Back in 2007, when Bill and I were about to move to Germany the first time, I picked up Lyle Lovett’s then new album, It’s Not Big, It’s Large. That album had a great song on it called “No Big Deal”. Although I haven’t listened to that great album recently, I am reminded of Lyle’s song, “No Big Deal”, as I write today’s post. Below are the lyrics, written by Mr. Lovett himself…
It’s Sunday morning, the club is on
That great cat’s still yawning
Because Saturday is gone
And I still feel the feeling
Of how you felt upon me
And it may be no big deal to you
But it’s a very big deal to me
You were down and dirty
And he was tall and twenty nine
And I’m only disconcerted
Because you said you knew I wouldn’t mind
But I still feel the feeling
Of how you telephone me
And it may be no big deal to you
But it’s a very big deal to me
But you can’t make a cool cat crazy
Like you can’t make a gray cat brown
And you can′t keep a wild cat
When she knows the wildest cat’s in town
So it′s Sunday morning
Yeah and I guess I had a coffee
Ooh ’cause I start recalling
A time I went astray
And I still feel the feeling
Of her last words of warning
She said, “Man, it may be no big deal to you
But it’s a very big deal to me.”
She said, “Man, it may be no big deal to you
But it’s a very big deal to me.”
This morning, I saw yet another AITA (Am I The Asshole) post that inspired me. This time, it was about two brothers who are no longer on speaking terms. Granted, I understand that a lot of these posts are made up, but I think this one is very plausible, because I hear about people doing this kind of shit all the time. Have a look:
This is a story about two brothers. Five years ago, the original poster (OP) had a girlfriend of three years. His older brother, Kevin, had an affair with her. The original poster found out about the betrayal and was very upset. He broke up with his girlfriend and moved back into his parents’ home. The post doesn’t mention if the two brothers were sharing a place, but my guess is that they must have been living together. Why else would the OP move?
The OP showed the proof of the affair to his parents, obviously expecting them to take his side. But, after a month, the parents started pressuring the OP to make amends with Kevin, who had started coming over to their house to apologize. The OP, still hurt and angry, rebuffed his brother, and was even more hurt and angry when their parents and his ex girlfriend tried to pressure him into getting over his pain on their timeline, and on their terms. The end result was that the OP decided to go “no contact” with his brother and his parents. Fair enough.
The OP stayed in touch with a cousin, who was keeping him apprised of his grandmother’s fragile health. She got very sick and was in the hospital, so the OP went to visit her. He ran into his brother, Kevin, at the hospital. Kevin tried to speak to him, and the OP acted like his formerly close older brother didn’t exist. The end result is that Kevin got so upset that he tried to overdose on pills.
Naturally, their parents were very concerned and they begged the OP to forgive Kevin, which he refused to do. The OP’s parents said they missed their family unit and desperately wanted their sons to reconcile. The OP claims he doesn’t care about them anymore, even though despite having gone “no contact”, he gets his parents’ messages to him. Then he asked if he was the asshole.
I was pretty triggered by this post.
(skip this if you’re only interested in the AITA post)…
Those of you who know me, might know that Bill has two daughters. For many years, both of them, plus his former stepson, were very estranged. When they were children, this estrangement was 100 percent Ex’s doing. She refused to let them have contact with Bill, because he dared to accept her divorce proposal. For this transgression, she believed he should lose everything, including his daughters and his parents.
Back in 2006, when older daughter was about 15 years old and younger daughter was 12, they wrote letters disowning Bill. The letters were obviously coached, and younger daughter later confirmed it. She said her mother stood over them and made them hand write the letters that she dictated. Then she photocopied the letters and sent them to Bill, along with adoption papers and several boxes of Bill’s belongings. All of this arrived just in time for Bill’s 42nd birthday.
I distinctly remember that older daughter demanded that Bill sign adoption papers so that #3 could adopt her and her sister. She explained that she wanted an “everyday daddy”, and warned that if Bill didn’t do as she demanded, she would never speak to him again. Both girls also addressed their natural father– the man who changed most of their diapers, took care of them when they were very young, and paid pretty much all of their bills– by his first name.
Seventeen years later, older daughter has been as good as her word. She doesn’t speak to Bill at all. Both she and younger daughter changed their surnames– again, at Ex’s behest. They probably got adopted, too, once younger daughter turned 18.
Younger daughter eventually came around and now she and Bill talk all the time. Bill hasn’t yet worked up the nerve to ask her if she’s been legally adopted. However, clearly, younger daughter thinks of Bill as her father, even if she is legally one of #3’s heirs. As for older daughter, who knows? She refuses to have anything to do with Bill.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I heard that when Bill’s father died in November 2020–older daughter’s beloved “Papa”– older daughter felt entitled to attend his funeral. She and Ex, who had hatched all this toxic bullshit in the first place, were sitting at their home, grieving over Bill’s father’s death, thinking they had a claim to publicly mourn him at the funeral. They wondered “what it would be” for them to get to attend the funeral.
Uh…FIL was in their lives because of Bill, who was his only son. Older daughter disowned Bill, changed her name, and probably got legally adopted. What the hell right does she have thinking she’s still in Bill’s family? Her paternal grandparents are now #3’s parents, not Bill’s parents. She voluntarily opted out of the family when she decided to disown her natural father. If she got adopted, then legally, the most she is to Bill’s family is a friend. That doesn’t automatically entitle her to be at family events, like funerals. Getting legally adopted by your mother’s third husband is a very serious thing, and it has very serious consequences.
As it turned out, my father-in-law’s funeral wasn’t well attended by anyone, because it happened during the worst of the pandemic. Not even Bill could attend his dad’s funeral, due to the lockdowns and travel restrictions. I’m pretty sure Bill’s awesome sister pretty much put the kibosh on Ex and older daughter being there, anyway.
Younger daughter told us that she tried to reason with her sister and said, “Why would you assume you’d be welcome at the funeral after the hostile way you’ve behaved toward them? You haven’t had a real relationship with them in years.”
But then in the spring of 2022, Ex showed up at Bill’s stepmother’s house in Tennessee with older daughter and her daughter with #3. SMIL, still grieving and lonely, welcomed them into her house. During that visit, Ex asked SMIL for money, and proposed that she move in with Ex up in New Hampshire. When SMIL demurred, Ex gave her some boxes and said she could use them to pack up anything she wanted to “pass down”.
Um… excuse me? YOU ARE NOT IN BILL’S FAMILY ANYMORE, EX. And that is 100 percent YOUR doing. Older daughter followed your lead, so she’s not in the family, either. She’s a 32 year old woman who is apparently smart enough to be in graduate school, studying in a mental health field, of all things. She’s old enough and intelligent enough to understand that when you go no contact and do extreme things like disowning people, changing your name, and getting adopted, the sword can cut both ways. You don’t get to dictate how people react when you take extreme measures against them. And no, you aren’t entitled to an inheritance– especially from the family you threw away!
Please don’t misunderstand me…
It’s not that I don’t think people have the right to go no contact, particularly if it means protecting their mental health. I absolutely agree that sometimes going no contact can be the healthiest thing a person can do. But if you’re going to go no contact for your health, I think you should really commit to it. That means that you don’t contact people who are close to those you’re ostracizing.
If older daughter is happier and healthier being #3’s daughter, so be it. But she has no business trying to connect with Bill’s family, if that’s really how she feels. That’s still Bill’s family, and he was there first. She was in that family in the first place because of Bill. Bill is the one who made “Papa” her grandfather. Moreover, cutting Bill off because he agreed to divorce a toxic, abusive, narcissist who actually PROPOSED the divorce in the in-laws’ home on Easter, does NOT make him the asshole!
Bill would love to talk to older daughter, and I would never try to stop him from doing so. But frankly, I wouldn’t blame him if he decided to counter going no contact with her. Keep in mind, though, that I’ve never been a parent, so I honestly don’t know what parental love and devotion feels like. I also have a much lower tolerance for abuse than Bill does.
Of course, the way I think “no contact” should work isn’t how it ends up working for a lot of people. Humans are complicated, and the majority of us form relationships with other people. Sometimes you can cut someone off completely and there won’t be any messiness. But when it’s a family member and you have any kind of connection with other family members, things can get very complicated in a hurry. Not everyone is going to agree with you that going “no contact” is the right approach, and they won’t all take your side and share in your extreme decision.
If you still have a connection with those people, you will continue to have a connection to the person with whom you’re trying to go no contact. So really, what you have is more of a toxic “low contact” scenario, which personally, I don’t think works very well. If you feel so negative about someone that they need to be completely cut out of your life, but then you hang around their relatives, you WILL still be in contact with them.
I think Ex is okay with that. She never lets anyone go, and never intended to leave Bill’s family or their marriage. She doesn’t want to be no contact with him, although she’d never lower herself to sincerely apologize for ALL of the things she did (Bill takes full responsibility for his part). She thinks his family is still her family, just as she thinks what belongs to other people belongs to her.
That’s why she felt entitled to invite herself–and US— to Bill’s dad’s house for Christmas, back in 2004. If I were to drop dead tomorrow and she heard about it, I bet she’d try to hoover Bill. She’d be quite shameless about it. I’ve seen her in action. She thinks he’s weak, and the only reason she can’t have him is because I control him. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Back to the post in question…
Based on the original post that prompted this entry, I get the sense that the “no contact” decision is fairly new (five years can pass in a flash, once you’re over 21). The OP has only fairly recently cut off his family. He has every right to be pissed at Kevin and his ex girlfriend. What they did was very hurtful. He also has a right to be angry about what happened with his parents, if that’s how he feels.
However, I also think the OP is being pretty self-centered. His parents weren’t the ones who slept with his girlfriend. Kevin is their son, too. Obviously, Kevin has mental health issues of some sort, which means they believe he needs their support, even if he’s “toxic”.
I don’t know if the suicidal gesture was a genuine attempt, or if it was just Kevin trying to be manipulative. While I think any suicide attempt should be taken very seriously, I also notice that Kevin used a less lethal method of making his attempt.
It sounds really morbid, and I’m sorry for that, but men have a tendency to use more violent means when they attempt suicide. Statistics show that women are more likely to attempt suicide, but men are more likely to die from suicide. While people absolutely do die of overdoses, it usually takes some time for that to happen… time that would allow them to be discovered and taken to a hospital. Based on the AITA post, that’s what happened in Kevin’s case.
It’s certainly not the OP’s fault that Kevin overdosed. He’s not responsible for Kevin’s mental health or lack thereof. Not knowing the people involved, I can’t tell if this behavior is one of a long string of issues that made the OP finally decide he was done, or if this behavior is new. Sleeping with your brother’s girlfriend is pretty toxic stuff, although obviously, the girlfriend shares the blame in that decision. Maybe the OP dodged a bullet, thanks to his brother. Good that he didn’t marry the girlfriend. She probably would have been unfaithful.
It sounds like the overdose was, perhaps, Kevin’s way of forcing the OP to “rock bottom”– as a means of showing him what he was “throwing away”. That was another one of Ex’s tactics… and it was very shitty, manipulative, and totally disrespectful. She did it to Bill (not through a suicide attempt, but through deliberately causing huge problems), and later, she did it to younger daughter (that time it was an overdose– “suicide attempt”).
The concept of “rock bottom”, by the way, isn’t about causing catastrophic problems for the target. It’s about forcing them to deal with their “bad” behaviors without enabling them. So, if the OP or Bill were drug addicts, for instance, their friends and loved ones wouldn’t give them a place to stay, buy them food or clothes, or bail them out of jail. That would be helping them to reach “rock bottom”, where they might finally realize things are so bad that they have to change their lifestyles. Feigned suicide attempts and trying to get the family to ostracize or pressure the target are not what “rock bottom” is about. That’s just toxic manipulation.
The part I think the OP is missing is that his parents are stuck in the middle of this mess. They just want peace and harmony, and it’s hard to take sides, especially when it means choosing between sons. The OP is punishing his parents for loving Kevin, which is only the natural thing for normal parents to do. He’s their child, just as the OP is. It’s not fair to put them in a loyalty bind. In fact, the parents should stay out of this, as it’s not really their business. Moreover, the parents did let the OP move in with them, even though he was a grown man when this happened. He repaid them by demanding that they take his side in a situation that should have stayed between the actual people involved.
OP certainly has a right to his feelings and his responses to those feelings. However, he should realize that other people also have rights to their feelings and responses. If the OP wants to go no contact, that’s fair enough. But he shouldn’t be upset when he runs into his brother and parents, if he’s also going to stay in contact with cousins, grandparents, and other people in the family. That’s going to happen, particularly at family events like weddings and funerals or visiting someone in the hospital.
If the OP wants to go no contact for his mental health, he needs to be “all in” and really go no contact. Otherwise, he’s just as manipulative and toxic as they are, and this is just about him being vindictive and punishing his brother and his parents. Personally, I think it’s pretty sad to throw away a brother and two parents over a cheating girlfriend… but maybe it’s part of a larger pattern, in which case going no contact makes a lot more sense. If OP had been married to the woman, that would be more serious, in my view.
My verdict on this situation? Everyone sucks here. They all sound like they need to grow up. Unfortunately, in these kinds of family messes, ultimately fixing the issue usually isn’t up to just one person who suddenly decides to be mature. A group effort is necessary. On the other hand, someone does have to take the first step. I would hope it would be taken in a healthy way, and not in a manipulative, dramatic, dangerous way, like overdosing or staging “interventions” that blame the victim.
What Kevin and the girlfriend did may not have been a big deal to them, but it was a very big deal to the original poster. He’s not wrong to be angry about it… but he might want to reconsider if shitcanning his whole family is really the best response. Because if he really wants to be no contact, that’s what it’s going to take.
On a side note… when I typed in “men suicide attempts”, Google wanted my location.