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Family - When people break off contact without an explanation: "It is the greatest punishment ever"

When people break off contact without an explanation: "It is the greatest punishment ever"

When loved ones break off contact, it is sometimes even harder to digest than when someone has died. What is it?

Calls, emails and letters are no longer answered. Chance encounters are choked off with a few cool sentences or an icy silence. Sometimes people seem to end suddenly and often without explanation, the relationship with those who are closest to them.

Parents, siblings or life partners are left powerless, feel rejected and not even worth explaining. "Rarely," writes the journalist Tina Soliman, who has dealt with the phenomenon of broken contact in documentaries and books, rarely has she experienced "such a bewildering experience as with people who were suddenly left without explanation by someone close to them." To keep someone silent is the greatest punishment in interpersonal relationships, said a young woman to Soliman, angry at the disappearance of her aunt: "Just not to say what's going on and get out of here!"

In most cases, when someone radically separates himself from his surroundings in this way, the ground is pulled a little way from under the feet of those who remain behind. «Lots of question marks, worries, tears, burning heartache. Our mother in particular suffers and I believe that her health problems are also related to it, ”reports fifty-year-old controller Elke * about the consequences of her brother's loss of contact. "My parents had to gnaw at it all their lives, although my father was so angry with him that he disinherited him," says the 53-year-old social worker Peter *, summing up his brother's disappearance. This had left his wife and child.

Such a farewell is particularly stressful because it is difficult to make peace with the separation if the reasons are unclear. "If someone dies, I can go to the cemetery and somehow manage to say goodbye," says Peter. Paradoxically, if you lose contact, it is often more difficult to end the relationship and to calm down.

You think it brings calm

The American psychologist Pauline Boss developed the term "ambiguous loss" with regard to missing persons and other people whose whereabouts are unclear. This includes those situations in which the separation of lost people cannot be mourned because a residue of ambiguity and hope remains. "What the abandoned demand is plausibility, that is, the meaning behind the behavior that is inexplicable to them," writes Tina Soliman.

When pondering the sharp separation, it often turns out that there was a history. Inept remarks, small taunts, omissions or rejections can have a more violent effect than the person concerned wants and can show. In retrospect, it can be seen that something had built up and perhaps warning signals were overheard.

"A contact is usually broken off due to an emergency situation," says the Bernese psychoanalyst and author Katharina Ley. "Because one is so offended, so hurt, one thinks 'The break in contact brings me calm!' - but that is often not the case, it is perhaps temporarily a certain reassurance." In the best case scenario, this is how the relationship problem can be suppressed, says Ley, but that is not a solution. "The basic problem remains, because nothing is ended by the radio silence, and both dropouts and abandoned people remain internally occupied with each other," writes Tina Soliman, who has dealt with the various reasons for breaking contact on the basis of many case histories.

The situation of those affected subjectively perceived as distressed usually does not match the perception of the abandoned relatives. After Elke's family had never received an explanation and also took care of the missing brother's unpaid bills, they only received comments about third parties. "From this we were amazed to find that he feels like a victim," says Elke of the brother, who has always been inclined to blame others for his fate. She doesn't understand him, but she hopes he lives in the cheerful mood that the family used to have.

Speechless before the break

Whether someone tends to break off a relationship abruptly or, on the contrary, to hold on to it at almost any price, largely depends on how attachment experiences were experienced in childhood, says Katharina Ley. "Often, unconsciously, one repeats something that one has experienced - when it could not be reflected upon."

If there are no words in a family to resolve conflicts or to separate properly, this speechlessness can repeatedly lead to a silent break for generations. Tina Soliman is convinced that radio silence appears again and again as a «solvent» in families in which it has already been practiced. If there is a break in contact, it is always unfortunate for those who are leaving, says Katharina Ley, because they cut off part of their roots. "It's like erasing something on the blackboard with a sponge." Sometimes such a radical step seems to be the only way to get out of an oppressive situation.

Eva *, born in the mid sixties, grew up with her grandparents for the first few years. When the parents were able to take her in, a season of suffering began for a irascible, flogging father and a mother who did not protect her children, but even made sure that they and not themselves got the man's anger off. "I was broken through this upbringing," says Eva today. «I didn't know what I want. I didn't even know who I was. I spent my whole childhood totally terrified. I hardly talked - really, I was nothing. " Eva says she had no feeling for what it was like to have parents. Her father and mother have remained strangers to her all her life.

During her training, she managed to build a life of her own. "It was a long time that I thought I would get something from them, that is, affection, love, a certain amount of recognition," she says. But after the parents had seen their self-furnished apartment and their new hairstyle and the father had just yelled around the whole day, she decided, "I'm not doing this to myself anymore!"

Since that day more than twenty years ago, Eva had practically no contact with her parents; she only stayed in touch with her grandmother and brother. She radically broke with the family, which was never a real family for her, and even had her last name changed. On the advice of a therapist, she later re-phrased her reasons for the termination in a letter addressed to her parents, which she actually sent at some point, but which went unanswered. As a result, the parents wrongly saw their whole life questioned, she learned later.

A rapprochement is nevertheless possible in many cases. Katharina Ley says that it works particularly well among siblings who are no longer in contact. “You don't have to get hurt again, or be annoyed again, but at some point there is a longing: 'That's actually my sister, that's actually my brother!' . "

Many abandoned people, for their own sake, must have at least tried to get in touch again, for example with a letter, says Ley. If that doesn't work, it's better to say goodbye. "Otherwise you just torture yourself - and if it doesn't get an echo, you have to be kind to yourself!"

Elke has found her own ritual to deal with the loss of her brother. Every year, on his birthday, she sends him an email with a report on what has happened in the family over the past year. «I can't think of anything more after we tried to get actively involved in the topic through psychology, astrology and other hocus-pocus. Without the actor, everything stays in the fog. " After great exertion, she realized that all she had left was to accept his decision.

* Name changed by the editor