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Cutting off one toxic parent=losing relationship with the other?

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

A little over a year ago I stopped contact with my father (story can be found here).  Since then the relationship with my mother has been disintegrating. We hardly ever talk and when we do she drops hints of how I need to drop things and get back into a relationship with my dad.  Recently on Facebook and in emails she's been talking about how she wants to see the entire family together before she dies (she's not even sick or anything).  These messages are usually broadly sent to the entire family, so she never really singles me out.


According to my siblings it seems the family, as a unit, acts like I died.  When they all get together they never speak of me, The Hubby, or our kids.  Even though we live only 4 hours away from the main family my siblings never visit me.  Before the falling out with my dad I visited my family a minimum of 4 times a year, even with young babies that hated car seats.  I've even taken the train to visit when my car wasn't working!  Only one of my sisters has come to visit, but she will only come if she can combine it with a business trip.  Once she was committed in coming, but once the business end fell through she told me, "There's no reason in coming anymore."  It makes me feel like a hotel service.


To add to the family distress I've recently left my natal religion, Latter-Day Saint.  I haven't openly said anything to my mother about it because she is very manipulative when it comes to The Church.  But it just drives more of a wedge between us.


Part of me is actually relieved to not have much of a relationship with my mom right now.  Even though she was the less toxic of my two parents I have a lot of hurt within me that was perpetrated by her.  I've tried to talk to her about it but her reaction varies wildly.  During one conversation she did admit she should have done things differently, like divorcing my abusive father.  But then the next conversation she'll talk about how she did the best she could and she's happy with how things went because we're stronger for it.


Anyways, I was just wondering if anyone else had lost both of their parents to estrangement once they cut a toxic parent out of their life.

post #2 of 16

Yeah.  Generally toxic people marry toxic people, so usually they both are screwed up but in different ways.  You might not recognize it in the parent with the more subtle toxicity. 

post #3 of 16

Lazurii, I'm sorry your family is treating you this way.  I haven't cut either parent out of my life, although I've managed to create a lot of really-wonderful-for-me space between us, literally and figuratively.  I know that if I did cut out either parent I'd, in effect, lose the other as well.  I know I would lose at least one sibling, and most likely both.  I'm uncertain as to how my sister-in-law would react, which would determine my relationship with her and my brother's children.  I also do not espouse my family's religion.  They still do not accept me as an atheist.  We've also danced around the topics of our relationship and how I was treated as a child in their house, and they have also wavered between righteous defense of their choices and what seems like real regret for the hurt they did me.  How incredibly hard. 

A few years ago I test-drove real estrangement.  I chose not to continue down that path because of my desire to stay in touch with my siblings, for various reasons.  I'm sorry I don't have any advice, but I wanted to be here in this thread for you, and let you know that you're not alone.


post #4 of 16


 Big hugs!!!!!!!  I could have written so much of your post.  I left the LDS church, I stopped having a relationship with my toxic father, and it has really affected my relationship with my mother and my siblings.  So yeah, I totally get it.  On one hand, it sucks.  On the other hand, it's such a relief to not have my father in my life that it is worth it.  

I do see my parents once a year at Christmas at one of my sibling's houses.  It's always so awkward.  This past Christmas, I tried to give my mom a present and she said, "I won't take anything unless you give your father a present, too."  She acts like they are glued at the hip.  I tried to talk to her (previously) about my dad being abusive and she instantly said, "Well, you just have to have forgiveness."

And yeah, sometimes they act like I've died, too.  Like at the family reunion (I didn't go to) where my mom was supposed to talk about all of her kids, and she didn't mention me at all.  

So I don't really have any advice, unfortunately, but I just wanted to let you know that I really relate to what you've written.  It's been three years of this for me, so I'm a little more used to it.  

post #5 of 16
Thread Starter 

Thanks, everyone.  I'm not happy that we've all been through something like this, but it's nice to know I'm not alone.


I have another question.  I would be willing to have a relationship with my dad if he did three things:


1) Apologize for his behavior to my kids and to the Hubby and I as parents to those kids.


2) Agree to work with us, the parents in creating guidelines in interacting with our family.


3) Attend at least 5 therapy sessions with true intent to change.


The problem I have is I'm feeling I'm infringing on his personal rights to "demand" he get therapy.  My dad is so totally anti-counseling.  It's pretty intense.  However, with all the horrible things that happened in HIS childhood I doubt he can make lasting progress unless he goes to therapy.  Can I ask him to go to therapy as one of my stipulations?


The thing is I don't want to have any interaction with him unless he gets therapy.  I just feel like I need to let him know what he can do if he wants a relationship with us.  That way he can't use the excuse, "Well, you didn't let me know what I had to do."  Just covering my bases.

post #6 of 16

You can't change your dad, and I don't think you can demand therapy of him.  You can only set boundaries to protect yourself & your family.  (I know it's hard.)   

post #7 of 16

I am so sorry you are going through this right now. I too have toxic parents and our relationship is very strained at the moment.


I just want to add that IF you want to have a relationship with your dad, and he with you; you most certainly can request that he attend therapy as a stipulation of an end to the no contact. Also be very specific, like he has to agree to 12 sessions before you will consider bringing your children around to see him. Think about what you want now and for the future.


As for your mom refusing the present. That was a pure manipulative tactic to try and get you talking to your dad. Unfortunately I don't think you can trust her as a confidant regarding this matter, She is on his side not yours. Her message to the whole family was very passive-aggressive and totally directed at you. If you go back to having a relationship with your dad without ANY boundaries in place, you are effectively sending the message that you were in the wrong for cutting contact and his previous behaviour was ok. (I have been following your story, I wondered how you were doing).


Your mom is hoping by playing these kind of tactics you are going to come back into the fold, and everything can go back to normal. Only you know that their normal is not good or healthy. You may have no choice in the end but to sever contact with your mom aswell, if she is so enmeshed with your dad, that she does not see herself as a separate person.


The 3 things you list, all sound very reasonable and any normal loving parent would do them if it meant having a relationship with their child and grandchildren. Think about if one of your kids asked this from you, what would you do / say to them. Then you will know how far off the mark your dad is with these things.


I too was LDS, so I understand how hard this is in terms for you and your family.


Be strong you are only trying to protect yourself and your children. No one willingly walks away from family members, especially parents. It is a very hard thing to do, but one we must sometimes do out of necessity. Sometimes the right thing to do is very very hard, does not mean it is wrong.



post #8 of 16
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Louplus2 View Post
As for your mom refusing the present.



That wasn't my mother.  Just for the record.  But the rest of your post was wonderful, thank you.  I do feel that leaving the LDS church is leaving an entire culture.  It's hard.  I've lost contact with many of my friends because of it, because now I'm just a "case" to work on instead of a real person.  It hurts.

post #9 of 16

I'm just throwing this out there, perhaps I'm way off, but is your therapy stipulation because you feel almost certain that your father will refuse to go, and you can excuse yourself as having given him a chance (and he failed to take that chance)?

I am not blaming you one little bit.  The choice to cut a family member, a parent, out of your life and out of the lives of your children is really big, and for me, eyeball deep in guilt and shame.

His behavior in the past is why you have removed him from your life.  Why not consider that done, and instead tell him that you think he would benefit from therapy?

"Dad, your past behavior is the result of some very deep hurts in your life, and your past behavior has cost you a relationship with me, your child.  I think you would benefit from talking to someone."

post #10 of 16
I feel for you. I live in the same town a very small town as my parents. I removed them from my life about seven years ago. At first I offered to meet them in therapy and they thought I was nuts. Now there are grand kids and they want to know them.... All of a sudden they want to go to therapy. Well I am pregnant and don't want to deal with them now. I wasn't worth working for years ago but now I am??? I have exepted that they won't change and I remind myself of that when I hear about how they treat other family memebers. It is a sucky situation and very akward some times. But it came down to it was right for my health, my marriage and for my kids.... Good luck to you and your family.
post #11 of 16

Re: asking parents to go to therapy, making it a condition of seeing grandchildren, etc...I wonder how effective therapy would really be, if the client was only going because he felt he "had to"?

And then there's the issue of choosing a therapist... like every other profession in the world, there are great ones and TERRIBLE ones. What if your parent(s) choose a therapist you can't stand? Are they going to feel like you're "moving the goalposts" if you tell them the therapist they chose isn't "enough"? Or - if one of your conditions is that you get to pick the therapist - are they then going to blame "your" therapist for every problem that comes up in the future?

It sounds like some of your families of origin were downright abusive. And there's more and more research which now shows that therapy with an abusive client can be VERY effective... at making him a smoother, more manipulative abuser. :( Do you want a family where the abuse continues, but now the abuser knows all the right "jargon" to justify and minimize it?

Just a few things to think about.

post #12 of 16
Thread Starter 

These are all good points.  I'm going to have to think about them.

post #13 of 16
I haven't read all the responses, but I lost my entire family when I cut contact with my parents. In retrospect, it was for the best. My siblings were users, too. These things tend to work out, if we let them. But it's rare that you can control them. I hope you find peace.
post #14 of 16
(((Hugs))). What an awful thing. My family is split. My sister and I are in contact with my mother, and my three brothers are in contact with my incredibly abusive bio-father. We love it this way. My mother does help the brothers financially, and I facilitate some of the interactions (strictly out of human compassion bc I recognize how much my father permanently damaged them). I actually feel very triggered communicating with them, at all. :-(

I feel so, so happy that my parents divorced, and my sister and I got to have a relationship with a kind stepfather, while he was alive. Why are all the meanies so long-lived?

Anyway, I am sure it adds to your distress that your mother is not on your side. It's wrong, and you deserve better. I just want to tell you I'm sorry. You and your DH are acting as warriors for your children. Nothing harder than standing up to bullies in your OWN family.
post #15 of 16
Originally Posted by pek64 View Post

 I lost my entire family when I cut contact with my parents. In retrospect, it was for the best. My siblings were users, too.



yes. Originally, I only wanted to cut my abusive father out of my life. At the time, I couldn't see how deeply crazy and dysfunctional my mother was. Compared to my father, she was a gem. I had to get some real distance from the whole situation to see her role clearly.


My sister was also a victim, but I ended up eventually losing her as well. Not because of any decision I made, but because she chose to never deal with what happened or take care of her own mental health, so she is now deeply mentally ill.


I think that the family members of an abusive person make choices about what they want their own lives to be like -- sane or crazy. You are choosing mental health, and right now that seems a bit isolating because many, many people in your life are choosing crazy.


It's still worth it. Gradually, you can build a network of mentally healthy friends. You can find more and more inner peace as you travel this path. You can have satisfying relationships with your spouse and children.

post #16 of 16
I like what the PP said--that people who come from abusive homes either choose a sane path or a crazy one. For a good portion of my life, i was choosing a crazy path because i wasnt taking care of myself. My parents are both very emotionally and mentally toxic in their own ways and i would have ended up a lot like them if i hadnt changed. Now that i have cut them out i feel much better, like i can finally be myself. I understand how painful and lonely it must feel to lose basically everyone when you only wanted to say goodbye to one person. Thats generally how it works, though, since families generally operate as a cohesive unit. In time you might realize that not having any if them in your life is for the best since they support the disease, so to speak.
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