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Should a Family Scapegoat Cut Off Contact?

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From a woman in the U.S.: I was raised in a narcissistic family, with my widowed mother being the principle one. I have 4 siblings..most of them being single mothers. They all have hard lives, some of them now raising their grandchildren.

I, myself, have been married 35 years, a successful career, and 4 grown children. There is a lot of jealousy going on, with a mob mentality. I have been shunned for 25 years. My mother says I “never show up to anything” unlike the others, but the fact is I am rarely invited or told about the event. If I ask about when we can get together for the holidays, the family’s response is vague. When I pop in unexpectedly, everyone else is already there..even my cousins.

My sisters constantly repeat the mantra to my now semi-elderly mother,

“Oh, she never comes to anything”; or “you can’t count on her for anything”. If I manage to attend a family event, I am either ignored or belittled. None of my siblings look happy to see me walk in the door.

My mother has always been critical of most every aspect of my life. It has taken me 40 years to realize that my mother and sisters are pathologically jealous people, and are not capable of real love.  I realize that many victims of narcissistic abuse go “no contact” with their families. Because my mother is getting frail, and any holiday, birthday, etc. could be her last one…I hesitate to go entirely no contact. I could try to see her and avoid the big family gathering, but I would never get to see my 2 cousins that come from out of town for the holidays. It is not possible to make separate plans with the cousins…their time in town is limited.

I am between a rock and a hard place. If I don’t go to the family gatherings that I find out about, I feel I am letting them win with their quest to isolate me. I guess I can just show up and ignore everyone in the room except the 2 cousins…but in the past I have left in tears…which my mom and siblings loved to see. My mom is heir to a nice farm..wouldn’t ya know..everyone is trying to get the inheritance already. Do I go “no contact”?

Should a Family Scapegoat Cut Off Contact?

Answered by on -


What concerns me most in your letter is that this situation continues to upset you to the point that you leave family events in tears. That suggests that you are still hanging onto some hope that the family is going to change their treatment of you. You do know that they are not going to change.

I think there is more than jealousy going on. The fact that you have had a successful life makes your siblings feel bad about the choices they’ve made. If you are successful, it means that maybe they could have been as well. Rather than look at their own inadequacies, they create a narrative that makes you the person at fault. I have a guess that they see the potential for inheritance as a way to bail themselves out of their situations. They may also feel that you are so successful that you don’t need it. If they cut you out, there is more to go around.

My advice? Focus on what you really want, which is to have no regrets about not seeing your mother and to have some time with the cousins. Limit the time at family gatherings to spending a few minutes with your mother. Make a coffee date with the cousins while they are in town. (If they don’t take you up on it, accept that they are less invested in contact than you are.) Then leave. Don’t stick around to be bullied and put down.

Instead, focus on celebrating your own family. Stay in touch with your adult kids. Have good times with your husband. Enjoy the family you’ve made, instead of trying to change the one you were born to.

If the situation continues to bring you to tears, please see a counselor for a few sessions to help you learn new ways to not let them get to you.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Should a Family Scapegoat Cut Off Contact?

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2020). Should a Family Scapegoat Cut Off Contact?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 2 Mar 2020 (Originally: 3 Mar 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 2 Mar 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.