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Good apples, bad apples

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

Family and friends, we seem to tolerate some even though we dont get along.
Imagine you work in an apple factory, your prime responsibility is to polish the apples then sort them. Rotten or bruised are put aside. The good ones are packed and sold.
Not much difference in family's or friends. But many of us keep packaging the bad apples in our relationships. Why?
There are a number of reasons. Fear might be at the top of the tree. Fear of alienation from others as they side with the other party. Fear that you wont find peace after the split. Fear you'll regret your decision.
But you can still polish a rotten apple...just not place it in the box with the good ones. It means pigeon holing the person but not disowning them. This takes a few techniques and practice. You dont want to lie? Eg telling them you are away from your house when you are at home...and they drive by and see you car! And you dont want to be evasive as it could be obvious. What do you do?
What about the truth? ...with a little tact.
You have depression. You know through reading threads here that 80% or more people wont understand your condition. Based on that you are not responsible for educating that 4 in 5 people. Thats for them to learn!
Try these comments

- by all means drop in but if I'm asleep I might not answer the door
- I'm sorry, I'd love to keep chatting but l have to catch up with my auntie I dont like too much controversy, so I'll leave you with that problem between you and our uncle.

If pushed harder say - you have the choice to sort it out directly please dont include me.
- I love your passion but that issue is too close to home.
One technique is to ask a question with a question. Putting it back on them works. "You dont answer you door"...with "how do I answer the door when I'm sleeping". That will prompt questions of your wellness and that is education.
So, you have no fear in being truthful. You arent lying. You arent offensive. Mind you, any words can be chosen to be offensive. But that is their choice. Be nice, it costs nothing.
Mental illness demands a life of tranquility, as close as you can get to it considering your lifestyle. That will mean not putting those bad apples in the box for sale.
But polish them and carefully slide them down the shute towards their own kind. Your life has to be a box of good apples.

Google- Topic: fortress of survival- beyondblue

Surrounded yourself with loved ones with empathy and live in peace.

Tony WK

6 Replies 6

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi Tony,

I must admit, I love these posts of yours 😊 I think if we all had the choice we would surround ourselves with loved ones with an abundance of empathy and live in peace. But in my experience it becomes infinitely more complex when it’s family, and particularly in-laws. I for one have an extremely toxic sister-in-law, she is abusive to her husband in front of us, and extremely volatile and controlling in general. Every Christmas has been extremely unpleasant and has the feel of a powder keg ready to detonate at any moment (and often does). Rather than her family call her out on her behavior, they have all sat idly by (I initially thought out of discomfort but I now realise that they were passively enabling it). Now that the husband has said he wants to separate, the family has now come out in force against him, and are trying to discredit him to anyone who will listen. I have most recently found out that she has been speaking about me behind my back, telling people that I have made up my health issues “for attention”. I confronted her this out I told her to get out of my house and that I never want to see her again. I have finally had enough of the toxic shit brought into my life. But my partners parents are putting a great deal of pressure on him to make amends with his sister. The onus now becomes on me to “get over” the situation and move on. I think the emotional turmoil comes when you feel you can’t remove the person, it’s an in-law or a boss at work, or a parent. Unfortunately it’s not so easy to simply remove someone from your life who causes you harm, there seems to be a lot of guilt and pressure from others (and often even internally) about that.

Thankyou, Juliet

I know exactly the experience you're having with your relative. 11 years ago my sister and I ceased all contact with out narcissistic mother. She just turned 90yo.

She is so powerful and other relatives usually cousins have either left our lives or tried to interfere by making us justify our decision. I tell them

  • I never interfere in their relationships
  • I allow them to make their own decisions
  • Only the victim knows how a victim feels
  • You have choices and that includes believing what you are told
  • I have choices

Some have returned to our lives. My mother ruined my 1st wedding in 1985. In 2011 weeks prior to my second wedding she told someone she planned to ruin it. I sort an injunction stopping her unwelcome arrival.

Back to you. Your inlaw family have rights, eg to support their daughter. Unfortunately as they don't acknowledge her toxic behaviour and its too late to counter it, you are handcuffed and you must retreat to your fortress.

What does this mean. Well, if I was in your situation I would not bow down to any pressure at all. I would ask nicely for others to change the topic. I would allow them their rights to keep talking/persuading... but my right is to leave or go to my bedroom and put headphones on.

The key here is nicety. Rights for all. You could remind them of this and that your SIL not only has the same rights but she also can exercise her own responsibilities and mend her damage without others doing it for her.

With some people their cannot be opportunities to mend, that their actions are so bad it leaves victims no choice but to seek a happier life without them.

What makes it hard for me is that when young my mum was a nurturer. As we grew to adults she refused to let go of control, manipulated and triangulated. The only choice we had was to take away all control by exercising the right of choice, in our case, absence, not as a weapon to punish but as a means to end all abuse.

What is abuse (google beyondblue topic the definition of abuse) which in short is- if you and you only genuinely feel abused then you're a victim of abuse. It's not what others tolerate!.

So feel no guilt. Be fair to others and care for yourself. As for your husband, hopefully he won't pressurise but if he does remind him you married him, not his sister.

What fo you think?


Tony I find it awkward when a close relative is charming and wonder to everyone else but controlling and disrespectful to you. I once mentioned the behaviour and was asked what did I do wrong?

When others only see the kind charming side they automatically think it is your behaviour that is the problem.

I agree with Juliet your thoughtful posts are helpful and make us think.

Juliet i think you were strong to stand up to your sister in law.

Essentially we are discussing the handling of people, how we can manage them so we resist common actions amongst the mentally ill like rejecting society, self harm or great sorrow.

Narcissists or just toxic people require special focus for us as they are the kryptonite of our coping ability. They get under our skin when all we want to do is give love and enjoy life.

My first instinct with such people is defence of my well being hence my approach above. Once defence is decided upon I do convince myself that they have the problem not I (unless we are simply not compatible in which case no one is at fault).

I get annoyed that people, even myself, blame me as I'm (HSP highly sensitive person) and have bipolar... that doesn't mean I should be the easy option in conflicts. It might mean I'm less tolerant but hey- it's my right to be!

Developing my personal "fortress" (beyondblue topic fortress of survival) began when I realised years ago that

  • I hadn't developed emotionally as a teen.
  • I trusted everyone
  • I was self critical
  • I was verbally abused and manipulated by a narcissist

At my fortress I reject toxic people from the eyepiece at the moat door. If their answers get my initial approval I allow them into the foyer. As trust builds onto the dining, upstairs to the lounge where they think I trust them. They unaware I have more rooms up more stairs. Also I have trap doors in all rooms. Reject doors.

Some people use their status as a reason to abuse. Like Juliet's SIL. She could be gambling her family's support for her attitude will Trump over Juliet. Her SIL knows what harm it will cause her brother, the meat in the sandwich.

It's all a game for these people. My mother played these games. She used our father as a weapon too.

When I was 27yo she didn't approve of a girl I dated. She said "if you don't break off with that girl I'm going to leave and go to Tasmania for 2 weeks"

"I'll help you pack your suitcase"

Her games finished 11 years ago. My sister and I stopped playing.


Hi Tony,

I’m sorry you went through that with your mother, mine was a Machiavellian character as well.

I have retreated to my fortress and haven’t had any contact with his family since. It wasn’t the questioning of a serious life-threatening medical event that hurt me as I have a wealth of evidence to prove it. But the underlying malice - if you have any reason to question it then you clearly werent present during the months of rehab after. I have seen enough of her character to know that I don’t want it in my life.

But I feel torn as I am putting my partner in a very hard situation. I also feel a lot of resentment towards my parents in law. To defend your child is one thing, but to actively try and manipulate the narrative to portray others as the bad guy and enable domestic violence is another. And so I don’t trust myself to be around them and keep my mouth shut. Particularly as I know they will continue running their mouth about how she is the victim in all of this, her husband is to blame etc.

As someone who places a lot of emphasis on family, I also feel quite bereft at the loss of the family I wanted. I have even questioned whether I should leave my relationship (my partner is an alcoholic so there are other issues there too). Then he can have a relationship with his family and won’t be placed in the middle of this and I can be far away from them. But it feels unfair to punish someone for the sins of their family. Its also hard not to draw parallels about how I will be treated by them if my partner ever treats me badly.

Triangulation (a new word I learnt on your other list!) has been a constant occurrence up until now. The MIL is constantly falling out of favor with the SIL, and my partner is in favour. Then he invariably says something wrong and falls out of favor, and her mother is back in. My MIL is a classic enabler, constantly working to get back in and upset each time she is out of favor. My SIL has even turned on her when she has been in the middle of defending her behavior! But while ever people allow themselves to be manipulated, manipulation continues. And so I feel stuck. My partner obviously loves his parents, so I know that I will need to try and get over my feelings and move past it for the sake of his relationship with them. I am done with the SIL. But my concern is that they will continue trying to manipulate the narrative surrounding my SIL and mend that bridge. And I will bite my tongue until I bite it off!

Hi Juliet

I know precisely what bind you're in.

Sadly there are few options with your in-laws.

  • Distance yourself. Reduction of times you visit or is present when they visit
  • Reduce the times length when they visit. Add a Drs appointment an hour after they arrive.
  • Wear a mask https://www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support/online-forums/staying-well/wearing-a-mask
  • Sever ties.

It isn't easy when family act ... well not as family. Then, what are they? I often ask myself about toxic in-laws "if I wasn't married to my wife, would I be their friend. Answer - no.

And there in lies the truth, it's a relationship of obligation another wording for torture.

Perhaps a lot hinges on your hubby, his stance, his tolerance and his expectations.