Post # 16
You are not responsible for anyone else’s happiness. You know this, but sometimes it helps to hear it from people on the outside.
I’m really sorry you’re going through this bee. I can relate a lot. My step-mom recently tried to drag me into the middle of their failing marriage, and I had to put my foot down. She was furious, attacked me verbally, but I stood my ground. I told her that I don’t feel comfortable being put in the middle and that I will be there for her if she wants to talk, but I won’t be a mediator between them. This is a very healthy, very normal, boundary that exists between most parents and children. But toxic parents don’t seem to get it.
Another thing my brother told me that has helped is that I am not responsible, nor should I try to control, how people react. If you answer the phone and your father starts to vent about your mom, tell him that you will not discuss their marriage with either of them anymore. If he continues, repeat it, saying you will hang up if he doesn’t stop. If he doesn’t (which he won’t, especially at first), you hang up. Rinse and repeat. If they start texting you or harassing you, give them the same type of warning. If they don’t stop, you silence your phone (or block them if you want) and stop responding. They can throw a tantrum, but that is not your concern or responsibility to control. You worry about you.
Toxic people are children who never grew up, so if you don’t want to jump to no contact yet (which is obviously the healthiest, but not everyone is ready to make that decision right away), then you have to treat them like children.
Once again, I’m really sorry Bee, and I completely understand what you’re going through. You are not alone and always remind yourself that their behavior is NOT normal.
Post # 17
5 words, said with love: Learn. To. Set. Healthy. Boundaries.
Post # 18
Sunfire : are you my therapist? LOL!
Post # 19
CloverBells : thanks for sharing your experience, bee. I’ll take the advice about straight-up telling them I’m not here to listen to them vent about one another—which they frequently do.
Did you and your step mom have a close relationship when you were younger? Has their marriage always been toxic?
Post # 20
And this is why my ex and I divorced. Our fights were ugly and often and neither of us were blameless and I never wanted the kids to be around that.
Post # 21
Tell them you won’t listen to them argue about each other, but really mean it. Just say, “I’m not listening to this.” and hang up. Don’t try to justify yourself, don’t get in an argument with your mother over not wanting to listen to her. Keep it short and simple.
Post # 22
Oh, honey. What an awful childhood you managed to soldier through. You are one tough nugget. Your parents are dreadful. They’re not good for you. What, if anything, do they bring to the table?
Have you read Dr Susan Foward’s book, Toxic Parents? I found it helpful in the extreme.
I ultimately got to a place similar to where you are now. It hit me that my relationship with my progenitors was shitty. Why am I staying in a shitty relationship? I’d have long since dumped a friend or bf by now.
I broke up with my narcissist, controlling, pedophile father. His last words to me in this life: “Go to hell”.
Pretty revealing snapshot of his psyche.
He bombarded me with letters, as was his style. I was terrified of them. Though highly conflicted about it, I wouldn’t open them. BECAUSE A LETTER FROM DAD CAN KILL YOU INSTANTLY.
To confirm his diagnosis of narcissism, he launched the mandatory smear campaign. Imagine my relatives’ surprise at learning that the reason I’d been out of touch lately was because I was living in a crack house.
I’m a rip-the-band-aid-off kinda girl. You may not be. Any limits and boundaries you set will be internal. You can’t expect these two to be remotely interested.
Unfortunately, your mom is typical of battered spouses. And you can’t help her. She has made her choice. Hopefully, sooner or later, the police will stop taking “no” for an answer.
Post # 23
happiekrappie : I would say somewhat close, at least closer than my dad and I (they got together when I was 9 and got married when I was 11). Yes, their marriage/relationship has ALWAYS been toxic. Screaming fights, accusations of physical abuse (which thankfully I never saw myself), drunken wall punches…the works. I have no idea why they choose to live this way. I guess it’s what happens when you’re afraid to be alone. I do think they genuinely hate each other at times.
Thankfully in my case, I have a really great mom who I spent the majority of my life with growing up (I would go to my dad’s every other weekend). Having a normal mom showed me what a parent should be like and I strongly believe it’s what kept me from so many harmful effects.
That’s why I really wanted to stress to you that your parents behavior is NOT normal, because they will try to tell you it is. They will tell you that by establishing healthy boundaries, you are abandoning them. They will tell you they raised you, loved you, and why are you treating them like this? This guilt-trip is NOT normal. A normal parent would NEVER say that you to. A normal parent is there for wisdom and guidance in your life, not the other way around. You are the child, but they think that means you should be their outlet. That’s not okay, not healthy, not normal. Their marriage is their business, not yours.
Post # 24
So sorry to hear you have to deal with all of that. All I can say is, therapy for you isn’t a bad idea even if just to get a plan in place to deal with them and maybe outline what cutting them off would be like, or at the very least what boundaries you can put up. Put yourself first. Hugs bee.
Post # 25
- Wedding: July 2018 - City, State
I wish I could go back in time and hug that poor child in the middle of her parents’ mess. Tell her she’s worth it. Tell her it’s not her fault or her responsibility.
That child grew up and became this awesome strong woman who strives to be better, who goes to therapy to confront her past and present demons and traumas. I am happy you became this woman. You are a fighter and a survivor!
Do not let them break you. Enforce your boundaries. Treat yourself with kindness and don’t let guilt direct your life choices.
Sending you an enormous hug!
Post # 26
I cut off my terrible toxic parents almost nine years ago and the only regret I have is that I wasnt strong enough to do it sooner. You will find (are finding now through this thread, I’m sure) that there are a lot of others who have survived and moved on, and if they did then you can too.
Post # 27
Now I’m pissed at your mother. What an awful thing to do to your own child—she’s trying to invalidate the trauma you have experienced by telling you hers was worse. It’s a twofer for mom. She gets to emotionally abuse you via the invalidation. And, she gets to claim full victim status for herself.
Traumas can never be compared. The same event could be horribly damaging to one child while much less so do another. So many variables are involved; the child’s age, personality type, trauma history, relationship to the abuser, environment, presence of a stable, caring adult in the child’s life and so many other factors, including just the way our brains are wired.
The stable, caring adult is often overlooked, but that person can make an incredible difference in an abused child’s life. The caring adult may be what actually keeps the child from many self destructive behaviors later. It does not have to be a person the child sees often. Just one who is mature, emotionally healthy and available, and shows caring feelings. Extremely powerful.
Post # 28
sassy411 : I’m sorry to hear that you went through that, bee…thank you for sharing your experience. When my dad called me the other day, I thought I was just starting to get over the situation and ready to start setting boundaries, but it really shook me up for some reason. I didn’t answer the phone because fuck him, actually, but I also know my mom isn’t completely blameless. I wish I could cut them both out for as long as I want (likely a year or more) but I know my conscience would take me on the guilt trip of a lifetime because regardless of both of their parental failings, I don’t want them to think of me as someone who just used them now that I’m decently off and can support myself (as I have been since I graduated college) I’m discarding them. I know that sounds absurd because parents are *supposed* to help their kids grow into healthy, successful adults but I feel like, for some reason, they think I owe them gratitude or something. They’ve never blatantly said that, but it’s just something I’ve observed from them over the hears. Anyway, sorry for rambling and THANK YOU for your support 🙂
lifetimegoals : thank you, bee…that really means a lot to me. My life is mostly good and I’m a generally happy person, just struggling to deal with this small detail, is all. On the bright side, my parents live a few hours away so I don’t have to be around their issues physically at least 🙂
kimchipizza : HOW did you cut them off without feeling perpetually guilty? When did the guilt let up? Or did you ever have any to begin with?
ladyjane123 : thanks for the support, bee!! really, just talking openly about it and getting input from others is helpful to just reinforce that this is not how normal parental relationships work!
CloverBells : the impending guilt-trip is what has always stopped me from cutting them off. I did so for a few weeks last year and my mom made it seem like I was just a horrible person for it. I know I need to take care of my own mental health but it’s so hard to be looked at like I’m a selfish, ungrateful, self-centered person when doing so involves not speaking to the people who raised me :/
Post # 29
krfrank : I’m so sorry to hear that you went through that, bee. I oftentimes wonder why victims of abuse engage in the Pain Olympics with other people who are going through different sorts of trauma are trying to express their hurt. It’s so damaging to have someone invalidate your feelings and desire for greater mental health :/ how did you cope with cutting her off?
Post # 30
happiekrappie : when I was finally ready to do it, I had no guilt. My [adoptive] parents are extremely manipulative and problematic (narcissistic mother with multiple mental health issues, among other things), and being out in the world and seeing that my “childhood” (in quotes because, let’s be honest, you’re not allowed to be a child with parents like that) was NOT normal and I was NOT wacko thinking something was wrong with our relationship, really helped a lot. They are both much older than my peers’ parents (they’re the same age as most of my peers’ grandparents) and generally in ill health all the time, but I feel as guilty about their physical well-being as I would for any miserable abusive person to whom I had no “family” ties (which is to say, not at all).
Holidays can be hard, not going to lie. Pre-planning my wedding is less sad than I thought because it’s been so long since I’ve considered myself to have parents, but I’m sure when my wedding actually comes I’ll be a lot more emotional. But the sadness of not having family during the holidays is a lot better than the pain I dealt with when I DID have “family”.
Just be prepared for people with good intentions getting sad faces and saying “… but… they’re your FAMILY” when they find out you cut them off. Whenever that happens I usually pick 2 stories from my messed-up childhood to share so that they can see what I had to leave behind. I’m never bitter about it, very factual, so they see I’m not just talking about a normal level of difficulty.
Edited to add: taking care of yourself is not selfish. Since I don’t have the burden of abusive parents anymore, I can be a better partner to my SO, a better friend, better boss, and eventually better mother to my future kid. If I still had one foot in the door trying to “fix” my parents, I wouldn’t have the emotional bandwidth to be able to give everyone else in my life the best version of me that they deserve.