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Some Deep Emotional Family Stuff...


brainburn

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So, first of all. I trust you guys. That's not an official contract or anything but I do appreciate your input and experiences.

It seems my family is only comfortable expressing their spiritual emotions to me (extremely rarely) by behaving as if I'm still a believer.

More details for those interested:

It's important to understand that we've gotten all the heated arguments out of our systems. It's safe to say that we've left fighting about it behind us. (I was pretty viscous) I've resolved more than a few years ago to let them be and i trust they know I'm content to wait for them to talk to me when they're ready. I've also accepted that it might never happen, in fact I prefer they hold on to the happiness they've found.... Our interactions now are pleasant (probably better than ever), but they practically never touch spiritual nerves.

But when they do, there are a few thing I can't figure out how to interpret or respond to...

They randomly ask me to perform rituals like praying with them that sound like light hearted jabs or just poking fun, but the thing is they never drop the joke, even after it's obvious I'm not interested. It doesn't feel right to me to pretend for them.

Same sort of situation when they share songs or movies with the expectation that they will inspire me.... but the only messages they send are inherently theistic and only make emotional sense to believers...

It's a "here, you'll like this, it's so inspiring!" sort of gesture, but every time it's something only a devoted believer would have strong feelings for.

What do you think is happening? How can I respond in a meaningful but honest way if they only open up to share with expectations so high I have to wreck my brain trying to figure out what to say to let them down gently...?

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It is quite possible it is their way of showing you still belong and they see you as one of the family by including you in things that are meaningful to them...that they are not meaningful to you may have little to do with the invite.

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Hello brainburn...

Just a couple of thoughts... every family is different (my only sibling and immediate family member is my sister who is inactive and lives 2500 miles from me, but we have wonderful discussions because she still accepts various aspects of our doctrines, will read anything I send her, watches certain programs on BYU-TV, etc etc).

Sounds to me like your family just can't give up or face the fact that you are not a believer, but continue to hope that something will touch you and turn you around. So they continue to try and engage you...

How should you handle this? I don't know, but it seems to me that (if you haven't done so already) you need to be able to sit down with them, say, your folks, and really level with them honestly... balance it by telling how you appreciate their care and concern, but that you are just not a believer... and that you would appreciate them allowing you simply to enjoy and love them as your parents (and/or family). Explain that it makes you uncomfortable because you feel you are a disappointing them...

I don't know... do you see what I mean? Just quietly but firmly explain how you feel...

I wish I had some real words of wisdom... but I don't... good luck...

GG

edit to add: Calmoriah has a good point above...

Edited by Garden Girl
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It is quite possible it is their way of showing you still belong and they see you as one of the family by including you in things that are meaningful to them...that they are not meaningful to you may have little to do with the invite.

But that they aren't as meaningful to me must be in play because they always ask for the opposite almost rhetorically. It's just impossible to avoid putting down their unrealistic expectation and it seems like they can't figure it out themselves. They want to show me that I belong, i get it. But the truth is that I don't feel like I belong in their theistic paradigm.

And they must understand that at some level... So, why would they feel the need to ask for a "yes, i do belong" response if they knew it'd be a let down? If I had changed, I'd tell them. They'd already know.

I'm starting to figure that they cant stand not sharing what makes them happiest with me. It could be they're enthusiasm causes them to just confuse how they feel with how they wished I felt. I wish I could find a more uplifting but also honest way to let them know I understand how deeply happy they are, just please stop expecting me to be happy for the same reasons or in the same way... They'll only lead themselves to a discussion they clearly don't want to have.

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Hello brainburn...

Just a couple of thoughts... every family is different (my only sibling and immediate family member is my sister who is inactive and lives 2500 miles from me, but we have wonderful discussions because she still accepts various aspects of our doctrines, will read anything I send her, watches certain programs on BYU-TV, etc etc).

Sounds to me like your family just can't give up or face the fact that you are not a believer, but continue to hope that something will touch you and turn you around. So they continue to try and engage you...

How should you handle this? I don't know, but it seems to me that (if you haven't done so already) you need to be able to sit down with them, say, your folks, and really level with them honestly... balance it by telling how you appreciate their care and concern, but that you are just not a believer... and that you would appreciate them allowing you simply to enjoy and love them as your parents (and/or family). Explain that it makes you uncomfortable because you feel you are a disappointing them...

I don't know... do you see what I mean? Just quietly but firmly explain how you feel...

I wish I had some real words of wisdom... but I don't... good luck...

GG

edit to add: Calmoriah has a good point above...

I see what you mean and I think about it a lot. It's just that the more I think the more I feel that letting them know how much I don't relate to them is worse than just having to shrug off their pretending every now and then...

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They are doing with you the same things they do with each other. They don't want to exclude you. They know you are free to decline, and that is okay with them, or throw it away. They are sharing themselves with you. You don't have to like the same things they do. You can even ask them not to give you anything they find inspiring or uplifting (though don't you think that is sort of cutting your nose off to spite your face, since who knows the next thing might inspire or uplift you)?

When they invite you to pray, next time why don't you say something that reflects your belief, they'll either stop asking you to pray or they will allow you to do so with respect.

And return the favor about inspiring things by giving something to them that inspires and uplifts you. They'll learn more about how you think.

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It is quite possible it is their way of showing you still belong and they see you as one of the family by including you in things that are meaningful to them...that they are not meaningful to you may have little to do with the invite.

They are doing with you the same things they do with each other. They don't want to exclude you. They know you are free to decline, and that is okay with them, or throw it away. They are sharing themselves with you. You don't have to like the same things they do. You can even ask them not to give you anything they find inspiring or uplifting (though don't you think that is sort of cutting your nose off to spite your face, since who knows the next thing might inspire or uplift you)?

When they invite you to pray, next time why don't you say something that reflects your belief, they'll either stop asking you to pray or they will allow you to do so with respect.

And return the favor about inspiring things by giving something to them that inspires and uplifts you. They'll learn more about how you think.

I have to say this was my first impression too, they don't want you to think that you're being ostracised, or not in the 'in' crowd anymore. They don't want you to feel like an outsider in your own family. They're treating you the same as they treat everyone else, they want you to know they still love you.

Believe me I've been on the opposite side of this coin and it ain't no fun.

Edited by LordUther
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...

What do you think is happening? ...

Believers can never let go of the "lost". No matter how happy you are they think it must be temporary or even denial. Their reality is that if you don't "return to the fold" you are going to wind up "lost forever" somewhere that they are not, or that you can never be with them again beyond that point of no return. That is the bogeyman of Judeo-Christian "final judgment". Different religions assert that "final judgment" at different times in a person's life, or the life of the world at large, but there is always a "final judgment", where God says, "you go here, you go there". End Stop.

So no matter how together you feel or appear, family believers will toss tidbits at you to wake your soul up to its "awful situation" of unbelief, and, they must fear, the sinful permissiveness that goes along with unbelief that you must be effectively hiding from them. They don't believe what they see and hear from you is the real or full story of what is going on in your life. How can they? They can't believe that true Joy is possible outside the dogmatic paradigm.

Your patience is required even more as time goes on and you demonstrate zero change back to where you were as a believer....

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So, first of all. I trust you guys. That's not an official contract or anything but I do appreciate your input and experiences.

It seems my family is only comfortable expressing their spiritual emotions to me (extremely rarely) by behaving as if I'm still a believer.

More details for those interested:

It's important to understand that we've gotten all the heated arguments out of our systems. It's safe to say that we've left fighting about it behind us. (I was pretty viscous) I've resolved more than a few years ago to let them be and i trust they know I'm content to wait for them to talk to me when they're ready. I've also accepted that it might never happen, in fact I prefer they hold on to the happiness they've found.... Our interactions now are pleasant (probably better than ever), but they practically never touch spiritual nerves.

But when they do, there are a few thing I can't figure out how to interpret or respond to...

They randomly ask me to perform rituals like praying with them that sound like light hearted jabs or just poking fun, but the thing is they never drop the joke, even after it's obvious I'm not interested. It doesn't feel right to me to pretend for them.

Same sort of situation when they share songs or movies with the expectation that they will inspire me.... but the only messages they send are inherently theistic and only make emotional sense to believers...

It's a "here, you'll like this, it's so inspiring!" sort of gesture, but every time it's something only a devoted believer would have strong feelings for.

What do you think is happening? How can I respond in a meaningful but honest way if they only open up to share with expectations so high I have to wreck my brain trying to figure out what to say to let them down gently...?

I think what is happening could be called "Adjustment Disorder", and "denial".

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I disagree with some of the proposals for dealing with the situation. I would just ignore their proposals. If they ask you to pray say "thank you; that is kind of you to ask, but no thank you." If they continue, respond more firmly, "No thank you" then pull that person aside and let them know you will not respond positively to such requests and please don't ask again. If they offer a movie, take it and put it down. If you don't want to watch it, then don't watch it. If you eventually find that it is of interest, watch it. In families, it is often much easier to just go with the flow rather than play rebel the rest of one's life. Eventually, people learn and either stop asking and find alternative ways of interacting. Of course, the worst thing that could happen is ambivalence; that they ignore you entirely. Thus, my recommendation to just accept what is offered, when things get out of hand tell them (like asking you to pray), otherwise it is better to count your blessings than to end up having nothing to talk about. A world of silence is good for a visit, but it is not a pleasant way to spend your life.

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My mother-in-law used to invite me to all sorts of things she knew I wasn't interested in, she didn't expect me to come and was never offended but wanted me to know that she was thinking of me and if I just wanted to have some social life, this was an option.

This is a bit different than giving you something to watch or asking to pray so if it makes you uncomfortable, perhaps you could suggest an alternative...as in pulling the person aside or sending an email to them and saying "I appreciate the thought and effort into your suggestions and invites, but to be honest it makes me uncomfortable at this point in my life, perhaps instead we could do _________ or you could send me info about the family to read or videos of your kids or _____________" so that if the issue is to keep a bond there, you are showing you are interested in that while making the point that the religious stuff they are asking you is too uncomfortable.

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Look at the old guy in the avatar. That's me and my youngest. Why is it there? Because I am pretty proud of my boy. That's what parents lose when their children, as they see it, go astray.

I would say this to you if you decided to my delight to be a Catholic priest like my son. My sympathy is with your parents. We think and project from event to event. Weddings, baptisms, and other more or less faith based events and activities take on a cloud of gloom because instead of unity and support, there is awkwardness when one of the family can't take part. That's how we think.

You asked what's going on. After the initial fighting and shouting you referenced, it sounds to me like they are now keeping it pretty low key. Notice the progression? Do you think they can't gauge your response to their milder overtures? They might be learning that the soft method doesn't work either. Just be patient. It depends on the temperaments but sooner or later, they might get discouraged. I think I would. Then they'll just be quiet and be sorry for the non-temple weddings and their unbaptized grandchildren.

I am not telling you to be Mormon or even a theist. We can't live our lives according to our parent's beliefs when we don't share them. I am not trying to make you feel bad. But it might help you to know how to behave if you give some thought to your parents probable hurt. I did some religious meandering of my own. I don't recall being overly concerned about whether my parents might object. Truth trumps feelings! I think that's a pretty natural way for grown children to think. I am only sharing this because you have asked what we think is happening. It doesn't mean I think you're a bad guy or can do anything different. I don't think you can do any differently under the circumstances, except perhaps understand why it might be harder for them than for you to give up reaching out, even in the most awkward and useless fashion.

God bless,

3DOP

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I left quite a Baptist Dynasty behind...from a young age many believed I was going to be called to the ministry, and that is the pulpit I began in; when I became a Mormon many thought I had become and unbeliever. After years of silence from many in my extended family (never my father or mother) and watching me closely...conversations began, then I was asked to give prayers again, to give blessings even...then allowed to "Preach" at my former Church when my father died. People in your family are just overcoming their own fears. :) Never have a problem talking with family.

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So, first of all. I trust you guys. That's not an official contract or anything but I do appreciate your input and experiences.

It seems my family is only comfortable expressing their spiritual emotions to me (extremely rarely) by behaving as if I'm still a believer.

More details for those interested:

It's important to understand that we've gotten all the heated arguments out of our systems. It's safe to say that we've left fighting about it behind us. (I was pretty viscous) I've resolved more than a few years ago to let them be and i trust they know I'm content to wait for them to talk to me when they're ready. I've also accepted that it might never happen, in fact I prefer they hold on to the happiness they've found.... Our interactions now are pleasant (probably better than ever), but they practically never touch spiritual nerves.

But when they do, there are a few thing I can't figure out how to interpret or respond to...

They randomly ask me to perform rituals like praying with them that sound like light hearted jabs or just poking fun, but the thing is they never drop the joke, even after it's obvious I'm not interested. It doesn't feel right to me to pretend for them.

Same sort of situation when they share songs or movies with the expectation that they will inspire me.... but the only messages they send are inherently theistic and only make emotional sense to believers...

It's a "here, you'll like this, it's so inspiring!" sort of gesture, but every time it's something only a devoted believer would have strong feelings for.

What do you think is happening? How can I respond in a meaningful but honest way if they only open up to share with expectations so high I have to wreck my brain trying to figure out what to say to let them down gently...?

Kind of puts a strain on a relationship I'm sure. And probably feels fake now. I'm sorry you're dealing with this or trying to. Wish I had better words of advice, but feel that you're not the one with the problem and they aren't able to help their feelings either. You're both in a hard place. I'd sit down and express to them, maybe in a place that is neutral, how you feel. I'd communicate what's going on and tell them how it's driving a wedge, if it is. I know before my faith crisis, I came off a little like that to my inactive daughter. So I see how your parents are the way they are.

One way of doing it is to share that others are going through faith crisis also, and the reasons why. Maybe tell them what made you go through it. They need to know a "why", in order to figure a "way" to handle it. (oops, after reading your OP again, I see that you've probably done this already). They might do as PaPa said, eventually see that you're a good person and maybe their way isn't your way, and are really quite lucky to have the diversity. It's a big world, big enough to hold the various beliefs.

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So, first of all. I trust you guys. That's not an official contract or anything but I do appreciate your input and experiences.

It seems my family is only comfortable expressing their spiritual emotions to me (extremely rarely) by behaving as if I'm still a believer.

More details for those interested:

It's important to understand that we've gotten all the heated arguments out of our systems. It's safe to say that we've left fighting about it behind us. (I was pretty viscous) I've resolved more than a few years ago to let them be and i trust they know I'm content to wait for them to talk to me when they're ready. I've also accepted that it might never happen, in fact I prefer they hold on to the happiness they've found.... Our interactions now are pleasant (probably better than ever), but they practically never touch spiritual nerves.

But when they do, there are a few thing I can't figure out how to interpret or respond to...

They randomly ask me to perform rituals like praying with them that sound like light hearted jabs or just poking fun, but the thing is they never drop the joke, even after it's obvious I'm not interested. It doesn't feel right to me to pretend for them.

Same sort of situation when they share songs or movies with the expectation that they will inspire me.... but the only messages they send are inherently theistic and only make emotional sense to believers...

It's a "here, you'll like this, it's so inspiring!" sort of gesture, but every time it's something only a devoted believer would have strong feelings for.

What do you think is happening? How can I respond in a meaningful but honest way if they only open up to share with expectations so high I have to wreck my brain trying to figure out what to say to let them down gently...?

Just a question: You say they are still jabbing at you How many times have you taken jabs and are you still taking jabs at their belief? Your choices have put the whole family dynamics in a tenuous position. Don't be surprised if parents and family members don't handle it well. A good face to face talk, setting up some ground rules for both sides would be in order. If that can't happen then you all have more problems than your differing views on religion.

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Thanks for the replies everyone!

So, to be clear: I don't need to hear that they really do love me unconditionally and want to include me in what they see as their most important life experiences. I get that. I'm not bothered by the idea that I'm a bad guy or need to be converted and don't assume that's what anyone's trying to do :]. I'm very open and willing to discuss anything I'm curious about. A sincere thank you for anyone's concern.

I should have told everyone first that I'm more fascinated by these little episodes than worried about the stability of our relationship. I actually believe I'm enjoying the most stable stage of our relationship since I was little. We don't fight. We don't push each other. There's no religious angle or agenda, as far as I can tell (except these rare episodes from them). It's a very practical and safe place for me and I'm convinced that realistically (at least for my parents) they couldn't find a happier place to park their beliefs.

Yes, we don't have deep discussions that touch those sensitive nerves we all crave, but I've gotten over that. I don't need it from them and am perfectly comfortable now looking for it elsewhere. The problem is that that I can tell my parent's are still struggling to understand me. I see that they want my input, they want me to be honest and I'm very aware I could just talk to them... but I think it's obvious they don't really want to hear what I have to say... And that dissonance makes me so curious I'd like to talk with someone about it.

It's really strange.

In wake of all my intense and uncomfortable questioning, we've naturally developed a sort of unspoken pact of spiritual neutrality. A comfort zone.

I think my parents have resolved to bury most of their proselytizing because it makes them feel terrible to debate with me and instead believe very simply that everything will be okidoke in the end. At least, that's all they've told me. It's their out for every debate we've had. They literally don't care to reason with me.

I've buried my proselytizing for two reasons: rationally, I can understand I can never keep their emotional attention long enough to logically get them step by step to my point of view. They want to tap out as soon as they see the debate for what it is: me setting them up to shake the foundation of their entire lives. They probably even see it very vividly as avoiding evil.

And my second reason, probably more important, is emotionally, I know that destabilizing their lives won't help either of us.

But I'd still love to talk about it with someone.

So, the curious thing is that we've all understood for a while now that my only honest response to Mormonism or theism or Christianity is to explain that I think believers have somehow found themselves with a lot of misplaced emotional certainty and removing that emotional filter reveals a world too confusing to choose anything... I think the world is too mysterious to bet on any specific spiritual paradigm.

But when they try to offer me their spiritual feelings... it's like a one-way channel they've designed with the expectation that I'll someday break the spiritual neutrality with certainty. They wait and offer me opportunities to open up and show that I'm really a certain believer and that's all they're really interested in it seems. They don't ask me to pray. They expect me to be overwhelmed by the spirit to pray. They don't ask what I think of this or that. They expect me to feel the same strong feelings they do. I'm not sure how aware they are of this... but they are definitely capable of understanding that acting this way, what they really keep asking me for is actually what they don't want to hear. I can't think of anything to do but crush their expectation.

So, right now I'm just trying my best to keep neutral...? All I have to offer is uncertainty and all they want to be offered is the opposite. So, what is there to change? Yeah, maybe they'll understand eventually that to keep neutral is my "counter-move" and it really means that I want them to give up expecting certainty and entertain a little uncertainty... but I'm not interested in making them feel like they're making any more mistakes.

In families, it is often much easier to just go with the flow rather than play rebel the rest of one's life. Eventually, people learn and either stop asking and find alternative ways of interacting.

Agreed. But I think this is their last resort. They aren't comfortable with anything else.

They might be learning that the soft method doesn't work either.

Agreed. Just wish they would learn in a way that doesn't expect me to just ignite my spirit with the smallest spark.

Just a question: You say they are still jabbing at you How many times have you taken jabs and are you still taking jabs at their belief?

We live in different states so I don't see them very often at all. They give me about 10 jabs a year, I'd guess. I gave up on sending them jabs a long time ago.

Edited by brainburn
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...and I'm convinced that realistically (at least for my parents) they couldn't find a happier place to park their beliefs.

(snip)

...I've buried my proselytizing for two reasons: rationally, I can understand I can never keep their emotional attention long enough to logically get them step by step to my point of view. They want to tap out as soon as they see the debate for what it is: me setting them up to shake the foundation of their entire lives. They probably even see it very vividly as avoiding evil.

This is the bit I don't get, if they're happy where they are, and assuming naturally that you love them, why would you want to "shake the foundation of their entire lives"? Yes, you do say in the next line "I know that destabilizing their lives won't help either of us." But I don't get why you would want to set them up that way? You want them to accept you for the choices you have made regarding your beliefs, why won't you accept theirs? Maybe if you spoke to them in a way that allowed them to accept your PoV without them having to agree with it you might find them doing the same for you. If they feel that when you are talking to them you are attacking their beliefs they're bound to get defensive & attack back, perhaps more talk that allows both sides to accept without agreeing would be beneficial for your relationship.

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Thanks for the replies everyone!

So, to be clear: I don't need to hear that they really do love me unconditionally and want to include me in what they see as their most important life experiences. I get that. I'm not bothered by the idea that I'm a bad guy or need to be converted and don't assume that's what anyone's trying to do :]. I'm very open and willing to discuss anything I'm curious about. A sincere thank you for anyone's concern.

I should have told everyone first that I'm more fascinated by these little episodes than worried about the stability of our relationship. I actually believe I'm enjoying the most stable stage of our relationship since I was little. We don't fight. We don't push each other. There's no religious angle or agenda, as far as I can tell (except these rare episodes from them). It's a very practical and safe place for me and I'm convinced that realistically (at least for my parents) they couldn't find a happier place to park their beliefs.

Yes, we don't have deep discussions that touch those sensitive nerves we all crave, but I've gotten over that. I don't need it from them and am perfectly comfortable now looking for it elsewhere. The problem is that that I can tell my parent's are still struggling to understand me. I see that they want my input, they want me to be honest and I'm very aware I could just talk to them... but I think it's obvious they don't really want to hear what I have to say... And that dissonance makes me so curious I'd like to talk with someone about it.

It's really strange.

In wake of all my intense and uncomfortable questioning, we've naturally developed a sort of unspoken pact of spiritual neutrality. A comfort zone.

I think my parents have resolved to bury most of their proselytizing because it makes them feel terrible to debate with me and instead believe very simply that everything will be okidoke in the end. At least, that's all they've told me. It's their out for every debate we've had. They literally don't care to reason with me.

I've buried my proselytizing for two reasons: rationally, I can understand I can never keep their emotional attention long enough to logically get them step by step to my point of view. They want to tap out as soon as they see the debate for what it is: me setting them up to shake the foundation of their entire lives. They probably even see it very vividly as avoiding evil.

And my second reason, probably more important, is emotionally, I know that destabilizing their lives won't help either of us.

But I'd still love to talk about it with someone.

So, the curious thing is that we've all understood for a while now that my only honest response to Mormonism or theism or Christianity is to explain that I think believers have somehow found themselves with a lot of misplaced emotional certainty and removing that emotional filter reveals a world too confusing to choose anything... I think the world is too mysterious to bet on any specific spiritual paradigm.

But when they try to offer me their spiritual feelings... it's like a one-way channel they've designed with the expectation that I'll someday break the spiritual neutrality with certainty. They wait and offer me opportunities to open up and show that I'm really a certain believer and that's all they're really interested in it seems. They don't ask me to pray. They expect me to be overwhelmed by the spirit to pray. They don't ask what I think of this or that. They expect me to feel the same strong feelings they do. I'm not sure how aware they are of this... but they are definitely capable of understanding that acting this way, what they really keep asking me for is actually what they don't want to hear. I can't think of anything to do but crush their expectation.

So, right now I'm just trying my best to keep neutral...? All I have to offer is uncertainty and all they want to be offered is the opposite. So, what is there to change? Yeah, maybe they'll understand eventually that to keep neutral is my "counter-move" and it really means that I want them to give up expecting certainty and entertain a little uncertainty... but I'm not interested in making them feel like they're making any more mistakes.

Agreed. But I think this is their last resort. They aren't comfortable with anything else.

Agreed. Just wish they would learn in a way that doesn't expect me to just ignite my spirit with the smallest spark.

We live in different states so I don't see them very often at all. They give me about 10 jabs a year, I'd guess. I gave up on sending them jabs a long time ago.

So, If I am reading this right it's all about you and your amusement.

Edited by ERayR
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This is the bit I don't get, if they're happy where they are, and assuming naturally that you love them, why would you want to "shake the foundation of their entire lives"? Yes, you do say in the next line "I know that destabilizing their lives won't help either of us." But I don't get why you would want to set them up that way? You want them to accept you for the choices you have made regarding your beliefs, why won't you accept theirs? Maybe if you spoke to them in a way that allowed them to accept your PoV without them having to agree with it you might find them doing the same for you. If they feel that when you are talking to them you are attacking their beliefs they're bound to get defensive & attack back, perhaps more talk that allows both sides to accept without agreeing would be beneficial for your relationship.

Don't think you understood the whole post... I'm already content with the relationship.

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Riddle me this, brainburn, When there is the rare family get together , who is the smartest one in the room ?

Might you already be expecting a certain answer?

If you are, I rather we just get straight to it.

If you don't expect a certain answer already, then my honest answer would be I don't know. Depends on what's being discussed.

The only related thing I do know is that I am told I am considered the smartest of the family, but I don't see how that's anything more than a label. I rather that conclusion be demonstrated as the situation needs (not sure that it ever does). So, I guess what I'm trying to say is that I don't know exactly what you mean by "smartest" anyways, so I'm not sure how to help you get through to me.

Edited by brainburn
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