Live Through This

Cutting the Ties That Bind

I hardly ever speak to my family, and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Illustration by Cynthia

It’s easy to think of freedom in terms of family: you want so much of it, and it seems like they never want you to have any. Sometimes you just want a little space to figure things out, to make your own mistakes, to ignore their advice, and sometimes you just fundamentally disagree with them. And occasionally, you really, truly cannot imagine sharing a room with them, let alone DNA. I hardly ever speak to my family, and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

And it WAS a decision. I actually woke up one day, after years of therapy and fretting and generally feeling terrible about myself, and said, “The reason I feel crappy is because my family makes me feel like crap, so I’m done with them for a while.” I’m not a mathematician by any stretch, but the equation seemed pretty clear: family + Danielle = misery/therapy/crying/overanalyzing every decision I ever made to the point of paralysis. Meanwhile, Danielle – family = pretty well-adjusted chick. They’re good people, but we just have really different ideas about what I should be doing with my life (according to them, having babies [no, thanks]) and where I should be living (down the street from them in my tiny hometown). It really stresses me out to talk about this kind of stuff on the regular, so I started backing off as a way to avoid disappointing them and also to feel good about the choices I make. I am not usually the one who initiates a phone call. If I’m visiting and things get hairy, I say, “OK, I think we should talk about this later,” and physically walk out of the room or house. If an email takes a turn toward the judgmental, I take my time responding (or maybe don’t write back at all).

I’ve had a pretty strained relationship with my mom for most of my life. I haven’t lived with her in a long time, and I’ve never met my dad. My older brother and I moved in with my grandparents when I was 10 years old, and my mom was having a hard time. They became our legal guardians. It was weird in that it was hard to explain, because none of my other friends lived with anyone else other than their parents. From early on, I had to develop a language to talk about family that wasn’t in keeping with a perceived norm. Since I didn’t live with my mom during my most formative years, I never really felt like we knew each other, and while we were civil and generally got along when I did see her (a few times a year), we never quite gelled in a “let’s go shopping and talk about boys” way. I was always quick to tell people that I didn’t really like my mom, and they always tried to tell me how terrible that was to say. But I really didn’t KNOW her, and what I did know about her was that we had different thoughts about everything ranging from hairstyles to music to books to what I was going to do when I grew up. I felt very bottled up around her: we couldn’t talk about pop culture, she didn’t know any of my friends or what constituted my daily routine, she’d never regularly attended any of my softball games or drum corps parades. And I felt like we couldn’t talk about the elephant in the room, which was: Hey, we don’t live together, and isn’t that odd?

It’s definitely hard/harsh to admit that you fundamentally don’t like the person who gave birth to you. But isn’t it worse to force an uncomfortable relationship with someone just because you’re related? While it was a little unorthodox, I think the experience of not living with but needing to find ways to talk to my mom made me realize that contact with your family isn’t always a given.

There’s a difference between being annoyed by your family in general versus actually feeling like you come from the another planet. I’m not talking about ignoring your dad for a while after you find out his politics differ from yours. Don’t start filling out paperwork for emancipation just because your parents are refusing to increase your allowance. I’m talking about the deep-down feeling that you really have very little in common with your family; that you love them, but maybe don’t like them; that without the biological connection you wouldn’t ever interact with these people at all; and, ultimately, that they may be standing in the way of who you want to become.

My situation is definitely at one extreme of the spectrum, but there are a lot of reasons that people end up drifting away from their families. You could have a great relationship with your parents but still feel smothered by them. Sometimes being really close with your parents is its own trap, because you’re fearful of disappointing them, and you want them to be happy with you no matter what. Putting distance between yourself and your family can take the shape of not wanting to go to church anymore, deferring college (or going to college), wanting to live with the person you’re dating, or whatever experiences don’t fall in line with their vision of how you should live your life. There are gradations of family pressure that affect your willingness or ability to interact with them while you’re trying to maintain your independence.

And independence is ultimately what it’s about, right? You want to be your own person, but sometimes you’re not able to discover who that is within the family dynamic. It’s important to understand and investigate what you want and need out of life without feeling like you’re letting people down in the process. The thing about family is that it is largely based on roles, and, a lot of the time, not wanting to engage with the people you’re related to is just your way of saying “I’m not going to fit in this box you’ve made for me.” You want them to see you as you are, not as they imagine you to be. If distance, physical or otherwise, helps you get to a better place in your life, you need to trust your instincts.

A lot of us are taught pretty early on that there’s some facet of caretaking that comes with being a girl, and we’re sort of coached on how to make or be part of a family, sometimes to our own detriment. It used to make me really mad that no one trusted my opinion regarding my mom when I was a kid, and no one said it was OK if we didn’t have a great relationship. The implication was that there was something wrong with me for not wanting a close relationship with my mom, and it felt like I was punished for knowing a little too early that you can’t always lean on your parents for personal validation.

Sometimes the hardest thing about putting distance between yourself and your family is the fear that they’re the only people who will offer you unconditional love. But not having a close relationship with most of my family really gave me space to develop some amazing friendships. Friends can know, love, and accept you in a different way from how your family can. One friend might be great at talking you through a breakup, while another is willing to jump off of a stack of speakers at a concert with you. It’s not easy to break free from the family structure when you’re still in high school, but that’s when you start to find your people.

As you get older, you eventually meet friends who have had similar experiences, or at least make you feel less weird about your own. I have friends who love but are estranged from their parents for different reasons, and this tends to make us closer. One of my friends doesn’t really talk to her parents, because they are really religious and disapprove of her living with her boyfriend before marriage; instead of having that conversation every single time she talks to them, she just doesn’t call them very often. But I also have friends who talk to their parents every day, and while we can’t connect on that level, we have so much in common that it doesn’t matter. Over time you get to a place where you’re not defined by your family, but rather by who you are, and then no one really uses your family as a way to figure you out.

Even though I eventually started talking to my mom a few times a year, she isn’t part of the fabric of my life, and I’m much better off for it. We’ve worked through all of our issues, so it’s not like I’m holding a grudge. I just recognize that we’re not close, and that’s totally OK. My mom just found out a month ago that I got married last Halloween. No one in my family was there, but two of my oldest friends flew in from New York for the day, and I had the best time ever. When I graduate next year, I’ll be looking for Sarah, Sandra, and Zan in the crowd, because they’re the ones who answer my frantic calls about homework and general anxiety about finding a job. I talk to my brother every few weeks and my grandma once a week, but in both instances I insist on keeping it light: our relationships survive because I refuse to engage them in any discussions about how they think my life should be versus how it actually is, and I’m not afraid to back off if it gets too intense. When I’m done, I send novel-length emails to my friends about how crazy they make me, and they invariably make me laugh or reaffirm my decisions or suggest we meet for massive quantities of cupcakes and pizza. ♦


  • rosiesayrelax July 10th, 2012 3:04 PM

    sometimes my mum drives me nuts. it’s nice to hear other people’s ways of dealing with this sorta stuff.

    Rosie Say Relax

  • RockHatesMiriam July 10th, 2012 3:12 PM

    As they say… Friends are the family you choose yourself! Great article (as always!)

  • Tyknos93 July 10th, 2012 3:16 PM

    Wow this is an incredibly brave article and decision you’ve made. Though I’ve never had anything really dreadful like abuse or neglect happen to me at the hands of a family member, I really don’t like them much. Well most relatives outside of my immediate family. If I wasn’t related to them I don’t think I would even speak to them at all.

    I made this post about it.

    Growing up it was a terrible feeling. Like I was the black sheep and couldn’t quite connect with anyone. Now I just sneak off to corners and quiet rooms at parties and drink all night or scowl at children. I wish I did feel something, some kind of bond or affection, but most of the time, I just don’t.

    • Chimdi August 6th, 2012 8:35 PM

      I feel the same way! Family parties are always terrible for me because I have next to nothing in common with 80% of my extended family

  • Shanman July 10th, 2012 3:19 PM

    I don’t think I have ever related to an article more than this. I really admire your strength. My dad and i don’t have a good relationship at all. He is either using me as an outlet for his anger or being overly nice to the point where its really uncomfortable to be around. A few months ago he said to me “I dont like the way your are anymore” and that cut me really deep. I guess in the long run though, Ive realized that he is very irrational and self absorbed and his opinion shouldn’t affect my self esteem. We should all remember that its important that WE like who we are not others. luckily I go to college away from home and I only stay with him every other week for the summer.

    THANK YOU for writing this. I wish I could have read this 10 years ago.

    • Erin Lady July 10th, 2012 4:01 PM

      Your comment rang true to my experience as well. In fact, this describes my dynamic with my dad almost perfectly. When I learned that my dad was diagnosed with a serious mental illness, Borderline Personality Disorder, his anger, mood swings and self-absorbed behavior suddenly began to make sense. I’ve had to distance myself from him just to feel comfortable having him in my life at all.

      Not suggesting that this is the same situation with your dad at all, just wanted to say that you’re not alone in having a parent who makes you feel like sh*t. Building a family of friends has really made all the difference for me, and my self esteem :)

      Great article! Hope this helps other ladies feel comfortable breaking out of traditional family roles, and stepping into a life that makes them feel comfortable with who they are, and loved unconditionally!

      • starsinyourheart July 10th, 2012 7:50 PM

        my dad was diagnosed with BPD for a while and showed pretty intense sociopathic tendencies. it’s soul destroying growing up with that kind of manipulation. so true about building a family out of friends :) they saved me for sure.

    • Shanman July 11th, 2012 3:30 AM

      I always thought my dad might have narcissistic personality disorder but there are a few things about him that don’t fit in with that, like he is extremely emotional. I just looked up borderline personality disorder on wikipedia and I was shocked by how much it fit him

      feels good to have people that can relate!

  • eliza dolittle July 10th, 2012 3:27 PM

    This was a really awesome, positive way to talk about this. I learned early on in my teens that there was no necessary compulsion to care about my family simply because we’re related; they had to put in the effort too if we were going to have a relationship.

    My mum is a single mother, so when she started dating again after not having done so for a long time she ended up essentially abandoning us for a few years; it is the weirdest thing living under the same roof as someone and having zero emotional or intellectual contact. But even though I spent most of that time being hideously angry, it was good to learn that I had the right to demand a certain level of care from those around me if they wanted to maintain their place in my life. I’m 20 now and things have mainly calmed down, both because my mum is engaged and I’ve confronted her about it enough and talked through it again and again that I think the message finally stuck.

    So if anyone’s in a shitty situation, consider your own actions but now that you are completely entitled to a relationship based on effort and care, and should get space when you need <3

    • Danielle July 11th, 2012 1:04 PM

      SO smart. This is great advice, and I’m glad you came through it with so much clarity!

  • Libby July 10th, 2012 3:36 PM

    Although I am incredibly lucky to have really good relationships with my parents (the line ‘Sometimes being really close with your parents is its own trap, because you’re fearful of disappointing them, and you want them to be happy with you no matter what’ is what is most true of my situation) I cannot wait until my paternal grandparents are not a part of my life.
    Apparently it would be better if they were poor because then they would only be able to worry about if they could get food, and nothing more. They still believe in Maslow, I think.
    And I should try and get into Oxford because “they’d like to tell their friends they have a smart granddaughter.”
    And whenever I see them, I am biting my tongue to hold back the anger against their homophobic, transphobic, slutshaming attitudes.
    Having to live with people like that on a daily basis would make me run away from home, I think.

    • Violet July 10th, 2012 4:52 PM

      Oh Libby,
      This makes me want to ask you: why don’t you want to confront them and speak honestly about how their behavior makes you feel? Won’t you feel much better (as well as less angry?).

    • anonymouse July 10th, 2012 10:47 PM

      “I am biting my tongue to hold back the anger against their homophobic, transphobic, slutshaming attitudes.” <-My dad(+ the racism and hypocrisy). He is disabled and has dementia, and have to take care of him for the majority of the week. It is maddening, I definitely understand.

  • kitafee July 10th, 2012 4:37 PM

    I can really relate to this article and i’ve found it really comforting to find that people feel the same! I’m currently having therapy too, and a lot of my problems stem from how crap the dynamics in my family are. A lot of things get blamed on me and i’ve been portrayed in a way that I feel trapped by. I’m learning that I am who I am, not just who they think I am!

    It’s hard to break away from your family though, because it feels so unnatural. But sometimes, nothing is really holding you together! Families are strange..

  • SarahCat July 10th, 2012 4:38 PM

    Thank you so much for writing this.

  • Lillypod July 10th, 2012 4:54 PM

    this is sad but true, i think. Even if you have a great/good/so-so relationship with your family, I think it’s important to slowly distance yourself psychologically from your family, to show you have your own mind and are capable of making your own decisions, whether they approve or not.

  • Alexis July 10th, 2012 4:55 PM

    This was really good. “I think a lot of women and girls are conditioned where family is concerned, and we end up ignoring our instincts.” – made me think of this: I would love to see Rookie do an article on how not everyone has to grow up and get married and have babies, even though it’s “expected.”

  • christinachristina July 10th, 2012 4:59 PM

    This is a lovely article, but I have no idea where else to ask this!

    If anyone that’s part of the Portland Rookie meet up today reads this, what’s the plan?! I know it’s Voodoo then the Church of Elvis, but I’m wondering if anyone has any idea of time/where ya’ll might be at 5:30? I really want to join, but I’m not off work until then.

  • jazz July 10th, 2012 5:03 PM

    this is such a great article! I really resonates with me – I started in ACA earlier this year and that has helped me so much with dealing with my family – thank you for writhing this:)

  • Illusen July 10th, 2012 5:29 PM

    It’s funny, my aunt had a friend who had little contact with her parents after she left home. She would always criticize her for that selfish choice and I always felt she was the one being selfish and immature. She had been lucky enough to actually have a connection with her family, some people feel like they just share the same house with their relatives. And it really is better to just be honest about it and respect each other as much as possible while reducing contact than throwing accusations and judgment to each other in awkward family reunions. I really loved this article because you actually seem like a really likeable person who made a mature choice which no one should judge.

    • Danielle July 11th, 2012 1:02 PM

      “And it really is better to just be honest about it and respect each other as much as possible while reducing contact than throwing accusations and judgment to each other in awkward family reunions.”

      You hit the nail on the head. I love my family – I just don’t always like them. No one is to blame for that, and there’s no need to look for retribution – I just wanted to get on with my life. :)

  • saramarit July 10th, 2012 7:01 PM

    I’ve had similar issues with my Dad (though luckily I’m close with my Mum). What you say is very true and it’s a shame that some people, usually those who don’t know you well, will try to make you feel guilty for not liking/wanting to be around your family. You have to out your own sanity first.
    It gets easier as you get older though. You start to see who your parents are beyond their relationship with you and it helps to understand the things they say and do. You realise that its not your fault and a lot of the time it has nothing to do with you at all.

  • indigosunday July 10th, 2012 7:02 PM

    I needed this TODAY more than ever…I totally blew up with them calling my mom an “ugly, wicked witch” and called my dad an asshile. It was sort of this built up thing that’s come up with my parents never willing to listen to me especially if my opinion differs from theirs or I say something they don’t want to hear. My parents are religous and my being a feminist and saying that a bible scripture was rude totally caused a blow up. My parents believe that itt’s our fault and never want to change parents edit out events so that it sounds like you did something to them and they wont look at both sides of the problem…I have forgiven my parents multiply times…for hurting me, frightening me, etc. With my parents all I can ever feel is anger…even at the smallest things…I only know I have a problem with my parents because I realise that the nearer I get to them the angrier that I get and it makes me feel so much better when there are moments when they’re not around. When I meet people who are just like my parents and have these negative attitudes I get angry at them…which has gotten me a bad rep. My parents say I’m angry for no reason and never understand that maybe I’m sad or something…they take the sides of other people against me…if a teacher says I’m bad, that’s okay with them. My parents swear they have sacrificed it all but maybe I’ve sacrificed things too…my point is that I have self-righteous parents who don’t really care about my emotional/mental needs, who I want to get away from and though I am 14…I think I have my right to be happy

    • Chimdi August 6th, 2012 8:56 PM

      You do have a right to be happy! My mother does that thing where she makes sound like it’s my fault and I’m the one who needs to change in order to make things right, and she has also become displeased with me for questioning verses in the Bible (which is ironic, considering 1 Thessalonians 5:21!) It really clicked with me when you said “My parents swear they have sacrificed it all but maybe I’ve sacrificed things too…” I’ve sacrificed things to please my parents. I do it constantly, but I never the right to say it in a plea for respect because it is already expected of me.

      Also, I know what you mean when you said they don’t respect your mental/emotional needs! Telling my mom I need more privacy is taken as a plea for her to search my room, and one time when I was 9-ish and said I wanted kill myself, she told me committing suicide makes you go to hell and left it at that!

      I don’t really feel anger towards my parents like you said you do, but more a hope that someday they’ll be more open-minded and we’ll be on the same page. I honestly hope they’ll be more open-minded and willing to listen to you.

      P.S. If you still feel like Christianity and feminism contrast each other, ReKnew is a really good egalitarian Christian theology site(Ex:

      {Sorry if that just exacerbates your distaste for the Bible :/ Just offering you a point of view that I could never find in any of the Christians I know}

  • Sparkie July 10th, 2012 7:31 PM

    You know what, it’s funny cause I was thinking about this earlier today . My relation ship with my mum is fine, I love her, and as long as we’re only the both of us it’s fantastic but as soon as my sister is in the picture it’s horrible . She’s not my only sibling but the only one who lives close to me, she’s 37, and has a daughter and a son.
    For example today we went shopping and I bought a lovely necklace with pastel colour stones, anyway, she looked at me with disgust and said : You’re not serious are you ?
    I know it’s nothing but sometimes I wish I could just scream FUCK YOU ! Does it really matter to her that I wanted it, was it worth it to make me feel unconfortable because of her own taste ? No !
    I remember about 4 years ago I was a massive fan of this band and almost ” in love” with the singer, I now realise it was quite extreme but still, she would critic them until I cry, at the time I was in a depression + cutting, and she knew that . This band was just the only thing that made me feel alive . But she would try and destroy that. The most annoying thing is that in private my mum would agree with me but in front of my sister she would also laugh at me. I feel like I disappoint them in every way, I feel like I’m not worth anything to them, and my mum doesn’t understand that I just don’t want to visit them, cause it makes me unhappy. The problem also is that in a way I love them and I wish they would accept me and love me as I am really bad and I just don’t know what to do.. It builds up and the more time passes the more I’m angry at them .

    • Danielle July 11th, 2012 12:59 PM

      “I know it’s nothing”
      The way people make you feel is EVERYTHING.

      I think it’s fantastic that you’ve been able to create some boundaries with your sister; she may never be able to understand why you don’t visit, and it’s not your job to convince her. Your inability to be around your mom and sister doesn’t mean you don’t love them, and it’s not your job to convince them of that, either. It sounds like you’re on a good path right now, but maybe a therapist could help with the rest of the way – just in terms of figuring out your anger, or figuring out how to navigate the whole thing so it doesn’t negatively affect you when you aren’t around them.

      You are worthy. If your family cannot see that, I know that other people can.

  • Harley July 10th, 2012 7:43 PM

    I can relate to this so much, it’s nice to know that others are in the same boat. Thanks for sharing and letting others like me know that we’re not alone.

  • KateStella July 10th, 2012 7:44 PM

    This hit close to home. My question, though, is what about a parent whose mental stability is literally held together by your existence/by your not moving across the country/by your constant contact? What I mean is, I fear that if I actually do what I really want to do (move away, live in a city even though my mom will worry about me so much she’ll make herself sick, etc.) that my mom’s health will nosedive. It’s so much guilt to deal with… especially because she doesn’t have support other places — or rather, she does, but refuses to use it (refuses therapy, etc.).

    I hope that made some sense…

    Any thoughts? :/

    • Danielle July 11th, 2012 12:49 PM

      This is a tough situation, no doubt. My gut instinct is to tell you that you can’t control your mom’s health or level of guilt (because it’s true), but I also know that it’s not as cut and dry as that. It sounds like she already needs some help that you are not qualified to give (as in professional or medical) – is there another family member who could step in here? Either to help convince her, or take over when you go?

    • planethostile July 11th, 2012 10:52 PM

      This situation seems very unfair for you. My friend was in a similar situation (though maybe a bit more extreme? I’m not sure exactly what your situation is). My friend went to Hawaii for a year to take care of his dad who had a stroke. My friend went there with the intention of moving him back to Florida where they could both get help, however his dad refused to move even though my friend was physically injuring himself trying to take care of him. Finally, my friend bought plane tickets and said “I’m leaving with or without you”, which got his dad to go.

      My friend did not graduate high school and missed a scholarship opportunity because he left for so long. He has basically set his life back a whole year, and he still cannot begin with his desired career track because he is still so physically injured from lifting his 300 lb father in and out of bed every day.
      My friend’s father probably won’t make a full recover because he did not get proper care within the first year of his stroke, simply because my friend just wasn’t qualified to take care of him.

      I really think you should just look at what would be the greatest good for your mother AND you. If she isn’t getting the help she needs and your life is being hindered, that doesn’t seem good for anyone.

  • lylsoy July 10th, 2012 7:53 PM

    Woah, I always thought I’d be the only one who doesn’t have contact with her family anymore and I felt really bad for it! Also, my friends were not really helpful with that and told me that family is more important than anything.. But I’ve learnt better!
    I am so glad you’ve found true friends you can connect with, Danielle! And this article is very well written- thank you

  • Taylor WM July 10th, 2012 7:58 PM

    This article is so good for seeing relationships between families, which are estranged, from the INSIDE and getting to understand what is actually going on!
    This sounds crazy, but whenever I go onto Rookie, there is always something to read which opens my eyes to something or helps me figure something out… so thanks! Its brilliant :)

  • africa July 10th, 2012 8:39 PM

    Thank you.

  • Flowercake July 10th, 2012 8:55 PM

    I get what you’re saying here and I can relate in a different. I’m actually stuck in the middle and dont know whatt to do. I am so close to one parent where the other at times I don’t even want to ever talk to and at other times have the greatest times with. But at the same time I want to just open myself to other people to know me and accept me to know that I belong somewhere else in the world other than home. I just don’t know what to do.

    • Danielle July 11th, 2012 12:44 PM

      Your family dynamic doesn’t have to be an indication of any other relationships you have. You will find your people, I swear!

  • Mags July 10th, 2012 9:17 PM

    I feel like movies and Hollywood make it seem like everybody’s relationship with their family is all hunky-dory, but the truth is that most relationships are full of tension. It’s perfectly normal but rarely talked about.

    I don’t think it’s weird that you are not close to your mom. I’ve known people who could never build a successful relationship with their parents and it was usually the parents’ fault, because the parents are the adults and you can’t really expect kids to know how to deal effectively with abandonment, neglect, abuse, etc. Some people are just not meant to be parents.

    • Danielle July 11th, 2012 12:42 PM

      I also try to recognize that (in my situation) there might not be anyone at fault, per se, that maybe we just don’t get along very well and that’s cool. For a long time I tried to place blame and want some accountability from my family, but that just caused more strife for me, you know? Sometimes the answer is easier than that (like you point out about relationships and tension).

  • neelybat July 10th, 2012 10:19 PM

    this is really wonderful. i think it’ so important to write about this and let people know it’s ok not to be close to their families. i haven’t talked to my dad for years, and cutting him out of my life was one of the best things i ever did for my mental health. even though my mother only lives about an hour from me i only see her once or twice a year, and it’s so much better that way.

  • hellocat July 10th, 2012 10:44 PM

    This came at the perfect time. I’ve recently decided to spend time away from my parents because they can’t support what I want to do with my life.

  • marimba_girl July 10th, 2012 11:13 PM

    You were (are?) is drum corps?!?!?!?!??? SO COOL! Who do you march with?

    Sorry, I got a bit distracted :) But I can completely relate to your article, having come to a similar conclusion regarding the relationship I have with my dad. We are not close at all and we would fight all of the time so I have been doing my best to not be in a situation with him where our hot topics for arguing are. It has been working out a bit better but my friends are really surprised and can be unsupportive even after my many explanations. I just wish that others could be more understanding and realize that just because their family is mostly pretty awesome and fun to hang with, not everyone is in the same situation.

    • lyrarose July 11th, 2012 1:44 AM

      Um, mostly off-topic, but can I ask what drum corps is? Is it an all drum band? I’m a violinist and my school definitely didn’t support anything musical so I’ve never heard this term before.

      • jazzypantalons July 11th, 2012 3:34 AM

        Drum corps is a marching band that consists of brass instruments, percussion, and colour guard and are most definitely awesome.

      • marimba_girl July 12th, 2012 10:08 AM

        Drum corps or DCI is the most amazing marching band ever! It features a drumline, brass, and usually a front ensemble (aka pit) where the other percussion instruments such as the marimba are played. Here is a link this is the Caveliers 2011 show featuring the upside down quad break! Check out 0:46 and watch the pit runs, so awesome!

    • danielleh July 11th, 2012 12:28 PM

      Queen Village Queens, represent! I started in color guard (flag) and moved to baritone horn. This is over 20 years ago, mind you, but I still watch DCI. :)

  • Jacklyn July 10th, 2012 11:37 PM

    This is really helpful for me because now I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. None of my friends can seem to understand how I feel and they all think that I’m being to harsh and that those are horrible things to say. Thank you a lot. I feel like I’m not crazy anymore.

  • Sparletta July 11th, 2012 1:22 AM

    Reading this made me think about the guilty feelings I have sometimes when my friends talk about how close they are with their mum or how they’re going out to dinner with their families on the weekend.

    It’s not that I have major problems with my family, I love them but we’re just not that close and so this article definitely helped me feel less lonely in that sense. I always thought super close families were a bit weird anyway …. just kidding.

  • lyrarose July 11th, 2012 1:43 AM

    this is one of those articles that makes me happy that rookie exists. One of the validating articles that puts this online magazine far beyond any of the magazines like ‘Seventeen’, Vogue, or Nylon – that each have some nice or ok things, but lack realism in cases like this.

    My parents are emotionally abusive. My dad’s almost never home, so my mother mostly, but it’s still hard to live with them. Your article has more or less described the positive side of the relationship with my mum (which isn’t so positive), and since I’m currently in the process of moving out to my dream school as a freshman (that my parents don’t approve of) – this article is helpful and shows that maybe it’s not as weird and scary and difficult to estrange myself from my family. This is really relevant and I needed an article like this this week.

    • danielleh July 11th, 2012 12:25 PM

      First, congratulations on getting into your dream school! Best of luck as you start this new chapter.

      Sometimes not sharing physical space with family makes it easier to set your own boundaries. Like, maybe it won’t feel so extreme when you’re not around them everyday, but at the same time you’re coming up with your own ideas of how you want your relationship to look. I know it’s not always a possibility for everyone, but moving really helped me in that regard; sometimes you just need time and space to figure out who you are before you can re-engage with your family.

  • freakslikeus1 July 11th, 2012 2:03 AM

    I really love this article so much! Great writing

  • jazzypantalons July 11th, 2012 3:32 AM

    My cousin who I was close with when I was young basically cut our family off basically five years ago. She was living with my grandma because she wanted to live in Michigan for some reason while her mom was in Florida. I guess she and my grandmother had different ideas and opinions (my grandma was born and spent most of her life in the Phillipines). I was twelve and I was really hurt and I honestly couldn’t picture her and my grandma having a huge argument that resulted her moving out and driving away with her douchey boyfriend. My grandma is one of the sweetest, most generous people I know. I’m 17 now and my grandparents live with us and I still have not seen her since, and I desperately want to for some reason just to show that she missed knowing me and my awesome self. I wish I had someone to talk to that was older when I was going through puberty, talking to boys, taking those standardized tests, etc. My brothers, however, see her very often at parties and clubs and whenever they go out to drink at bars, etc. She said she would visit during Christmas but that was 7 months ago and still no sign. My family is very big, very asian, and close enough (not too close), so it’s different than yours. But I guess what I’m trying to say is that I wish she hadn’t been so selfish. I mean it’s been five years, my grandma or grandpa never physically abused her or emotionally abuse her, and she lives less than an hour away – she could at least visit us once a year, especially since my brothers say she doesn’t hate my grandparents anymore.

    • Danielle July 12th, 2012 1:58 PM

      There could have been something that happened between your cousin and grandmother that you didn’t see or weren’t aware of; it doesn’t always come down to abuse, you know? Personalities differ, people don’t get along. Your cousin has a very different relationship with your grandmother than you do, and that’s okay. What you see as her selfishness may in fact be selfishness, or it may be that she needed to give herself some space.

      It sounds like the situation is causing you some strife, mainly because there are things about their estrangement that you don’t understand. Is it possible for you to ask either of them what really happened? Would you be satisfied if you found out the answer, and they still didn’t speak to each other? Can you have a relationship with both of them as separate people without wanting to force any aspect of their relationship? Because trying to control that for too long is going to stress you out.

      It’s completely possible for you to have a great relationship with your grandmother and a great relationship with your cousin without them ever being in the same room.

    • marievivs July 13th, 2012 10:46 AM

      Hi! This is weird but I totally understand where you’re coming from. I’m actually living in the Philippines, and even if I haven’t had a big argument with my grandma ( I live with her too!) there are moments when I really really want to just space. I admit that I have my selfish moments but the great thing is my family tries their best to understand. I’m trying my best to understand them too now! At the same time, I also don’t have a lot of people my age around me, so I think that your cousin could be yearning for your company as well! I’ve seen relationships between some of my feuding family members work out because someone had the guts and the heart to reach out. Not to worry or harass the feuding parties, mind you. We just all want someone to relate too! I highly recommending sending her an email or maybe a call if you’re feeling bold. Don’t push her to become closer to the family just yet, let your friendship with her grow naturally. And maybe she might realize that she isn’t so angry anymore?

  • Lulu July 11th, 2012 3:47 AM

    This really hit home for me – I see my Dad once a month because my parents are divorced and he won’t make an effort, and when I tell people that, they’re always like ‘That’s terrible, you need a father figure in you life,’ etc. Really though, if I could have any say in it, I’d see him even less. Whenever I’m around him, all he can say to me is about how much I’ve changed since I was in Elementary School, why all of my interests are wrong, how I am chronically miserable and depressive all the time because I don’t watch the movies and read the books other girls my age do, and why my mother is a bad person. He’s obsessed with lecturing me on everything I’m not doing for him, and constantly questions why I never talk to him, yet he never does so much as lift a finger for me when I need it. When I get home, I have stress-induced eczema all over my body, and have to go talk to my shrink because my self-esteem and happiness tends to take a major hit because of him. Danielle, your article makes me feel like I’m not alone, and it makes me so happy that I’m not the only person who considers estrangement from a family member to be the best thing for them :)

    • danielleh July 11th, 2012 12:16 PM

      You are definitely not alone. Maybe one day you’ll find a way to have a relationship with him, and maybe you won’t, but the important thing is to keep yourself safe and sane in the process. It’s not selfish to want that for yourself.

  • fourf89 July 11th, 2012 4:53 PM

    Ah I love this and relate to this completely 100%. Phew somebody else gets it. You don’t have to feel guilty about cutting people out of your life that are bad for you, family or not.

  • planethostile July 11th, 2012 10:58 PM

    This article describes how I feel about my mother almost exactly. The situation is not the same, but the relationship is almost an exact match. I’ve tried to talk about things that really excite me with my mother, but she usually has no clue what I’m talking about and winds up not understanding and/or not caring. Then she complains that we never talk.

  • marievivs July 12th, 2012 7:09 AM

    I was really surprised by this article because I thought I was the only one who felt kind of disconnected from my family. I live in a country that’s all about family values and reputation etc. and I sometimes feel like I’m an alien because I find it difficult to fit into this mold of a pretty academically competent daughter who never says stupid things. I live with my grandparents during the weekdays and I sometimes go home to my parents on weekends. Even if if I don’t fight with my family, I feel smothered by how perfect I’m supposed to be. Sometimes I just want to eat chips and not need to sit with proper posture all the time. It’s good though that you and I ( and the other girls who can relate to this) have found family and freedom through friends. Thanks Danielle for sharing your story!

    • Danielle July 12th, 2012 2:08 PM

      Eeeeeeeeeeeveryone says stupid things, and sits in their underwear eating cupcake frosting from the jar while cursing out loud at reality TV shows. Anyone who says different is lying to you. :)

      But I get what you mean here – there’s a sense of comfort in having space to just exist, with no obligations or feelings of inadequacy. What are some areas of your life where you feel REALLY competent, relaxed and happy? I ask, because taking solace in the things you already know about yourself to be awesome could be a way to get through the times when you’re feeling stifled. Keep a mental checklist of things you love and are great at; the next time someone is commenting on your posture, your grades, or your future, run through that list. If they say, “Oh, you got a B in biology, now you’ll never get into Harvard” you say to yourself silently, “But I got an A in studio art and it was my favorite class” or “I helped Kelly through a terrible break-up, and being a good friend is way more important to me.” You only need to be good enough for you.

  • ZisZisZis July 12th, 2012 8:40 AM

    Danielle, it’s so great that you’re answering so many of the commenters.

  • purrr July 12th, 2012 9:06 AM

    this article is beautiful, thank you so much Danielle!

  • Yani July 15th, 2012 2:44 AM

    sometimes family will want to control you because they mixed supportive relations with the enforcement of their ideals under the excuse of blood ties. also, cultural pressures make people do all types of crazy.
    but remember you are your own with your own dreams and don’t have to be miserable. eventually, with enough not backing down, (hopefully) they’ll get it.

    excellent article, excellent timing, excellent theme. well done rookie

  • sophia42 July 16th, 2012 4:52 PM

    I can completely relate to this article. The relationship I have with my mother is strained to the point where I’ve done the same thing- block her out of my life. She had/has issues that I’m just not able to deal with at the point I’m at in my life- and a lot I don’t think anyone else should deal with. The problem is that I just don’t really get along with the rest of my family because I guess I feel…a little bit of hatred towards her and I take it out on everybody else on accident. There’s not many people I have a good relationship; at some points in my life I’ve felt like all of my relationships with my friends were being sabotaged, and I felt it was mostly my fault. At some point I’ll have to take a break to figure myself out first then deal with my family. It’s just kind of hard trying to keep the two- my mother vs. the rest of the people in my life- separate…you know?

  • serendipity July 24th, 2012 4:29 PM

    is like a breath knowing that there are other people going through it. Not qu me glad the situation, but know I’m not the only one. sometimes the people you surround yourself which seem to have perfect lives and feel you can not tell …
    In my case my mom is as toxic to me, but I still love her, and I have not learned to deal with it.

  • GyGy August 6th, 2012 4:40 PM

    Its hard to grab the scissors and just cut loose, specially when there is no one around who understands how consuming it can be to live parents that will never let you be or accept you as who you are. Its great to have found this article, it will deff help me on my life journey. ♥

  • DE August 16th, 2012 9:05 PM

    Though I do have a strong bond with my immediate family it’s a completely different story with my extended family. My mom grew up in Colorado as the oldest of eight and was the only one who moved away from Colorado when she got older. Just recently we went to visit the family and I felt like a complete outsider. I see the family sporadically so every time I visit I basically have to reintroduce myself to my many younger cousins. Usually I am able to quickly pick up where I last left off and go run around with the cousins but this year was different. I’m 15 now and the last time I visited I was 11. The whole family gathered together one night for dinner and I felt completely lost. They were all strangers to me. They all lived in close proximity together and saw each other every week so they knew each other all so well. As they talked I sat in a lawn chair silently trying to push down the lump in my throat that had appeared ever since everyone arrived. My relatives kept on mistaking me for a college student and my cousins thought I was a family friend. It was the worst feeling, realizing your family doesn’t know you especially when the rest of them know each other so well. It makes you feel like the family is a sort of clique that only certain family members are allowed in. But thats not the way a family should be but thats the way my extended family is. In the long run i guess its good because I got away from Colorado and my mom dad and brothers and I were able to establish our own independent lives.