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Should I cut all ties with my toxic abusive family?

Tagged as: Big Questions, Family, Troubled relationships<< Previous question   Next question >>
Question - (30 August 2014) 3 Answers - (Newest, 1 September 2014)
A female United Kingdom, anonymous writes:

My family are toxic. My mother is mentally unstable who abused me when I was a young child. My father is cold and distant towards me and has never praised me or gone out of his way to do anything for me. I have 2 sisters. One is self obsessed and selfish, the other one (youngest) is my fathers favourite and can do no wrong, she sits on her high horse and tries to tell everyone what they should do.

Every other month my parents cause some kind of drama which usually involves the whole family like they are getting divorced splitting up etc and everything turns into chaos. Then after a while they are back to normal like nothings happened even tho they have turned everyone else lives upside down. When they fall out they also expect us children to take sides. They are suddenly all nice to us to try and get us on their side. Then as soon as they make up they are back to normal selves. I have nothing to do with the selfish sister because I cant bear to be in her fake company anymore. My younger sister will try to dictate my life - how I bring my child up, who I date etc - and if I dont do what she feels is right then she runs off to my father to tell him and of course he takes her side and then starts to give me grief.

My parents never ever phone me to see how I am apart from today when my father rang me because I owed him some money and I was half an hour late from dropping it off at his house even though he was staying in all day anyway and had no urgent reason for it to be dropped off dead on the time I said I was going to. I know for a fact that he wouldnt dream of ringing up either of my sisters and speaking to them the way he did to me. My sister gets my dads backing with everything she does - even if its wrong - because she treats him like a king so everytime me and her fall out he is there, straight on her side, without knowing both sides of the story no matter who is right and who is wrong. It hurts me so much that he treats his kids differently.

I am at times quite hard to deal with because I suffer from depression and a personality disorder stemmed from my childhood. My mother seriously abused me as my father worked abroad for long periods of time. I remember being kept off school for a few days after she gave me a black eye. I was about 10 and I remember that even though she had hurt me, I thought she was great cos she had let me stay off school. Now Im older and I look back and realise that she would of had to keep me off school to stop teachers and social services asking questions. I see a therapist weekly because of my past but I am still human and it still hurts. I was also brought up in poverty with my sisters (older one went into care) and we had nothing, no money no food, dirty house.

Im 31 now with a child of my own. My parents never make any effort with him unless I take him to see them. Even then they dont really make an effort. So now Im prepared to totally cut them out. They bring me nothing good in life. I always run around for them but they dont do the same for me. The only thing that upsets me a little is the fact that by cutting them out I am also cutting them out of my sons life. I know they dont make an effort anyway but he will no longer have 2 grandparents and 2 aunties and all the cousins to see.

Has anyone else had to cut ties with family? How do you stay strong? I know its a drastic measure to cut ties with them all, but I have been down this path so many times and nothing changes. It is like one big toxic cycle. If I properly cut them out for good then I have removed myself from their poisonous cycle. But Im scared I am doing more harm than good for me and my son?

View related questions: cousin, divorce, money, period

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (1 September 2014):

You come from a dysfunctional family, if you do a little reading on the topic of 'dysfunctional families'you may understand your own situation a little better and the relationships within the family. You could do with fresh ways of thinking and it may make you feel better about yourself and them.

You have not said what personality disorder you have been left with? have you been diagnosed with one?

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A male reader, WiseOwlE United States + , writes (30 August 2014):

I can't say I shared the experience of living in a dysfunctional-family. From what you've described, I can see your point. In spite of how you've been treated, you've stuck it out and you've kept in-touch.

Since they hardly bother you anyway, or the only time you hear from them is during a family drama. I recommend that you take them in doses. You don't want to cut all ties; because the usual result from that is the guilt that follows, if a tragedy should occur. It's hard to move forward when things ended on bad-terms. That's the purpose of greeting cards, and text messages. You let everyone know you're alive, and you can express your sentiments from a healthy distance.

Not every family is the same. You don't have the benefit of picking and choosing those with whom you share your DNA.

It's random and left to fate. Hate is a consuming and draining emotion. So don't succumb to it. People surprise you sometimes, and put things aside once they know you truly need their help. They are the only people you can call your biological family; so you have to accept them. Faults and all. Underneath it all, there must be love.

Otherwise; you would have all disbursed to the far corners of the country, and ended all contact. There is some cohesive factor you share amongst you. It's called being family. Being connected, feels a lot better than isolation and be estranged.

Humans are communal-creatures; we have to bond and group.

You just can't get that sense of connection without your kin. As crazy as they all may seem. We are wired to be family-oriented. So we have to learn the best of the worst situations. With the exception of continuous patterns of psychological and physical-abuse. That's traumatic, and you have no choice but to cut all ties.

You just have as little to do with them as necessity requires; but you maintain a link. Weak as it may be. You also have to forgive, to free your soul. Now that you're an adult, you can speak your peace, and let everyone know when they're crossing the line with you. You can tell them when to just get out of your face. You can voice your opinion and walkaway when you've had enough. As an adult, you can tell them exactly what's on your mind.

You didn't hesitate to bypass your dad's horrible ways to borrow money. So if you can bear his presence enough to do that; then he must have some redeeming qualities that will allow you to offer him some mild affection and tolerance.

You should make peace with all of them, then step-away.

Only to re-enter the picture when there is a bonafide family-emergency; and only if you feel you will not leave feeling worse than you did when you went in. Timing is the key, and know when to make your exit. Don't get into the mix if it smells funny. Take-off.

Always investigate, get the details; then immediately remove yourself when you see it's a load of bullsh*t. It will be established, you've always taken the highroad; and at least one of you out of the bunch, knows how to be decent and caring. People do notice these things; even if they refuse to openly acknowledge it. It's not guaranteed to change them; but it plants a seed and will influence the way they see you. Sometimes it rubs off.

One day out of your life, take each of your parents somewhere you can be alone together. Tell each one of them separately, everything they've ever done that has hurt you and damaged you. It may not get through to your mother, if she is disabled by mental-illness; but it will take a life-long burden off your shoulders. It's a soul cleansing. You need to get it out of your system.

Ask your therapist before you attempt such an endeavor. You may not have the strength. Have you ever taken your parents to one of your therapy sessions? I doubt they'd ever go, but wouldn't it be great to be able to purge all the pain and resentment you feel? You can write it all in a long letter and read it to your therapist. You might get the same purging-effect. Writing to DC to vent is also good therapy.

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A male reader, Sageoldguy1465 United States +, writes (30 August 2014):

Sageoldguy1465 agony auntIf you should cut all ties - forever - with this interesting bunch of people who you describe... THEN,, you will have absented yourself from them in the strangely- common situation wherein wherein toxic people get an epiphany and become something approaching "normal" or "resonable" or "civilized".....

How about just putting yourself on to the perimeter of their lives - as you describe it ..... and put them on the perimeter of your's (life)....

Hold out that - sometime in the future - you may have an opportunity to reconstitute this "family" under far different circumstances.

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