Prepare Yourself for Backlash When Going No Contact [Advice for Adult Children]

[via flickr user Dawn Ashley]

[via flickr user Dawn Ashley]

When the adult survivor of emotional child abuse decides to take a break (whether temporary or permanent) from the birth family, that decision may come to a shock to people in their social circles. From the outside of the family circle-—and even within it, at times—everything has looked perfect, tidy, and loving. To all who gaze at the birth family, the portrait of a good and loving family is all they see.

In that light, the decision to take a break may seem out of nowhere. However, that life-changing, painful decision has not come lightly. Many adult children have agonized over the decision, discussed it with mental health professionals, and also gone back to analyze all the years of small events and large ones leading to this drastic measure.

And when the adult survivor of emotional child abuse separates themselves from the birth family, they often upset the family’s self-image, reputation, or order of business, which leads to a backlash from relatives, friends, and, at times, even spouses. (At The Invisible Scar, we’ve heard of all varieties of backlash that adult survivors have endured.)

Common Reactions From Mutual Friends and Family When an Adult Survivor Goes No Contact With Birth Family

Disbelief. The adult survivor finds mutual friends or family members not believing the adult survivor’s account of their upbringing. Typical comments include:

  • “No, you were always a smiling, obedient child! You never said anything about being abused.”
    (Emotionally abused children are very often difficult to detect for they are appear to be well-behaved, cheery children. Those children are often desperate for approval and love, which means they will be on their best behavior all the time in the hopes of winning their parents’ love.)
  • “Your parents always gave you everything. You never went hungry, had a roof over your head…”
    (Emotionally abusive parents may provide physical necessities to their children, but they starve their children of kindness, gentleness, understanding, the sense of belonging, the sense of approval, and the knowledge of being loved no matter what.)
  • “Why didn’t you say anything before?”
    (Emotionally abused children often do not make the realization of their abuse until they are adults. Psychologists say this is because the child must adopt a sense of denial in order to survive their childhood… For example, how could a child cope with the realization that they lack love, support, and warmth from the very people who are supposed to give them that? A child may have feelings of soul-crushing depression and loneliness, but he will bury those feelings in order to survive the day to day of their childhood.)
  • “I never heard your parents say anything bad about you. Ever.”
    (Abusive parents often are not abusive in the sight of others. In public, the abusive parent may seem the pillar of society, but in secret, the abusive parent unleashes the abuse on the child. In some families, even the other children may not witness the abusive. This is a form of self-protection from the abusive parent. Who will ever believe the child if no one but the child has witnessed the abuse? Plus, the abusive parent can also, through time, build up their reputations as great parents in the opinions of other people in their social circles. The abusive parent may always speak well about the child to others or cultivate the opinion that their child is a little bit mental, depressed, needy, or sensitive… All that cultivating comes in handy when the child grows up and shares the story of abuse; no one believes the adult child, for they’ve been listening to the propaganda from the parents for years.)

Guilt. The adult survivor may find friends and relatives badgering the adult survivor in continuing the relationship with the abusive parents. At The Invisible Scar, we do not quite understand why that is but we’ve theories that, in some cases, the mutual friend or relative may have their own parental issues they are working through (or are denying) or the mutual friend or relative stands to lose something by the severed relationship (they may have social connections, a place of importance in their community, etc., that they deem threatened by the family riff).

Comments may include…

  • “Your parents worked so hard for you.”
    Children do not owe their parents anything. Repeat: Children do not owe their parents anything. Parents, by the fact that they are parents, should provide for the emotional, physical, and spiritual needs of their children. Just because a parent did the bare minimum (and in some cases, not even that), the adult child does not need to continue to take any abuse from their parent. A good parent delights in being a parent and the enormous privilege of raising a child; a bad parent seeks in being consoled, comforted, nurtured, and supported unconditionally from their child.
  • “You’re just abandoning them over a silly old fight!”
    No. The decision to go No Contact may seem sudden, but emotional child abuse is a lifelong campaign by the abusive parent against the child. What a mutual relative or friend sees is not the complete picture. Never.
  • “Your parents are old. They’re not going to be around for much longer.”
    You reap what you sow. In most cases, an emotionally abused child has spent his childhood doing everything possible to win the love of the parent. We’ve heard adult survivors share stories of emotionally abused children taking on parental responsibilities. In other words, the emotionally abused child was given the role of the parent and forced to give the abusive parent unconditional love, support, understanding, etc., and the child received nothing back. Now that the adult child is grown, the adult child does not need to keep doing that. The parents have to deal with the consequences of having been abusive parents. They have to deal with the repercussions of having abused their children.
  • “Your parents did the best they could.”
    So? Just because an abusive parent didn’t mean to be abusive, that doesn’t mean the behavior wasn’t abusive. And it doesn’t mean the adult survivor needs to continue putting himself in the direct path of abusive. An adult survivor who goes No Contact is protecting himself from the abuse, whether the abusive parent was subconsciously or consciously acting.
  • “Your parents love you so much.”
    Whether an abusive parent loves his child is debatable. (Myriad heated arguments have arisen on psychology blogs, survivor blogs, and conversations regarding whether abusers can love, but we won’t take up that point here.) However, just because someone claims to love you that doesn’t mean you have to be in their lives. The claim to love an adult child does not guarantee the parent a right to see that adult child or have that adult child in his life. Newspapers are filled with articles of people who allegedly loved their victims.

Silence. The adult survivor may find mutual friends and relatives choosing a side—and they will choose the parent. That’s fine. Let them go. They deserve each other and can get entangled in their own web of lies, deceit, and secrets. But you, adult survivor, live in the light, live in the truth. Being in the truth alone is better than being in the deceit together.

How You Can Find Help

If you’re an adult survivor of emotional child abuse, you may find yourself feeling alone once you decide to stop taking the abuse. However, know you are not alone. Help is available via a mental health professional or even a phone call (check out the sidebar for counseling services).

Stay strong. Stay in the light.

Just waking up to the fact you had an emotionally abusive childhood?  My 92-page PDF offers insights and suggestions for this difficult time… and beyond. For just $7.99, you receive What Really Happened: Finding Out You Had an Emotionally Abusive Childhood (and Tips for Healing).

veronica-jarski_authorVeronica 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, such as Kapost, MarketingProfs, and Ragan.



138 thoughts on “Prepare Yourself for Backlash When Going No Contact [Advice for Adult Children]

  1. Reblogged this on my song and commented:
    I’ve recently come “OUT OF THE FOG” I know the difficulties of finally finding the bravery to place the distance between you and a toxic parent. I understand the doubters and non-believers because everything always looked so “normal” on the outside…but somethings are not what they seem from face value…it’s only when you take the time to dig deeper that you see the hidden truths… I want others to know who may have experienced emotional abuse from their parents or a caregiver that you are NOT ALONE! Stay encourage on your path to healing and speaking your truth…it will get better after awhile.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I am a 55 year old adult female, came from a family of 3 kids and then one half sibling after my parents divorced and my mother remarried. My mother is a narcissist, I think I have always known it but really just figured it out this summer. When we were growing up my older sister was the easy temperament, my younger brother was the golden child, and I was the independent one, the one who talked back, the feisty one, the hard one to figure out, only all she had to do was love me, I would’ve done anything for her. She made me think I was crazy because I caught her having an affair when I was 4 or 5…I saw them sleeping on the couch in our house when my Dad was away for work. She told me it was a dream and she had the man call me and tell me it was a dream…I knew it wasn’t a dream. My inner strength was so strong, only thing that got me through the years with my mean mother. I have done it all on my own, bought a car, a house, got a good job, all without any help or encouragement from her. I have still tried my whole life to get her love and approval. I finally understood I will never get this, she is not capable of loving anyone but herself, and gives attention to others if it helps her. We have had some good conversations on the phone but in person she is different and mean. I can never do anything right. 14 years ago I went NC after my wedding for two years because she almost ruined it. Then I got pregnant and thought I should let her back in, but I was careful. More years have gone by and I slowly began to trust her and she broke my heart for the last time this summer. I am done. My father is kind, my husband is wonderful, and my daughter is our sunshine and my older cousin has made me the “daughter of her heart” and I feel like the chip on my shoulder is finally slowly disappearing. I feel calmer and more peaceful and that I can breathe again and that my sparkle will not leave on account of my mother ever again. I feel such a huge relief. I expect she will call one of these days. I don’t know what I will say or if I will even answer. I just know my reaction will for the first time in my life be healthy and strong. I would rather not have to talk to her or see her ever again. But for now, it is good and I feel so much joy and peace to educate myself with helpful sites like this. Thanks for your good advice.

    Liked by 3 people

    • So good to hear your positive story. I have been NC from my Father since summer & feel much the same. At peace, joyful & comfortable with who I am & the people that surround me, I am coming up 45. What a journey eh? Xxxx


  3. I am an ACoN (stepfather- 16 yrs of abuse). Thank God my mother finally divorced him. Unfortunately, as soon as my mom divorced my stepfather, I became involved with the man I am married to now. We’ve been together for 15 yrs and about 4 years ago, I realized that the reason I was having so many problems currently is because my husband’s sister is a full blown Narc, who has been very diligent in her attacks on me for 15 years, with all the expected problems, drama and upheaval that is common to Narcs. A year ago, another “incident” occurred with her (while at our house for our child’s birthday party) and it turned into a full blown family issue where all of my husband’s adult siblings, his mother and all of the teenage kids are piping in with their opinions and how “cruel” I am for not being more forgiving like a good Christian would … (ummm are they implying that I’m NOT a “good Christian”? apparently so.) I finally started going to therapy over this situation and was diagnosed with severe Complex PTSD due to my upbringing with Narc stepfather and Codependent mother, which has been really difficult to deal with. Ive gotten to the point of not trusting anyone, and I’m suffering a bit of agoraphobia. I’m not afraid of the outdoors per se, I’m afraid of seeing someone I know and having to engage in conversation – its just too hard right now. My childhood stuff is too much. and being triggered and slandered and smear campaigned and pity party games and getting all the kids/ cousins involved.

    Anyway- the SIL (sister in law) is doing all of the expected hoovering and blame shifting and her enabling family (my husband’s sibs and mom) supports her. My husband has even gotten to the point after so much pressure from them that he wants to “put the family back together” so we can all “enjoy” the holidays together, etc. I KNOW that I KNOW that I KNOW that these same behaviors will manifest again- its only a matter of time. I want to go NC with my husband’s family of origin for my own safety and sanity, and it seems like that won’t be “allowed”. We’ll see about that. If I am going to be forced to interact with this person (who by the way has threatened to burn my house down with my kids inside while I was on vacation out of town, she has threatened to come to my office and “beat me up” in the parking lot (I laughed at her and said “you know where I live, why wait till I’m at work… just come over right now.”), I will be employing the Gray Rock Technique when being forced to interact with her. My husband and his family know that she’s unstable but they say “that’s just the way she is.. gotta love her for who she is, right?” Nope. I don’t have to love a Narc for the way they are. I will not be forced to roll over and die for someone else’s enjoyment. I’m certainly glad that I found this site and a few others recently. Its really helping with the lack of validation that I’m finding in the real world.

    If anyone has some tips that might help, I’d be happy to hear them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s been about 6 mos since you wrote this. I really hope things have gotten better for you though I imagine that they could just as easily gotten worse.

      Starting therapy seems like a good start. Has your husband gotten involved with it too? IMO, getting him to realize that supporting you is crucial would be important. Obviously, no one can force him to do anything but maybe the therapist could help him understand his role in all of this. I’ve always believed that when someone stands by without helping when another person is being mistreated, they become complicit in the abuse as well. Add in the fact that he’s your husband and it’s his family, he has a huge responsibility here to help set boundaries and clear consequences if they aren’t respected.

      My heart goes out to you! I’m NC with my entire family of origin. I’m blessed to have a supportive husband and children but it can still be a lonely place. Plus, my husband wasn’t always the best support and the issues I was dealing with affected our relationship at times. I’ve had to accept that everyone on my side of the family believes that I’m crazy, mean and all that bad stuff. It’s not always easy but my truth is my saving grace. I know many more people know the real me and even more importantly, I know that I’ve stood up for myself.

      I hope you will update us on where things stand. I wish I could offer better answers. At the very least, know that there are people here who care and believe in you.


      • Hi Amy Timberlake Mattson – I’m just reading your reply now- thank you for your kind words. The situation continues to deteriorate as far as i can see. My husband thinks its “time to move on” and he says (only joking of course) “man you sure how to hold a grudge”. and no, he has no interest in therapy, or even how I am doing in therapy. I’ve realized that he’s very narcissistic (I know he does not have NPD but I believe that his sister does), and that he’s gotten angrier over the years. I’ve also started to realize that he’s being abusive in a number of ways, especially passive aggressive little digs that are just jokes of course. I’m still in therapy and not sure where to go from here. But i certainly can’t go back to not seeing this stuff. I’ve started recording YouTube videos about narcissistic abuse. there’s quite a large community of survivors there as well. I will be linking my blog to my youtube channel soon when I get some editing done. But talking it out verbally has helped with some of the healing so I’m thankful for that.


    • I’m sorry you have suffered so much. I feel you. It has been my experience that anyone who goes along to “make the peace” (like your husband, his family etc) are just as much the problem as the narc. The narc will only do what the family structure will allow. They are helping the narc abuse you.
      Please find sane support. The more people in your life that remind you that not only is the narcs behavior unacceptable but all those enabling are unacceptable too, is going to help you out of the fog. So that you work your way towards truly knowing that it is not your lot in life to be preyed upon or be surrounded by insane abusive people and help you see that what you might believe is good relations with some people, is actually pretty twisted from a healthy persons perspective. This will give you the clarity and perspective to make the changes you need to be free.
      It’s each person’s choice but Personally, I don’t believe that staying with anyone who finds it acceptable for you to suffer and who enables abuse is ever good. It may be better than you grew up with but its not really good.
      Best wishes

      Liked by 1 person

    • More power to you for recognizing SIL for what she is. Maybe you and your husband can agree beforehand to limit the time you spend with her by planning an outing or some excuse not to get too wrapped up in her ploys. Wish you the best.


      • Unfortunately, I have gotten no support from my husband or anyone else in his family for that matter. Its just more of the same cycle, over and over again. And its now December, another 6 months since I wrote my first comment, and not a damn thing has changed. i guess its hard to let go of the dream of “What could be, if only…” but he simply cannot be bothered to worry about anyone but himself. Sounds just like his sister. I haven’t been sleeping lately- and I’m sort of numb i guess cuz i know what this means. now i just have to put every ounce of faith that I have in God Almighty to rescue me & the kids from this.


  4. Thank you for this post. It really helped me to read before I sent the “final blow (as my brother called it)” email. I have tried for years to discuss how I felt and what I saw as issues. I am not saying that I have not also caused harm in the family – I have. I also have owned up to what I have done and tried to be better.

    I got the “I’m disappointed in you, Guess family is not as important as you claim, no need to respond” text when I told my mother that we would not be visiting for Christmas.

    I sent an email to the family 4 days later explaining why I was not coming. It was very honest and included the 6 questions about toxic relationships with answers. My brother and sister did exactly what they accuse me of – verbal vomit of all the ways they have been hurt by me. My brother said they are old, will it be ‘poor me’ when they are gone, who will my next ‘abuser’ be when they are gone, He said that I am the toxic one and he is glad to be rid of me, that I have caused permanent damage to the family. My sister told me that I should have talked about the issues I have had. Little does she know I have talked for years and am tired of talking. There is no listening. I have written letters, called, sat and had conversations. My mother sent me an email a week later and said that she knew I had felt not-accepted into the family and that I was brave for sending my truths. She said that when I am ready, to call her. I don’t believe her and have not called. I need space.

    One thing that helps is that neither parent get along with majority of their siblings or cousins. It helps to know that I am not alone. My husband is supportive but has said he does not understand how I feel because it is not something he has experienced. He was proud of me for finally standing up to it. My best friend said that yes, I said a lot and she can see how the family would take the email as emotional hit and run but also said that she knows I have tried for years and knows hat the conversation could not have happened any other way. She said I will need one huge olive branch to heal the relationships with my parents and siblings but that they will also need to be healthy enough to receive it. She does not know if that day will ever come.

    Thank you again!!!


    • Well done kassylady, I know its hard when everyone blames you for the families dysfunction, now you are taking steps to acknowledge that you deserve better, it takes sooo much courage, you should be proud. My NF father has convinced my Mum who used to be my best friend that I’m the trouble maker, she will not acknowledge the truth & prefers the comfort of denial to having an honest relationship with me. Sad state of affairs but she has been with NF since she was 17, shes now 67, well & truly indoctrinated I’d say. People find it difficult to understand the complications of being part of a NFOO, but you don’t need them to understand. Olive branches can take you right back to where you don’t want to be. I have gone NC with my Father since the Summer, its been quite a roller coaster but in my heart I feel freer than ever before. I surround myself with positive people & its wonderful. I advise anyone who is recovering from being part of a Narc family to read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. It helps you to let go of the past & release the crap that goes round & round your mind trying to make sense of it all. You’ve made your decision, don’t let anyone who doesn’t understand make you question it. Good luck hun, you are never alone x

      Liked by 3 people

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  8. I really appreciate your article. It really let me make an important decision. I know I have to keep doing NC. I was the family scapegoat. I just only got out now after a huge amount of scary difficulty. They still don’t get it and act all nice. This really scares me because it fools people and it means that it will be really hard to get through to them. At least everyone is calmer, but they still deny it. Unfortunately, for my schooling process for social service, they want me to reconcile with my family. But, it’s not my fault and if I forgive them I should be fine. How can I be expected to restore something that wasn’t there in the first place? Why can’t most times I get sympathy that I need let alone empathy? Most everyone seems to be looking at my problems with “unforgiveness” and “judgmentalism” and “rebellion” because my family is all nicey nice and now they are making a half step forward. Don’t get me wrong, it is good that they they are coming at all to the counseling sessions and have half an ear. But now it’s all talk of coming together and clearing through miscommunication. It was abusive, hello, abusive. I have to do NC for my healing. I’m not being bitter; I’m just protecting myself. I don’t want people who were that abusive to me in my life anymore. But I’ll look bad if I don’t stop doing NC and my process I’m pretty sure is done if I don’t. Why do people worship the family? How can I get people to see me as okay and that going to NC was the best thing I ever did with my life?


    • Deborah, I understand exactly what you are saying! I went NC 8 years a go. Like you, it was THE BEST thing I’ve ever done for myself. A lot of my aunts uncles cousins etc…know how my nm is. They didn’t live it like I did but they know she is a “trouble maker” . However, there are a few who don’t understand and will question me and question what I’ve done, NC. I found out about a month ago that EF has stage 4 lung cancer. Those few who have questioned me in the past have recently texted or called me and told me that now, more than ever I should get back intouch with them. I must say it makes me sad to know ef is so sick. I have prayed for him and I wish he wasn’t sick. But… I told them he and nm made their choice 8 years ago. I didn’t do this THEY DID. You just have to come to terms that some people don’t understand and they NEVER will. I do not blame them for their beliefs….. I probably wouldn’t believe it either IF I HADNT LIVED IT.
      Stay strong!
      Donna J.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I just love this website, it has been so helpful and insightful. I have posted here previously but feel the need for some extra support just now. I went no contact with my father about seven years ago and low (hardly ever) contact with my mother. I got married a few months ago and refused to back down to the family of origin pressure to invite my father. The backlash is unbelievable!! Many of my aunts won’t speak to me and neither will my sister.

    Our mother is a narcissist and our father is a classic enabler. He has many issues himself as two of his sisters accused him of sexually molesting them when they were children. I cannot understand why then, they are giving me the silent treatment for not inviting him to my wedding??? It’s all so crazy!! My brother who lives in another country also did not attend my wedding as he did not approve of me not inviting my father but I received an email from him a few days ago not mentioning anything and acting like nothing has happened. Why has he contacted me for the first time in over a year?? My brother minimises our parents abuse and has stated to other family members that I am the problem, that I cannot be trusted and also that I need to realise that my parents did not abuse me out of malice. What was it then?? Hearing from him has thrown up all the issues again. My brother has never seen or even spoken to my husband as my family of origin see my marriage as a threat and in some way as ‘punishing’ them. He also never sent us a card, let alone a gift for our wedding and yet he thinks that he can just contact me like nothing has happened. He called my parents and my sister at Christmas but no phonecall to me?? If he feels that way about me, why bother with me at all?? Why not just stay away altogether?? My younger sister who also was terribly abused, has blamed me for everything and called me the most selfish person in the world. She has also said that how could I do this to my parents after ‘everything they did for me’!! My parents never did anything but abuse me (and all of us), so I don’t know where she is getting all this from??

    Forgive my rant but if I am the terrible person that they think I am, why won’t they just leave me alone?? I am Catholic, believe in God but have a difficult time in letting go. Just when I am starting to let go, be happy and living my own life, back in they arrive, uninvited and act like nothing has happened. I thank God that I have such a loving, supportive husband. I feel out of sync at the moment but thanks to you all for reading this. I’m beginning to feel better already!!


    • Hello fellow survivor,
      The need to brush things under the carpet & ignore the massive white elephant in the room is very strong in some people. This denial in turn can effect their physical & mental health. I have seen it manifest in terms of diabetes, blood pressure, alcoholism & other stress related illness in my ex-family.

      You cannot be responsible for people’s reactions. That is the only way they know how to react.
      There is a saying-‘When people show you who they are, believe them’ 🙂
      Hoping for any other reaction from then will only bring you disappointment.

      You have chosen to live with the truth & the facts. They have chosen to live in denial.
      These differences will show up especially on occasions where the truth will haunt them.
      Your silence will question their values, your strength will inspire new direction in those who are weak.

      Wishing you much happiness & joy in your new life together as husband & wife. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  10. All my life from being a tiny girl I have suffered emotional and physical abuse from my mother and my father, who has a serious drink problem, and he was an enabler. My sister the golden child. All my life I have wondered why I was chosen to be blamed for everything, not been allowed an opinion, had to emotionally support my mother from a very young age, been manipulated into doing things like her cleaning etc, been robbed effectively of my childhood. I would be scared to go home after school, I’d never know what mood she would be in. I have been a total people pleaser all my life and a good child scared to be naughty. It has affected my self esteem so badly. I have felt unloved, emotionally tortured, sad and lonely so much of my life. You can only try for so long. It has made me blame myself but I wasn’t at fault I know that now. I tried to fix everything for everyone all the time, it never worked, it was never going to… Even tho my dad lived with us my mum was jealous if I had any kind of contact with him so I ended up with no relationship with him.

    A counsellor told me my mum is a narcissist and I started to read up on the subject. It has taken me a number of more years to get to where I am now. I understand so much, I don’t blame myself and I have had to just now walk away after my mum did a couple of unforgivable things one of which, try to get my daughter to fall out with me. I realise the poison will never go away. She is totally justified in her evil ways and would happily destroy me but I won’t let her. I owe it to my grown up kids and their children to stop this now so I haven’t even tackled her about her latest actions I have simply ignored her. I have managed to have a wonderful relationship with my daughter and get on well with my son. Truth be told I’m ashamed to admit they have been affected by her and my lack of ability to deal with it all. They have seen her physically attack me for not agreeing with her opinion. They have seen her wipe the floor with me verbally so many times. They won’t have any more to do with my family as there is always trouble, which my mother incites. She blames me for turning my kids away from her but I haven’t they have seen and heard so much.

    I am so grateful that I am not like her. I could always see it was wrong but failed to understand. All I wanted was a normal loving family but that will never be. I mourn for the mother I never had. It is so useful to research the Internet. You can only begin to heal when you truly believe you aren’t to blame. None of us is perfect but narcissists have an agenda always and the only way to win is to distance ur self, put in strong boundaries and if that fails walk away.

    When it’s your parent they know how to manipulate…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Maxine, reading that was like reading my life story- every bit of it.
      Breaking the pattern/cycle will strengthen you & help you blossom into the person you were truly meant to be. You are free in every sense of the word. So are your children & the future generations to come.
      YOU have made this choice to pass on positivism, happiness, strength & freedom – Bravo!!!
      I know your children will be thankful 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  11. Thanks for that article (actually, for all of them), I think I had it in mind when thinking a lot about going no contact the past weeks.

    My mother and I had had a conflict and I told her unless she was willing to acknoweldge what she does wrong and to work on not doing it again, then she neither could nor wanted to help me. Obsiously, she’ss an abusive mother so the very last time, my demand was silent treated.
    I left thtings like that, accepting that it was more thant she could give. I starded writing what I had to say to her, my need for no contact among other things but I didn’t sent it. I was waiting for adive becaause I wasn’t 100% sure my letter didn’t contain something she could use to hurt me.
    Then my birthday came so she did as she always does. Broke the silence treatment for one text, pretending she’s meeting me halfway so that when I refuse, I appear to be a crazy ungrateful child always rejecting her. She said.

    Tommorow is your birthday’s day (yeah, it also sounds horrible in french. Translating faithfully).
    Take care of yourself.
    The door is open.

    And that pissed me off at incredible extents. She wasn’t even wishing me a happy birthday, She told me to take care of myself knowing I was isolated and facing financial issues. She said the door was open in some sort of upside-down situation where I refuse her love for no reason when she is such a caring, loving mother who always has a picture of me in her wallet (that’s seriously how she “proves” her love for me).
    So I went no contact on my birthday. She didn’t answer and I fear it is more about silence-treating me than respecting my choice.
    My grandmother called me crying that day, left a whining voicemail saying “I just wanted to whish you a happy birthday” before she hung up in precipitation. My family is so efficient, they don’t have to say a word about what they think. They are able to “wish me an happy birthday” and send me the message that I am a mean, ungrateful child, hurting the entire family. I seriously hope it’s the worst reaction I will face, but something tells me it’s just the beginning. Hopefully, I’m able to drive that guilt feeling away. I’m not responsible for the way they feel, especially when nothing was done especially to them. As Alice Miller says, the truth won’t kill them.
    And even if it does, I think they’ve been dead all along.


    • Funnycat, I can empathise. I see so many similarities. 🙂
      Only You know your story, only You can speak your truth. I found keeping a journal to be extremely beneficial, because all the lies in the world can’t erase the facts.

      It is a shame that you have to watch out when writing a letter to Your Own Mother!! You’re walking on egg shells, worrying that your words will be used against you. A mother’s love should be unconditional-not toxic.

      But you are right -when these people wish you a ‘Happy Birthday’, it sounds just as fake as them. It is because if they really wished you ‘Happiness’, they would show you compassion & treat you with respect, all year round.:) This is why any wish from them can be a trigger- it’s because You know the wish is not sincere.

      The guilt feelings will go. Write them out. Put your case forward-both in your head & on paper. When you have rationalised over & over with those feelings, you will find them getting weaker.

      Surround yourself with positive messages & people -these will in time get stronger than those critical voices.
      I send you strength & comfort- you can do this.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I have been going though backlash of no contact with my older sister since 2010. My sister decided at 17 she to good to live with my mom, younger sister and I. She choose to live with her boyfriend who was 35 at the time and his grandparents. For over 20 years I spent my time trying to contact her. I would call her. I would try to visit her each time her boyfriend had to be present because she was telling him her family was abusive. When she was the abusive one. Every time I called her boyfriends grandma would tell me she’s a busy bee to busy to talk to me or call me back. My sister admitted to me this was a lie. Yesterday my oldest daughter who knew how I felt about my sister gave me old pictures my sister gave to her. She is moving away and wanted to give me pictures. To not cause any drama she could have went to my husbands work and gave them to him but no she contacted my daughter instead because she’s easy prey. If she’s told something she believes it. Which is exactly what she did. She told her she tried to contact me about the pictures but I would not answer her. Their is a reason I wouldn’t answer her. Now my oldest daughter is mad at me. How can I treat family like that. No question about how she treated me for the past 20 years. No question how she treated other family members. No question as to how I got embarrassed and humiliated in front of people by my sister. She believes its all me. UGH.


  13. Thank you for this really valuable article. Survivors of abusive childhoods rarely get such clear support for saving their own sanity and being proactive for their own peace of mind from anyone in the “real world” (excepting good mental health professionals) or even from some of the professional literature on recovering from abuse, which often points towards the abuse that generally occurred in the childhoods of the abusive parents themselves and then asks the reader to have compassion on their parents and patience with them. That kind of advice can keep survivors locked into this already lifelong role of putting their own genuine needs in second place to that of their parents. I’ve got a lovely lovely friend who has spent her life going from abusive parents to abusive marriages and finally living alone and finding some peace, but now that her elderly mother has health problems she has given up her work and her leisure to minister to her, when the mother on my friend’s own admission is behaving very badly still, and when I ask “So why are you still helping, and putting everything else on hold?” she basically says it’s her last chance to mend the relationship, as if mending what her mother broke in the first place was ever her responsibility.

    This is how people can be swallowed up by the cycle of abuse, this is how many years and how much of their own self and happiness it can cost them. When people talk about breaking the cycle of abuse, they usually mean not passing on the abuse to their own children. I would suggest the logical stopping point needs to be in the awakened survivor’s life and that the survivor draws a line that says, “No more.” Breaking the cycle of abuse can be as simple as disconnecting from an abuser (although I know in practice that’s often not simple at first, and that many on the outside see that as a cheap option or as weak relationship skills on behalf of the survivor).

    I also struggled until my forties before finally disconnecting emotionally from my narcissistic parents, and two websites (this one and Little Red Survivor) were actually really instrumental in encouraging and supporting that process, as was my husband and my GP. I no longer have an invisible umbilical cord on which my parents can painfully reel me back in and it’s really liberating after trying to lose that Achilles heel all of my life. This is the year I found freedom emotionally from all that, within twelve months of being diagnosed with cPTSD from long-term, multiple perpetrator childhood trauma. I stopped wondering how much of narcissism is a choice and how much is a disability, that no longer matters, because I am not responsible for fixing other people’s lives – just my own. This doesn’t mean you hold grudges or can’t have compassion, but it does mean that your own mental health is more important to you than other people’s expectations and opinions.

    Another dear friend said to me, “When you find a way to stop caring what your parents think of you, it’s amazing how you suddenly stop caring what anyone else in the general public thinks of you either, and whether anyone has a bad opinion of you because of various smear campaigns. The kind of people who matter and whose good opinion is worth having don’t think like that.”

    It’s also amazing how I have lately begun to automatically recognise narcissism when I see it, and go “ho hum” instead of getting distressed by it, and how I have stopped reacting to it. That used to be an unreachable Nirvana for me. It did take the right support to do it – I was not able to do that on my own. So thank you Veronica for your website and the way it contributes to the recovery and education of survivors of childhood abuse. It helps to read sense and to share our stories. It helps to know the difference between self-care and selfishness. It helps when people are clear that you are not responsible for your parents’ abusive upbringings and their own life choices. Deprogramming childhood and societal brainwash is a long process.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Hi Sophie!

      Thank you for such a lovely response. It was quite uplifting and encouraging and a cause for great hope. Like many of us here, your experience is so familiar. I was (and in their minds still am) my family of origin’s scapegoat. I finally went no contact with my father in 2009 and only see my mother about once per year, even though they live only two miles away. All of us siblings suffered tremendous mental,physical and emotional torture at the hands of our mother predominantly but my father never stood up for us. For years, I was lied about and to. I have numerous scars on my legs inflicted as a toddler. I still don’t know who is responsible and who allowed it?

      Eventually, I went no contact with my father as he was always possessive of me and eventually wanted to leave my mother and move in with me. How horrendous is that?? Many of my friends expressed concern regarding this but I was in so much denial at the time, that I didn’t see what they saw all along. When I told my father ‘no’ he got into a rage and stamped his foot in temper at me. At the time, I was 32 years old, single parent to a 12 year old son. My son’s father always hated my father as he said that it was like my father was competing with and jealous of him. This was a definite case of emotional incest. I turned to Our Lord Jesus, who became my strength. I prayed for the courage to stand up to my father, which I eventually did, thank God. Years later, I am now a happily married woman and have lost over five stone in weight!

      When I got married last year, my family of origin went absolutely berserk. The pressure to ‘put the past behind us and move on’ was almost unbearable but I did not give in. My parents and family of origin have not changed and blame me for everything. At my hen party, my sister went to all my friends saying disgusting things about me and went on about how I had ‘abandoned’ them, after all my parents had done for me. Well, my matron of honour went for her as we’ve been friends since we were 9 years old and told her to shut up or get out and if that is the way she felt, that she would be better off not attending the wedding. Needless to say, my sister shut up. Roll on to today and my younger brother is getting married next year and the usual behaviour is starting again. The reason that I am upset is that this time, my son is being targeted. A relative went to him recently saying that for my brother’s sake, would I not just shake hands with my parents and forget about everything!!! Really!!! These people have no idea what they are talking about! I can and have forgiven the past but I am not going to allow that evil, destructive behaviour into my life again. If I did, my father would do everything to destroy my marriage as he would see my husband as a rival and competitor that needed to be ‘gotten rid of’. My mother would start the abusive phonecalls and visits and try to destroy me once again. I will not do that. I can’t comprehend my siblings attitude however, as they both left the country to get away from my parents’ dysfunctional abuse. My older brother once said that there is no way his wife and sons will be exposed to that behaviour but he condemns me for doing the same. Absolute madness!!

      Thanks again Sophie for your advice and sharing what your friends said to you. It is a real comfort to me when there are attempts to have a go at me again. Thank God that I have a wonderful, supportive husband and loving son. I took the decision for my son also, that he wouldn’t be affected by this destructive behaviour as my parents and siblings were starting to do to him what they did to me. Thank Jesus for saving us!


      • Hello mb1099!

        It’s great when things people share end up being helpful for others. This is a super website. You hang in there and do what feels right to you. All the best for your new family, it’s lovely when you discover things don’t have to be how they were when you were growing up. And what a cool friend you had there, standing up for you at your hen party.

        Ah yes, emotional incest, that’s an interesting thing to grow up with, isn’t it? I read back in my 20s that the “emotional spouse” thing is quite common in dysfunctional families – if the marriage is unhappy, frequently the mother will pick a son for an emotional spouse, and the father a daughter, and the kids are played off against the other marriage partner’s affections. This happened in our family – and it messes with your concept of self and love when you are growing up. Kids are supposed to be loved by both parents, yet I had one parent who often loathed me (my mother) and one whose “love” was both twisted and conditional (my father). And since anything resembling positive emotions towards me by my father automatically made me “the other woman” as far as my mother was concerned, it felt as if *I* was somehow wrong and culpable if I ever got anything good from someone else. That piece of invisible conditioning took a long time to overcome. But, no little girl deserves to carry a load like that on her shoulders. These days I look at a three-year-old, a six-year-old, a nine-year-old and I think how horrific it is that some kids that age are being put in that position by the people who are supposed to love and protect them. I think, these are such little people and they need nurturing not dysfunction and grief. I noticed Veronica wrote about the difference a trusted adult could make to children in such situations (in the “To Help” section) and people like that made a big difference to me, and I’ve tried to be that kind of person for others.

        When my brother finally found a girlfriend in his 30s, my mother was rabid – literally foaming at the mouth. She had a nice little demure church-going girl just out of school picked out for him – and I still can’t understand how anybody can have the hubris to think it is their role to pick out a romantic partner for their child, or how it is appropriate to try to entangle a teenage girl with a man fast approaching midlife. (People who think misogyny is perpetrated exclusively by men should have a good look at the kind of family I grew up in, where the misogyny was foisted hard and fast by both parents.)

        Anyway, when my brother got involved, via his own choosing, with a woman the same age as him, my mother went berserk. Immediately she was “the scarlet woman” and “a Valkyrie” and “like a fat opera singer” (the girlfriend carried maybe 5kg extra, my mother about 40kg extra…and from her own experience one would have expected her to not pick on others over their weight…). My mother foamed and gasped that she was “not a virgin” and had “clearly entrapped dear son with sex and lured him into her clutches” – and painted her basically as a prostitute-cum-gold digger (never mind that this woman had an independent income that equalled my brother’s). She never actually made an effort to even get to know this person (but then I don’t think she often makes such efforts, she certainly didn’t do it with her own children – they were what she painted them to be, not what they actually were and are).

        By the time my brother proposed to his girlfriend, my mother was in a frenzy. She kept telling my father to “tell your son not to marry this woman” (in this case, he rightly took the view that that was his decision). At the engagement party she went around spouting all the venomous things I described in the paragraph above. Whenever people came up to her and said, “Congratulations!” she’d say, “No congratulations are in order, this is a bad thing and I don’t agree with it.” …at that stage I was still in contact with my family, I was in my 20s and so embarrassed and furious I told my mother I would lock her into the bathroom if she didn’t stop mouthing off like that, and spoiling someone else’s occasion.

        In contrast of course, anything with a set of testicles was good enough for me, and my mother indeed preferred the boyfriends I had who had abusive streaks. Also if I went out with someone educated she told me I had ideas above my station. When I married a decent man with whom I have an equal, warm and supportive partnership, she was disappointed somehow – and certainly never showed any happiness for me that my husband loves me, truly and genuinely.

        It took me into my 40s to realise that my father’s abuse of me actually matched my mother’s, and was probably more damaging for being more subtle. My mother beat me and verbally abused me and smeared me to the world from the time I was a pre-schooler. My father tended to protect me from that abuse when he was present, but I was his emotional spouse, just like my brother was my mother’s emotional spouse, so I never actually experienced healthy love as a child growing up in my family of origin. My father did not provide me with any support to become my own person, it was all about clipping my wings. Also, my father’s approximation of love was dependent on my being his reflection and looking up to him as a hero who knew everything – and when I started to differentiate as a teenager, and to disagree with him on many matters, the arguments began, as did a spate of beatings, intimidation and verbal abuse. I was socially isolated, both by geography and by stealth. When I experimented with my first boyfriend at age 16 (an age at which I was already at university), my father went rabid, and my mother “was so embarrassed by having such a daughter”. When I went to the university library at night to complete assignments, I was accused of partying and having rampant sex (which was so ironic, I was such a Miss-Goody-Two-Shoes) and they attempted to set a curfew on me. An university counsellor who knew what was going on explained that I could get financial independence from them and be supported by the state’s student grants for independent students, which she sent off the paperwork for and obtained for me, and that allowed me to move into a share house.

        I’ll stop now before this turns into a (not very edifying) novel. But that’s the thing, so many things that we suppress and try not to think about come back so vividly when we break out of the chains our abusive families made for us.

        Love and best wishes to all.


  14. I am dyyyyying. This post and the comments. What a relief! I totally want to rant and rave but am not sure that it helps me. Maybe I have been ranting and raving to the wrong people.
    It feels devastating most of the time. I am relying heavily on a spiritual 12 step program to help me stay disengaged and safely distant. I am blogging about my journey but not getting too specific because my sister is married to a federal judge and she is nuts and I feel I have to be careful about sharing the details of my abuse though my blog does not say my name anywhere. The terror of my gas lighting, narcissist abusers who will not let me stay or ext in peace is too much. Here is one of my posts about how it affected me this holiday season. I am also new to this format and way of reaching others. blogging and reddit….but I think we need to feel community…break the cycle of isolation.


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