Email: Feeling Trapped

An email from a reader: please read and share –

  • have you been in a similar situation, if so, what was your experience?
  • what you would suggest to the letter writer’s friend?

Hi Everyone,

I have been reading this blog since a long time and would like to share something. Today, a very old  friend called me and after talking to her, I felt that it would help her immensely if you guys gave some feedback on her situation. I have told her my views but I think after she sees it from the point of view of objective strangers , it will give her a better perspective. I plan to show her the post and comments on it .

She and I go a long way back, we are both in our late twenties now, we became friends when we were maybe 5. She is a past of most of my childhood memories and I feel very sibling like about her. We both come from dysfunctional homes, in many aspects our situation was identical. I, however, was lucky enough to escape while still in my teens while she stayed on. She stays with her parents and her younger sister. While her mom has always been very warm and welcoming to me, I could sense the abnormal atmosphere of her house even as a child. Her dad always seemed absent, even when he was there, he seemed sullen and silent, usually preferring to ignore the kids altogether.

After her sister was born, it seemed like her parents blatantly favoured her sister. As a result her sister was very spoilt and often rude to my friend. Her parents never admonished her sister, no matter how much she misbehaved. As we grew up, we couldn’t meet much, but when ever we did my friend would tell me stuff about not being happy at home, feeling neglected and ignored. The things she told me confirmed that my perception of her circumstances had been accurate. She has had bad luck in relationships which I feel atleast partly has to do with her situation at home. I have tried explaining that to her. If you experience an emotionally abusive situation at home, you internalise it and patterns repeat in your future relationships. That it what happened to me, for which I had to attend regular therapy  after I left home and have strongly advised her the same.

Her main problem at present is that she lives at home and feels that she is constantly disrespected and mocked, and has no mental peace. She has a demanding job and is also preparing for exams to do higher studies. Her schedule is gruelling as it is and when you add to it the unpleasantness at home, it is a recipe for depression. She has virtually no autonomy or privacy at home and many a times she has called me and told me she feels trapped in her situation. She feels like she can neither continue living there nor move out. Her parents and her sister are financially dependent on her. She feels duty bound to live with them and support them. This makes it almost impossible for her to save for future.

She talked to her parents about her financial worries, telling them that she needs to save, especially since she will need the funds to pay for her course, after she clears the exam. They brushed her worries aside. Another time she told me that she had mentioned it to her parents that she was unhappy at home and was considering moving out. Instead of asking her what was wrong, they sneered at her and told her once she moves out she will realise that she can’t  make it on her own.

To me the most disturbing part is that they don’t even her even voice her concerns. As if not letting her voice her unhappiness will make it go away. I find it outrageous that they don’t show any concern or interest in her problems. All they do is belittle her and tell her she is wrong, even without having heard her out. I can see how its affecting her. I can sense her frustration, helplessness and utter loneliness. Just yesterday she sent me a text late at night saying she feels so alone, in spite of living with people who supposedly love her, she feels that she has no one she can really talk to. I know, how toxic this can be. I told her of my own experience and according to me the situation cannot improve unless she moves out.

The last straw was today when she called me and told me about yet another  such instance which had made her stay in a hotel for the night. I reiterated my advice of moving out. My point of view is that, she doesn’t owe them anything. Of course, she should care for her parents but they have a reciprocal duty to respect her as a person. It is possible to find a mid way, where she supports them to an extent but doesn’t sacrifice her autonomy. This need not to be an all or nothing situation as her folks are making it out to be. As in , either stay at home and let things be as they are or move out and be accused of abandoning them. It is supremely unfair for them to make her feel guilty for wanting to leave an abusive atmosphere.

After all moving out does not necessarily mean she is abandoning them. They are seriously guilty tripping her and making her feel bad for even considering living independently. She is nearly thirty and it is perfectly natural for her to want to be independent.  Its one thing to care for them but another if it comes at the cost of her own sanity and career. I think she should move out and contribute a little less at home so she can save for her higher studies, especially as they refuse to give her any account of the expenditure, or even discuss her worries. Plus, there is this constant tension and criticism hurled at her. I was in a similar situation at home and it made me nearly suicidal. I am concerned that she might go the same way. I request you to post this as soon as possible and the readers to please post their assessment of the situation. I want her to have someone else’s opinion other than mine.

Thanks for reading.

Lony (thats my preferred pseudonym for this post)

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13 thoughts on “Email: Feeling Trapped

  1. If she is not yet thirty, and is making enough to actually support her family, that is impressive. In fact, I don’t believe the burden to support dependents should be on a person that young. Why don’t her parents have any other source of income? And if on top of that they’re being horrible to her, she should move out. Well, she holds the financial cards here, it looks like, so she should figure out how much it will cost to move, whether she can support herself, and move.

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  2. From what you wrote, it is obvious to me – your friend needs to move out.

    If she wants, she can contribute a little financially but that should only come after she has put aside savings for herself. In fact, she should save money starting today as a safety net.

    Of course, she can survive alone. Why can’t she? This is her family’s tactics to make her lose confidence so that she doesn’t live alone.

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  3. According to me she should just pack her bags and leave, i know it may be something not right in this situation, i am sorry it sounds like running away. But there is no other option, i totally get it how she feels. She just needs to gather up some courage and strength and leave. She stayed in a hotel for one night, if she can for initially days live in a hotel apartment. 2nd option is if there is anyone in her extended family, who is close to her? May be they can talk to her parents, sometimes parents listen to relatives other people and get the point, but not their own child.

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  4. Move out asap. She is not obligated to take care of them.
    She has to save for herself, meet her needs and then, only then she can consider supporting someone else. She has to save for herself. It is very important.
    She has to move out. It will be difficult but worth it. If she can have a grueling schedule and manage to study amidst the drama at home, she can definitely manage in her own. Mind it, It will not be easy but not impossible either and better mental health wise. It will be peaceful.
    There will also be heartbreak over being let down by family. But that can be coped too.
    Here the her mother sister appears to use her for money and then give a damn about her.She has to get out of this asap..

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  5. Sounds like your friend can support a 4 person family so she can surely support herself. I suggest she do a trial, move out for 2 weeks to a hotel or an airbnb (if that’s available where she is) and see how the family reacts. How do they react when she leaves for one night? In those 2 weeks she’ll also see how she feels, she may not even feel guilty about leaving after she see’s that they can in fact survive on their own but have been manipulating her to stay and support them.

    It’s tough to know what to do about elderly parents or younger family members that you feel responsible for. Of course you don’t want to abandon them to be ‘selfish’ and live your own life, but at some point you have to start your life, your career, your relationships.

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  6. Dear Lony,
    I have a few questions/ thoughts that need clarification –
    – how old are her parents? They do not sound like they’re in their 70s nor do they sound like they have any serious health issues. So why are they dependent on her? Is it just financial dependence?
    – for people who are dependent, they seem to have a remarkable hold on her. They are able to disrespect her and yet she stays with them, taking care of them while being mistreated. She needs to understand why she feels compelled to stay. (one can always move out of parents’ home and still help them financially if they need help).
    – is she trying to somehow win their affection? You mentioned that they indulge her younger sister and belittle her. When parents do this, the child who is treated as less forever feels insecure and continues to fight for parental approval and affection in strange ways. Maybe she is still looking for some validation from them of her worth?
    – if the above is true, counseling may help her understand what she may be going through – a sense of rejection, confusion, etc. The goal of counseling should be for her to eventually see herself as worthy regardless of how her parents view/treat her. Which will free her from trying to find affection/affirmation in the wrong place.
    Just thinking aloud here …. you clarifying might help define the problem better.

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    • Hi,
      Thank you so much for posting this. I really appreciate it. I apologise for not making things clear in the post. I wrote it in a hurry so I missed a few things.

      You asked if they have health issues. To my knowledge, they are not old or in ill health. Her dad used to be the sole earner but shut down his business because it was going constantly at a loss, he stopped earning many years ago. I don’t know if he ever tried to get a job or start another business. From what I understand, her folks are not trying to find any means of supporting themselves. There is definitely a lot of resentment and blaming in that family. He had always told her mom that had she been earning, they would have been in a better position. But since she took care of all the household responsibilities including taking care of the kids, I don’t know how workable that would have been. Just to clarify their finances a bit more, my friend gives half of her salary to them (which comes to around 30k if I recall correctly) for which she is given no account. She is told to save for her course after she clears the exam.

      As to why they have such a hold on her. I do not fully get that either but my understanding is that she has been constantly told how much she owes them and has to care for them, which is not uncommon in Indian families. I was told that too. It is natural to have mixed feelings about such situations. She strongly feels she needs to care for them but at the same time wishes to get away from them, thereby being trapped in a cycle of guilt and resentment. She probably also does not wish to be seen as ungrateful or as abandoning her parents.

      Is she trying to win their affection. I would guess so. I should have mentioned that her sister required a lot of medical attention when she was born. Probably this made her parents more protective of the younger sister which is natural but they took it too far and ended up ignoring the older sister altogether. They also did not draw boundaries with the younger daughter. So it would make sense that my friend is trying to win their approval. Her other relationships are probably an indication as well. She has been too quick to get emotionally invested in relationships. Some of her boyfriends have cheated on her or lied to her and it seems to always come as a complete shock to her. According to me it is maybe because she seeks attention and affection so strongly that ends up ignoring the warning signs while starting new relationships. She also feels bad that all her friends are married/engaged while she is single. So there is definitely a lot of insecurities going on there. The need to win affection is a common factor in all her relationships, whether with her family or outside it.

      I have suggested counselling multiple times. I feel that she thinks since I have not stayed with my family for as long as she has stayed with hers, I don’t really understand the complexity of her situation. She might be right. That is why I wrote to you. I was expecting the readers here to give substantially the same advice as I did but I thought they might articulate it better and maybe even share how they overcame a similar situation in their life.

      I must add that I have been living abroad for the last few years. So I don’t see her family anymore and can’t judge the situation for myself. This is what I got from our phone conversations and chats.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for clarifying Lony. It looks like the family is emotionally manipulating her. Yes, it definitely sounds like counseling would help her. She needs to have a healthy relationship with herself and with others and stop feeling guilty and find happiness. The responses we’re getting are all re-iterating that message – she needs to free herself this unhappy situation, guilt-ridden situation.
        I hope she reads the responses and finds the help she needs. And I hope she continues talking and sharing with you – a friend can make all the difference.

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  7. She needs to leave. Now. She needs to see that they’re emotionally manipulating her into staying. They’re trying to make her feel like she cannot live without them, when in fact, it’s the other way around, seeing as she’s the breadwinner of the family. It’s a person’s duty to care for a parent, but only if that person has actually BEEN a parent to them. They should not expect her to continue to do her duty as their daughter, when they have failed in their duty as her parents.
    I hope she gets therapy and happiness and some peace of mind when all this blows over.

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  8. First of all, it is possible to support parents when living way- we live in a country where some people from their generation due to our conditioning think that the world outside is bad for women- but that isnt always true if one knows to be wary. What is it that would give her peace, is the real question- What is it that she wants to do? Is she hesitant to move out only because of her fear of how the world will react? or is she hesitant because it would make her unhappy due to n number of reasons? What importance who must get is something that she has to decide in her life – its entirely upto her

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  9. Dear LW,
    I’m in a somewhat similar situation with a rather unsupportive family, so I fully empathise with your friend. Its good that both of you have found each other, because this is not an easy topic to discuss.

    As other comments have said, she does need to move out.
    But also, she needs to heal from this situation. Family problems can leave very, very deep wounds that affect us for the rest of our lives.
    The fact that she is financially independent, but still hesitating to move out, points at emotional issues holding her back. Once she deals with those, perhaps she’ll know what to do next.

    1. Explain to your friend that her first priority should be ensuring her own physical, mental and emotional well-being. Only after she is happy, should she focus on others. Tell her that there’s nothing wrong in pursuing her dreams, its what everyone does.

    2. Encourage her to develop an active support system outside of her house. She needs genuine friendships and relationships where she is heard and understood.

    3. This kind of environment would definitely have taken a toll on her self esteem. Tell her to start engaging in activities that make her feel good. Therapy is also a good option.

    4. Let her know that she needs to let go of any guilt she feels about wanting to move out. She’s 30. It’s the right time for her to pursue her own needs.

    5. Encourage her to start setting boundaries with her parents and sister. It’s alright to say no. Tell her to politely but firmly object when they cross the line, ask for too much or hurt her feelings.

    6. Being neglected by family is a very heart-wrenching experience. Encourage her to start dealing with the emotional hurt that has caused, maybe with the help of therapist. She can then identify how this is affecting her other relationships, and focus on healing well. This may take time, but I believe with the right help, anyone can heal.

    7. Tell her to accept her family. By this, I don’t mean she should put up with their behaviour. Some of us are unfortunately born with family who are incapable of love and support. She needs to see her family as humans with flaws, and accept that they may not be able to give her what she needs. Eventually she needs to let go of the anger and hurt for her own sake.

    8. On a practical note, tell her to quietly start househunting on the side. If she has concerns about living alone, encourage her to discuss it with friends. She can opt for a paying guest or simply get a housemate if she feels she’s not ready for living alone. Living by yourself does have its challenges, but I believe with time, people can get used to

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  10. I know the right thing is to move out but I have a feeling she will feel very very guilty. So I think you need to take your friend to someone she can talk with so that she won’t feel that bad when she moves out. She needs to feel from within that she is not doing anything wrong to her parents. That is very important for the remainder of her life.’

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  11. Thanks to everyone who took out the time to comment. I have sent the link to my friend. I was slightly apprehensive as I thought she might think I publicised her personal life without her knowledge but after she was really happy that I took the initiative and she found the comments very helpful. Thanks again.

    Liked by 1 person

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