‘A stranger entered our family and turned them all against us’

Tell Me About It: There is a saying that resentment is like ‘taking poison and expecting the other person to die’


My wife and I have been isolated by someone who lived with us for a period of time. The visitor was nice to us for the first few years but remained somewhat mysterious, reticent and rarely around except for a few big family events. So, we hardly got to know her at all really. We could see she couldn’t handle her drink and liked to start rows when drunk.

Now many years later, she has taken a spite at us for reasons unknown and tried to turn our family against us. We have been told we are no longer welcome in this person’s home but none of the reasons why. Our texts to stay in touch and phone calls have gone unanswered or replied many weeks later, often at ungodly hours, with more accusations or passive-aggressive comments. My wife is very upset about the whole thing. She is kind by nature so tried to seek answers (at first) to the silent treatment. Everyone told us we were imagining it and people are busy with their own lives to reply to us. But it turns out we weren’t. She feels we are being punished and isolated unfairly.

I have been reading up about narcissists online and I feel we are now being targeted by one. We look like we have it all: good careers, a wonderful home and a happy marriage. We look content and lucky in life to anyone looking in. So, we wonder is that the reason? Are we seen as soft touches to bully? Is it some sort of test that we failed to pass?

We notice now that other family members have pulled back from us also and are not in contact as much or visiting any more. It is like they don’t want to incur the wrath of this same narcissist by associating with us. We are persona non grata. We are hearing accusations of stuff we allegedly did – but that never happened – that have been obviously misconstrued and exaggerated and twisted to suit a particular agenda.

But it is hard to disprove a non-event.

We fear any future big family events. I feel this social isolation will continue. Attending therapy has helped, but it is expensive. We only go when things are really affecting us. We worry about our four children growing up and wondering why they don’t see their aunts and uncles – all because of a stranger who has entered our family, sucked everyone in and now turned them all against us.

I worry the hidden stress of it all will eat away at us slowly. Offers to meet face-to-face were ignored. Not that I ever thought that would achieve anything. But I am angry about the whole thing and sickened that there are people like this in the world who get away with this sort of carry-on. We are encouraged in our church to see the good in everyone, practising forgiveness and turning the other cheek – but I feel we also forget that the bible talks about evil. Our family don’t seem to acknowledge there can be evil people who should be seen for what they are.

Not everyone should be given the benefit of the doubt.


The hurt here is your extended family’s willingness to believe the wrongful stories about your nuclear family and your concern for your wife and children’s wellbeing.

There seems very little you can do to address your sense of injustice with your ex-visitor as no laws have been broken and she is unwilling to engage with you. No doubt, your therapy sessions have focused on helping you to let go of your anger and resentment, so that you do not continue to suffer needlessly. This is no easy task as you are having a lived experience of your reputation being distorted every day.

This aim of letting go of bitterness and resentment is a worthy one as it will leave you more open for the good things in life, of which you report many. If you can model letting go of anger, your children will learn a valuable life skill and you will find that all of your lives will be enhanced as a result. There is a saying that resentment is like “taking poison and expecting the other person to die”. It would be very easy to come to a place of peace if your tormentor was made to face their wrongdoings, but this is an unlikely option so accept what has happened (fully) and focus your energies on growing what makes your family thrive.

However, there may be more you can do with your extended family, and this is worth investigating as there is strong evidence for believing that there is a basis of good relationships to work on here. You and your wife may already have tried meaningful conversations with your family, and this is an obvious first step, but if this has failed you might consider community mediation services.

This option often includes family disputes as it is recognised that the effect of a family split can go on for generations with very little foundation to the original dispute. If you type “community mediation” into a search engine, you will find that there are free options, as well as paid professionals offering this service. The service will try to involve as many parties as possible who are affected by the dispute, as this offers the best outcomes but even if only a selection of the extended family attends, there can be a considerable shift in relationships.

It is important that you tell others that you want to engage in this so that the whole extended family can benefit from cohesion and support and that you are particularly interested in having a strong united base for the next generation. Almost all of your extended family will agree with this wish, and you can then allow the mediator to do their job of conducting the sessions. Part of engaging with this process will be to listen fully to everybody’s experience and not become defensive and impatient with participants.

This is your contribution to the growth of a strong and unified extended family so enter into it with an open heart and mind and allow the process to work.