Ending the Toxic Relationship and Giving Yourself Time and Space to Find Yourself

photo credit: AmyJanelle

Some relationships are deeply damaging and unhealthy for the people within the relationship. Unlike healthy relationships, which have peaks and lows, which have struggles now and then, a toxic relationship is poison to the people involved.

But what happens if the toxic relationship is within the family sphere?

Imagine your daughter telling you that every time she was with her boyfriend, he insulted her, gaslit her, made her feel small and insignificant, mocked her interests, tried to change her personality, deprived her of what she loved, cut her off when she was speaking, demanded her to always agree with him, ignored her when she differed in opinion, expected only adoration, and left her feeling stressed-out, sick to her stomach, and emotionally wounded.

Would you tell that daughter to continue seeing that boyfriend?

No. Absolutely not. No one would. However, what if the people involved was a friend telling you about an abusive parent? Myriad people would say, “But it’s family. It’s blood.” And if the family is involved in a religion, the religion will also be used as an excuse. “But it’s family. But they’re [insert religion].”

The excuse of “being blood” or “being family” is no excuse. People should expect more from their family members—not less. Families should be safe havens for the people within them, a shelter of love, hope, support, and affection in a vast world.

However, many emotionally abused children (and adult children caught in the cycle of emotional child abuse far into adulthood) do not have such birth families.

When Is a Relationship Toxic?

A toxic relationship is not limited to abusive boyfriends, girlfriends, and spouses. A toxic relationship sometimes exists in the biological family as well. But when do people step over the line of “family being family” and  into “a toxic relationship”?

In Sherrie Bourg Carter’s article, Toxic Relationships: A Health Hazard, Carter offers six questions to help gauge whether a relationship is toxic:

  1. When you’re with [the person], do you usually feel content, even energized? Or do you often feel unfulfilled and drained?
  2. After you spend time with him/her, do you usually feel better or worse about yourself?
  3. Do you feel physically and/or emotionally safe with this person, or do you feel threatened or in danger?
  4. Is there a fairly equal “give and take” in the relationship? Or do you feel like you’re always giving and he/she is always taking?
  5. Is the relationship characterized by feelings of security and contentment, or drama and angst?
  6. Do you feel like he/she is happy with who you are? Or do you feel like you have to change to make him/her happy?

Unlike healthy relationships—which inspire happy, contented feelings with only flashes of “normal” disagreements—a toxic relationship is the inversion of that definition. A toxic relationship mostly summons exhaustion, hurt and blue feelings with only flashes (if any) of happiness.

(To better understand whether your relationship is unhealthy, please talk to a mental health practitioner.)

You Don’t Want to Be Abused Anymore… So Now What?

If you awaken to the truth that you’re in a toxic relationship, what can you do? Because this site focuses on emotional child abuse and adult survivors of emotional child abuse, let’s focus on the answers in that light.

photo credit: Todd Klassy

Build boundaries

An adult survivor of emotional child abuse  needs to understand that a boundary has been crossed. Somewhere in the timeline of the parent/child relationship, the child’s boundaries were crossed and violated. In some extreme cases of emotional child abuse, boundaries were not allowed to be established.

The adult survivor has to establish a boundary, which “defines what is me and what is not me”( from the Boundaries book).

“A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership.” (Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No and Take Control of Your Life, pg. 38)

The adult survivor of emotional child abuse will need to learn to reclaim what belongs to him—time, space, emotions, a voice. The only way for the adult survivor to establish that is to take a break from the relationship with his parent. (Note: Only the adult survivor can determine whether the break should be permanent or temporary.)

“Adult children who have never spiritually and emotionally separated from their parents often need time away. They have spent their whole lives ’embracing and keeping’ [Eccl. 3:5-6] and have been afraid to refrain from embracing and to throw away some of their outgrown ways of relating. They need to spend some time building boundaries against the old ways and creating new ways of relating that for a while may feel alienating to their parents.” (Boundaries, page 38)

For example, a grown son who has been trained to call his father every day may decide to limit the call to once a week or once every two weeks. Or a daughter who has been trained to tell her mother all the details of all her relationships, including her husband, will no longer share all the details of everything for the sake of her privacy, her friends’ privacy, and establishing separate relationships from her mother.

Learn to say no, learn to take back your life

An emotionally abused adult child will not realize the power in the word No. They have spent most of their life saying Yes to the abusive parents… or if the adult child ever said No, the adult child was punished with the silent treatment or verbal abuse for speaking out and therefore has learned that saying No hurts.

But saying No is liberating.

“The most basic boundary-setting word is no. It lets others know that you exist apart from them and that you are in control of you. Being clear about your no—and your yes—is a theme that runs throughout the Bible (Matt. 5:37; James 5:12).

“People with poor boundaries struggle with saying no to the control, pressure, demands, and sometimes the real needs of others. They feel that if they no to someone, they will endanger their relationship with that person, so they passively comply but inwardly resent. Sometimes, a person is pressuring you to do something; other times, the pressure comes from your own sense of what you ‘should’ do. If you cannot say no to this external or internal pressure, you have lost control of your property and are not enjoying the ‘fruit of self control.'” (Boundaries)

Get help

At The Invisible Scar, we cannot stress enough the need for an adult survivor of emotional child abuse to find professional help, whether from a counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist, or minister. Just make sure to interview the professional first, so you know the therapist’s bias, whether you two are a good fit, etc.

Help can also come in the form of knowledge. Read books about emotional child abuse, read about healthy relationships, etc.

Find support in other people

Turn to good, healthy supportive friends during this boundary-setting time.

During the painful first stage of realizing the truth of the abusive relationship, you will need strong, good, caring friends who believe you, who understand your need for healing, and who will love you. People are social beings, and we need to surround ourselves with good, loving folks.

Don’t immediately run back

Once you’ve begun establishing your boundaries, the abusive parent may react by:  increasing the abuse, ignoring you completely, or changing immediately.

For now, let’s look at the last one: changing immediately.

Long-lasting change does not happen immediately. How many cases have been shown on the news of people in toxic relationship who returned to their abusers when they thought it was safe? They often ran back as soon as the abuser expressed an “I’m sorry.”

Inward change does not happen so quickly.

“Many people are too quick to trust someone in the name of forgiveness and not make sure that the other is producing ‘fruit in keeping with repentance.’ To continue  to open yourself up emotionally to an abusive or addicted person without seeing true change is foolish.

“You should not continue to set yourself up for hurt and disappointment. If you have been in an abusive relationship, you should wait until it is safe and until real patterns of change have been demonstrated before you go back.

When Your New Boundaries Are Constantly Violated

When faced with adult children who are establishing long-needed boundaries, some emotionally abusive parents will refuse to acknowledge any hurt or damage that they caused, negate responsibility within the relationship, and in some cases either escalate the abuse or cut the adult child out of their lives until the adult child returns to the long-established patterns of behavior.

“There are truly some parents who are too toxic and are what I call the “untreatables.” If someone is abusive and cruel and continues to be without remorse or empathy, it cannot be healthy for anyone to be around that person. That’s OK and important to know.” (Karyl McBride, Psychology Today)

In such extreme cases, the adult child may choose to go “no contact.”

“Going No Contact  (NC) is not necessarily a decision to stop loving the person. It is a decision to stop struggling with them and let them be who they are going to be while not letting their behavior hurt you any more.” (Out of the FOG website)

That point merits repeating. In myriad cases, an adult child who goes NC with a parent is choosing to do so to protect himself, protect his self-esteem and guard his self-worth. (In rare cases, adult children may willingly go NC to hurt their parents over trivial matters, but this website concerns itself with adults who have been emotionally abused by their parents and thus have good reasons for considering NC.)

In most cases of NC, the abusive parent has repeatedly shown himself to be neither remorseful nor willing to change or acknowledge their destructive behavior. The adult child, for sake of emotional survival, cannot have contact with the abusive, toxic parent.

Advice regarding how to go NC can be found at the following pages: Going NC, How to Go No Contact, and No Contact 101.

Benefits of Going NC or LC (Low Contact)

Why go NC? Aside from no longer putting himself in the path of constant maltreatment, the adult child of an emotionally abusive parent will enjoy:

  • A sense of peace (All the jitters of constantly expecting an emotional ambush will be gone.)
  • A sense of empowerment (For the first time, the adult child is speaking up in self-defense and protecting himself.)
  • A sense of being a real grown-up (and no longer having your life dictated by your parents)
  • Freedom (to make adult choices)
  • Holidays that you can enjoy (without the drama, the demands, the painful interactions)
  • A sense of being more you
  • A better use of time (in doing what the adult child wants, needs, or plans to do—rather than the abusive parent’s plans
  • Growing more comfortable in your skin
  • Discovering new facets of their personality that were buried beneath the abuse
  • New fulfilling relationships with emotionally healthy people
  • A sense of wonder in discovering new things that the abusive parent had disallowed
  • Joy in being untethered and a true grown up
  • A voice that speaks the truth
  • A voice that says what he doesn’t like, what he does like, what hurts him, what gives him joy—all without fear of repercussions
  • A better view of the world (and less feeling like the world is going to ambush you with its demands, pains, and abuse)

Some of those benefits will come immediately from putting a halt to the abuse. Other benefits, such as finding one’s voice, may take time and therapy…. People who come out of deeply emotionally abusive relationships often have a form of PSTD (post-traumatic stress disorder), so the movement from feeling abused to feeling happy will take time, patience, and support.

Keep Your Ground

An adult child of emotionally abusive parents who has finally set up boundaries is disrupting the landscape of the adult parents’ lives. Depending on the abusive parents’ personalities, they will react in some or all these ways: The abusive parents will try to manipulate the adult child back to the fold, play the “we’re old” card, use friends and other family members to get the adult child back into the appointed role, threaten the adult child with outrageous statements, smear the adult child’s reputation, spread gossip about the adult child to explain the adult child’s “sudden disappearance” in the parents’ lives, ignore the child as “punishment” for setting boundaries, send siblings as flying monkeys to badger the adult child back, use the “grandchildren miss me so much” card, send abusive cards, leave cruel messages, etc.

That all will distress the adult child… but, in the end, all that matters is that the adult child protects his heart and guard the treasure that God made him to be (rather than serve in the image that the adult parent attempted to make him).

True friends will listen to your story and believe you. True therapists will help you in your new life as a “real grown-up” freed from the clutches of the abusive parent.

Keep your ground. And remember the following C.S. Lewis quote:

photo credit: unknown

photo credit: unknown


Veronica Jarski is founder and managing editor of The Invisible Scar, a passion project dedicated to raising awareness of emotional child abuse and its effects on adult survivors. She has extensive editorial experience and a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Her work has been featured on myriad publications.

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56 thoughts on “Ending the Toxic Relationship and Giving Yourself Time and Space to Find Yourself

  1. THis piece leaves me in tears. I had left my toxic parents to live 6,000 miles away from them in a country I love, where I feel safe despite constant wars and political hostilities, but got lured back when my father became ill and my extremely toxic mother couldn’t handle him alone, yet refused to make use of offers of help from all of their friends. The tug of the umbilical cord was too much for me, and now I find myself enslaved. I am working on breaking free again, even though it will cost me my reputation and probably my inheritance. But my life is literally in danger, as I have developed high blood pressure as a result of the simmering rage I constantly feel when I am there http://bipolarforlife.me/2013/05/18/rage-can-kill-you/

    Liked by 1 person

    • Soul Survivor,

      Please be safe… Take care of yourself, and remember you deserve to be safe and in peace. You do not deserve to be in situations that enrage you…

      Peace.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Reading your posts leaves me feeling empowered and confident that I have made the right decision to go NC with certain toxic family members. thank you for giving me a voice.

    Like

    • Hearing your posts confirms I have token the right step with NC with certain toxic family members. At times I feel quilt which is less and less as time passes but it has reappeared. What makes sense to me is saying, ” I divorce them.” I would not have a relationship with someone I divorce if they were abusive so it is okay to not have a relationship with someone who is a family member. I will keep strong and continue a life full of love…..

      Like

  3. Stumbling across these words of guidance has given me a new sense of calm in my toxic suituation with my parents.I feel empowered to break the cycle of abuse. I can now go forward, in trying to be a fantastic parent to my own beautil boy who i am so grateful for.

    Like

    • Sarah,

      Glad to be helpful… The hardest part is to find your voice and say, “Stop!” But the word is powerful and wonderful, and though it is difficult to say at first, you will find yourself stronger and stronger every time you take care of yourself and stand up for yourself.

      You can do it, Sarah. You can totally do it.

      Onward and upward!

      Like

  4. Pingback: Ending the Toxic Relationship and Giving Yourself Time and Space to Find Yourself | The Road Back To Me

  5. I know I’m not alone in this, but having grown up in an abusive family, I have no role models of what a healthy relationship feels like. Even after 30 years of ongoing therapy, the people I have chosen to be in intimate relationship with have all turned out to be toxic. It’s like it’s programmed into my brain and heart. I wish people came with labels on their foreheads: “safe” or “toxic.” At sixty years of age I have concluded that I am incapable of choosing a proper safe mate. I wish. there was a screening service for that, but even that would not catch all the NPDs that look so normal on the outside!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Laura!

      Whether you realize it or not, you DO have a screening service that you carry around with you wherever you go. You just have to retrain yourself to pay attention to it.

      If you were raised in an abusive family, you were probably taught to ignore your own needs and feelings and focus exclusively on the desires of your abuser(s), so you have little practice with attending to your instincts and acting out of self-care and self-preservation.
      When you meet a toxic person, I’ll bet you a dozen doughnuts that you unconsciously go into appeasement mode, which can be a prelude to the abusive relationship cycle. You might be feeling apprehension, heightened alertness, and/or a gnawing feeling in the pit of your stomach in the presence of this person that’s telling you to stay away, but since you’ve been trained from birth to take abusive nonsense from disordered people and not fight back rather than to relate to others as equal, reasonable partners, you probably ignore these internal distress signals as symptoms of some personal inadequacy or other and you psychologically subjugate yourself to this individual — and they know it.

      Because you were taught to accept this unbalanced and unnatural interpersonal dynamic as normal, you might find yourself developing a relationship with this person that you label “friendship” (or whatever), and the parasitic downward cycle begins. You feel drained, demeaned, and used through the course of this relationship, however long it lasts, and you look around at other people who have happy, balanced, fulfilling relationships with friends and romantic partners and wonder why this type of relationship repeatedly eludes you.

      The trick to stopping this unhealthy cycle is, first, to trust your gut and train yourself to detach and self-reference. Focus on how you feel around someone rather than on how you can appease them to avoid an attack or some other type of invasion, and acknowledge your appeasement impulse. (This is important in learning to break the cycle so you can develop new interpersonal habits.) If you’ve experienced in your life what I have in mine around toxic individuals, you might find yourself automatically slipping into a servile posture, both physically and mentally, in relationship to them without consciously acknowledging to yourself that you’re doing it, and this is a factor in how toxic people find those they exploit. (Please note that I’m speaking for myself here, but I’m aware that many non-PD AcoN’s and children of other Cluster B types tend to do this.)

      Aside from the excellent resources on The Invisible Scar, you might want to check out the following articles on http://lightshouse.org for some specific behavioral tools to screen out potentially toxic people and learn to focus on healthier people in order to make room for them in your life:

      http://lightshouse.org/try-someone-else.html#axzz2kwJ1p1LC
      This article provides some general self-presentation tips for engaging with people assertively (not aggressively) and screening out potentially toxic individuals. These will take practice.

      http://lightshouse.org/lights-blog/how-to-use-body-language-repel-toxic-people#axzz2kwJ1p1LC
      Like the above, these tips will take practice. Also, if you tend to feel any free-floating anxiety, you might practice some self-hypnosis exercises to dissipate it (or work with your therapist on this). Cluster B types sniff out anxiety the way sharks sense blood in the water, and I’ve noticed an immediate shift in my psychological leverage with them to my benefit when I achieve calm, relaxed alertness in their presence.

      http://lightshouse.org/poppies-oats–a-few-small-requests.html#axzz2kwJ1p1LC
      Here’s how to listen to your intuition about people and test for Cluster B tendencies.

      http://lightshouse.org/lights-blog/how-to-say-no#axzz2kwJ1p1LC
      Here’s how to say no.

      http://lightshouse.org/lights-blog/the-problem-with-being-too-nice-part-one#axzz2kwJ1p1LC
      http://lightshouse.org/lights-blog/the-problem-with-being-too-nice-part-2#axzz2kwJ1p1LC
      Although all of the previous articles should provide you with important tools, both of these articles deal most directly with your stated issue – how to relate to solid people instead of slipping into the clutches of toxic individuals.

      You might find Al-Anon, in addition to your therapy, helpful in teaching you detachment from the habit of locking into struggles with problem people. Although Al-Anon is designed for friends and families of alcoholics, many alcoholic families have PD issues to some degree, so you’ll probably identify fairly closely with the situations of other attendees. Try to find a meeting where you feel the most welcomed and comfortable.

      It will take some time and focus to socially recalibrate yourself, but you and your life are worth it. Because we AcoNs have been raised to respond to unhealthy interpersonal cues rather than to healthy ones, we often simply lack the skills to function socially and emotionally among healthier individuals, so we tend to ignore them or otherwise nudge them out of our lives without realizing we’re doing so. If you have the opportunity to spend time around psychologically healthy individuals whom you genuinely like and respect, you might observe how they interact with others and absorb their techniques in order to rebuild your interpersonal toolbox. (Of course, I don’t mean in the freaky “mirroring” way used by some PD people.)

      It took me until I was 40 to realize what had happened to me and how it had affected my life, but I refuse to let it control me any longer. I’m now 50, and regardless of how much life I have left, I will not live it enslaved as I had before. I likewise wish you freedom from your enslavement, and I hope the above helps.

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      • Wow, you’ve given me a whole toolbox! Thank you so much! I just hope, at 60, I can teach this “old dog” new tricks. I’ve been looking at the multigenerational nature of dysfunction on both sides of my family, and lately rediscovering my two first cousins, both of whom have been severely injured by the family idea of how to dominate by means of fear and degradation. Ugh. Both of them are so broken, they can’t even look in the mirror and see it, so I consider myself fortunate by comparison.

        Your suggestion re: being in the presence of “normal people” and observing how they relate to one another is a good one, but upon reflecting on this, I realize I don’t know what “normal” people look like, because “normal” in my world means sarcasm, put-downs, and false praise followed by a slam-dunk. So I have a theoretical idea of what non-abusive people would be like, i.e., they don’t do those things, but it’s hard to find those sort of people, it seems. Lately I have been coping with it by isolating, which I know is not healthy, but then again it’s peaceful and painless.

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    • Just want you to know you are not alone in that idea. I am 65 and have felt that way for many years now – incapable of choosing a proper safe mate. My family of origin – parents and brother- used me as a scapegoat for so long, I feel I may never recover. I was just disinherited as the final blow and my brother got everything. Brings up the trauma all over again.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, Cindy, that is heartbreaking. Writing you out of the will is a slap in the face that is intended to last for the rest of your life. Someone once told me that a narc parent will torment their target even from the grave.

        I hope you have the basics for yourself–food, shelter, medical care? Will you be OK in spite of them all?

        Like

    • That sounds like me. This may sound strange, but could you be mildly autistic? I was diagnosed with HFA (Aspergers), when I had my own kids tested, at age 41. I have been abused for my entire life. I’m in an abusive marriage now, with no family or friends, terrible health and no where to go. I have only found good friends (in the past, when I was working or going to school) by accident. The relationships I’ve had with friends can be just as abusive as anything but I don’t figure it out until years go by. I genuinely believe that no bad intent is involved, miss red flags,etc. When I’d get a new boyfriend, for instance, good friends have pointed out and warned me about things I didn’t pick up on. I am also highly empathetic and the types of manipulative people I attract, exploit that. If I could find my way out of this marriage, I am terrified I would never be able to trust my judgement all alone. I’m so scared I would just invite abusers back in and by the time I figured it out, damage is already done. I’m probably going to die, never having been loved by anyone, except my children. My husband is a very good dad, but I’m sick over the way they are learning how to be in a relationship. There’s no overt behavior, but the worst, SILENCE and being totally ignored, plus ruining everything I love, passive aggressive, hard to put your finger on stuff. I’ve even seen several therapists who turned out to be abusive. There are quite a few who are narcissists. Please look into what high functioning autism looks like in women, it’s very different than what most people think. If you don’t seem to have that radar everyone else has, this might be a big part of it.

      Like

  6. Thank you for writing this. I’m in a situation with my mother-in-law right now that is incredibly toxic, and looks to only get worse unless my husband and I make the choice to completely (or, at least, mostly) cut her off.

    MIL is addicted to prescription drugs and is very emotionally unstable. She was brutally physically abusive to my husband when he was a child, and has been emotionally abusive to him as an adult. She’s been diagnosed bipolar but even with her medication, I know that her spitefulness and vindictiveness toward me are not due to mental illness but simply her own miseries projected outward. She’s mentioned on more than one occasion that I’m not worth her son’s time, and when she isn’t belittling me, she is ignoring me or refusing to listen when I speak. I don’t take it personally- she’s made a practice of rejecting her son’s girlfriends his entire life- but it wears on a person.

    I finally got the guts to speak to her regarding my husband and I spending Christmas with my family. She flew into a rage, telling me I didn’t have the “right” to talk to her about her behavior and that she “didn’t know me” and that she was a better daughter-in-law to her mother-in-law (for what it’s worth, I’ve heard this is a generous rewriting of history). She hung up on me. I left her a message to call me when she was ready to talk like an adult…I’m not holding my breath on that.

    I know my husband wants to walk away. I consider my last exchange with her to be my last and I’ve essentially told him that if he wants any contact with her in the future, I won’t be a part of it. He’s reluctant to cut her off, due to his own feelings of guilt, which I understand. He’s been doing this for 3 decades more than I have. As for me, I feel freer, but I know he won’t until he feels like he can remove her from our lives.

    I’m from a family where toxic relationships have resulted in no contact before, and I’m a huge proponent of the “being related doesn’t mean you need to be friends” camp. I firmly believe that I owe nothing to people who only eat happiness up, never serving it to others. I sincerely hope that my mother-in-law chooses happiness someday, because I’m through giving her my own.

    Like

    • I’m so sorry that you’re in this incredibly painful situation. I would like to thank you for saying that even though she is bipolar, her awful behavior is not due to her bipolar, but due to her abusive nastiness. As a bipolar person and author of a mental health blog, I am truly grateful when someone is able to tease apart what is due to the disease and what is due to just plain meanness. You’ve done a great job of that, and I really appreciate it. I hope that you and your husband will find a healthy way of establishing boundaries with your MIL, even if those boundaries turn out to be of the NC type.

      Like

  7. Reblogged this on Bipolar For Life and commented:
    An amazing article from an amazing blog. For those of us who are adult survivors of childhood abuse, this site can be a lifesaver, filled with resources. It was only after reading this site that I felt validated in my knowledge that I am an ACoN–an Adult Child of a Narcissist. Even though I can’t move back to the other side of the world right now, and even though the reason for that is that I’m helping my parents in their old age (thereby soaking in the stinking soup of bad relationships), I still find The Invisible Scar to be reassuring and comforting. At last, someone who understands, and has good advice! (And if my therapist is reading this: Yes, B, I know you tried to tell me all this, ten years ago. I’m a slow learner;-)

    Like

  8. Hi. Your blog is very helpful. I lived through several toxic relationships and have NC’d them all. I liked your whole article, but I especially liked the long list of NC/LC benefits. Every item on the list is a true benefit of the procedure. Thanks for creating this blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you for this article. I am trying to come to terms with the fact that my mother is a toxic person and I have gone NC. I feel safer now most of the time. only when the phone rings, the fear in me rises, for it might be another flying monkey or ‘mother’ herself trying to drag me back into my role as ‘everybody’s caregiver’ or ‘undeserving mishap’.

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  10. I went NC with my mother 4 years ago. I am 66. It took many years for me to realize that things wouldn’t change. She has never been diagnosed, but that’s not unusual. Narcissists (and she is pretty far out on the spectrum of Narcissism) never, or rarely seek therapy. The world is screwed up, not them!

    But…since I have gone NC (and also LC with my abusive brothers…actually they have not really spoken to me in decades because of the influence of the Malignant Narcissist….) my life has changed in these ways.

    Peace, confidence, renewed vitality and creativity (I have published 5 books …novels and poetry) I have found that the world isn’t like my toxic birth family and I am at PEACE! I squandered decades hoping that this toxic famly would change but the Chief Narcissist has trained my two brothers well. They are narcissists and misogynists. Sad.

    I do have to watch out for one flying monkey who hears their plotting and continued abuse, but she probably has a conscience where the toxic family members don’t. But as you say: There is TREMENDOUS power in the word NO! And having boundaries, something that most of us were denied in childhood, helps. Discovering boundaries.

    But! NC has so many benefits: the space, time and energy to find out who you really are, and not just in the opinions of this toxic family. I feel reborn!

    Thank you for understanding NC. It’s only hard when people criticize you for this (it’s your FAMILY!) but they are ignorant people and usually strangers.

    Peace to all and recovery.

    Jane

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jane, you have helped me a lot with your reply. Reading through it, I realized that I don’t have to worry about losing family because she has already polarized them all against me, so there is nobody to lose by going NC! My son loves me and that’s all that matters. I have some business related loose ends to tie up, and then I am back on the other side of the globe. I was helping my father as he died, and now he has died so I have no more ties to a “home” I never had. Sending healing energy to all,

      Laura

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sadly, I can relate to being polarized. At one point, I had a relationship with a few of the relatives on my mother’s side of the family. And them I looked up one day and they had all backed away from me as though I had a contagious disease. So I am not concerned about NC. I haven’t talked to them in years.

        Liked by 1 person

      • LaTanya….hello…and I understand about the relatives backing away from you. That is one of the evil things that happens with toxic families: people who should know better ..don’t act with sense or compassion. Two aunts of mine, both my mother’s sisters….said this to me about 20 years ago: “Who wants Helen to be mad at you? It goes on and on for years.” Yes it does.

        So people who should be adults around us are cowardly…and try to protect themselves instead of confronting the evil of a narcissist person. But perhaps they saw that a real narcissist doesn’t ever change…and they don’t. Believe me when I say they get worse with age. At 94 , there is no ‘softening’ of my mother.

        The best we can do here, with these ‘relatives’ is to realize that we have developed some self-respect by leaving them without our company. To go back, to interface with any flying monkey, is really self-abuse and self-hatred. We deserve better, but we have to begin to cherish ourselves first. Family of narcfissists won’t do that for us!

        Hugs,
        Jane

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you, Laura. And it is hard to decide ‘how’ we feel and should ‘behave’ when a parent/sibling dies. It’s not at all easy. When they have been the center of our abuse from our childhood and there is no apology, no change, it’s just….well, I am sure you know.

    And yes, the polarization is very hard to deal with because we hope that at least some of the siblings (I have two younger brothers) would see through her behavior, but the benefits of what the Narcissist holds out (money, ‘love’, the will) is too hard for some who have been the Golden Children all their lives and they can’t escape…or don’t want to.

    Life is short! and choosing the people we want to be around is key: those who do love us are the ones to treasure….all others, whether they are narcissists, sadistic (and narcissism does at times segue into emotional sadism) passive/aggressives, UGH!

    May you realize the love of those who are worth it and avoid the rest. NC is a shield from these twisted people.

    Jane

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  12. Amen to your blessing, Jane. Thanks for your encouragement, LaTanya.

    The Will. Yes, I admit being stuck on that, because if I lose the property I am bequeathed, I stand to be impoverished in my old age (and I am already not so young!). On the other hand, I can’t enslave myself any further to the abuser! I have been told that the greatest revenge is to outlive her, and while I think there is truth to that, I know that if I allow myself to do her bidding, there’s a good chance that I WON’T outlive her. So I feel myself walking this fine line, keeping myself as safe as possible while doing my best to secure what is rightfully mine, bequeathed by my father.

    I know it’s easy to fall into the trap of staying close to the abuser for the sake of the inheritance. Fortunately my inheritance does not have to do with money, but with property, and since there are no siblings I can only hope that changing the will would not occur to the extremely elderly Murder. Then again, were she to see this post, she might very well try to do it out of spite. The horrific things she has done just during the four years I have spent around her, while my father was dying, have thrown in my face that I did not imagine the horrors of my childhood. When my father became a “burden” to her, she did and said such horrible things to him that I can’t even write about it. No one is immune, even if they think they are.

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    • Laura…my heart goes out to you. And if you are alone, without a husband or partner, it’s harder to settle on what is best for you in the future.

      My mother is the same….cruel beyond belief. I have been disinherited when she was sent some comments I made 15 years ago perhaps….on M.Scott Peck’s website. I was only asking questions and a very stupid and troublemaking sister in law copied this out and sent it to her. I was told: “We are watching you.” by my brother. And when I have called her (only 4 times over 4 years of NC….the only thing she says is” “I’m not leaving you anything.”

      It’s hard to know what to do. We are dealing with mental illness in these people. When my father suffered his stroke and was hospitalized, she said (but only to me because I didn’t count) “I don’t want to be married to a man in a wheelchair.” She said it twice. And then, I knew the depths of her narcissism, cruelty. And this woman had been a nurse.

      The tradeoff is this: I shut my mouth, be the scapegoat (at 66) I am expected to be by these inferior and evil people….or. What? She has never given me anything, and I have given her so much but this is the way it is with Narcissistic parents. My GC and misogynistic brothers get everything and I am cut out of her will. But I got nothing when my dear father died, too. My brothers got antiques, a sailboat of my father’s, money, etc. I got nothing. Period. So I have no expectations about this evil old 94 year old woman.

      We have to make choices for ourselves. And I know that I would lose my life IF I stopped writing, and especially publishing my books. They ignore all of this and even the fact that my dear husband twos years ago had a stroke. Silence from them. So, I am losing nothing….But my situation might be different from yours. My husband (of 30 years this December 29) said this to me: “Forget that evil old woman. Whatever you need will come from me.”
      I am blessed but this isn’t the only blessing. Peace of mind and my intellectual freedom is a great blessing. And I won’y have to go to her damn funeral! LOL!

      And I won’t. In narcissistic families funerals are shams and agony for the scapegoats. Are we supposed to rewrite history there?

      I hope you can find the best future for yourself and your principles.

      Hugs, Jane

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh Jane, you have had a boatful of troubles! There is a difference between mental illness and cruelty, I believe. I am mentally ill, but the idea of purposely hurting anyone or anything, causes me physical pain. Yes, there are anti social people among us who get pleasure from pulling the wings off butterflies. Are they mentally ill, or is there a separate thing called callous cruelty? I am so sorry you have had such a hard time. And to have your husband have a stroke, a cruel blow. I tend to envy anyone who has a loving spouse, not having one myself; but then to have them struck down….Oh my dear, it is almost too much! I wish you peace.

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  13. As an “Adult Child Abused” by both parents, seven siblings, a relationship of 10 years and now currently being abused by my Adult Child of 29 years old, I am now 50…I have to say how much this blog/website has been such a blessing to me tonight, especially in the predawn hours of “Christmas” celebrations and coming on the heels of yet another holiday disaster. Love, I’ve found, is very threatening and truth, even the more. Establishing boundaries is offensive to most and in my tribe it’s, “the who do you think you are mentality” running rampant in the minds of the narcissists, who, when they discover you’ve NC’d them, would say, No-Way!! I’ve NC’d you first, you did not NC me. Very Prideful, Egotistical, Selfish, Unregenerate and Unrepentant Spirits…It’s no wonder none of us can reach forgiveness!! and worse, maintain it!! Previously, for years I’d been taking it on the chin. And even after my conversion, not one noticed just how much I had grown to love the Lord. They were blind to it and in my desperate and most needful hour, when I was told the words I have Cancer, everyone I thought loved and cared for me, bolted!! My family did not care for me while in chemo treatment. I nearly died. If I get really sick again, I know who I cannot count on. I don’t feel I have yet healed from this truth, that no one in my family truly desired to walk with me thru this journey of sickness. For my type family, being put out, inconvenienced in anyway and burdened, is not for them. This, and many blows, one after another, has left me feeling spent, worn, depleted, deflated, misunderstood and ever-so-frustrated. And worse, sick. After an all and all out disagreement which left me with no choice then to return home after a much planned and effort-ed trip to my daughter and sil’s house for the Christmas celebration/traditions, I began to realize that if I did not learn to set some boundaries and limits, learn about what I am, Who I am, as an Adult victim of child abuse….then these relationship’s were going to end up killing me… I desperately need healing. My heart grieves as we all profess Jesus, yet our lives fall miserably short of 1 Cor 13. I thought, in my regenerative (everyday learning and growing more and more) state, I had been being used somehow as a vessel for the Lord but to much my dismay, they have resented me even more, especially when I share and try to witness to them what the Lord has done in my life, to give encouragement. They spit on it (truths) and they never desire to talk about the word or the Lord. They won’t even pray bf a meal. Does this sound like a family of believers to you? Again, truths-they sting, boundaries-they offend! This year I even got good news that my tumors had not grown in 12 months. You would think a family of believers would come together, rejoice and celebrate especially at Christmas time…Sadly, I do believe one can expire from a broken heart. I am, for the first time in my life, learning to guard the well-spring of life. I believe the “Man of Sorrow’s expired with a broken heart. Oh how precious is He…our Lord and Savior who experienced every bit of pain and sorrow and suffering we know and feel, to the umpth degree, even while we were yet dirty, still…He loved us so!!

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  14. Hello there,

    I’m wondering if you could offer any advice. My husband still endures an emotionally abusive relationship with his father. I’ve always stayed silent and tried to offer my support as he got hurt, and always played cordial to my father in law. But recently it has started to affect the lives of my children as well as me. My fil was even as bold as to try and use his manipulation on me recently. Thankfully I’m not going to stand for that. And surprisingly that did set my husband off and he stood up for me. But the moment my fil apologized for his behavior and said “it wouldn’t happen again” and “he would change” my husband broke down and said we must forgive him. My husband is trying to justify him running back to this toxic relationship by saying “Jesus taught us to always forgive” and “when i get to heaven i will feel good knowing that i always loved my father in spite of his short comings”. I’m becoming desperate. I don’t know how (or if i even could) i can get him to realize what is going on. I don’t know how to tell him that god doesn’t want him to be treated this way and ending the relationship doesn’t mean he stops loving his dad and he certainly won’t be punished for it. And I’m getting really worried because the abuse of my fil is creeping into our family, and i know my husband is the only one that can stop it. I don’t want my children too endure this from their grandpa. And next time he tries with me I’m certainly not going to take it! Even all his siblings have cut ties with their dad, my husband is the last one putting himself through this. I’m desperate and don’t know what to do!

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    • This website was helpful to me as I struggled with Forgiving as the Lord calls us to do, as well as honoring my mother and father through the toxic behavior (http://www.luke173ministries.org/466805). I decided to go No Contact with my NPD mother and Low Contact with my father. Here is an excerpt that was particularly helpful:

      “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses…..Mark11:25-26 KJV

      Forgive as the Lord forgave you….Colossians 3:13NIV

      Sister, your Father wants you to forgive. We all know this is not easy, in fact, it can be very difficult. The Enemy is jubilant when you do not forgive. But our hearts must be obedient to our beloved Father, first and foremost, above all else. We must overcome Satan’s temptation to remain unforgiving.

      However, forgiveness and the requirement to forgive are not necessarily what we have been led to believe they are by our abusers and their enablers, or by others who are either misinformed or trying to deceive us. In the Bible, we are told to forgive as the Lord forgave us.(Colossians 3:13, Ephesians 4:32) The Lord forgives us when we repent. (Ezekiel 33:10-20, Isaiah 55:6-7, Jeremiah 6:16-30 & 26:3, Luke 13:3 & 5, Acts 3:19) He does NOT forgive those who are ‘stiff-necked’ , refuse to repent, and intend to continue in their sinful ways, and he does not expect us to, either. By forgiving unremorseful evildoers, we are depriving them of the opportunity to repent and transform their lives.

      In Luke 17:3, Jesus tells us very clearly that we are to forgive someone who sins against us IF he repents. God does not want us to continue to be abused, in fact, we are told to shun evildoers ( Some examples are Psalm 37:9, Psalm 119:115, Matthew 18:17, Titus 3:10-11, 1 Corinthians 5:1-5. See the article “No Forgiveness For The Unrepentant” under this heading on the left menu for more). But if there is true repentance (see Helpful Definitions), the Lord does want us to forgive.

      Click on the articles to the left under “Forgiveness- Not Necessarily What You Think” for details about God’s formula for forgiveness, and help in being able to forgive when there truly is repentance. May God bless you in your struggle. With courage from the Lord, the devil, and his tricks to separate us from God’s grace, will be defeated! OUR GOD IS A MIGHTY GOD! HALLELUJAH! “

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  15. its really sad to see what ive gone through and so many countless others have gone through dealing with this disease. Its amazing yo see how it affects all socio economic levels. I moved away from my narcissistic parents 5 years ago. Everyday away from them my life gets better. Even the pain I was having in my neck is getting better. My dad is a narcissist and my mom was codependent. I feel that after she has been married to him for 50 years she is becoming more like him which is creepy. They are in their 70s my dad just recently diagnosed with kidney disease. I guess the deceitful ways are finally eating away at them. they have done unspeakable things to me. Especially when I first left they realize quickly that they had no power over me so they tried to use the legal system against me in very sick ways with their money and top notch sHark lawyers. Anyway after many years of me maintaining my independence it has finally gotten better. I will never trust them. Even with all their sickness and old age they are unable to admit their mistakes

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  16. I’m so glad I found this site. A month ago I decided to go NC with my mother for the forseeable future. She has already responded with at least three of the actions mentioned in the “Keep Your Ground” section at the end of this post. It’s so validating to see now that I’m not crazy for seeing those actions as inappropriate, another indication of her illness. It’s nice to have company in this, as tragic as it is.

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  17. I am amazed to find this website. I truly never thought I’d feel an end to being so alone and the “weird” one. My narcissistc mother died last year can’t even begin to talk about it but my father and his wife have been belittling and mocking me for decades but I keep thinking they are being nice to me because sometimes they seem to be being nice I’m still very confused but so enraged and I so want the courage to cut off contact but so scared.I have had little contact for about a year but speak on phone every week or so. I went to visit them last weekend for the first time in a year it left me feeling suicidal as usual. also problem of inheritance because i am now disabled I have no income. My husband of 10 years is a good man how he copes with me I’ll never know, and earns enough for us to be comfortable but we have no savings I am so grateful for him. but if anything happened to him who knows where I’ll end up- very frightening.
    I am so grateful for the things said on this page it has really helped me. I know I should cut off contact but feel extreme guilt. But if it was a healthy relationship why would I even be thinking about cutting off contact? if it was even just mainly healthy why would I/ especially in light of the money he has hinted I will inherit.

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    • I’m so sorry you’re stuck in this awful situation. I also have a very psychologically cruel mother, who will probably live forever, our at least outlive me! I also have the dilemma of being disabled and financially insecure, and although I will not inherit money there are other things of value that I could possibly inherit so it’s scary to think of complete disengagement. I am not and will not be married, but since you are, may I suggest that you and your husband take out term life insurance? It only costs 35-40 $ per month and could literally save your life if something should God forbid happen to your husband. Note that “term” life insurance is the much less expensive one–don’t let any agent talk you into “whole life”which is an investment tool and costs a lot of money. That could ease your mind about the inheritance issue, at least. My mother tries all kinds of strategies and lies to get hold of the things of value that I do own, which are my lifeline when my private disability insurance runs out in a few years. Speaking of which, that is another really good lifeline for you and your husband–disability insurance. Most employers offer it in some form, and it is worth having to scrimp a little bit more for the peace of mind. As I found out the hard way, having become totally disabled for both physical and mental reasons, there is no better investment anyone could possibly make. It’s kept me from being destitute, made it possible for me to live independently with what dignity I have left. I am certainly not an insurance agent! But I am a poster child for how these small financial sacrifices have made it possible to distance myself from that poisonous snake who lent me her chromosomes over 60 years ago without having to beg for money or live in a group home. Just some thoughts from my own experience. Sending good thoughts your way–Laura

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  18. I love your site – so many great articles and much that resonates with me, thank you. I have one suggestion, and that is to substitute the term “family of origin” where you have used birth family or biological family.

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  19. I know this article is old, but it offers great advice and information about childhood emotional abuse. I am an adult survivor trying to pick my way through the muddled mess my parents left me in. I have nc with one parent and lc with the other and my sister. The biggest hurdles I face is learning how to set boundaries, knowing where others thoughts and attitudes end and where I begin, and trust. And finding a good shoulder to lean on for support. Abuse doesn’t have to be physical to cause pain. And it can leave scars that last a life time. Thank you for posting this article. On a day I question my reasons for nc and lc, it made me realize I am doing the right thing for me at this moment. Thanks for that.

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  20. This site made me feel I did right to go NC with my mother. I didn’t want my kids to feel the way she made me feel for too many years. In the moment she started being abusive to them, I realized that is was time to go NC with her, boundaries and LC weren’t enough. Thanks for creating this blog, it has been very hepful to me.

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  21. Anyone have advice on whether to tell your parents when you first start NC and why? What about on holidays? Do I not attend the events and warn my relatives ahead of time? If so, do I just excuse myself or do I tell them the short version of the truth? Out of my two parents, one of them may try to improve once confronted, so what do I do if he calls and wants to try to earn my trust back? It’s only been 6 or 7 weeks since I stopped communicating with them. I’m so new at this and I don’t have a road map for what things will look like moving forward as the holidays come.

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    • Hello. My advice to to read the varies posts on this site– there is an abundance of information! It helped me a lot when I went NC with both of my parents (I confronted them first; they did EVERYTHING listed in the great book “Toxic Parents” by Susan Forward, Phd, about “reactions”). There’s also another great website I found through this blog, the website is the Luke173 ministry (particularly good if you have any faith/religious beliefs).
      Read the comments of what others have done– find what is best for YOU. Now is YOUR time to think, to have space, to heal. . .
      I also recommend reading a few books (several are posted on this blog!). I found “It’s Not Your Fault” to be good reading (still reading it); “Will I Ever be Good Enough” (still reading it); “Toxic Parents” (still reading it); and “Adult Children: the Secrets of Dysfunctional Families” (still reading that one, too!). I’ve pecked at “Trapped in the Mirror,” but haven’t done full reading on that. I really have to piece-meal it or I get “triggered.”
      I hope this helps you in your journey.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, yeah, one more about boundaries. The most beneficial one for me was “Boundaries: Where You End and I Begin” by Anne Katherine. It’s a short book, and I think more concise than her other boundary book (I did read both in full).

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  22. Pingback: Done | Love, Kaydee

  23. Thank you for this site, it’s been very helpful. I do not think my father is a full-blown narcissist, however he does have some of those tendencies, and unfortunately they all manifest themselves most strongly in our relationship. I guess more than narcissist, “control-freak” would be the phrase that most accurately describes him. In many ways, he is a good and admirable person, a man of strong convictions who has contributed much of value to the world. However, he is a deeply, inflexibly religious person who prides himself very strongly on being a moral compass for everyone around him, especially his students and his children. I was his middle child, and was born with a strong will, a creative mind and an ability to think outside his box. As a result, I often reached very different conclusions about the world than he did, and now even into adulthood with three children of my own, my opinions are regarded as those of a merely rebellious teenager, and I am often scorned and stared down into silence. (It’s important to note that I did NOT fit the role of “rebellious teenager,” ever, but was often treated as such when I tried to speak my mind or if I got so much as a C on my report card. I tried extremely hard to be the “perfect” child…no drugs, no drinking, no smoking, no partying, no sneaking out, no sex…straight edge to the core.) My mother (whose father was a very similar person to my dad), has always enabled his behavior, and I was endlessly bludgeoned into silence with “The 4th Commandment!”

    It finally reached a breaking point last weekend…he tried to bully me into silence for voicing what seemed to me a pretty harmless opinion, and it was the last straw…instead of shutting up, a screaming fit like nothing that’s ever come out of my mouth before ensued. The worst part was that this happened in front of my children. In the last week, I have finally come to terms with the fact that my last therapist was actually right when she labelled my father as “emotionally abusive” toward me. I’ve realized that you can only pump so much toxic junk into a balloon before it explodes all over you, which is what happened last weekend. I’ve also realized that if my father (who has actually been in therapy for years, but seems unable to fully come to terms with his treatment of me) cannot change his behavior toward me, going LC is definitely something I can deal with…and is blessedly something my older sister, a licensed social worker, supports me in, even if no one else in my family will. I’ll still allow my children to spend time with him, at least as long as their relationship still seems to be a good one.

    I am choosing to see last weekend as a blessing, even though the whole thing made me feel sick to my stomach for days. In finally losing it on my dad, I was able to clearly see, for the first time, that in NO way was his treatment of me ever acceptable, at all. This is a blessing because, in not fully accepting that fact, my husband and I were both slipping into similar behaviors with our own children, the oldest of whom is five, and a very high energy, outside-the-box thinker like I was. I now recognize my own patterns of bullying and thought control over him for what they are, and have made a firm vow to STOP. I KNOW what good parenting is, and I can no longer allow myself to constantly make bad parenting choices just because “my dad did it, and he’s not a bad man.” In many ways, he may be a very good man. But he was not a good father. I WILL be a good mother. Maybe not a perfect one, but a good one. Moving forward, that is my goal.

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  24. Hi, thank God, it is such a relief to be here. Thank you for having this site! I just wrote a whole blog post and it is has been zapped just as I was about to post.

    I am a Christian Jesus is my protector and has kept me all this time. Yet evil never sleeps and this abuse has been unreal and continues in subversive ways now that I am a grown woman.

    My mother is the tormentor. When I was a child she was physically, psychologically and emotionally extremely abusive. Cursing, beating and whipping me when I forgot to remind her to get a pack of cigarettes or stop by the liquor store to stock up for a party she was having. Stupid, wicked stuff like that. “You are always forgetful!!” She would constantly hiss. Probably hoping I would forget her abuse and not tell anyone. It was one of her evil go-to phrases.

    There have been many other horrible tactics and words to try to diminish me. I won a beauty contest back when I was in college and she was absolutely in a jealous rage. That was years ago. Photographers came to the house to take photos of me for the paper and I thought she was going to explode. Later I found my trophy without a head. It was deliberately smashed and broken off. I was aghast.

    She is also a copycat. Anything good that I do, she mimics and I mysteriously lose the good thing that I had or had accomplished. So there is something psychic and spiritually very dark andevil going on as well. It’s like she wants my mind, my body, my life, my soul. Well, Jesus has my soul! And I’ve been fighting for years for the rest of me! My mother’s an accomplished woman, but she doesn’t want me to have anything of my own. No husband, no family, no money, no life. Nothing. It’s uncanny and I still don’t understand the depth of her dark shenanigans and how I rebuild and rebuild and get reduced and robbed supernaturally and in the physical realm again and again.

    I have spent months with no contact (we live in separate states), because I have run all over this country to try to have a professional career, a marriage and a life. I’m now divorced and have suffered other loss.
    I’m back in contact because the all-points bulletin this woman sends on a “search mission” have been traumatic too.

    Years ago, she called when I was living in California and my Dad died, and I didn’t know it yet. She called and in a sing-songy voice said “DADDY’S DEAD!”. I started screaming. It was like something out of the worst, horror movie. He wan’t sick and he was a very kind man. She wasn’t even married to him anymore when he died. She has been divorced from him since I was a baby, But I stayed in close contact with him throughout the years. My mother has re-married three other times, is now currently married, But just recently she has reverted back to my DAD’S last name using it as one of her four names. How weird is that? /Extremely important note, and part of my misery: She has been after my inheritance for years and has been devising many schemes there. I have only received a partial inheritance because she has been blocking and doing, well Lord knows what trying to get the rest. I know if it weren’t for Jesus protecting me, I would not be alive on earth. But he has. This is the depth of the evil. (And my half-sister sometimes gets in on the act. She also lives near my mother in the midwest.)

    Here’s the latest shenanigan: My mom just made another copycat move and created an award show for herself. It was bizarre. I was the one up for an award. This was just recently here on the East Coast where I now live. Just yesterday I got a call, from a organizer that sounded on the verge of a nervous breakdown. She bizarrely told me that I needed to pay some money before I could get this award for some work I had done. What?! When I was told by the hostess to come to the program and my dinner was covered. It was perplexing and weird, but I lost the opportunity to appear on the program, because she told me at the last minute and I didn’t have the money. (Though I have an inheritance that is being blocked.)

    My mother sends me an email of her copycat award in the midwest where she lives. A full program she devised with her husband’s help. Guess what the date was she had for her copycat invented full program?? (With “refreshments”!) MY FATHER’S birthday. This woman doesn’t do anything randomly so the day of her program to honor herself was carefully chosen. She asked in the email, if I remembered that the date was my father’s birthday. I loved my very, kind Dad, who was also a Christian, very much. How could I forget the date of my own father’s birthday?? (Should I confront her with all of this? I have in the past and the list of things I expressed was so exhaustive, we both were reeling. And she was “hurt”. Ha! And she goes on trying to destroy me and my life.)

    Oh and here’s the coup de grace, meanwhile almost simultaneously, I lose my own award program opportunity that would have helped me professionally. More psychological abuse.

    This is only the tip of a very evil and perplexing iceberg. I have friends, a few new ones I cherish, but really cant talk to a soul about all of this. Oh and more trying-to-invade-my life stuff. She used a male best friend of mine as the photographer for HER FOURTH marriage. And years ago, with another one of my friends she invited herself over to my friends house someone a generation younger than her, and spent the night she said, talking “girl talk.” and laughing and telling stories all night. What?! My friend is my friend and my age. Not hers.

    Thank you for letting me express this. It’s a relief. Oh, she recently said she is coming to “visit” doesn’t know why I won’t accept her Facebook “friend” request and that it’s terrible I haven’t seen her in awhile. Ha! I would love to visit her if she were a normal mother, but she is beyond Mommie Dearest. Truly. Way Beyond. And I am scared witless about this impending visit. She doesn’t know where I live, but has “investigational” skills and is well-connected. Friend request?! Can you imagine?? Oh and her husband sent one, too! A “friend request” to me. And there it sits. Looming. And I won’t accept it, because she’ll just take over my Facebook page and I won’t even recognize it. Plus all my friends. It’s awful. I’m a grown woman just trying to have a life, and it’s been constantly hijacked and sabotaged. FOR YEARS. I need for this to stop and live victoriously. People say I’m a kind, loving person in spite of all of this. Ironically I have helped others through God in other areas and can’t seem to overcome this area of “mother abuse” in my own life. Again thanks.

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  25. My older sister (73) who has always been very cold, dominating, abrasive, demanding, unempathetic and critical, and has always made nasty comments about me. I am 60 and still feel intimidated by this blustering, manipulative, controlling woman.When I complained in the past, she would always say that I am much too sensitive.

    It has taken me a lifetime to deal with a type of toxic family. My parents didn’t know how to be nurturing and supportive, and instead they were cold, verbally harsh and critical. When I was in my early twenties and visiting my sister, my brother-in-law grabbed my breast when I was alone with him in the house. I yelled at him but he seemed to have no clue that he had disrespected me. He never mentioned the incident or apologized, and I was too timid to confront him later about it. Of course my mother and sister said nothing when I described what happened.

    My parents are passed, but I am still trying to set boundaries with this nasty sister. She makes me so uncomfortable I can’t stand to talk to her on the phone, let alone see her in person. She announced recently during a phone call that she was coming to see me and my older brother (who lives an hour away, although we have never visited each other. He is not as verbally aggressive as my sister, but he seems cold and disinterested). At that moment, I told her calmly I am not interested in seeing her because of her nasty comments. I gave examples, and she immediately blew up and denied the comments.

    I have been avoiding her phone calls and my husband and I will be out of town on the days my sister and brother-in-law might show up. My self esteem and self worth plummet when I have any contact with her, so I am going to insist on a no-contact situation.

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  26. I grew up in an emotionally abusive family. It was not just my parents but my older siblings too. I had managed to do most of the things described above and my life was quite happy. Three months ago my mother had to have heart surgery. I thought the right thing to do was to temporarily suspend my no contact policy with her and help my siblings deal with supporting her. My mother took the opportunity to cross my boundaries several times and make me do things that made me feel uncomfortable. My brothers were very disrespectful in subtle ways. I offered to drive them around as they were in from out of town. I changed my whole schedule to help them. During there stay they would change their plans without telling me and when I mentioned it they would simply say things like, “oh there must have been a misunderstanding” and shrug it off. One time it made me very angry and they thought that was very fun. They took a family photo right after they pissed me off and they laughed that I was the only one not smiling. My father who divorced my mother many years ago also came to see her for some inexplicable reason. His flight came in very late but he insisted on me driving him to see her early the next morning.
    During the two weeks the amount of boundary crossing and subtle disrespect was so overwhelming and traumatizing.
    It has been three months now and I still haven’t recovered. My friends have told me that I was so happy before all of them were here and I haven’t been the same since.
    I am so angry that they have done this to me. I am so angry that I didn’t say “no” to them even though I have learned to do that in my life in other areas and I am angry that when I am in their presence they still seem to have this power to make me comply to do things that I don’t want to do. I am so angry that the happiness I had built through years of therapy and rebuilding my life seemed to come undone by spending 2 weeks with them.
    I wish I could run away and never see them again but I have tried that and for me some family is better than no family.
    I have gone back to no contact with my mother. I appreciate this site for saying that is ok. I have only gotten a minor backlash about that. Having no contact with my mom has helped me a lot. I am 46 years old and I don’t feel safe around her and I think we all have a right to feel safe.
    The difficult thing for me is that my family can be very kind and supportive always on their terms. Never if I ask for help. Often I need their financial help and if I ask the answer is no. If they notice I need something they are extremely generous. My psychiatrist calls my family “the ultimate mind f**k”.
    Now, my brothers who I believe genuinely care for me keep asking me if I’m ok. I can’t say no I am not ok because you are all emotionally abusive to me. The whole thing is very frustrating.
    So, I think my two weeks illustrates the power of no contact or limited contact. Two weeks of breaking my no contact rules and I am still very anxious and depressed 3 months later. I am optimistic that I can get back to my happy self again but it is going to take a lot of work and time.

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    • This is like my family. I’ve cut them all out of my life. They are the most miserable unhappy self centered people. It’s so shocking people behave this way. I’m fed up. Cuz like you after spend even a day with them I’m wrecked emotionally. Never again. I have no guilt cutting them off. None. I truly despise them all. They offer nothing to me. They are all just takers. Soul sucking takers.

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  27. Thanks for this, and for many other helpful articles and readers’ responses I found today.

    I remember the very first time I decided I really wanted to do something different for Christmas than hang out with my unhappy family of origin, who treated that as an obligation. I was in my mid-20s and really wanted to go on a solo walking tour and have a private spiritual retreat, after two very professionally fulfilling and demanding years. Dead silence on the phone at the other end after I mentioned that. Then manipulation and guilt. But I stood my ground, it was something I needed to do. I said, “You’ve had every Christmas except the one I was out of the country for. This is one for me. Why do you find that so hard to understand? I don’t remember you spending any Christmases at either of your parents’ places when I was growing up.” – “Oh, but we had a family, and you do not.” To which I said, “And how do you think I’m going to have a family of my own when you seem to expect me to spend pretty much all my holidays and vacations with you?” It was a time when I was starting to limit that kind of thing, but in retrospect I should have gone much further, much sooner. Like many people in this situation though, I kept devoting some time to my family because I was vainly hoping things would improve. And guess what, they never did, because that would take both sides to work on it. And though I tapered it more and more, and then to two visits a year after I got married (they never visited us, they always expected the universe to revolve around them), in retrospect I think it was all a waste of every minute of the time I spent on it, and to know that in advance would have saved me a lot of time and stress in my 20s and 30s.

    The hide of them really gets me in retrospect. It would be vacation time and I would get a phone call, “When are you coming? Tonight or in the morning?” and that offended me and I’d try to reason with them, “Don’t you think I have other things I need to do? We’ve already established that you yourselves did not spend the kind of time with your own parents that you seem for some reason to expect me to.” And I’d not come that night or in the morning, and I’d be simmering with resentment over the expectation. Besides, when I did visit them, we didn’t have any quality time together. We never discussed things that were authentic, and it was mostly their interests we talked about, or them trying to triangulate with me over each other and telling me things that were inappropriate for me to know about them, and asking me questions that were also inappropriate for them to know about me (and I’d tell them so, and get this hurt silence).

    Actually, we didn’t spend much time together at all on visits, mostly just at mealtimes, at other times my mother was in front of her TV and my father was doing his chores – all business as usual. I’d increasingly remark upon it: “It’s so strange that I spend so many hours just killing time here, compared to when I visit other people, and when other people visit me. It’s normal for people to spend a lot of time with each other doing things and talking when on extended visits.” And my mother would say, “You can’t expect us to drop everything because you’re here.” And I’d say, “But you expect me to drop everything to come here, and appear to have no qualms about that. But if you don’t want to spend time with me, why do you even want me here?” Many a time early on in my adulthood I’d be in tears on the phone to friends, and increasingly I’d leave earlier than planned (but early on, always feel so wretchedly guilty about it) and continue to reduce the time I would allocate to them in future.

    Visiting them was never a positive experience for me, and was always psychologically damaging and re-opening old wounds and causing me to lose some of the ground I had gained and was continuing to gain in my independent life away from them. I’ve never been acknowledged as who I actually am by them, not as a child, not as a young adult, not when I reached middle age – to them I was always this cardboard cutout version. We have nothing to say to each other as human beings – we can merely talk about the weather, and recycle old rubbish. It’s not a quality relationship. It’s not even really a relationship.

    About the running back issue: I think in many ways, emotionally abused children become prone to that because of their social isolation, which makes it so hard to build healthy support networks when children from healthy families are doing just that. We’re already behind the eight-ball in that before we’re 18. And it’s cumulative. Also, I think when you grow up with that much pain you find it difficult to have conversations with people as a young adult. Because there is so much misery and you’d like to get your bearings and talking would help but you don’t want to be that boring demanding person who goes on about the miseries in their life. When you do talk about it, it’s usually a contact killer and even comes back as ammunition against you, so I had to pretend to the world that everything was OK and be upbeat and never talk about this stuff so that it wouldn’t happen all over again with other people in my own life. And on the whole I think that is true, I think there are very few people you can talk to about this kind of thing and not have it blow up at you in some way. So young people coming out of these kinds of circumstances need to talk about this stuff, but often can’t – and they may not have survivor support groups in their areas, or be able to afford talking to a professional about it as much as would be good, and not all professionals are useful to talk to either. And I’ve seen for myself how they fall into romantic relationships early, think this will solve all their problems, and end up repeating the cycle. It’s really sad. It was a hard road for me to get to a stable place, and it would be great if we brought all these things out into the open a bit more so that people don’t feel like lepers when they have these awful and painful problems. So I’ve been fairly open about this kind of stuff, and I’ve had a radar that was pretty good at picking up distress in others, and when people did talk to me, I would go out of my way to prevent them feel ashamed or embarrassed for opening up, and using humour, and saying, “Yeah, you’re not alone.” I don’t think there are enough friends or mental health professionals in the world to deal with this tide, I think the community needs to own it, we need to own it.

    Cheers all

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  28. My relationship with my mom is very toxic. Sometimes i tried not to run away because of course that’s my own mother but usually my temper gone high i destroyed a lot of her things. She ended up taking me to the Police and talked about it but she’s too evil that she wants me to go jail but good thing it didn’t happen. Though an officer who is a mother too gave me too advice. Well ok i must understand mother sacrifices but to insult me further in front of people. I feel humiliated as an adult child. I’m 24 and still living with her because i love her but now i don’t after we talked to the cops about me and guess what I owe her money for the damage. Even i just got hired at a call center. I understand it’s my fault to lose off and break things but I decided to move out once i’m done paying her. She’ll be alright when she gets old she gets her pension and stuff but heh i’m prepared for my new life. I’m traumatized almost everyday. If i’m lazy she gets mad and calls me stupid. It was so tempting to commit suicide but when i think about it what could i get from dying? It’ll be boring even if you take a rest and free from worries but that’s not how it is. I tried the best to be the “great son” but to me it’s like she wanted a kid who is smart just like her. She didn’t say it but i see her that way. I’m tired of this toxic life i tried to leave but i couldn’t.

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  29. I’m 19 raised with no father but that’s fine. I lived with a mother and my aunt most of my life along with my little sister. It has gotten to point were my mother and aunt are to toxic for me and yell at me even though I do all the needs and wants for them. I decided to leave home and live on my own. Still figuring everything out

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