This post contains mentions of abuse and injury leading to death.
Something I always remind myself is that every family has their issues — big or small. No family is perfect and sometimes there are situations — or even scandals — that could break up a family.
I turned to the BuzzFeed Community to ask what scandal or instance tore their family apart and I was flooded with stories from people. Here are some of them.
1."Parts of my family are very split politically, my half-sister very radically. Our uncle texted her privately and politely told her that he would be unfollowing her on Facebook. She screenshotted the message and posted it on Facebook calling him a racist and such. Multiple family members asked her to take it down but she left it up, allowing her friends to comment insults and threats towards him. He didn’t talk to my family (her dad) for almost 10 years."
2."When he was growing up, my grandpa was best friends with his older sister. They did EVERYTHING together. One day, his sister had a friend over and my grandpa went to go play with them. His sister said something along the lines of 'Don’t follow us, we don’t want to play with boys' or something to that effect. It sounds silly and childish, but that hurt my grandpa so badly that it changed their relationship completely. He instead turned to becoming best friends with their younger brother and that dynamic has stayed even to this day. We see my dad’s cousins on that side all the time, and I even grew up thinking that the ones my age were my actual first cousins because I was around them so much."
"I don’t know what my great-aunt looks like and my mom says she’s only met her two or three times in the 25+ years she’s been married to my dad. My dad has cousins that he doesn’t have any sort of relationship with because of it, and they live within an hour of us. We had a family reunion a few weeks ago and all of my grandpa’s children and grandchildren were there and all his brother’s children and grandchildren were there, but their sister and her children and grandchildren weren’t there."
3."My grandfather had an affair and had a son with a married woman. They both stayed with their spouses and buried the secret. The boy was only a few years younger than my dad and they saw each other around town. We only found out about it when they were in their 70s and the other woman’s dementia caused her to let it slip to the son. He tracked down my grandpa and shit hit the fan."
4."I was an only child and was blessed with a great childhood until my dad died when I was six. Mom and I never got along. Our relationship was adversarial at best. When I was 11, I found my father’s obituary. Turns out, my father had a first wife and another daughter from that marriage. Once the cat was out of the bag, my great-grandmother filled me in on everything. My parents had an affair for 12 years while my mother was his secretary. I was the third pregnancy (one adopted, one aborted) and was my mother’s golden ticket to finally getting a wedding ring. Once my dad died, I was unnecessary baggage, hence her complete disregard for my existence."
5."Not so much a scandal, really, but it's been an 'open secret' in my family that my great-grandmother essentially killed my great-uncle. She was an extremely abusive woman and one day she hit him so hard that he fell onto concrete and ended up with a brain bleed. My grandmother (his older sister) witnessed this. She was 10, my great-uncle was eight. He died two days after the incident and my grandmother never recovered. She ended up being hyper-protective of my mother and her siblings and the generational trauma is EXTREMELY far reaching. Many of my cousins and I have bad anxiety because of the stress our parents experienced."
6."My aunt Taylor's second husband is a piece of crap. My aunt was a single mom of two small girls when she got together with Darren, who gave them a comfortable life because he's worth millions. They've been together for several decades, and he sexually propositioned my aunt's oldest daughter when she was still a minor. Now my aunt's children are grown, they still love their mother, but stay away from their stepfather."
"While I was staying at my aunt's house, Darren spoke to me privately about the time he bought the services of a sex worker. He also walked in on me when I was bathing, and just stood staring for several seconds (instead of leaving immediately like a decent human). I tried to warn my family about him. Some listened, and some chose to look the other way. Darren has since bought lots of property in Florida and lends out money to various family members when they're strapped for cash, thus furthering my family's dependence on him."
7."There are five kids in our family. One year all of them decided to give our mom a trip to Hawaii, her dream vacation. At the time my husband and I were in a financial bind. I told the brother who was in charge we couldn't contribute and to please not email details as I was having a hard time not being able to give them. So my oldest brother offered to chip in money for me as long as I could pay it back. He was also in a financial bind so I declined his offer. Then the brother who was in charge decided to email all of us how much each person was giving, including grandchildren. I emailed him back and I reminded him I had asked him not to email any of the details. He told me I could contribute in other ways by telling my mom how Hawaii was which I did but I had been there 25 years earlier and it wouldn't be the same. He said I was selfish and was only thinking about myself. We both started back-and-forth emails to each other."
8."Years ago my cousin went overseas for work, cheated on her husband with her married boss twice her age, and then asked for a divorce over text. It split our family in two, and to me, it was wild that anyone was taking her side. It's like she just wanted to start a new life and leave everything behind, and her kids and pets were collateral damage she didn't mind abandoning. Plus her now ex-husband is one of the kindest and most considerate people I know, and hearing some of our family trashing him and making excuses for her was awful. Being unhappy in marriage is common, and I would understand if she handled it better, but she was so selfish. I swear my aunt and uncle aged like two decades during that time from all the stress."
9."I found out, via a typed letter sent to my place of work at the time, that my husband of eight years had been cheating on me with multiple women. We had young children at the time. I was completely blindsided and for almost a day after I told him about the letter he tried to convince me that it wasn't true. He was quite convincing. However, I made one phone call to someone who told me that it was all true and that everything that followed unveiled that I was living a lie up until that point. I truly had no idea, but as soon as I learned the truth, I ended the marriage. Our kids know enough, but not everything. I wrote a book about it. It's not exactly a secret, but it's something that I still have a hard time wrapping my head around and quite a story."
10."My sister had an affair with her husband’s stepfather that lasted 15 years. When she was 45, she got pregnant, and her husband was infertile, so she had to come clean. Her mother-in-law still won’t talk to her, and this is just one example of her strange and self-centered behavior that is making me think of ending contact with her."
11."My sister decided to name her daughter Sarah, after her beloved friend who tragically died young. The only problem was that my mom is also named Sarah — we’re Jewish — and Judaism prohibits naming children after people who are still alive. My sister argued that what she was doing was fine because she wasn’t naming her child after my mom, she was naming her after her friend. My mom said that it made no difference because she was still alive and that this would make people think she was dead. This snowballed into a massive family war, with my entire extended family choosing sides. There are four family members who are now estranged as a result of this. Ultimately, the daughter was named Sarah, my mom apologized, and minus the four family members (who weren’t great people, to begin with) it’s like the whole thing never happened."
12."My older sister worked at a strip club and got pregnant, she doesn't speak to anyone in our family except me. When my family found out, everyone went apeshit and trashed everything having whole ass tantrums. She is married with her child today and is still a stripper, she really enjoys her job and her husband has no problem with it."
13."I adopted my sister when I was 22, not because our parents died, but because our dad was arrested on child trafficking charges. Half the family thought he 'should be forgiven' and half (the camp I’m in) said 'he should rot in jail for a long time!' To add insult to injury, I found out our dad (who I thought was my dad) isn’t my dad and almost my entire family knew my whole life."
14."When I was in third grade (9 years old), my parents sat my sister and I down and told us that we had two older half brothers from my dad's first marriage and we would be meeting them in an hour. This wasn't a secret marriage or secret children, my mom knew all about them, but her conservative Christian upbringing had created this idea in her head that divorce was something that should be considered shameful and hidden from the world (including her own children)."
"This was the first of many, many secrets (infidelity, gambling addiction, financial abuse, and physical and psychological abuse) she ended up hiding out of some sort of misguided ideas about sin and shame. I didn't even find out most of them until I was sorting through papers after her death when the answers to all kinds of questions came avalanching down. I realized it was an ongoing pattern and that's why I barely knew my aunts, uncles, and cousins growing up (thank goodness for social media to reconnect us as we became adults) and long-time friends would just disappear from our lives."
What incident or scandal have you experienced in your family? Share it with me in the comments below.
Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline is 1-888-950-6264 (NAMI) and provides information and referral services; GoodTherapy.org is an association of mental health professionals from more than 25 countries who support efforts to reduce harm in therapy.