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Will mediation help with abusive family member

Community Member

Four five years now, I have suffered from narcissistic abuse from my sister in law. This abuse has ranged from simple shunning, name calling, and manipulating situations so that myself and my husband and children are cut out of family events... to quite severe verbal abuse, screaming and lunging at me, gaslighting and sustained bullying. Some of her emotional outbursts have been in front of my young children, and three times now I've had to deal with the fallout of her inappropriate behaviour in front of them and explain it away so they don't feel so distressed. During this time, I have asked perhaps a dozen times if she would meet to talk through our issues and try and put it all behind us... This has always been refused, and the only communication I've really received from her with regards to what her perspective is in this whole situation is abusive communication.... so not only do I have really no idea what I've done/I do to trigger this kind of extreme behaviour, but I have had given absolutely no voice to express the hurt I've felt.

I myself have been treated for depression, anxiety and PTSD as a result of some of these attacks and the ongoing bullying, and it's been a terrible time for my husband also, who has also been diagnosed with depression. I made the decision a while ago to stop being around her at all, block her on my phone etc, and prioritise our healing. This has been hard for the wider family to understand, but they have mainly supported us. I've been through a great deal of counselling, and started to make headway, and we tried going to a few family events again. But then more recently there was another flare-up, and the abuse went to a level that really scared me. She also said she never wanted anything to do with me ever again. For me, that was it... I'd reached my limit. I had had enough. I was happy to give her what she wanted. I cut all ties again, moved on mentally and have missed out on family events where she was there, just so I could find peace in my head once again.

But then all of sudden, my husband and I get a request for us to go to mediation with them. It's so strange. Anyone else with any experience on mediation within families? Or experienced narcissistic abuse and had any positive outcomes either through reconcilliation? Or should I follow my gut, and stay away?!!

13 Replies 13

Community Champion
Community Champion

Dear Emeraldeye~

Welcome here to the Forum, I think it was a good move. It may be difficult to lay out everything to those you have never met, however there is a wealth of experience and care to draw on here.

I'm not able to give you an answer, after all youand oyur husband are the persons on the spot and have the best information, however I'd like it offer some thoughts.

Firstly, as someone who has PTSD, anxiety and bouts of depression I found it took me a very long time to get to the stage where my symptoms were down to manageable proportions and I could deal with things. My improvement came about partly from medical help, therapy, counseling and medications, partly the support of my partner, and partly by the compete removal of the stressful environment (my occupation) that had lead to my illness.

Getting to a position where one's life is pretty good takes a lot of time and effort -and luck, I would imagine if I were allowed to return to my previos occupation then I'd simply start to ramp up again. So I steer clear of anything that might set me back.

You have had five years of unjustifiable and sever verbal abuse, and your husband has too. You have the same illness as myself, though mine came from different causes and are therefore vulnerable.

During that 5 years you did ask in effect for if not mediation at least calm talk -which was refused.

By distancing yourself from the family and seeking treatment you improved, in fact so much so that you thought you might be able to resume family relations -which simply did not work, you were back where you started.

Obviously your husband has as much stake in this as you, in his position I'd be concerned about your welfare first, mine second, and the rest of the family last.

Can I suggest you talk in depth wiht your husband about that, abut the possible risks to health (and your children's' possible exposure to verbal abuse) versus what might be gained.

It might also be worth talking wiht other family members who might be in closer contact with your SIL and know how she is currently behaving.

Family ties are important, for your husband who has to cut off from all he grew up with , for you and for your children.

I guess you have to weight the risk against that.

What do you (and your husband) think?


Community Member

Thanks so much for the reply Croix. I’m glad to hear you’ve battled PTSD and are in a better place now. You’re totally right about it taking a long time to heal, it was at least 18 months before I began to get a handle on some of the obsessive thoughts... I committed to all kinds of holistic therapies and exercise etc and it did it’s job but I felt very triggered every time I would see or discuss this person at length.

So the abuse was mainly directed at me, it’s me that is the target of the hate. But my husband has been caught in the cross fire a couple of times. And much of his stress is also coming from seeing me in such a state... which hasn’t been fun and games... and the stress that this unhappiness has placed on our marriage in general.

so to answer your question, he is on board to do whatever it takes for his and mine and our children’s health and happiness first and foremost.

My intuition tells me stay away... my gut says she is volatile and dangerous to my health... and that she had years to be reasonable, and that perhaps the act of me letting go completely and not reacting to the last round of abuse even slightly, may have left her feeling out of control of the situation (which apparently what narcissists really need) and she is seeking a way back into the cycle of abuse.

but my head tells me it’s important to be open to forgive and find a better way... and listen if someone wants to talk, especially if she’s finally found a way that allows her to listen and be reasonable.

i have been trying to listen to my intuition a lot more since therapy... apparently I don’t do it enough! Clearly by asking this question here I am still not listening to it...!! 🤨

Community Champion
Community Champion

Dear Emeraldeye~

What can I say? My wife prompts me to follow my intuition (I'm a logical person) and by and large she has been right to do so. I guess I have to regard intuition as the conclusion one draws, even if one is a bit hazy as to how one got there.

I'm very pleased to hear you husband is there for you

as far as I can see you are under no obligation to listen, the time for that was long ago, the same for forgiveness.

You may also be right in thinking this move is a means of her regaing control or else feeling better about herself, neither a constructive motive.

All I can do is wish you the wisdom to make the correct decision

Please let us know what you decide


Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hello Emeraldeye, thanks for coming to the site and posting this thread.

What you have had to go through is never a pleasant experience and something that always seems to remain in your thoughts and then to be able to get some obsessive thoughts, as a result, is something I've also experienced.

I know exactly how this feels, as I too have stayed away from family events, simply because two particular people ask me questions none stop, so I have to think of an excuse why I can't go.

My advice is that even if you do go to mediation the atmosphere may not be to your liking, so I wouldn't go if it was me as it could be a means of her regaining control.

You must look after yourself.

Take care.


Community Member

Thanks Croix, will let you know what I decide. Weighing up the risks versus the benefits of mediation is exactly what I need to do, there are a few complications to this situation which I haven’t mentioned which means my children and husband, and other members of the family will benefit a lot from a peaceful outcome between us all.... which is clearly why I would enter this process at all... for all of them, not for me...

I guess what I’m concerned about is that the chance of her having changed and now having an open heart to listen and compromise are really quite slim. There has been absolutely 0% sign of that in the past... but change is possible and I like to believe the best in people.

Perhaps the solution is to say no for now but the leave the door open for the future and then I can work at becoming stronger in the meantime... and if I feel I can withstand the effects of my worse case scenario, then there is no harm in at least listening to what she has to say then.

Community Member

Thank you Geoff, yes this is what I’m concerned about too. My experience of the situation so far tells me that control is what it’s alllllll about.

I wish that discounting others and looking after me didn’t bring me so much guilt, as I know you’re right.

Dear Emeraldeye

Hello and welcome to the forum. Writing in here can help you to manage if only because you can let go of all your frustrations and say what you mean and think.

The guys (above) have suggested it would be a bad move to go to meditation. I wonder what sort of mediation is being suggested. In Qld the Justice Dept have trained mediators who manage this process. Don't know if other states do the same thing. I most certainly would not go unless it was being conducted by someone with no links to either party. Other people think they know how to mediate but it is a very involved and long training.

When mediation is conducted by the above people, the two parties sit in separate rooms and the facilitator goes from room to room. That way you are protected from malicious remarks etc. A friend of mine wanted to run a mediation between me and another person. He thought the two parties would simply talk to each other in a civilized manner. Was he wrong.

So these are the conditions for a good mediation. I wonder if your SIL has found someone to do this? If so I would most definitely not go. The facilitator's role is to protect both parties, hence the separate rooms. A friend of a friend etc is not suitable as they would be biased simply by talking to your SIL, even if they thought she was the most unpleasant person in the world.

So mediation must be done by a properly qualified mediator in the conditions I have described. The mediator will state the ground rules and these are for both parties.

I also wonder what will happen if you refuse. SIL can claim it's not her fault as you did not try to mend the difficulty. For those looking on it may confirm SIL is trying but you are not willing so she will have another lever to use against you.

May I suggest you find out the mechanics of the proposed mediation. Who will officiate, what process will be used, what about attacks on you? This is all very important. Does your letter state who will conduct the mediation? You can write civil letter asking for these details and refuse if it just someone who thinks they know about mediation.

I would also let the family know why you have refused if that is what happens. If your SIL is indeed a narcissist then be very wary. They can be charming when necessary and rely on that in sticky situation such as a face to face mediation. You will find yourself on the back foot a great deal of the time. Only agree on a properly controlled mediation.


Hi Mary,

thank you for all of this detailed information, this is so helpful. The only detail about the mediation that was given was that it would be a proper one. but in all honesty I don’t know anything more, except for that I thought there would be some level of face to face interaction as part of it.

My husband and I wanted mediation over the years and suggested it to them a few times, but it was always refused. I felt and still do that sitting in a room without a qualified mediator in the way you’ve described would be disastrous. But perhaps some good would come of the process if we used a properly controlled process.

I have absolutely no doubt that me refusing to take part will give her some leverage that she will take advantage of the the max, however, I don’t want to agree to this based on what the rest of the family may say or think of us. It needs to be the right choice for my immediate family... and if she truly is a narcissist, nothing is going to change any time soon. By the way, I use the term narcissist more to give an indication of how it feels to me but clearly I am not qualified to give that label to anyone. My therapist and the domestic abuse helplines I’ve spoken to also suggested that I research and read about narcissist abuse and gaslighting in particular to upskill myself to deal with this kind of behaviour... it was a game changer for me because I always believed reasonable conversation and kindness would prevail eventually... but I gave up on that notion and accepting she is the way she is and literally cannot help it, has really helped me to cope with it and forgive her, if only from afar.

We feel quite secure in our relationships with others in the family... we just see them separately... we try not to talk about it with anyone too much as it’s uncomfortable and sad for them... and they don’t want to be involved, regardless of their opinions of who may be right or wrong.

afyer reading your comments Mary, I feel that maybe I could deal with mediation in the future... I have a little more work to go and my husband also needs to get to a better place before we can give it a go. Thanks again for your thoughts!

Quick update... my husband happened to have a psych appointment today and so discussed this with her. Her advice was that this is definitely not the right time for mediation. Her reasoning was that my SIL has shown no recognition of her ‘inappropriate’ behaviour and until she is willing to at least behave respectfully, mediation will not be very effective. Ideally she needs to express a want to resolve things or show some ownership for some of the terrible things she’s done.

The offer of mediation didn’t come with any expression of wanting to make things better or to move to a better place... the message just came that she wanted to put her side across. So after all these insights, I’m feeling quite certain that now is not the right time.. thanks so much everyone x