Stepfamily Issues

Personal stories about stepfamilies, childhood and general family issues.

November 20, 2006

the meddlesome cousin

Gabrielle is 32, a survivor of an abusive family as well as a violent ex-husband, and for the past four years she has been doing well on her own - getting her life together - but lately she has been feeling very uneasy about a long-lost cousin turning up in her life.

"I received a letter out of the blue from this cousin a few months ago," explains Gabrielle, "and immediately I felt uneasy. Just the fact that she claimed to be a 'born-again Christian' rang warning bells, but there was more to it than that."

"I should have ignored her letter and got on with my life," sighs Gabrielle, "but out of courtesy I replied wishing her well with her new faith and future aims. Apparently, she was studying some psychology course part-time and wanted to become a therapist."

"It's true what they say about giving people an inch and they'll take a yard," laughs Gabrielle. "She followed up my reply with a telephone call and wanted to see me."

"I just didn't want to see her at all," sighs Gabrielle, "but she was so sweet and full of Christian joy and fellowship that I felt bad about refusing her request."

"She and I had shared some good times in the past," explains Gabrielle, "and despite the mostly bad times we had experienced in the family it seemed a shame not to give her a chance."

"I felt a bit uneasy with her when we met because although she was living with her boyfriend I had a feeling that she still remained part of the abusive extended family network that I'd escaped from years ago."

"She said nothing about them - she just talked about herself and her boyfriend and what she wanted to do with her life," explains Gabrielle, "but I still had a nasty gut feeling in her presence and was glad when she left."

"In the following weeks she left several messages on my answering service that I ignored, hoping she'd not call again," says Gabrielle, "but last weekend she caught me off guard and turned up at my place and presented me with a chocolate cake as a bribe!"

"Within minutes of her surprise visit it was pretty clear that she was trying to ingratiate herself - and by association everyone else - back into my life," says Gabrielle. "Either that, or maybe she wants to use me as some sort of case study for her psychology course."

"This time around she quite blatantly talked about the family and how she had forgiven them," explains Gabrielle. "And she brought up all the good times we had together. And all the while she was watching my reaction to everything she said, going on and on about the blessedness of forgiveness and the sanctity of family ties."

"It was nice reliving the good times, but I could not believe that this cousin of mine was actually sitting there in my living room saying sweet things about people who had abused her as well as myself - and expecting me to share her sanctimonous beliefs."

"Then, I was absolutely aghast when she told me that since her last visit with me she had spent the holidays with the family and had met and spoken with my father!"

"At the mention of his name I fell to pieces remembering with shame and humiliation what that man had done to me, and I was angry at her for pushing herself into my life - and my peaceful Saturday afternoon, at that - in order to rake all this stuff up. As far as I am concerned my father is dead - gone, buried and forgotten - and nobody has the right, nobody, to shove him back in my face."

"At first I thought she was crazy - in delusion from some religious or psychological dogma she had picked up," explains Gabrielle, "and maybe that is true - but there was more to it."

"She had several times mentioned how well I was doing - and had asked about property values and whether I had a mortgage and stuff like that."

"Maybe they are jealous of how well I am doing and want a piece of the action or - at the very least - to deprive me of my enjoyment of my labors?"

"Anyway, the crunch - for me - came when she left," explains Gabrielle.

"As she gave me a hug and kissed me goodbye she casually mentioned that my ex-husband was back in town, living just two suburbs away and she and her boyfriend had spent time with him just a few days before."

"This was no throw-away remark - this was the knife she wanted to stick in me."

"My ex-husband was a violent religious freak with fundamentalist ideas about the place of women and the rights of men in marriage," explains Gabrielle. "It wouldn't be hard for him to convince any religiously minded person that I was a bad woman for divorcing him."

"From her first visit my meddlesome cousin had picked up enough information from me to feed the hunger of all of my ex-abusers," sighs Gabrielle, "and on her second visit she came to let me know - in a very subtle fashion - that she had relayed everything about me to them."

"If the girl is crazy she may think that she is on a mission from God to make good all of my past bad relationships," says Gabrielle, "but whether she is crazy or just downright evil is neither here nor there."

"It's how I feel that matters," says Gabrielle, "and I feel bad about letting my cousin back into my life and allowing her to meddle in things that don't concern her, riding roughshod over my right to live a secure and peaceful life free of people I don't want in it."

"She had the gall to call me again and I told her straight that I didn't want any further contact with her."

"She said she was terribly hurt by my decision - but would respect it," says Gabrielle,"but I know better than that. Peace is something I've had to fight long and hard for in the past - and I know instinctively that I am now going to have to fight long and hard for it again. It was stupid of me to ignore my gut feelings when I received her letter, and it serves me right that I allowed her - and those behind her - to succeed in upsetting my life."

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