Ending a Relationship with an Abusive Parent, Child or Sibling, Part One

In our culture, family is sacred, well, maybe not as sacred as it used to be, but it’s still a cultural and psychological institution. As such, there are certain taboos attached to it.

For example, denigrating motherhood is taboo – fatherhood, not so much. Physical incest between family members is taboo. Emotional incest should be equally taboo, but let’s face it, our society – including mental health professionals and Family Court — often turns a blind eye when mothers emotionally incest their children by parentifying them, making them their surrogate spouses, confidantes, peers and emotional and physical caregivers. It is also taboo to break ties with one’s family, whether with a parent, child, sibling or grandparent, etc. Blood is thicker than water, but then again, so is bullshit.

Family may be the tie that binds, but it should not lock one into a permanent, gut-wrenching stranglehold of abuse, contempt, and financial, physical and emotional exploitation. Sharing genetic material is not a license to abuse a child, parent or other family member, carte blanche.

Sharing DNA means there is an obligation to take special care in your relationships with your family, not that you are obligated to tolerate a parent’s, sibling’s or child’s abuse because he or she swims in the same gene pool as you.

I have worked with many men and women, who have had to distance themselves, both emotionally and physically, and, in some cases, sever all ties from their parents, children and siblings after years of unrelenting and unrepentant abuse. These were not easy decisions for my clients who were wrought with guilt, anger, grief and other painful emotions.

The questions I ask in every case are, “If this person weren’t your mother or father or sister or brother or daughter or son, but were a colleague, acquaintance or friend and they treated you like this, would you have anything to do with them? Would you continue to turn the other cheek or would you cut them out of your life like a malignant tumor?”

When blood isn’t involved, it’s a no-brainer. You avoid abusive jerks, but when the abusive jerk is your mom or dad or your son or daughter, most people freeze like a deer caught in headlights at the thought of walking away. This is the aforementioned cultural taboo in full effect.

The emotional torment doesn’t stop after making the difficult choice to end a relationship with an abusive adult child, sibling or parent. Many individuals who make this painful, but rational and healthy decision are plagued with guilt, doubt and societal and familial pressure to maintain the relationship at any cost and in spite of the ongoing abuse. That’s when the Kumbaya Forgiveness Police (*thank you to whenthescapegoatquits for that expression) and well-intentioned, but clueless friends, other family members, pastors and many mental health professionals start the chorus:

But they’re your children. You only have one mother. You only have one father. Blood is thicker than water. Family is family. You have to forgive your family. What kind of a son or daughter doesn’t talk to their mom or dad? What kind of heartless monster won’t have anything to do with his or her children? I know your mother/father misses and loves you. She/he doesn’t understand why you won’t talk to him/her. No one will ever love you like your mother. As a parent, you should never give up on your children! Your children are your children forever.

I am not encouraging anyone to frivolously end a relationship with a young child, teen, adult child or other family member over minor transgressions or the garden variety, forgivable hurts that occur in all families. Severing ties with a family member is not something to be taken lightly and probably shouldn’t be done until you are either an adult (if you’re the child of an abusive parent) or until your children have reached the age where you can no longer intervene by getting them into effective therapy with an unbiased therapist who recognizes and knows how to treat parental alienation and manage an alienating parent who is hell-bent on poisoning children and destroying your child-parent relationship.

If your child is being alienated from you, you MUST do your best to intervene as soon as possible. The seeds of lifelong alienation can be sown in a very short time – like the time it takes to get a BS restraining order obtained against you under false pretenses dismissed, for instance. Or, while you’re supporting your family at work during the day while you’re still married, again, for instance.

It’s not unusual for otherwise healthy adults to have some bitterness during and shortly after the divorce process, which oftentimes spills out onto the children. Healthy reasonable adults realize that a child deserves both a loving mother and father, set aside their differences and get on with the business of co-parenting their children.

But there are many individuals who do not move past divorce bitterness and embark on lifelong campaigns to deprive their former partners of loving relationships with their children. Approximately 20% to 30% of divorces and custody disputes are considered high-conflict. It’s no surprise that this is approximately the same percentage of the population that suffers from some form of personality disorder. It is also a fact that both men and women engage in parental alienation, but alienation is much more effective when conducted by the custodial parent, of which 82% are mothers.

Parental alienation does not end at the age of 18. Alienated children often become lifelong foot soldiers in the alienating parent’s campaign of hatred and destruction. I suspect that, if some form of personality disorder is at play with the alienating parent, that it may become manifest in the alienated child – either through genetic heritability, modeling or both.

Whatever the underlying causes, it sets up the alienated parent, who is often the father, to become the emotional punching bag/disposable ATM for his ex and his children. There’s a bitter irony that a man, who makes the brave decision to end an abusive relationship with a cruel and sadistic and possibly crazy woman, then has his own children groomed to abuse him by proxy. It’s sick. It’s wrong. And it should be criminal and grounds for a permanent change of custody.

If you are facing this dilemma, whether you’re the parent of an alienated child or the adult child of one of these sadistic sick twists, here are some points and questions for you to consider when contemplating “divorcing” your kids, parents or siblings:

1. Is the family member in question an adult or a minor? If they’re a minor, are they old enough to know right from wrong? For example, a 14-year old should know that it is wrong to be deliberately disrespectful and cruel more so than a 3-year old child.

2. If the child is a minor, have you done your best to get them psychological help to undo the damage of the alienating parent?

3. Have you acknowledged, owned and tried to make amends for any mistakes or hurts that you have made in your relationship with the child or other family member?

4. If the child or family member is an adult, have you explicitly told them that their behavior is hurtful? In other words, have you tried to establish boundaries and rules of acceptable engagement?

5. If you have established clear boundaries, have you specified natural and meaningful consequences when they encroach your boundaries? For example, “I love you. You are my daughter, but it is unacceptable for you to insult me and my new wife, refuse to see me and then expect me to pay for your college tuition.” Or, “I love you. You are my son, but I will not continue to reach out to you if you continue to ignore me or treat me with disrespect.” Or, “You are my mother and I love you, but it is not okay for you to yell and scream at me about what a shitty daughter I am, how ungrateful I am and that no one cares about you. I am going to hang up when you act like that.”

6. Does your adult child, sibling or parent vilify and abuse you further for trying to establish healthy boundaries and limits? For example, do they think you’re being abusive, controlling, over-sensitive, etc., for wanting to be treated with basic kindness, consideration, respect and civility? Do they try to portray you as the “bad dad” or “bad child” or “bad sister or brother” for not wanting to tolerate their abuse?

7. Instead of honoring your reasonable requests to improve their behavior toward you, do they cry to anyone who will listen to them that there’s something wrong with you and that you’re the one who needs help?

If you answered yes to these questions, you probably have ample reason to consider going Low Contact or No Contact with your child, parent or other family member. Again, this is not an easy decision for most people and it may be necessary for you to work with a support professional in order to release yourself from the FOGgy (fear-obligation-guilt), psychological family bondage.

Since not all helping professionals are cut from the same cloth, you may want to screen a potential therapist for his or her views on these matters before you begin working with them. Anyone who encourages you to maintain an ongoing abusive relationship is best avoided and viewed as an abuse apologist and enabler – that goes for whether the person abusing you is an adult child, parent or spouse and whether or not they have a personality disorder. There is no excuse for abuse, including the excuse of a personality disorder.

Ending a relationship with someone who abuses you is often a healthy and necessary choice – even if that person is a family member. It is healthy to disconnect yourself from a family member who abuses you in the name of love and uses their privilege as parent, child, sibling, cousin or grandparent to do so. Although, there are many individuals (usually abuse enablers and apologists or people who are fortunate to have never had an emotional terrorist in their life) who will try to paint you as some kind of heartless, unnatural monster for doing so. In reality, it is the abusers who are unnatural and heartless because they are doing the psychological equivalent of cannibalizing their own flesh and blood.

Abuse is typically generational and cyclical. Abusive personalities rarely stop of their own accord. If you want it to stop, you will have to break the chain. Just remember, if you can put up with their abuse you are strong enough to distance yourself and put an end to it.

Shrink4Men Coaching and Consulting Services:

Dr Tara J. Palmatier provides confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Shrink4Men Services page for professional inquiries.

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  1. Stevie says

    Excellent article! Since I’ve started my research on NPD to find some help for people who are dear to me in their quest to get rid of the harm done to them through years of living under the thumb of a CB, this website came up as one of the best where hands-on advice is concerned especially. I’m sending the links all over the place!
    Thank you, I’ve just decided after reading this piece, that it is time to get to that No Contact stage with my brother, who has been an abuser and user all of his life, and has recently once again tried to humiliate me, bullying me when all I wanted to do was help him save face. I also found out that he went crazy with his ex and is now once again reeling in a very nice and kind woman, to feed off of.
    I know this site is not about men as the abuser, and I’m on this site for my man who went through so many years of abuse, but you have helped me to open my eyes to my own emotional turmoil through my sibling’s tantrums and spite.
    Today I thank you for that!

  2. says

    Excellent thank you!

    8 weeks ago I found this website. 33 days ago I sent my latest CB home. Since I live in Europe and she’s from the States, it was easier to make a clean break than other examples. Thankfully, we were not married but lived in a combined family. I “stuck and stayed” through so much I’m still coming to terms with it all. It has been doubly terrible and wonderful to read my story here. I remember so many events I have forgotten… It’s a bit like waking from a coma to discover that your dreams weren’t just dreams.

    But I digress more to the topic!

    I know I have a long history of attracting CB’s. In fact, my brother is a severe Narcissist/C M?. I have had little to no contact with him for years now. I remember clearly have a “vision” once that helped me quite a bit. We were playing “Tug of War” but were equally matched. For years we were pulling against each other. Then I had a vision… let go of the rope. I just dropped the rope. I let him “win”… and in doing so, I got my freedom. So now, when I do have to interact with him, I pay attention to the sensation. Is he tugging? If so, let go of the rope. Don’t engage, don’t interact. Be a duck and let the stink roll off my back.

    As for my mom and dad, I feel like I have a good relationship there. More to be explored there I’m sure, but now my parents and I have a very positive and healthy relationship. How it was when I was a small child, I cannot say… I have little memory of that time but I do know my father was an active alcoholic then (now he’s in recovery) and my mother was very busy with him, my brother, and me. How does one “get to the bottom” of the reasons why we attract CB’s? What sort of counseling can help me and where to I get that (in the Netherlands no less).

    In all honesty, I’m worried that I will never have a healthy relationship since my previous experiences have been so damaging. Sometimes I feel like I have borderline myself since I see myself copying the craziness that has existed all around me. It’s kind of like I’ve learned bad habits from these folks that I use myself at times. Of course, this was before I understood what I was doing. Is there still hope for me? Is this normal (after a month?) Help Dr T!

    • There is life after crazy says

      “Let go of the rope”. That’s great advice! My ex says some pretty outrageous stuff to me (we have a kid, so we have to have some contact), and it’s always tempting to point out how crazy she sounds. But no matter how wrong her accusations are, or how crazy she sounds, unless it’s something that really matters (would harm our son) the best action always is – no action. It means not even defending myself against direct accusations at times.

      I had figured this out over the past 6 years since the divorce, but there were some recent events (regarding our son) that forced me to be engaged more than usual, and I started to get caught up in her crap again – until I remembered to let go of the rope. Because I started spending time answering her emails, responding to jabs, and worrying about whether she was badmouthing me behind my back, I was starting to have problems sleeping, was always irritable, and unable to focus at work. All that went away when I just started ignoring the crazy again.

      • cuatezon says

        Nice comment Life After Crazy. You’re right on. I’ve had/am having the EXACT same experiences. Have to remember to let go & detach. Seeing a counselor helped me keep my rationale & logic and not get pulled down into the emotional diarrhea my ex would always try to engage in. Its empowering to do nothing sometimes.

      • depthtested says

        Dr. Tara

        I’m blown away by how your site touches on topics that are so deeply relevant and specific to those who have a personality-disordered person in their life. My adolescent child’s BDP mother alienated the child from me after a nasty (and expensive) court battle over increased child support and other money she demanded. I gave her a ridiculous increase in child support (even though she was never my wife or girlfriend—just a brief sexual fling), but refused to give the other money. The court agreed. This infuriated her and on the day the increased support started, my child asked me out of their life. It was obvious who was behind this. During the court case, my child attempted to manipulate information from me that the mother could use against me. The child did this with frightening ease. For several years, the child has increasingly displayed the mother’s manipulative and difficult behavior. I’ve decided that for the sake of my family—and my sanity—that it is best to leave my child alone until the child is away from the mother and can can no longer be used against me legally. It’s been difficult to let go, and I’m working through the issue with a very good—and expensive—therapist. (See a pattern here? BDPs cost people money in a variety of ways.) I’m still trying to find a way to contact my child and let them know that despite everything, I do love them. I did contact the child’s therapist (the mother’s had the child in therapy since a very young age), but the child’s therapist refused to speak with me without the mother’s permission. She never gave it.

        My lawyer says the mother will return when she needs more money, probably for college. That’s going to be one very interesting battle. Stay tuned.

        Thanks again for the work you do.

  3. GeorgeBest says

    Nothing worse then a stay at home mom who smothers the kids with attention and then does activities centered around other moms and kids when you aren’t at work. Once you get tired of being ignored and mentally abused while spends your money like its monopoly, she then keeps you from being able to see the kids a reasonable amount of time and thousands of dollars have to get spent truing to get a court order to see your kids regularly. She wants to be a stay at home mom and write porn using our kids names as characters while I work my ass off. The court system is so biased against men and we need to learn to stop chasing sociopath type women just because they are beautiful on the outside.

    Glad there is this site to see that there are other men dealing with these crazy BPD women.

  4. says

    “Whatever the underlying causes, it sets up the alienated parent, who is often the father, to become the emotional punching bag/disposable ATM for his ex and his children. There’s a bitter irony that a man, who makes the brave decision to end an abusive relationship with a cruel and sadistic and possibly crazy woman, then has his own children groomed to abuse him by proxy. It’s sick. It’s wrong. And it should be criminal and grounds for a permanent change of custody.”

    Unfortunately, the only way this will change is if the legislation and procedures in the legal system change. The worst thing about it is just the time it takes for the bureaucracy to process you.

  5. TheGirlInside says

    My 2 cents: CBs and others figure out early on “the basics” for getting what they want from others.
    i.e. CB finds her target- she offers easy, no-strings sex and food. Men, when a hot/sexy/gorgeous woman who seems way out of your league offers you easy sex, this is NOT a good thing; it is a trap and red flag.
    i.e. #2:CA finds his target- he buys her things and tells her she’s beautiful, builds up her confidence, wants to ‘kiss away’ all her tears. Ladies, when a man who you barely know says you are everything he’s ever wanted in a woman, DON’T fall for it!! It is a trap, and you are the prey.

  6. queenbee says

    I am living the nightmare of the new wife of an emotionally abused husband whose ex-wife is Cluster B. I am also having to deal with the chorus of people who think it is terrible to suggest the children cut off ties with their mother as soon as they are old enough to understand what is going on. I have a stepdaughter who is 13 years old, and very intelligent and talented. Her mother engaged in a campaign of lies about my husband and me, saying we were “strung out on the marijuana” (is this 1950? is this a valid concern?) and that she herself had stopped using any drug as of the day she had her first child. This is someone who is abusing every prescription pill she can get her hands on, has embezzled from her job, and now is unable to work more than 2.5 hours a week because she is injured. She has carpal tunnel. She dragged the divorce out as long as possible, crippled us financially by causing a foreclosure on the house she demanded in the divorce, and forced my husband into bankruptcy. I helped him. I drained my retirement fund to support us while he spent money to divorce her. Her terms were in the divorce. She got more than she should have yet would not sign. She knew I needed insurance, because I have actual health issues that include kidney problems and more, and so she kept saying she would sign and then never did.
    Now what do I have? The chorus of probably well meaning people saying I don’t know what this is like because I don’t have any of my own children. I’ve never been a mother so I wouldn’t understand what it is all about. The kids love their mom and they can’t possibly be expected to stop seeing her, even if the 13yr old has expressed the desire to never see her mom again. The “real mom” has collected dead stinkbugs and put them into a pill bottle to shake at her daughter because she knows the girl is afraid of them, and she does it when the kid crosses lines that keep shifting. Her mom has never told her she is proud of her, she always sabotages her schooling and had her son in diapers when he was 7 years old. I am the one that got him out of diapers. I am the one who was strong enough to say that we have to stop giving this maniac the wheel. No one gets it. They figure it’s a teenager and a mom having a spat. I don’t think so. I think this is one of the last times we have to save this girl, and hopefully her younger brother, too.
    I do not have any children of my own, this is true. It’s been by choice because I didn’t have the right situation. That doesn’t make me an idiot. I have compassion for humans, and I treat my cat better than she treats her children. Why the, “oh it’s her mom, she has to be respected” crap gets to me, I’ll never know. But it’s there. Even my mother in law, who is not a friend of the ex wife, will defend her based on the sole fact that the ex wife has given birth to children while I have not. I’m at the end of my rope.
    I tell you what, there are days that I wonder why I didn’t run from our first date when he said he had 2 children and a wife that was almost divorced from him. I love my husband with all my heart. I love his children. I hate that his ex has put me in this position where I feel that I made a major mistake taking this all on. I can’t say I’d want to undo the decision, but then again…..
    I’d tell anyone who was thinking of it to make sure they know the whole thing. Make sure that they understand what I’ve learned. I am a feminist. But I know now that the deck is stacked, and the table is tilted, and NOT in the direction of the men that want to take care of their kids. I am disgusted by this.

  7. MAC says

    Currently researching into “PARENTAL ALIENATION SYNDROME” by Narcissistic, Sociopath, Borderline Personality Disordered “”nut job” women, who deceive, manipulate, lie, cheat & steal their way into keeping & treating their children as personal possessions whilst systematically trying to destroy the ex husband in the child’s eyes by any and all means….they have a win at all cost mentality, where the former partner must be destroyed. They are, in all essence, the very epitome of evil, the very worst kind of abusers.

    They usually have a sad childhood there selves, some by being placed second to a sibling by their own parents who bond with the more loving sibling and dismiss them because of their cold nature, naturally warming to the more loving child. They then go on to split and create false selves, always trying to be the No1 in the parents eyes, thinking they can prove they are better than the other sibling by gaining material possessions and better career positions….always coming up short….and never attaining what they so desperately want…to be the No1. They are cold blooded and have no real understanding of love or empathy for others whatsoever. They are pretty easy to spot once you are AWARE of what your dealing with, and that is the problem….becoming AWARE, this is usually only seen when they look to discard or gain something they desire. They are hugely immoral creatures and will plumb the very depths with ease as they have little to no conscience or morality. One of the strongest markers is they will not suffer the slightest criticism, and will react strongly in the face of any, even if it is well intentioned or constructive. They will often brag to others how much they tried to get the children & father together….(a chasm they created)…”but the children just hate him so much, what can I do”… or that other old chestnut “The children are free to do as they want”…(and boy, do they know exactly what their mother wants….woe betide them if they took a different course….just a look would be enough). They often “project” and this will easily be borne out in their past history when you thoroughly analyse it and their former victims. Be warned that this type plans well in advance for the husbands downfall using any and all foul means, they are already well on the way denigrating the father to the children, fully aware of what they are doing….while he is generally unaware, (as no one would expect that type of evil from someone who purported to love them or their children).

    The only advantage I can see with these types is that they are usually very UNINTELLIGENT and will repeatedly lie through court documentation or on anything factual which then can be easily held onto for future reference. My advice here is to hold onto everything, including all phone text messaging as this alone will tell an interesting story. I know that in my case just one of the many things listed in official court documents as provided by the ex, was a table defining all that I had supposedly provided by way of income or other, apparently, according to her, I had provided ZERO % to my own children in 15 of the 17 listed categories, and I was given 1% in the other 2 over the sum total of 18 years of my children’s lives, those items listed ranged from financial, sporting, educational & care…..THIS EQUATED MY TOTAL SUPPORT FOR MY CHILDREN AT .00117% (I would have literally needed to be living in the Antarctic for this to be possible….lol)….but we aren’t exactly dealing with someone of sound mind here and this soon becomes apparent as the paperwork rolls out. Just as scary are the solicitors who facilitate these women and these equally outrageous claims….(What’s that old saying….”like finding like”….they certainly do…they sniff money & each other like a bloodhound….morals & integrity play no part with this kind.)

    Another tactic worth mentioning is the tactic that the father doesn’t pay any child support, which is used to drive the father further down in the eye’s of the child’s & others, WHEN IN FACT court transcripts will clearly show that this has been allocated for & noted by the presiding judge in their property assessment percentage split…..however, she won’t be one to let the facts get in the way of her delusional agenda….scary indeed, and I might add easily proven by the court record.

    And then there are some of the children of these deranged women who have the same recessive, personality disordered gene, unfortunate as it may be, (as it can & does flow down the maternal line, and you will most always find a history of domineering women and subservient men who when asked to jump…always respond, “how high”, these are without question strongly Matriarchal households.) Children with this gene mostly cannot be helped. What to look out for in these children is if they have zero empathy for others, won’t take the slightest criticism etc, They may also lack love & concern even for the family dog, or if the dog was closer to the father, start hating the dog as well, this is usually a strong indicator of a disordered personality… no care for animals generally, they are just objects like a chair, nothing concerns them except for their own self, image, money & power. These types WILL parrot the mother….a mini me if you will & actually partake in the lies of the mother KNOWINGLY….this is a hard one to accept for the father….that they KNOW what they are doing. Once the father gets past the loss & grief…(which is far worse than a death), and really looks deeply into what these older children are and have become by their very actions, they must move on, as nothing can be done for them. Money & control is their only driver now, so be sure not to leave them a cent in your will, the children you thought you knew & loved have literally left the building, (maybe they were never in it….you just refused to look). They will even go as far as calling you by your first name instead of Dad. These types also only see the mother as “all good” and the father as “all bad” with no good experiences with the father to speak of at all, this is a VERY STRONG indicator, perhaps one of the strongest, as no normal child if asked, would view both their parents in such a distorted all good, all bad fashion. They also show very little emotion in what should be, for a normal child, a heart breaking event and barely miss a beat…much like the disordered mother. As hard as it is to look for the father, (and this is an unbelievably hard thing to do), look you must, for if you do not you will be like the proverbial dog chasing its tail for the rest of your life, not believing that this is possible and never moving forward.

    For the other true child victims of this insane woman is that they purely and simply have no awareness, and believe anything that comes out of her mouth without putting her to the test…as they should be able to believe their own Mum…right?…WRONG..and they WILL understand further down the track when and if they ever inquire into all the facts upon maturing, also being more out from under the complete controlling, domineering nature of the mother and her extended family by default, who often try to hide what they know is wrong.

    Only the really strong children would ever make it that far, and given the overwhelming nature that these controlling she-beasts & family have over them, the odds are not stacked in their favour as they will use every dirty trick in the book, crying at will….”look at all I’ve done for you”, etc….It is only after they have scrolled through them all with no success that you get to see them rage out, where they will try to bend your will to theirs…eyes popping. The child may also, if lucky, understand more from other friends who will question their distorted thinking on such issues.

    Other factors to look for in these disordered women is no true care or concern for others, though they learn to mimic, this is an interesting aspect, as being a false self they have no real personality, no true humour….(sarcasm mostly), most with this disorder are very UNORIGINAL…(I would not in the least be surprised if what I have discussed is reversed onto me….such is their lack of originality) both in thought and creativity and all without exception are VERY CONTROLLING…finances, people etc. You can never get truly intimate with these types, the more you confide in them the more they see as information they can use against you (the thing I noticed on reflection was that there was virtually nothing shared by her side over a very long period of time, this shocked me).
    Strangely it is control itself which they use to overcome the overwhelming anxiety bottled within, inside they are a seething mass of insecurity….most pill popping just to sleep of a night, every night….they are always fearful of EXPOSURE.

    The future prognosis for the children of these deranged women is usually not a good one either way, as most lack the internal strength needed to seek out the TRUTH, and if found out, AND VERIFIED, their own personal guilt for their poor behaviour, judgement, would be overwhelming, this too would have to be overcome for a “normal” adult child to succeed and move forward. If they don’t however find this inner strength their own anxiety from within will ruin their lives, one would hope that inside of them there will be that small still voice that never quietens, or they should indeed hope that there is, for without that voice, the voice of conscience…they would be forever lost.

    Very sad creatures indeed these women and certainly best out of ones life after they have chosen another victim to pursue, purely because they cannot be helped and will make any man’s life a living hell, they are always scheming and planning their evil unknown to others, the love of the children is not a normal love for ones such as these…it is a complete ownership love…a possession, frantic & fearful. They will always stake a claim in their children’s lives never letting them acquire true independence, they will insinuate there selves into every aspect of their children’s lives, snooping, prying, invading their privacy all with the aim to keep their control.

    For the Ex Husband however, once over the shock, (and it will indeed shock you to fully see through them), and also being free & disentangled from their webs of manipulation & deceit, (and this does take time)… it is like living and breathing again for the very first time….a life free, away from these soul sucking people.

    My heart truly goes out to all the victims of these disgusting women and the poor children who grow up under their tutelage to either become them, or carry the scars from them, by losing those that would have otherwise truly loved them and been there for them all through their life.

    Blessings to all those who have encountered women like this, you can survive, and you can have a wonderful life….with those who truly care for you.

    • heyu says

      I love your response. As the new wife to one of these dads, its refreshing to see someone “get it”. I’m going to be sure my husband reads this article and these responses the second he gets home today!

    • damonlath says

      Mac – Thanks. This has helped me get through my victimization, now I know how I’ve been treating others all these years. C(A,B,C?) Mother trained me well. Ended relationship & have felt the “FOG”, but once it starts to pass & I start validating myself again, things get better!~~~

    • Lost says

      It’s amazing how much your story is like mine. With one major difference… I’m the alienated Mother. And you’re right when you say that the grief is worse than a death. Thank you for writing this. It helped to give me some perspective. I’m sorry you’ve had the experience that you have. It’s really horrible to be abused in this way. Here’s to moving forward. I wish you all the best.

    • kenb says

      Thank you for your post MAC! I share equal custody of two boys with an ex who had no interest in equal parenting until she realized how much it would cost her in child support. Now she is on a campaign to denigrate me even though I have been the primary caregiver for two boys since they were babies/toddlers. Now the oldest son has been manipulated by her to believe I am a monster to the point he broke two of my ribs by punching me in the back several times when I had my back turned to him. I have no doubt she has some form of personality disorder and this is manifesting (both via nature and nurture) in my older son. Fortunately, my younger son sees through her manipulation and has made comments about “mom going crazy”. I am at the point where I need to consider my older son as a “death in the family” and cut all ties. I did nothing to deserve his abuse which is fueled by his mother. The words coming out of his mouth is like a tape recording of her. I don’t need this in my life … I’m done.

  8. cinderelli says

    I was recently assaulted physically by my sister in law and had previously established clear boundaries regarding verbal abuse over 20 years ago. Over the years , I watched her verbally. & mentally abuse other family members & friends and encouraged them to set boundaries to prevent further incidents or expect to be a target until doing do.
    I also am a survivor if domestic violence and have been free from my ex-abuser since 2003. After years if therapy I know what I will and will not tolerate in relationships and have Zero tolerance physical abuse and chose not to put myself in any situations where there is a possibility of that happening. One thing I did learn us that an abuser will more than likely do it again if there are no consequences for their actions, do nothing to change their behavior & if you allow it to happen. I chose to control what Is in my control and will no longer interact with that person until I feel safe & comfortable to do so.
    My family is now blaming me for holding on to the past and for killing my parents who are emotionally debased over the separation of our family. It has come between me and my two sisters and has caused me to become very distant from my parents. I obviously don’t speak to my brother as his wife is the one who attacked me and my other brother is trying to remain neutral and avoid confrontation with the other siblings and my parents. I ended my abusive marriage and hoped my children would learn how to resolve conflict in a healthy and productive manner only to have her attack me at my nephews birthday part as my children, nieces & nephews watched in horror and fear.
    The holidays are coming again for the 2nd time and my kids want to see all if their cousins but I don’t feel comfortable being around her and feel I too would be giving her a pass and no consequences for her actions. She has attended all family functions & holidays since the incident leaving me no other choice to not attend. I feel she should have been excluded and should have understood that her behavior isn’t acceptable and should have sought help, which she didn’t & no one would stand up to her and say it but told me they understood why I wasn’t coming . Am I wrong? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • soused rat says

      just found this site today. I don’t have any advice, but I do not exactly what the family pressure feels like to keep being the abused one…It keeps the rest of them safe from the abuser. They ignore the terrible behavior and blame you for not tolerating it. I wish I had some real advice to give you.

  9. buy1home says

    I have to detach from my two sons but I end up missing them. Where do I start ?
    I am convinced I have to detach from them completely but I miss them. What can I do ?

    Someone wrote here that they let their abuser win by not pulling the rope and they have
    recovered their freedom. Maybe I should just do that and let the mother behind my two
    sons sociopathic attitude win. Yeah. What else ?

    Thank You


  10. bluesky says

    Thank you for this article Dr Tara! The timing was very good, and very helpful. Every good parent thinks the worst thing they could ever do is cut ties with a child (even an adult child), and the burden of guilt kept me hostage to continued abuse and hostility for many years! The reference to The Kumbaya Forgiveness Police and whenthescapegoatquits…well, that was what I needed. :) Really, this is going on my office wall. I still cringe, knowing that every mishap that ever befalls my daughter will always be my fault, and I will always be blamed, but at least I can distance myself from the finger pointing and accusations. May we all be toxin free.

  11. soused rat says

    Thanks for this article. I needed to read it today. I cut off contact with an abusive sister 20 years ago and now she is dying (she’s only 56) and the abuse is continuing…I am getting sucked into all sorts of stuff from other family members. Anyone have any advice for me as I negotiate these last few weeks of her life, while I am still the outcast and family villian, but all sorts of icky stuff is coming at me and I feel abused all over again. Thanks….

  12. EvK says

    Thank you for this article. So much truth in this, it’s the kind of rare insight that you almost never find out there. I am estranged from a sociopathic mother and it seems most people get so dark on adult children who cut ties with a parent/ parents, no matter how terrible the abuse; covert victim blaming. Sure they mean well when they say “you should just call her up, and work it out. She’s you mother (fave line).” I mean, I’m happy for the people who don’t understand, don’t get it because they must have family members who haven’t subjected them to anything close.

  13. kiwi says

    Great article. I am somewhat amused because i realize that i am the low contact parent who is probably considered abusive. A troubled relationship between two people is always painful to those people and tiring for other family members. I keep trying but realize after reading this article why the relationship never improves. Sad, but i need to open my eyes. I would suggest though that perhaps the abuse is usually not one sided but a continued cycle between people who cant learn new skills. Sadly that includes me. I will too advocate the low contact. Perhaps things will improve.

  14. tiredofitall says

    This article, among others, has been an eye opener for me. When I was 17 I received therapy, a lot of it regarding the abuse I endured daily at the hands of my father. I thought I was over it and moved on, despite the fact that I was thrown right back into the unhealthy environment that caused my PTSD. I met someone and moved away, had limited interactive worth family but was still subjected to loathing and verbal abuse from him. I long ago stopped considering this man my father, especially after many continual attempts at not only trying to please and earn accolades instead of insults and death threats. Sadly, as it often does, life happens and I left an abusive relationship, having no choice but to take my mother up on her offer of a place to live… I’m back in hell wishing I were dead more than anything I’ve ever wished before. Three months later and I’m constantly told that I’m useless, worthless, fat, ugly, a failure, had many nasty things said about my sexuality (which I might add is no one’s business but my own), should’ve been aborted, been told the best part of me stained the sheets during conception, that I should kill myself… well, the list goes on but you get the idea. All the while my mother ignores these things or sides with this man (aka “father”). As was asked of me I keep the house from top to bottom, I don’t have friends over, I am in by 9 pm, I only eat one meal a day, I tend the animals, I cook every meal for my family, I do not use the television, computer or phone. At least I’m not homeless? Sometimes I honestly think a winter in Maine might not be as bad as what I go through on a daily basis. For years I’ve thought I was a terrible person for wanting to cut my mother and father out of my life, but this article just reaffirms my thoughts. I’ve been unable to find a new job, and at the point I’m at I’m considering grabbing a backpack and walking away, money and possessions be damned. Thank you for making me realize that cutting bad and abusive people (even family) from my life doesn’t make me a bad person!

  15. bookfriend says

    Thank you thank you for this post!! It’s SO taboo to cut a parent out of your life and the message I repeatedly get when doing online research or reading books on the subject is that I should keep trying harder (despite all the things I’ve tried for years) to be the kind of person who can put up with my mother’s emotional abuse and the very damaging after-effects of the emotional incest syndrome, which continue into adulthood. As someone who has tried time and again to set boundaries with my mother only to have them completely disrespected and to be vilainized for setting them (not to mention for ever wanting space, independence, a separate self whose identity is not wrapped up in hers, a healthy relationship free of yelling and emotional blackmail and emotional abuse), I am doing a trial no contact period because I felt faced with the decision to either 1. tolerate the unhealthy behavior and constant boundary breaking, acting as if nothing were wrong or being honest and fighting constantly, receiving verbal abuse and guilting from my mother–a choice that feels out of my integrity especially as a new parent myself, or 2. Refuse to tolerate the behavior, which is why I am currently no contact with my mother. It’s an AWFUL decision to face and I don’t think anyone really ever takes it lightly. I feel brokenhearted reading articles and comments by people who feel it’s an absolute unforgivable sin to cut a parent out EVER, regardless of abuse…Of course in my case my mother looks like a doting, if not just overbearing, mother from the outside, and it’s been difficult for me to question my “justification” for making this choice. Fortunately I have found a wonderful therapist who can offer detached perspective, mirroring, feedback, etc. and who I’m sure would support my ultimate decision to be no contact forever if that feels necessary. My mom is like an alcoholic who doesn’t drink–boundaries and consequences seem to mean nothing to her and it seems she is willing to destroy everything, including our relationship which she claims to hold so dear, before she will look honestly at herself and consider working on her faults.

    I don’t know if you, the author, reads and replies to these comments or if anyone else could clue me in, but what exactly does ‘low contact’ look like? I live 20 min from my mother….something that will likely not change soon because the rest of our family is also nearby and are healthy and good to our children. But if ultimately my FOG, or ability to tolerate more, lead me to the decision not to cut my mother out of my life forever, I can’t imagine that the relationship would be anything other than a low contact one. I am lost in imagining how that works though. Others who have done this?

  16. teri14 says

    I didn’t realize this was a men’s site when I found this article. I apologize for invading. This was a very good article. I am having issues with my adult daughter. She met a guy and before we realized who he really was he had isolated her from friends and now family, he convinced her to get rid of her car and he switched her phone…etc. Its a long story but now he has her convinced that we are the enemy. They have been together for about 3 years now and have a 1 year old son and a 2 month old son. They moved from our area without telling anyone and now are across the country living in a shelter. They have moved 8 times in the last 12 months. He has alcohol and drug issues. He is in his 30’s and has been this way since a teenager. His family has enabled him which is how he came to our area. My Daughter is in her early 23. She was working in her career field and had just started paying off her student loan which was her only debt. She has not worked in over 2 years and now she has credit card debt and hasn’t paid on her student loan since she stopped working. These are all due to him. He introduced her to drugs before she had her son’s. His entire family has disowned him …… Anyway, I thought I had my daughter back after her first son was born but they left again. At the end of last year she contacted us 3 different times wanting to come home but then by the next day she had changed her mind. I am sure he is mentally abusing her. Friends that know what’s going on and have witnessed his treats to us etc. feel she may have Stockholm syndrome. I am really looking for guidance on what I should do. The last 2 times I talked to her it was like talking to him. She wasn’t the same and she was rude and abusive and I ended up hanging up on her. I love my Daughter and my grandsons. We were in the delivery room when she had my first grandson, with the second child, she didn’t even let us know she had him. This is not my Daughter. I have notified the police where they are so they know the background story and the child services know but that’s it. As long as they are in a shelter then they are ok. My Daughter didn’t even know about shelters or living off the system till she met him. I am to the point that I have stopped trying to contact her. I know she is the one that has to want to change. But I feel such a loss. I struggle with disconnecting. I know its what I have to do though. Is there any advice for me?

  17. teri14 says

    A little more info…. My Daughters husband will call me and tell me if I want to talk to her I have to go through him and that if I want to talk to her I have to pay their bills. He has used that threat several times to try to get either money or a car. He told my husband that he was going to send his friends to come get him if we didn’t do what he said. He also has told us many times that they are leaving the country and if we don’t do what he says we will never see our grandkids again.I will not give in or enable either of them. I know that this is his drug behavior and he doesn’t do this unless he is far away. He is not a big guy and he knows my husband and sons wouldn’t tolerate this if he was close by. He has sent me rude abusive text messages which I have passed on to the police. I haven’t blocked him from my phone because I don’t want to block my Daughter. He is a con artist, liar and a thief. My Daughter has already learned horrible things from him and I know that if we ever get her back she will need lots of therapy. I have tried to go to support groups but it didn’t give me any help or comfort. I also feel like I’m alone in what use to be a battle to save my Daughter….I have lost that battle for the moment but I really don’t want to lose the war. HELP

  18. sophia says

    I always thought about the way women exploit and manipulate men because of their social skills. My husband’s ex was using the pet dog for this purpose. I have seen a number of male friends, whose wives/partners would use sex as a control mechanism. It’s sad. There is so much energy about postnatal mother depression but not much attention towards the dad, how his life changes with the arrival of a new comer.

    It’s really great website and excellent article.

    Personally I was looking for something about abusive siblings and hit this article. Found it very helpful and logical.
    Thank you

  19. concernedmom says

    I really appreciate this article. I have read it several times when I feel low about my decision to cut ties. It has been many years, but it still hurts on a certain level. After many years of verbal and emotional abuse and sociopathic lying and manipulative behavior by my stepson and dismissal/defense of his actions on the part of his enabling mother, my husband and I had to break off ties with them. He was well into adulthood when this happened. Of course, this makes us “the bad guys.” But then again, we were always labeled that anyway. We went through the whole “blood is thicker than water” nonsense, and the side-taking – all of it, as well as the emotional trauma and guilt of how we felt (and sometimes still feel) regarding having to cut this person out like a cancer. But now, I have a concern – my youngest son. My son is a now a teen, and he was young when this break-up happened. I have concerns about his step-brother connecting with him by phone or through social media. I think the older step-brother might use this as a means to stay connected, and informed. I know there is nothing he would like better than to see his younger step-brother fail so that he could throw it up at his father and me. At best, his contact with our boy would be to spite us. How do I impress upon my teen son (who unlike his step-brother is pretty straight-laced) that I think his older step-bro is bad news and should be avoided? Or do I? Our son did not witness all the insanity we were subjected to, so it’s not personal for him and as those of you who have similar experience know, that those who haven’t gone through this really don’t understand the dynamics of this type of person. They look innocent and fresh to the world, but they are dirty at the core. I would appreciate any suggestions. TIA.

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