem to solve. Tell your mom and dad and whoever else might be the source of “OMG guess what Auntie Crazypants is saying about you NOW” that you no longer want to hear about it. Full stop. Post whatever you freaking want on Facebook and your blog — let me ASSURE you that you probably aren’t going to change a mind as irrational as hers is, even if you were to post your household budget as “proof” that you aren’t dripping with cash or specifically mention that an activity was free. Because: GAS! YOU SPENT MONEY ON GAS! HOW DARE YOU!

Personally, because she IS family and not some random Internet stranger, I probably would call her and confront her and ask her why you’re hearing all these things second- or third-hand. “If I’ve done something to offend you, I believe I should be hearing about it from you directly.” Of course, it sounds like (unlike the Internet trolls who almost always burst into spontaneous flames when actually, directly confronted) she’s the sort who delights in face-to-face or over-the-phone screaming matches (see: your mother)…so maybe not. You really don’t owe this woman anything, because you’ve done NOTHING to earn this level of venomous backstabbing, gift card or no gift card.

If you do decide to honor your dad’s wishes not to confront her, I do think HE owes you more of an explanation as to why he’s against it, and also a promise to defend you to her on your behalf. Why is this woman allowed to trash talk his daughter to him, or to your mom, or whoever else she’s talking to? SOMEONE needs to put their foot down and say, “Auntie Crazypants, these are things that have nothing to do with me, and if you have such a problem with Family Troubles, you should be talking to her and working to clear this misunderstanding up instead of gossiping to everybody else.”

But above all, block her from your brain. I know it can be incredibly difficult when you feel unfairly attacked. I know it’s hard not to keep composing rational rebuttals to completely irrational criticisms. (A baby shower invite is NOT an obligation to give a gift, whether you attend or not! What if you WERE planning to send a gift once the baby arrives? Also, it’s nobody’s freaking business what you do with your own freaking money, I don’t care how much of it you have or how much you choose to blow on vacations or Christmas gifts, it’s NOT. HER. BUSINESS.) I just don’t think this woman sounds like she’s in a good place right now. You don’t mention any history or pattern of this behavior, and it’s possible that someone in the family needs to sack up and figure out if there’s something seriously wrong that’s causing her to lash out with so much petty vitriol…or she might just be an awful, toxic person. Either way, family or not, you deserved to not have your holidays ruined because of this woman. Just…let her go. Block it out. Shut it down when it tries to seep in around the edges.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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12 Responses to “A Troll In the Family”

  1. Annie Jan 13 at 12:24 pm Reply Reply

    Ugh. I feel for you. It’s awful to be the target of something so nasty and unfair, and unrelated to reality. I have a crazy uncle. Seriously crazy. I used to think he was borderline unusual, and had some confusion about boundaries. But last Christmas Eve, right before I had a BABY, I received a hateful, sickening and threatening email from him. And then I understood how deeply unwell he truly is, and how he is impacted when he doesn’t follow the recommendations of his doctors. I’m totally with Amy on this one– don’t let your aunt into your life, or your mental space. I agree that your dad should give you further information- it helps to know what you’re dealing with, and which kinds of boundaries you need. You sound like a thoughtful person with her head on her shoulders; you deserve to keep your life the way you want it to be.

  2. Rusty Jan 13 at 1:57 pm Reply Reply

    I have an Aunt Sharon who is just like this. Several years ago my mother committed some offense and Sharon hasn’t spoken to any of us since. Honestly, we have NO IDEA what my mom said, but that stopped bothering us a long time ago. I hate that we need to tiptoe around her at family events, but the only person actually hurt by her crazy behavior is my aunt.

    I don’t have a page on Facebook and my teens use pseudonyms (for other reasons), but I would block Troll Aunt in a heartbeat. You don’t deserve her vitriol.

  3. Olivia Jan 13 at 2:09 pm Reply Reply

    If the aunt is not making these statement to you directly, I would for sure tell whomever is passing them on to you to keep it to themselves. I mean, what’s the point of telling you?

    One of the kindest things my mother ever did was not tell me what my grandmother said about the fact I was marrying a black man (I’m white). Mom just said, “She had her say, and I set her straight. The end.” 

  4. XOXO Jan 13 at 3:08 pm Reply Reply

    You could always post a link to this page on your Facebook saying, “My Question Got Answered on AlphaMom!!!!!”  I wonder what she would think about that :o)

  5. Sara Jan 13 at 3:27 pm Reply Reply

    This woman seems unwell.  I would block her from accessing your Facebook page, or maybe even disable your account for a bit (because surely your block will enrage her further).  As a parent, you need to filter out these negative influences so that you have as much positive energy to deal with your child as possible.  This woman just seems so destructive and it sounds like its really getting to you.  Employ some self preservation and avoid talking about this with anyone.  If family mentions what she’s said, shut it down.  When it gets back to her, she might be upset, but she’ll move on before you know it.  People like that always find something new to bitch about.  Oh and btw, you should never have to justify the financial decisions you make or activities you choose for your family.  That’s ludicrous!

  6. Liz Jan 13 at 3:42 pm Reply Reply

    I have similar problems with my family, who feel entitled to comment/ criticize/ analyze my every word and action. My lifesaver: set up filters on Facebook. Start a block list of the troublemakers and they simply won’t see your posts that you want to hide and they will have no idea. I also have a blog that I have never shared with my family, and even though it’s a pain, I decided to create a duplicate blog where I can cross-post some content but heavily filter out whatever I want, and that’s the one the family gets to see. It’s easy to do in WordPress and you can access multiple blogs from the same Dashboard. I’m not sure about Blogger, but I am sure it is similar.

  7. Danielle Jan 13 at 5:53 pm Reply Reply

    Great advice. I’ve seen similar situations play out in my life. My mom was the victim of similar hatred and unfounded attacks from her own MOTHER, who then turned her siblings on her. I can still remember the hate and curse filled voicemail my mom received from my Aunt (her sister) when I was 10 years old. Many years later, I watched my father battle a drug addiction, which led him to create all kinds of horrible (and untrue) conspiracy theories about my mom, which he was hellbent on convincing others of, including me (even though I knew full well what the truth was).

    Both my mom and I reacted in the same way to both situations — we cut the toxic person out of our life. Sometimes, people are just filled with hate for reasons we may never be able to understand. And even if we do understand it, it’s NOT OUR RESPONSIBILITY. Our responsibility is to protect ourselves. And if someone is unfairly attacking you, you can only control how you react in return. Often times, completely walking away and not allowing that person to have any space in your life whatsoever is the only way to do this. They may get even crazier for awhile, but you can shut that out (making sure others don’t tell you about it is a great help), and eventually they’ll most likely get bored and move on to a new target for their hate that will be more “fulfilling”. And even if they don’t, just don’t allow them to be your problem anymore.

    Family Troubles — you owe this woman ZERO EXPLANATION for anything. In fact, DO NOT even acknowledge her atrocious behavior by even coming up with defenses in your own head or to others. She’s crazy, and chances are people know that (and if they don’t, chances are eventually they will). Be the bigger person, keep doing what you know is right, and don’t let the petty, nasty people try to drag you down with them.

  8. Corinne Jan 13 at 9:03 pm Reply Reply

    Block her on facebook, tell everyone who is “helpfully” sharing her crazy that you’re not interested, and cut BSC aunt out of your life. She can be dead to you. Ignore/Blackhole anything that is said about her or by her.

    If you really want to say your piece, call the crazy bitch out first, and then block and ignore.

  9. A Jan 15 at 11:11 am Reply Reply

    I’ve been in similar situations and toxic people are like cancer – you just have to cut them out. Defriend her. Don’t acknowledge her in any way. At first you probably will get more reports from people about what she said, how upset she is . . . but it will go away. I’m all for direct confrontation of problems but unfortunately it doesn’t sound like this would work with her. Just cut her out of your life and tell all others what you’ve done (for your mental well-being) and that you don’t want to hear a word about her again. It works!

  10. Pamela Jan 16 at 1:01 pm Reply Reply

    This sounds like the kind of behaviour we started seeing from a family friend when she was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. It was very sad, because by the time she was diagnosed, she had alienated pretty much everyone in her life. We lost contact with her after she was pretty horrible to my mother (who didn’t call her enough apparently. Fun fact: phones work in two directions!). She died a couple of years later, maybe ten years ago. I have finally stopped giving rational explanations for our behaviour to my mirror. If you can follow Amy’s advice in less than ten years, I highly recommend it.

  11. Kari Weber Jan 19 at 11:09 pm Reply Reply

    First of all, XOXO WINS! I love that idea… even thought I am SURE it would make it worse! 

    Second, UN-FRIEND and BLOCK! Immediately. Do not pass “Go”… do not collect $200 (although it seems you could use it…)

    A crazy person, whether relative, acquaintance, neighbor, or otherwise is crazy. Nothing you say or do will make it better, and look how it has tarnished all these recent events. 

    Please let us know how this goes.  Wish you the best.

  12. Phillipa Jan 20 at 1:22 pm Reply Reply

    I also agree with XOXO…..it gets your point across and she will realize how much of an idiot she looks like and that now the whole internet world has access to her behaviour – although maybe she is attention-seeking and that is exactly what she wants.

    Then block block block………

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