Family Strain: Is There a Benefit to Breaking Ties?

Family shape cutout in paperFamily harmony is a dream we all share. Wouldn’t it be great if we could function, day to day, like our favorite television families? Sure, life would come along with a one-two punch, but because we are so connected, in sync, funny, and resilient, by the end of the day we would land on our feet, together. Whether you relate more to the family of The Cosby Show, Malcolm in the Middle, or Family Guy, those families always come out wiser and still united in the end.

Real families aren’t so predictable. Marriage, child rearing, going to work, moving across the country, cleaning the house, going to school, loaning or borrowing money, having medical problems, dealing with one another’s moods; this is family life. It’s a messy marathon, and some of us find the experience more painful than others. Into some families comes divorce, or alcoholism, or mental illness, perhaps poverty or abuse. These families struggle to be connected and have positive relationships. And with enough pain, some of us walk away from our families and never look back.

There are times when it may be wise to create some emotional distance from our relatives. We don’t need to be intensely involved with every member of our family all the time. Our family systems have their own sense of rhythm. Varying closeness and distance is a natural process that brings balance in the dance of maintaining manageable emotional energy. We all do it, and it is a function of every close relationship we have.

Some of us have the experience of deliberately cutting off connection, particularly with one or both of our parents, for an extended period of time. We have another argument, the phone gets slammed down, and something inside us closes. We have run out of energy to explain, defend, and extend ourselves and we just need a rest from that intensity. Such periods of distance and recovery are common in families. You may be in one of those periods right now. It may feel like a burden has lifted, and you vow you’ll never go through that, whatever that was, again.

But here’s the thing: while shorter times of disconnect won’t interfere in your life, years of emotional shunning can. When we cut out a key family relationship from our life, it takes quite a bit of energy to keep that emotional door closed. And, any positive emotional energy that that relationship could provide us with is gone. While the bad stuff is not active, neither are the benefits. We compensate for that missing support, interaction and connection by leaning more heavily on other close relationships, like our marriage, our children, and our job. Our other relationships can take the extra expectations for awhile, but they can’t provide extra emotional stability indefinitely. Those relationships can get stressed. And then instead of one cut-off relationship, people can find that they are being distanced or shut out by other key relationships. Loneliness, isolation, and distress can erupt, seemingly, “out of nowhere.”

I believe that we are better-balanced human beings when we strive to maintain some measure of openness and connection with all the key people in our family system. It’s like the water pipes that feed my basement sink. In Minnesota, winter temperatures can dip well below zero. I’ve discovered that when the temperature is that low, the pipes to that sink can freeze. Frozen water pipes are one problem I don’t want. I have learned that if I keep the faucets slightly dripping on the coldest of nights, I prevent a huge problem. Drip, drip, drip: that’s all it takes to keep my pipes working. Drip, drip, drip is all the energy you really need to expend to keep connected to the most difficult family members in your life. You don’t need to open your emotional “faucets” very far to prevent your own emotional system from freezing up.

This can look like a birthday card, a call on a holiday, an invitation to a family event. It can mean returning an email graciously, showing up for an anniversary dinner, knowing your parent’s cell phone number. It means simple connection, the kind that keeps families functioning, particularly at times of high anxiety or emergency. I don’t want to have the first connection I have with my mother for years be in the Intensive Care Unit of the local hospital.

For me, it boils down to this: we need each other, particularly our core family members, to be in our emotional world. Don’t cut someone off from your life completely. The relief you feel is short lived, and the pain can last a lifetime.

© Copyright 2010 by Lynne Silva-Breen. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Barb E

    January 20th, 2010 at 11:52 AM

    I had such a great home life when I was growing up that it is hard for me to imagine cutting those family ties. They give me strength and support when I need it, and without them I would not have half of the great memories of growing up that I do.
    But I realize that I was fortunate in the family that I was dealt- not everyone gets that lucky in life. That is why I am thankful everyday for what I have and that encourages me to do the same for my own children.

  • Kidd

    January 20th, 2010 at 3:05 PM

    I really dont understand how people can not only stay away from their family but also push them out of their minds… I cannot do that at all. I moved into a different city when I went to college and just missed my folks all the time. I would see them as often as possible. Well, its all different for different people I guess.

  • Anna S.

    October 18th, 2014 at 3:35 AM

    Try being beaten, insulted, yelled at and given stress and depression by them. Sometimes you have to do what is best for YOU.

  • Faisal A

    January 22nd, 2017 at 12:30 PM

    Yep. Insulted, yelled, stressed, depressed. Every interaction feeling more miserable than the last. Being used, manipulated, feeling trapped and suffocated.

  • cherris

    July 24th, 2017 at 7:26 AM

    I get the feeling that I have no rights to say any thing but a family member knows all.they are the only one that has been beaten or abused.They can tell half truth,get angry,judge and tell others what to do.But don’t listen to your information about what ever is the latest thing happening to them by their kids.Or X,..And yes I have been beaten up,abused,threatened verbally.

  • Leelee

    April 1st, 2018 at 8:21 AM

    Yep, there are some family members you have to stay away from, Abusive, personality disordered,. I don’t have one good childhood memory of this person, a sibling, so I think it’s quite a bit healthier to keep away. Those who haven’t lived through it have no idea.

  • Kay

    June 8th, 2018 at 4:57 PM

    Try having a sibling instead of saying hey what happened getting your side of the story they jump you it’s all your fault and that’s that!!

  • kk

    May 23rd, 2017 at 10:29 PM

    have a son whom you let come into your home with his girlfriend and 8 month old baby bc they had no where else to go. He told me to shut my f—ing mouth when I told him to clean up their mess. He assaulted me when I gave them an eviction notice to leave my house after two months of him not getting a job even after I spent $1000 to fix his car. Then he called the police and said he was in fear for his life because I was so irate. He grabbed my phone from me when I grabbed it back he called 911 and said I assaulted him and again said he was afraid for his life my son is 6 ft 4 and 345 pounds I am 5 foot 10 and 206 pounds. my son also said he was going to have my medical license taken away. mind you he cant do this I have already checked with the board and explained what is going on. This is the 2nd time he has done this and it will be the last. This is only a couple things he did. did I mention the 2000 dollars worth of damage he did to my house before they left. silicone the keyholes, locks, breaker boxes, mailbox, microwave.

  • claudette

    August 22nd, 2017 at 7:00 PM

    i know how u feel i never raised my daughter shes 32 i told her im sorry for not being there for her i was drinking runnin around now im older ive given my life to Christ and the Lord shows me to its the seeds i planted to wich was hard to take but i got to be responsible for my actions as a not so good mother…….shes abusive calls me an old c old s its my fault my marriage broke up my husband walked out on us its very hard sometimes my family aint much of a help their all self centered an gossipers jelous ppl im waiting to get a job when i do im permantly breaking away from them since mums died they are all showing their true colors…….yeh their all nasty ppl ive put up with it for years they were jelous of me an mum cause we were close now i have to be mother teresa………..naaaa……….cant wont dont want to i ask God to defend me wich he does help me break away from my toxic family and pray theyl open their spiritual eyes another thing is they only give God lip service oh yeh Gods great but thats it no sorry cant handle it anymore even my own daughter i got to break from her she only rings when she wants money…….so keep me in prayers ppl amen xox

  • NEIL

    July 31st, 2017 at 3:26 AM

    it seems like the author has experiential bias growing up in what seemed to be a relatively healthy family structure. The reasons people cut ties with their families is because they are abusive and/or neglectful to the point where enough is enough. I would also say that to stay in these type of family systems minimising or pretending everything is better than what it is is extremely unhealthy.

  • laura

    August 11th, 2017 at 1:19 PM

    Drug or alcohol problems is a good reason to cut ties with siblings, cousins, etc. Ditto for former friends who condone their kids lifestyles/drug problems that don’t line up with yours. Partners of siblings can cause some to cut ties also. When parents have passed on, it is much easier to cut ties with other family members.

  • M

    November 7th, 2017 at 5:29 AM

    It is very simple when you have to deal with 2 narcissistic siblings that create the pain & chaos. The isolation from that alone, is mind relieving. I’m too old to deal with their constant drama and criticisms against the rest of us siblings. I want peace in my life.

  • Olivia

    January 21st, 2010 at 5:50 AM

    This is definitely a process that is easier said than done. No matter what you do the influences and memories of your family will always be there and there iis little that you can do to get away from that. I know that there are some people who have a very good reason for wanting to stay away from their families. Abuse in the past etc. But there are other reasons that are silly- moving away for example. There are beautiful ways that you can still stay in touch no matter how far apart u live. I just think that sometimes people come up with excuses to stay away because they perceive that this makes life easier for them, when the reality is that a family can be a great support system for anyone willing to allow it to be that and that would be sad to miss out on all of that.

  • mark thomas

    January 21st, 2010 at 4:26 PM

    I just think a person is not complete without his family. Yes, individuality is important but family and the support and all the feeling you have about the family are equally important too.

    We often feel sorry for a child who has lost even one of his parents. This is because he is now devoid of all the support and love from that one parent…it takes plenty of love and support for an individual to develop to great heights.

  • Phyllis

    July 4th, 2013 at 8:06 AM

    Walk a mile in another’s shoes , then judge how they could or should angle heir smilies. One of the most important things I learned in therapy was to NEVER. Compare situations or circumstances to your own. It’s creates distortion’s one cannot understand without having lived it.

  • Faisal A

    January 22nd, 2017 at 12:34 PM

    Thank you for sharing that! I had arrived at this conclusion that one can never just compare because one has no idea about the gritty details of another’s situation. Too many people think they can prescribe a cookie cutter solution to another’s life without actually knowing the problem.

  • Kristen Mitchell

    February 17th, 2014 at 8:20 PM

    What happens when the parent that passes was the only parent that showed unconditional love? Being second oldest of five I felt I had a responsibility to my younger siblings..I know that I could never be my mother. But I tried to be there for my family. Love them all to pieces. I was so busy trying to fill roles such as working, going siblings activities, helping out with nieces, keeping my social activities. After time I lost myself. Needless to say I was with an abusive partner I was so busy trying to take care of everything I didn’t realize that I had never grieved until I took myself out of every situation possible. I realize now that I am a survivor. And feel truly blessed. I love and miss my family.

  • Stuart Kaplowitz, MFT

    February 4th, 2010 at 3:02 PM

    Having family in our lives is an indeed a powerful and beneficial addition to our existence. Having that love and support is something to treasure because indeed many do not have it. I have heard many an individual share pain in their family of origin — whether it be physical / sexual abuse, emotional, and so forth. I have not personally experienced that type of pain and yet can understand why others would appropriately set a boundary. Stuart A. Kaplowitz, MFT

  • Lynne Silva-Breen, Author

    February 16th, 2010 at 6:17 AM

    Each of your comments is a testimony to the critical importance of family, particularly parents, in our lives.

    Reflecting on that, you can imagine the kind of damage bad or indifferent parenting can create in the developing child. Adults are burdened with a searing sexual responsibility — their sexual behavior can result in the conception of a new person.

    Sex, parenting, family, children, mental health. It really is all connected. You can see how those who aren’t ready or willing to manage those connections can really get family life screwed up.

  • Anne Destes

    May 3rd, 2012 at 12:24 PM

    Sometimes certain family members can be such a constant source of pain…be it disrespect, dishonesty, lack of appreciation…etc….that cutting them and their negative energy out of your life may be the only way to be happy and stay sane.

    Certain friends are often more of family than our own family members. The old “blood is thicker than water” adage is not always true.

  • Karina Velarde

    July 12th, 2012 at 3:07 AM

    I agree with Anne. After years of people-pleasing in my family and being the scape-goat, I threw in the towel and cut them off. When you are struggling emotionally and yearning for support and acceptance and instead you get labeled as “selfish” and guilt and shame is given to you instead, why keep that in your life? When the negative energy outweighs the positive, I think it’s time to rethink that relationship whomever it may be with. To me, the energy of having to just put up with it all, not being able to be me and vulnerable, not receiving the emotional support I needed in time of need, wasn’t worth it anymore. Too taxing. Free myself up to allow for love in my life, beginning with self-love and acceptance. If someone really loves you ( and knows how to love or is willing to learn how) they will accept you and listen to you through good and bad times…my family is all about pretense…most of us suffer in silence and isolation but then get together for Christmas and pretend we are all a happy family. Absolute BS! I am thankful that I have my mother, husband that I can be real with and a few friends too. My goal is to incorporate a niece (who I helped raise) and as many other people in my life who are willing and capable to have genuine relationships where I feel free to be me, strengths and challenges, as does the other person. Someone who will talk and I will listen and vice versa. That is the goal. I pray that it comes my way, I would be ever do blessed and grateful.

  • Tameka

    December 22nd, 2013 at 2:57 PM

    I 100% agree. My family is the same way. I am known in their sight as being the bad gal because I call out and refuse uphold the pretense they live by. My mother and family are the sources of my former insecurities. No longer will I allow myself to walk in guilt, timidity, and pretense. I would be cheating myself and the people of my destiny by denying them access to my authentic self. It really helps to hear from people such as you who understand.

  • Sb70

    August 30th, 2016 at 1:59 PM

    Thank you so much. Your comment has helped me so much. That’s exactly what I’ve been thinking about in my mind.

  • tasha

    September 10th, 2012 at 6:34 PM

    My mother lives with my step father who not only beat her for years but also molested me. She is very unstable emotionally. Has distored views of the world and other people for obvious reasons. She uses drugs and alcohol. she is suicidal. the list is ad infinitum. She has continuously betrayed me not only has a child but well into my adulthood. She is a very disturbed woman and needs to be in a treatment program but refuses to go and stick with it. I now have an infant son of my own. I would never subject him to what I know she is capabale of and the level of abuse she doles out to everyone around her. I think it is great there are good close families but when you come from such a wreched family yourself and you finally get out…trust me…you leave, take your chances, and you never look back.

  • scots l

    December 29th, 2013 at 1:33 AM

    How interesting to read these comments.

    Those from seemingly happy families cannot imagine losing ties…of course not, you have the love and support you deserve. It is completely different for those who have suffered pain, hurt, neglect from their nearest and dearest.

    It is healthier for these people to break the cycle and surround themselves with people in their life whom they can form healthy relationships with.

    Everyone has to choose their own path and find their own peace.

  • Anna S.

    October 18th, 2014 at 3:31 AM

    I cut myself off from the pain my family caused. I feel so much better now.

  • elyza

    August 17th, 2014 at 3:29 AM

    I wandered why therapists have interest in increase a relationship among brothers that are fully social functioning adults with their own families. Court mandated family therapy did nothing, but further send us apart. Is there a therapeutic reason of why adults should not get “divorced” from their family of origin?

  • Anna S.

    October 18th, 2014 at 3:29 AM

    Honestly, I am happy having cut myself off from my family. They could be loving at times, but the majority of the time there was stress and depression caused by them. My siblings and I would get beaten, and they justify the beatings by saying they deserved it as well as I. Yes, I rebelled, but lightly. The worst thing I did was lose my virginity, and my mother punched me in the face multiple times instead of talking to me and trying to understand the mistake I’d made. I dont understand how bloodying and brusing your child’s face will teach them discipline… It only made me hate her. I never partied, never did drugs, never came home late, and I was an excellent student. When I turned 18 she threatened to call the cops on me for fighting with my brother and she felt it necessary to call me a b***h in public. The list of things she did goes on and on. My siblings turned against me and one even said that I’m dead to her and they believe I’m “confused” because I’m living with my fiancé, working and attending school. Pretty, “confused” , right? All in all I feel better without them. I’m happier without them and I’m thriving. I cut the negativity out of my life, and I’m so glad that I did.

  • Jenny

    November 12th, 2014 at 8:13 PM

    I was depressed and sad most of my life because of my toxic family. It was always about their problems, fights, marriage, pain … not much attention was paid to us kids other than abusive despcipline. Finally a year ago I had enough (at 36!) ! Thanks to hours of therapy and grieving I hmanaged to limit my emotional connection to them. I still care but their baggage is not mine. Anyway, it was a great week for me with another round of their usual drama, except that this time it didnnt really hurt me . I’m so happy and a bit surprised that distancing myself worked this well! I also want to tell others in similar toxic situations that its really hard work to recover, but there is a light at the end so just hang in there.

  • Jared

    December 24th, 2014 at 10:32 AM


  • VJ

    May 27th, 2015 at 7:50 AM

    it’s a different matter altogether when families are perpetrators of all kinds of horrific abuse. One may look from the outside, see a “loving” family and not understand why one of the kids has broken ties. when sometimes, adult “kids” stay in relationship with parents/siblings out of fear and false loyalty and one breaks away for a chance at a healthy non fear based life. It happens, far more often than one would ever hope it would.

  • JC

    June 27th, 2015 at 8:55 PM

    Not everyone has a good family life. Also as one gets older their true character and personality comes out and if it is positive and good it may cause all kinds of jealousy and hate. If you can’t break ties physically then try & do it emotionally & mentally

  • Ang

    July 11th, 2015 at 10:49 PM

    I couldn’t disagree more with this article. We don’t need “family” when they are toxic and harmful.

  • Anonymous

    July 30th, 2015 at 5:26 PM

    If you grew up in a good family with a strong foundation, I am definitely happy for you. There is nothing like having people around who are truly down for you through thick and thin. However, I have to agree with the last several comments – not everyone has had the same pleasant experiences with their families. People may say that family are important and one should stick to them no matter what. I agree wholehearted, but in certain situations that’s ultimately a cop out. People have the impression that just because someone shares your blood that they are automatically entitled to treat you like crap. No one, and I mean absolute NO ONE should feel obligated to stay in a toxic family. If you are not happy with your family and have experienced some sort of ongoing emotional pain, you need to cut them. Bottom line.

    My mothers side of the family I have always had good ties with, even though culturally I was raised up differently from them (I didn’t really like my mother though). My fathers side lived far away from me so I would rarely see them, but I would always be so eager to get to know them because culturally we had more in common and I thought they were really cool people.

    I tried to come around and visit whenever I had the chance, but I was always mistreated by alot of them. For many years I put up with being treated as if I was inferior to the rest of them. With each visit, there was always at least one family member that made me feel upset or bad about myself in some way, but yet, I still kept on making efforts to be in their life.

    As expected, When I got closer in the family circle I started to see all of the lies, gossip, and deceit behind the “closeness”. In all honesty though (and I will give them credit for this) they are a tight knit family that always pull together, but I began to see that many of them were just living on pretense – smiling in each others faces all the while but behind each others backs it a different story. Eventually I started seeing how some of them felt about me as well.

    The beginning of my breaking point with them came after I moved out of my parents home to go stay with one of my aunts and uncles that always asked me to come stay with them sometime. I stayed with them for a while and everything was cool. I was very respectful towards them and I was even out of their way as much as possible as to not make them feel uncomfortable. Hell, during most of my stay I wasn’t even there (always out joyriding or exploring the region somewhere).

    A few months later, however, they started to act like they didn’t want me there anymore, and several times I even overheard my aunt on the phone with someone talking about me behind my back and telling all of my business (She happens the biggest gossip in the family, by the way). I was so hurt by that, but I bit my tongue and opted not to let on that I knew about it. The final day of my stay, my aunt had said something in a way that had touched my nerve, even though she called herself trying to be helpful. I quietly packed my bags in the car, came back in the house, and all I said to her was, “Thanks for letting me stay with you, I’m gone”. She was utterly suprised that I left “just like that” and didn’t know what to think, but I had finally got tired of her and the family in general. I vowed that I would never come back to their home again.

    The point where I really drew the line with my family was with some of my cousins…..
    I would notice that on my facebook page, if I would post a status about something I was going through or just post something in general, they would read so much into it thinking it was about them that they started throwing passive aggressive “shade” towards me. Even worse, I found out that they went behind my back and started spreading rumors about me and had other family members turned against me. I quietly sat back and watched them fight “against themselves” until one day I had enough and called them out on it. After that the bullsh*t stopped and I cut them out of my life because they were too nosy and causing a bunch of unnecessary trouble.

    Several months later they tried to get back in my life but I was very cautious about fully letting them in because of their betrayal. I forgave them but I made it clear that I don’t want to have anything to do with them. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you trust a person, like a person, or want to have anything to do with them. Forgiveness is about letting the offender(s) and yourself know that the situation doesn’t bother you anymore and now you are able to move one. They didn’t take too well the fact that I no longer want them in my life, but all they do is create drama and they just don’t understand that I don’t want that type of mess in my life.

    Overall, the people who I thought I needed the most in my life, turned out to be those that I want absolutely NOTHING to do with.

    I’ve read many stories online where a lot of people (who were supposedly brought up in good families) try to talk down to and condemn those who’ve decided to cut ties with their family members, but what they don’t understand is that sometimes your own family can be your worst enemy. There is no use in keeping people like that in your life. Sorry, I just don’t see it.

  • Michael

    August 6th, 2015 at 4:48 PM

    Sometimes you need to permanently break ties with people whoever it may be. My “family” caused more grief than happiness, I know that sometimes no matter how difficult it may be you need to shut people out in your life. Yes, you may not want to, (change is scary) but sometimes you need to get rid of the people in your life that give you too much stress and not enough happiness. Who cares if it’s your “family” if they treat you wrong.
    People who treat you decent are family. Just because someone grew up with you, raised, and knows you well you does NOT mean you should keep him/her in your life.

  • Anonymous

    August 17th, 2015 at 7:08 PM

    Totally agree with Mike in the comment above ^^^. Couldn’t have said it better. The thing with family is that they feel that you HAVE to put up with their bullsh*t. Once you show them that you aren’t going to tolerate their crap, it shocks them in their tracks, especially if you are the only one in the family brave enough to stand up for yourself. Do what you have to do. It’s your life, your happiness. You are only responsible for your own. If you are not happy with family, leave them. If they want to spend any kind of time with you in the future they will learn to keep their bullsh*t to themselves.

  • Sb70

    August 30th, 2016 at 2:01 PM

    Thank you. Well said.

  • Anon

    September 9th, 2015 at 4:24 PM

    A parent who is sociopathic, has borderline personality disorder, etc. MUST be held to no contact. It’s the only way an abused child with that type of parent is can be healthy, happy and can heal.

  • Sweet Violet

    September 11th, 2015 at 2:27 AM

    I wri te a blog for the children of narcissistic parents ( and also run a Facebook group for them. I have had contact with literally hundreds of people who grew up with dysfunctional, personality disordered parents and it is clear to me that the only way to self-esteem and healing is to cut all ties with the people who will only treat you with disrespect and disdain. The fact that you are related by blood to these people is what they take as their right to abuse; we, however, have a right to live our lives free of toxic people who have only their own ego gratification at heart and care nothing for the damage they inflict in their quest for it.

    Better to learn to accept that these people are hopelessly dysfunctional and recognize that you cannot change anyone but yourself and change your willingness to tolerate abuse simply because you have a blood tie with someone. They do not honour that blood tie by treating you with love and respect, you need not honour it through acceptance of mistreatment.

    I find it interesting that the author has acknowledged and commented on the comment here that support the article, but has said nothing about those of us who disagree.

  • Lynne Silva-Breen

    September 11th, 2015 at 12:46 PM

    It does seem intuitive to cut off ties completely with family who have consistently harmed us. Particularly damaging are those personality disordered parents who are characterized by self absorption, emotional abuse, distortion of facts and a complete absence of empathy. Once you have encountered someone like this in your life, you must create emotional distance and rigid boundaries against their abuse or it will continue indefinitely.

    At the same time, to walk away completely from a parent or sibling is to shut off a critical part of yourself. We are tied to our families genetically, emotionally, systemically, historically. To try to push that relationship out of sight, out of mind, without wrestling with it in therapy or other healing relationship is like spending a part of your life energy holding a door shut. Even if you never open that door again, it can become exhausting holding your arm against that door. To have some simple, safe connection to that family member – as I mentioned above, something as basic as knowing that person’s address or current phone number – can help one live life more securely in the present, to not have to ignore such an important part of one’s life story, and to be able to move into the future less tied to the past. It is not about letting down your carefully constructed boundaries; it is about reclaiming all your emotional energy for use in your own life, in the present time.

  • Anonymous

    September 11th, 2015 at 6:37 PM

    At Lynne Silva-Breen: It’s understandable to try to keep emotional ties with family in many cases. There are some scenarios where things can be talked out and resolved once either party get over their personal issues and come to a middle ground, but in some cases (or in many cases, as assumed) that is not a viable option. Again, as been stated many times in the comment section, sometimes it’s just best to cut ties with toxic family members that you can’t resolve anything with. Once you’ve exhausted all of your options, give up and move on to greener pastures. The term “family” is often used as an excuse. Blood doesn’t mean ANYTHING to true caring and support

  • Athene

    September 18th, 2015 at 3:44 AM

    My family were abusers. I am 38 and have lost two sisters at aged 30 and 40 because they were so damaged by abuse. I was physical assaulted 2 days before my fathers funeral by my brother whom I had to get a 10 year restraining order on. My mother now has terminal brain cancer and my other brother has brimmed over with disgusting loathing and abuse towards me telling me to stay away…in fact I am her primary carer because doing so causes less pressure on me than the abuse I would suffer were I to decide to put her in a nursing home. I also believe that she is my mother, even though a narcissist but she hasn’t got long. The day I have buried her I feel I will finally be free from verbal, emotional, physical and mental abuse. I have worked so hard on myself and my time will soon come. Yes, I forgive and realise that some are only capable of hate and fear. Love is too hard for some. I would suggest you look into these issues further. Good luck.

  • The Team

    September 22nd, 2015 at 8:58 AM

    Thank you all for your comments and for participating in this discourse! We appreciate and encourage all opinions and perspectives; however, please refrain from making personal attacks on the author and/or other commenters. Thank you!

  • survivor and thriver

    December 2nd, 2016 at 1:42 AM

    Life is too short to long for narcissists to change, people to apologize, and siblings to grow up and see their part in issues. Family is all about projection in this case, scapegoating, emotional blackmail, passive aggressive manipulation by dysfunctional empty merged members calling themselves a family. Frankly, 17 years of therapy didn’t make it easier to be around, speak openly to them. Just a sense of dread and nagging thoughts aftermath. Family is chosen by people who value each other in an evolving respectful dialogue of mutual care and willingness to honor. Try doing that with narcissists and selfish emotional stingy people who you happened to be related to.

  • Stasia

    September 22nd, 2015 at 2:03 PM

    Family is important. I’ve read accounts on this page of pain, discord, disrespect and abuse. But the people being cut off are cousins, siblings, parents who likely are experiencing similar pains too. What we’re really dealing with is the cult of individual, an individual fighting for recognition, not recognizing their own failings and unable to take any criticism. The individual wants to be king, and when you can’t control others, the individual creates a kingdom of isolation. If we need others, we pay them. The individual wants freedom, so their choices can’t be critiqued, so they can hide what is broken and hide pathological behaviours.
    Anger issues need to treated. When anger gets out of control it can lead to problems at work and in personal relationships. I’ve had anger management issues, and I’ve seen its effect on families. It’s cyclical, and it will continue to effect various parts of your life and relationship left unchecked. You probably are not the only one with anger issues in your family, and if you’re not careful your children will do the same to you. Read up about anger. Cutting people off is a symptom.

  • John

    December 3rd, 2015 at 2:39 PM

    I can definitely sympathise with a lot of the comments on there. I cut my mother off for 3-4 years due to a history of mental and physical abuse against my siblings, not so much me. After my parents split up my mother brought in a new guy. He was a controlling, “alpha” male type person with a narcissistic personality and OCD.

    As an example he would tell my younger sister, then 10 and very vulnerable, that she was fat and ugly and if she didn’t lose weight then “no boys would ever like her”. 10 years later she had anorexia and bipolar which she still doesn’t have in control. My older brother was physically assaulted numerous times because he wouldn’t be pushed around by the new boyfriend. He ended up getting kicked out when he was 17 years old. He now has severe personality disorders, including narcissism and a deep seeded hatred towards women (I believe this is due to the emotional neglect from my mother). Another example was when a pillow off the couch was on the ground, my mother’s boyfriend went absolutely ballistic. He threw and enormous tantrum, screaming at us for a good 30 minutes, it wasn’t even his couch. My mother would always put her relationship with her boyfriend as her number one priority in life.

    One memory that weighs heavy was one weekend that we were forced to go camping with the boyfriend. For very little provocation he grabbed my brother by the throat, slammed him into the ground and smashed him in the face numerous times. We walked 10km to the nearest town to go to the police station to make a report. My mother and her boyfriend picked us up, laughed that the police wouldn’t believe us and said we were being silly, we were only early teens and didn’t really understand that the police would have taken our accusations very seriously. On the car ride home, my mother was very sympathetic TO HER BOYFRIEND and the sight of them holding hands made my heart sink. That was the moment that I knew I had to get out of there and that my mother was lost to us. Abuse like this continued for years.

    I only got out with my sanity because I always had a plan to escape and kept my shields up. I moved out as soon as I could, just before I turned 19. It was the best thing for me. I still kept in contact with my mother and her boyfriend, going for dinners and family events. After a run-in with my mother’s boyfriend about a breakup with my then girlfriend (now wife) it clicked that I didn’t need these people in my life with the pain from years of abuse came to the surface. It took a good 3-4 years before I spoke to my mother again and it’s never been the same since. Our relationship now is very strained, much like a dripping tap to stop of freezing over, just like in the article. I only let her into my life as I want my own children to have the chance to spend time with their grandmother. If I didn’t have my own children I wouldn’t have anything to do with her.

    Another issue came up when my brother married a psychopathic alcoholic (we didn’t know then) and they had a kid together. After her alcohol abuse became worse and worse we offered to take their child in to live with us temporarily whilst my brother ended things. Long story short, we ended up being used and abused, totally disrespected and never even got so much as a genuine ‘thank you’ (and all of $100 for 5 months). My wife, not one to shy away from a fight (her Mediterranean blood), went absolutely ballistic at my brother. We haven’t spoken to him for nearly 2 years. All he has to do is genuinely apologise for the way he treated my wife and me but he steadfastly refuses to do so.

  • The Team

    December 3rd, 2015 at 4:22 PM

    Dear John,

    Thank you for your comment. We are sorry to hear of your experience and appreciate you sharing your story. The Team is not qualified to offer professional advice, but if you ever feel that you would like to discuss this, or any other concern, with a therapist or counselor, you can locate one in your area by using our website. Simply enter your ZIP code here:

    Family concerns can provide challenges and bring pain, but talking through these concerns with a therapist can often be helpful. We wish you the best.

    Kind regards,

    The Team

  • Unnamed

    December 17th, 2015 at 5:24 PM

    I don’t think the author should be attacked. I can understand their point of view. Family should be important and the center of our lives. However, it doesn’t always turn out that way for everyone. The truth is that family can be the most toxic people in your life. Because that they are family, it is often difficult to make the decision to end relationships with them. If all other possible options are exhausted, then cutting ties is best.

  • Ro

    January 10th, 2016 at 1:35 PM

    Growing up I experienced incest, torture & physical abuse, and severe emotional abuse as well as neglect. For speaking up about it, my mother and sisters used to encourage me to commit suicide (when I was an isolated, suicidal teenager in and out of psych care for PTSD) as well as both sisters throttling me to the point on me being on my knees blacking out if I ever tried to stand up for myself.
    Adulthood – my mother was ‘helpless’ and sat back watching the show as my older sister in particular engaged in psychological warfare against me. My younger sister (also an incest victim) kept her distance as she didn’t want to end up in my position as the member of the family whom all the vitriol was funneled in on.
    I found myself at 33 years old still being seriously emotionally abused by my family of origin (who gave the sexual abuser a free pass, by the way – a few years ago my older sister named her son after him). I was actively suicidal. Cutting contact with my last-ditch attempt at survival.
    What I’ve discovered since then is that I am actually a human being with my own feelings, desires, personality. I can and do make my own decisions. What I have discovered is that life is beautiful lived free. Within two weeks of cutting contact with my family of origin, I was no longer suicidal. It’s been 14 months now and life only gets better. My head continues to clear, I’m seriously working on my healing… my husband and daughter are so thankful that I cut contact with my family of origin. After ceasing contact with my mother, my daughter came to me and explained that she was being abused by my mother too but she felt she couldn’t tell me before (I was very enmeshed with my mother and I guess my daughter felt that I needed my mother – and so didn’t want to upset the apple cart). If I had not ceased contact with my mother, my daughter would not have told me about my mother’s worsening behaviour toward her as she aged – including nearly letting my daughter drown at camp (someone else eventually rescued her as my mother stood by not giving a damn), and then verbally abusing her for nearly drowning. People need to be aware that the very noble desire to maintain contact with an abuser parent for the sake of ones own children having a relationship with their grandparent, can result in your own child being abused by your abuser parent. Which I guess is not surprising when one thinks about it logically. My mother had ramped up the abuse towards my daughter as she reached puberty. If my daughter still had contact with her now, the shame would be piled on my daughter by my mother. My mother thinks teen girls and young women are ‘whores’ – in fact, my husband’s first experience of my mother was her spitting the word ‘whore’ in my direction. It’s really lovely to see my daughter growing up the way she naturally will, without being shamed for doing so.
    I’ve made my peace with my mother dying – though there is every chance I will die before my mother due to the neurological condition I live with. Last year I required surgery (very risky for me) and I was so blessed to have my daughter and husband with me. I honestly thought I might have died – and there was zero desire for my mother or any of my family of origin to be contacted. Similarly, I am ok with my mother dying without me seeing her. There is still a connection – a connection of grief and poignant sadness for the healthy family relationships that never existed and never will. This is something I’m more than capable of working through within myself though. Healing whilst maintaining contact with my family of origin would be like trying to heal a wound that was being gouged anew every hour. I know this because I tried it for well over a decade (including a full decade of therapy) – and what I ended up with for my troubles was suicidal ideation at age 33. Nobody can convince me that staying in contact with my family of origin would have been the healthier thing to do. My own lived experience has clearly proven otherwise. I love myself now – this is why I feel confident that maintaining contact with people who wish me dead is not something I need or want. I’m so glad I cut contact with my family of origin – and also helped my husband and daughter by doing so.

  • Teresa.

    April 15th, 2016 at 9:28 AM

    I was abused by my half brother around the age of 6, I think it also went on after that – luckily i am so far spared much memory. My sister had the top bunk & at some point she told my father what was happening, he left home around the same time after my mother caught him having an affair, nobody addressed the abuse – apparently my mother didn’t even know – he went on to molest other girls and held one poor girl down whilst his friend raped her. I ended up being the bad guy, I went on to be promiscuous & even got involved in prostitution – my family were never there for me, never tried to help me, I even tried to commit suicide twice. Now I am 46 and still haunted by my actions and am not forgiven by my family. Just last week when my father visited he says it is all my fault, that I always did just what I wanted. He will never see the situation any different. We ended up having a massive fight…again. Why keep up the pretence of family?

  • The Team

    April 15th, 2016 at 11:37 AM

    Dear Teresa,

    Thank you for your comment. If you would like to talk about these, or any other concerns, with a mental health professional, feel free to return to our homepage,, and enter your zip code into the search field to find therapists in your area.

    Once you enter your information, you’ll be directed to a list of therapists and counselors who meet your criteria. From this list you can click to view our members’ full profiles and contact the therapists themselves for more information. You are also welcome to call us for assistance finding a therapist. We are in the office Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Pacific Time; our phone number is 888-563-2112 ext. 1.

    Help is available, and we wish you the best of luck in your search.

    Kind regards,
    The Team

  • Mary

    August 19th, 2016 at 2:19 PM

    I am struggling with a needy, verbally explosive adult sibling. After years of listening to chronic complaining, blaming and ad hominem attacks, failed efforts to help her, struggling with how to respond to her efforts to buy back affection, and feeling the family effects of her chronic, frantic strategy of triangulation, I realized I was drained and had arrived at the end of the road. I decided to quietly retreat, refuse to solve her problems and respectfully enforce boundaries. I find that the effort involved in even keeping the faucet dripping is just too great – she keeps blowing through boundaries, inviting herself over, and dumping her anxieties out so she doesn’t have to learn to cope. It’s exhausting. I want to do the right thing, but after a year of effort I’ve found the dripping faucet strategy is hard when when the disordered sibling has grown up with an enmeshed mother and family dynamics have supported enmeshment for decades. I feel my only choice is to jump ship or drown. Any ideas that apply to this dynamic?

  • survivor and thriver

    December 2nd, 2016 at 1:46 AM

    self care is essential. codependency is codependency.

  • Bleu

    August 20th, 2016 at 8:06 PM

    If there has been abuse, toxic behavior and a latent disrespect from family members that refuse to see you as a worthy person deserving of basic decent treatment, it’s time to walk away. Articles like this that encourage keeping even a small amount of contact going does not keep in mind those that have gone through truly painful, horrible and damaging experiences. Even some therapists will convince or encourage clients to not completely cut contact from family but you have to do what’s right for you. YOU know when you’re not being treated the way you should be. It’s not about a petty argument or fight–some family can ruin your life and it’s not worth sticking around.

  • Anonymous

    August 25th, 2016 at 2:38 AM

    How utterly sad are some of these posts. My heart pounds when reading the suffering. I have one sister who has mental health illness and has been in a wheelchair for many years now. My mother and father divorced 40 odd years ago and I have been the only one who kept contact with him. He had always been an alcoholic but never abusive. I left home at 11 years old due to my mothers then boyfriend who I suspected was a predictor, I later learned that my sister was sexually abused in by him in horrific ways. I believe this is the root of my sisters illness today now 50 years old. I had little contact with my mother throughout the years but when she needed help or support I would be there. She married again and then again, both relationships were to obsessive abusers. Each time her life fell to bits she would call for emotional support and help. I through one of her then husband out of her house after she ended up in hospital but sadly she returned to him and didn’t speak to me or my children for a further 2 years. My memories as a child are sometimes disturbing, remembering her overdosed in the bath when I came home from school, I feared sleeping because she was so depressed that she wanted to take her life but said she feared she would take us with her. My fathers partner of 13 years took sick with cancer and he called me for help. A long story cut short but I nursed her for months until she passed away. My father hit rock bottom and so I stayed with him for a further 10 months. During this time I was cut off from my children and grandchildren, my father was constantly drunk and verbally abusive, often telling me I had done nothing for him. At the end of this period my mother took sick with a heart attack and breast cancer at the opposite end of the country. So I moved again, finding them a home next door to each other in hope they would become companions and they did. I cut my working hours and attended every chemo session, paid their bills, shopped for them and crude a lot. My whole life for the past few years has been spent at their beck and call. Throughout this whole time I have felt myself get lower and lower,. My mother has made my life an absolute misery with her selfish behaviour, nasty remarks and sheer disregard and self pity. I spent the majority of my growing up years in a children’s home and felt very abandoned but I have still been there for them all. Now at the end of my mothers treatment, my father is seriously ill following surgery for throat cancer. I had had a tearful conversation with my mother just days before and told her she was hurting me so badly with her nasty comments that I wanted it to stop. I was due to drive my dad to hospital 2 days later. I called in to drop off percriptions from the hospital after work as I always do and my father turned on me like an animal and told me I wasn’t welcome there. My heart is breaking. My mother has not even called to let me know how he is remembering I have supported my father all my life regardless of his drunkeness and he has been in my mothers life a mere 2 years. I dearly love them both but feel so used and hurt. There are many things I find so hard to write as I feel disloyal to them for sharing. I understand others have suffered much worse than me but I have reached a point where I am in dispare…. I would be so greatfull for any advice as I have a strong need to walk away.

  • Empath

    November 8th, 2016 at 12:33 PM

    It’s not like my family was terrible in abuse, but there was abuse of the emotional kind. Emotional abuse can give you years of post traumatic stress disorder. You are always on alert and cannot relax, and when you eet new people you wonder if they will be abusive as well. From the outside we looked like the perfect Christian family, but what people see and what actually goes on are two different things. I have a sibling who seems to feel that it would have been a storybook family – if ONLY I had never been born. He had all the advantages, and my parents never made him do anything. Finally they got so sick of his nasty attitude that they made him get a job. He tormented me from the time I was born. My family was told by counselors to take care of the situation while he was still in grade school, but they did not. Soon he was too old to control. He was still bullying me when he was in his late teens. He also, I later found out, had bullied other people. He is still trying to put me in the scapegoat role – and I REFUSE. He can lie all he wants and twists things around and act like he is such a wonderful Christian. God see it. I see it, and now others are seeing it. I had thought that he would mature and be happy about having a relationship, but I see how naive I was. Sometimes you have no choice but to break ties – I was so amazed how peaceful I felt after not seeing him for months. Hope there is a way to keep this up. Others in my family don’t seem upset about not seeing him either. I am beginning to think that he may be a sociopath because he has so many people fooled into thinking that he is the ‘aw shucks’ sweet. helpful kind soul that he tries to impress people with.
    You deserve people in your life who will respect you and have your best interest at heart . That is what a family is SUPPOSED to do, and if they will not, then you are justified in keeping them out of your life. As to the writer saying that you miss out on the good things – if there is no trust left, how can there be any good things?

  • Katie

    December 3rd, 2016 at 7:12 AM

    I needed this so much. I have been gowing through such a difficult year with my family, stemming from my sister. Thank you for your insight.

  • Donna

    December 18th, 2016 at 8:58 PM

    One of the hardest things I have experienced. My heart breaks for my son-in-law, his biological mother gave him up for adoption. He found out that she was married at the time had he has two older siblings and a younger sibling. Adoptive father died when he was 3. He has a really hard time with family as a result, he has caused incredible stress between my daughter and our family. we have always been a close family, but no longer, she has chosen to shut us out and refuses to come to family events. But will call and ask her dad to fix everything at their house and wants us to babysit. my heart just hurts right now, just found out she isn’t coming to my house for Christmas, but i can get my grandson for the day. Trying really hard to at last be thankful I will be able to see my grandson.

  • Milly

    July 19th, 2017 at 8:09 AM

    This is all very well if the person you are shunning hasn’t treated you with continuous, complete contempt and maligned you to the rest of your extended family. This is what my sister did over the stupidest of issues. She so couldn’t bear to be challenged over a demand she made that was wrong, that she took it to the furthest extreme, raising the stakes every time there was an attempt to explain the situation to her, even though no hostility was returned. But she can’t admit when she’s wrong and she can’t back down and apologize. She did apologize for lying at one point (by email) but then in the next breath told another lie about why she did it! How can you continue to have a social relationship with someone like that? The result was a complete breakdown in the relationship she had with my husband and I. Family relations used to be good and she has just thrown them away. She has been so vengeful that it is impossible for us to have a friendly relationship with her again but this also affects the others in our family. She has maligned us behind our backs, whilst we have shown our children the truth in the emails she sent – it was all done by email so, rather stupidly, she has set all the evidence in writing for anyone who has access to it. There’s nothing worse than a family member being malignant to another, especially where smearing and gas-lighting are concerned and if getting away from them is the best relief you just have to do it.

  • LucyLou

    July 22nd, 2017 at 8:19 AM

    I’ve had to cut ties with my sister and am better for it. Every interaction with her from the time I was in my early teens was fraught with bullying. With being constantly remind that I was worthless and a bad person. I began to believe that and made mistakes I was ashamed of for a long time. And yet they were normal mistakes. In my sister’s eyes, those small mistakes only validated everything she thought about me and she would double down on the abuse. It took me a long time to realize I was the family scapegoat. The one who took on the emotional problems others didn’t want to deal with. Cutting ties for good has left me in a better head space than I’ve ever been in. Yes, it’s hard to shut the emotional flood that comes with years of abuse. Therapy is helping. I found a new family in my husband’s family and finally have real love and joy in my life. I’m grateful for that. My sister will never have the self-awareness to understand that she was part of the problem. In her eyes, she will always go “the good one.” So I will never go back. And I’m okay with that.

  • Rick

    August 20th, 2017 at 4:39 PM

    I just made the final cut from my three siblings – my sister and her daughter-in-law. My brother sent me an angry message 4 years ago because we had a disagreement on Facebook. He told me he never liked me, would never forgive me and never wanted to speak to me again. I felt liberated, and still do. He was always abusive and insanely jealous of me.
    I live on the West coast and the rest of my family lives on the East coast. My brother is in contact with my sister frequently. He just took her, her two kids, their partners, and her granddaughters to the Bahamas. I saw photos on Facebook from my sister’s daughter-in-law. My sister hasn’t returned my phone call in over three months. I called her and left a message. She’s rarely not at home on the weekend, so it was strange. A month later, she hadn’t returned my call, so I called again and left another message. Then I got a new phone number, so I called and left her my new number. She didn’t return any of those calls. Finally, I sent her a text and said, “maybe you don’t have my new number – here it is…” – she didn’t respond.
    It was too painful for me to be sitting by the phone waiting for her to call me. I unfriended her on Facebook, even though she was only a stalker and never responded to anything I posted and never posted anything herself.
    So there is a lot going on here. My family was abusive and dysfunctional. I got out. I moved far away. I had years of therapy. I realized there was abuse. I talked about it. They denied it.
    They are in their own little bubbles. None of them have friends. My brother and sister are like best friends. She’s a widow, he’s single. My oldest brother doesn’t make contact with anyone, but his wife keeps him connected.
    And we disagree politically. They make racist comments that upset me. The criticize teachers, and I’m a teacher. It just goes on and one.
    So between the abuse and the lack of effort on their parts to maintain a relationship with me, I’ve decided just to cut them off – at least from having easy access to me, like spying on me on Facebook. If they want to be in my life, there are telephones and e-mail. I’m beyond expecting them to get on an airplane and coming to visit.
    So this article was helpful in getting me to understand that I can keep a small window open. Notes on birthdays, thank you in response to the birthday wish I get from my sister-in-law (no one else). I’m just done expecting anything from them, and looking instead on nourishing relationships with people who are more on my wavelength – one cousin who admits there was abuse (her family was similar to mine) and her daughter. I have an “adopted” son and a beautiful “granddaughter”. I see that my ideal of what family was supposed to be was just not the case with my family.

  • Milly

    August 21st, 2017 at 1:57 AM

    It’s very sad but you have made the right move. You have tried hard enough but these people clearly don’t like you, for whatever reason and you have no obligation to keep channels open to them. They are not behaving as ‘normal’ people do. Why should you waste the rest of your life trying to understand the situation and be forever in their thrall? Life is too short and you must enjoy every day you can with people who respect and care for you, and keep busy enough so that you can dispel these undeserving relatives from your mind. It’s so hard but it’s the only answer. I’m trying to do the same with my siblings and their acolytes so I appreciate the difficulties. Good luck!

  • d

    September 2nd, 2017 at 3:59 PM

    You know, I hate to start this off in such a blunt manner but there is really no more perfect way of wording it…..My mother is one toxic B and I mean that in every sense of the word.

    My father told me that ever since he and my mother met she has been nothing but trouble and has remained that way from then until now. When I was young they were ALWAYS at each other’s throats. My mother used to fill our (my two siblings and I) heads with things and tried to have us turned against our father while she played victim throughout.

    She has always been very controlling and manipulative, constantly arguing or yelling her voice at us for no reason, trying to call her self being a “good mom” but in reality she was scorn and verbally abusive. I could see if we were actually disobedient kids but hell, we were too scared to be. Our early years of what could’ve been a happy childhood has been taken away from us because of this woman. We were so fear-driven and stressed out that our personalities became suppressed because of it. It took many years later before I would unlearned this era of mental and emotional pain that I felt like I finally had my life back. I even recall the days when my father’s side of the family used to come and visit, she would always try to keep us sheltered in our bedrooms, especially if it was during a time when she was “on the outs” with my father, for whatever reason. Because of that I really didn’t get to know his side of the family until much later, and when I first tried to do so she even tried to hold me back then.

    It wasn’t until I began approaching 12 years old that I started to see her for who she really is. I was reaching the point where I had my own mind and I got tired of her overly-controlling ways. One afternoon I had came from school and she was constantly in my ear nagging me for no particular reason. I was already stressed out from school that day so the anger was just slowly building up. I was leaned against my dresser and had my hands over my ears trying to drown her out, slowing drawing my hands down my face and then I just snapped. That’s when I had my first argument with my mother. My temper was on the verge of being violent and tears were running down my face. That was when I realized that I reached my breaking point with this woman. Not long after that, her and I have been at each other’s necks ever since.

    Compared to my sisters, she pretty much despises me and often gets on the phone and talk all kinds of bad things about me behind my back, and she has even had several of her friends and co-workers (at that time) thinking that I was a bad child, but it was all due to the fact that, unlike the rest of them, I wouldn’t tolerate her ways. She has had plenty of arguments and fights with my older sister before. My younger sister and I both thought that my older sister was just being a rebellious teenager, but I started to see the light – our mother was tearing our family apart.

    Not only is she a bad mother, but she is two-faced, manipulative, selfish, and is also a closet drinker. She can be pretty level-headed at times when she’s sober but whenever she drinks all the negativity that’s already in her comes out even more and she gets uncontrollable with it. She starts talking all kind of stuff and it’s impossible to talk to and reason with her. The sad thing about it is that she doesn’t remember any of the damage she caused during her drunken rampages. I mean, it will literally be like she hasn’t done anything wrong to you. The sad thing about it is that she claims til this very day that she’s a good mother and has never done anything to hurt us – talking about being self-deluded.

    As far as her being selfish, I’m going to give you one good example of just how twisted my mother is………Both her and my father were previously married prior to meeting and both have one previous child each. My father’s child from the previous marriage is basically an outside child and was never really in the picture due to certain circumstances with his mother and my father. Meanwhile, my mother’s child from the previous marriage has always been in the picture. My mother doesn’t want my half-brother in our lives, but at the same time she expects my father to be there for her child. Although my older sister is really my half-sister biologically, we were raised up as if there was no difference. On the other hand, my mother wanted us to see our half-brother as just that. In fact, she doesn’t even want us to acknowledge him at all – You tell me just what kind of sick and selfish person that is.

    Whenever my father tries to go see my half-brother or if there is even the slightest mention of his name, all hell breaks loose. She will talk all kind of stuff and want to not have anything to do with any of us if that ever happens. My mother doesn’t usually bother my sisters about it because thanks to her, they won’t really have anything to do with our half-brother, but she gives me and my father hell about it, and she’s become so obsessed over her insecurities with it that she will start arguments about it out of nowhere with my father. For years my father bit his tongue and wasn’t a part of my half-brother’s life for the sake of keeping peace with my mother, but after a while he realized that it wasn’t right and he shouldn’t have to be away from his son because of this woman’s selfishness, so my father and I did the right thing and tried to maintain a relationship with my half-brother over the years, though mostly without her knowledge.

    My mother has especially been over-controlling over my younger sister. Her entire life, she (my younger sister) was afraid to speak out against our mother, and for a while was brainwashed by her. It wasn’t until just a few years ago that my baby sister reached a breaking point and her and my mother finally had a big falling out – it was inevitable and the rest of us only knew it was a matter of time.

    After all the years of arguing with this woman, the constant going back and forth, her acting “ok” a few days out the year and then going through the cycle of being a complete bitch again, and trying to reason with her to no avail, we finally began to realize that she is just a toxic person and there is no help for her. Everyone within our family (mostly her side) has come to see how this woman really is. My mother’s siblings hardly want anything to do with her and at least two actually had to end up cutting her off because of her toxic ways.

    The sad thing about it is that we (our immediate family) haven’t really taken a strong enough stance to make a change. Til this day the cycle still continues. Her toxicity is very draining on all of us and as the years go by it only gets worse. I’m the only one who will speak out against her bullshit but the rest of them don’t stand up the same way as I do, still allowing her to get her way. Whenever she wants some alcohol, they go out and get it for her and then it starts all over again. Even without the alcohol she is still a b. You can be having a fairly good day and as soon as she comes around or calls, she ruins your day with something negative. It’s gotten old and it’s time to cut her loose.

    I hate to say it, but my mother is the complete EPITOME of a toxic mother, and she is one person that I do NOT want in my life.

    Most people will be quick to say that they should obey their mother no matter what, but I say BULL. There are many people out there who also have to deal with toxic mothers and it doesn’t help that they catch hell from people who tell them to “deal with it because she’s your mother. I would never disobey my mother like that”. That is no kind of support whatsoever to people who are not as fortunate as you.

    If you are dealing with a toxic parent, or any relative for that matter, the best thing to do is to cut ties with them. There should be no moral reason whatsoever to have your life ruined just for the sake of being involved with people who is only out to hurt you.

  • diane

    March 14th, 2018 at 8:14 PM

    I do not particularly subscribe to the views expressed in this article. My sibs and I are estranged. My brother fro 20 years and my sis for 5.No particular earth shattering drama-no drama at all. My bro is a kind, and gentle soul and my younger sis while manipulative(who isn’t) is neither cruel nor has she ever been unkind with me. It is perhaps that things peter out. We are on different trajectories and we do not particularly miss each other. I wish both my siblings well. I have been married 39 years, my brother for 45 and my sister not. I will definitely not forsake her nor my brother if they need me but such as yet has not been the case. Even friends whom you have had a close relationship with ofttimes drift and you remember the memories without making anymore contact.

  • Jennifer R

    April 5th, 2018 at 5:26 PM

    Well Said. I had a very difficult relationship with my mother growing up. She was under terrible stress with a disabled husband and 4 teen daughters. I went through a couple of periods of being away from her. However, now she had mellowed out significantly, and she treats me much much better. I’m really glad I didn’t cut her out of my life permanently.

  • Joe A.

    September 4th, 2018 at 7:26 AM

    Try being in a meeting with your four older siblings only to be informed that they are kicking you out of the family and replacing you with the ex-wife because she “has better social skills and will bring better chemistry to the family”. As painful as it was then and is now, it was the right decision. The old adage “blood is thicker than water” is no longer relevant. Families are now like rock bands and chemistry and getting along are all that really matters. I have not been in my family of origin since X-Mas Day 2011, and I’m glad I’m not cause I probably would have ended up in the Psych Ward from having to still deal with the eternal dysfunction. 😕

  • Eric

    March 26th, 2021 at 10:05 PM

    “When we cut out a key family relationship from our life, it takes quite a bit of energy to keep that emotional door closed. And, any positive emotional energy that that relationship could provide us with is gone. While the bad stuff is not active, neither are the benefits.”

    Even in relationships with people capable of being mean spirited there often exists times of laughter & fun mixed with the hurt.

    Not with my dad. He ruined just about every day with unpredictable frightening rage. As a father myself I don’t relate to over 90% of his parenting? He resents his children he chose to have for needs that cost him money. Things like his Elementry aged child going on a school trip needing food money. In 1989 i got $5 for food for 72 hours. No other kid had a story even close to mine. His $20 bills meant more than knowing his kid had plenty to eat.
    I could write a book about the criminal abusive treatment mean old dad enacted on his kids, the total complete failure my so called mom should have called the police to report to protect her own kids.

    Going NC is the best thing I’ve ever done.

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