Victims can become the Biggest Abusers ~ The Cycle of Abuse



when victims become abusers
The Glass House

My mother is a victim. In fact, she is the exact same type of victim that I was.  She was a victim of her parent’s abuse and dysfunction and she learned to survive in that dysfunctional family system exactly as it was taught to her. She accepted it because she had no other choice and no other example. The cycle of abuse was “normal” for her. When she grew up, it was as though she couldn’t wait to have someone to pick on because she believed that’s how life works. It was “her turn”.  Not her turn to ‘abuse’ or overpower someone, but her turn to be loved in the only definition of love that she knew; the false and dysfunctional one that she had been taught.

It was her turn to be right; her turn to have impact and her turn to be heard. 

Abusers believe in the system and very often victims believe in the system too. The sick dysfunctional family system seems to have “worked for their parents” so why wouldn’t it work for them? It was the best that my (dysfunctional) mother had to hope for, but only because she didn’t believe there might be something better.  She accepted the reality of the cycle of abuse, psychological abuse and dysfunctional family as “normal” and functional exactly as it was presented to her and the cycle of generational abuse continued. 

She communicated to me that it was my job to restore her life and her self esteem; her mother had delivered the same message to her. I wanted to “save her” because I believed that if I could prove that I “loved her” then she would love me.  This cycle of generational abuse stopped with me when I no longer accepted the role of victim but I also had to stand up to the myth that I could be the savior or hero to these dysfunctional and abusive people in my family.

My mother’s actions and behavior indicated that she thought being my mother gave her certain “parental rights”; the right to disrespect me and the right to disregard me; the right to push me around and be unconcerned with my feelings. And this was not only about psychological abuse, but about all types of abuse. My value was not equal to hers. Since so much of the world operates from this belief that children don’t have rights in the ways that adults do and since this was also the way she was raised, she didn’t question her “right” to devalue me and regard me as less important than her.  She learned this from her own abusive childhood. Everyone had rights over her when she was a child too.

My mother, who was a victim to almost everyone in her life, needed a victim too.  Out of her victim mentality, she believed having a victim of her own would “prove” her worth. She believed (just like her mother believed) that if someone was compliant and obedient to her, she could feel better about herself.  If someone jumped every time she asked, that would be “proof” of their love for her. She believed that compliance and obedience was proof of love. The more I “jumped” the more I must love her. The more I “put up with and accepted” (sometimes mistakenly called “respect”) the more “proof of her value” she would have.

This is the depth of the false definition of love. Victim mentality and the message that my mother got in her life taught her that “the one with the most power wins” and she never “won” or felt her own worth until she could push someone else around.  In a dysfunctional family system, winning is about overpowering. Winning is about forcing someone to comply and making them jump to requests and wishes without question and without concern for personal values or boundaries.  And winning is mistaken for love. If I comply in that world it “proves” my love. In that world, “love” is compliance and obedience and putting yourself last.  In this dysfunctional family system, “love” is living in service to someone who doesn’t love you back in the way they believe love works.

 AND because this is not actually love, the victim can never comply enough. It is never good enough. The psychological abuser or controller needs MORE. They needed more and more proof of love. The empty hole inside of them is never filled so they ask for more respect, more compliance and more “proof”.  Sometimes the requests get more and more bizarre as the controlling person pushes the victim farther and farther for more “proof” that they are the most loved and important person in your world. I was expected to morph and change and never show any of my individual thoughts or personality because independence is the opposite of dependence.

But these controllers and psychological abusers (this applies to all types of abuse and abusers) don’t prove or even show their love for the victim at all because they are exempt from their own “rules of love”.

Victims and survivors of this dysfunctional family system grow up going one of two ways OR as in the case of my mother, going both ways;

a)      they believe that they can BE loved by being compliant and proving love to some people, and they believe that being loved is compliance and obedience from others.  My mother made me jump through her hoops just as she jumped through everyone else’s hoops. (This is exactly like a pecking order system; think about who your oppressors, owners or captors are willing to serve.)

b)      Others hang on to the belief that compliance and service is love, and they give in to their own children’s every whim falsely believing that doing that will ensure their kids love them. (which is a type of neglect)  But because that also isn’t love, that doesn’t work either.

All abusers come from abuse. All abuse has its roots in victim mentality and abusers abuse out of that victim mentality. The cycle is repeated because it is the accepted definition of love and many devalued children like my mother, learn to wait until they are adults so they can feel “loved” through expecting and forcing someone else’s compliance and obedience.

In the dysfunctional relationship model that I learned from them, I was expected to save them (by proving my love over and over, thereby validating them) and I believed that I was failing to do that. I believed that it was my role in their lives to do it so I believed it was my failure that I could not.  And I believed it was my job to do it because that is what I was taught.   

I had to let go of those false beliefs.  

I learned to let go of my belief that I could actually help them by loving them “the way they wanted me to.”

One of the major freedom keys in my recovery was realizing that the definitions of love and relationship that were taught to me (by example) were wrong.  The key was to realize that relationship conducted that way is dysfunctional and is never going to work. As long as I tried to function within that sick dysfunctional system, I could not heal. And because I could not heal, there were parts of the cycle of abuse still being passed on. I had to face the fear of standing up to it. If the truth was going to set me free then I had to find the truth.

And I did; that is what this entire website, “Emerging from Broken”, is all about.

Please share your thoughts on the cycle of abuse or on whatever this post inspires you to share.

Exposing Truth; one snapshot at a time;

Darlene Ouimet

More related posts (also see links via colour bold words within posts)

~ “Emotional Healing does NOT depend on…”

Dysfunctioal Family Law

for more on “the cycle of abuse” see the wiki

Categories : Family



Hey Darlene, I know I’m coming from a dark place at this time. I can’t realize either a or b. I know I wasn’t wanted. I know I was an object. I’m at the state of no longer blaming myself, learning loving myself. I’ve chosen Mother Nature to place, instead of my biological,when references are made to mothers. So I guess I’m wondering if you’ve pondered c) Unable to realize love?


Hi Fai
I am sure there is a C. and a D. etc! You are in the process and that is all that matters. Unable to realize love.. YET.
Hugs, Darlene


I’m going to have to buy a neckbrace soon with all the nodding I find myself doing absorbing all the wisdom of this site 🙂

Thank you, I needed this exact information tonight.


It hurts to read your posts, this one included, because as I do I am realizing more and more how dysfunctional my childhood was. And, even worse, how dysfunctional I am/was. I am in a place of not wanting relationships with my family because they are not respectful, but struggle with the idea of not having them in my life. It hurts, especially because I know (perhaps now should say hope) they love me in some form. How do you distinguish who to hold onto, when to walk away? When I set up boundaries for disrespectful behavior and ask for an apology/change to prevent the behavior from happening again, I am told I’m told I am sensitive ad can’t take a joke so shouldn’t expect others to be so serious all the time (or shouldn’t expect others to conform to my expectations). Thanks.


Darlene, Thank you so much for sharing your life and experiences. I have recently started my own healing journey and I find it truly inspiring to see how far you have come. It gives me hope for myself and my journey. I read a lot of your daily posts and they have helped me through some tough days. They have even brought light to some of my own life experiences. I know I have a very long road ahead and that I am very blessed to be alive and to be where I am today. I just wanted to say Thank You for being a light in my healing journey. your post, your words have made a difference and your strength is inspiring


I have often wondered if my mother was abused, and who by … I suspect her mother was a very difficult, possibly abusive woman. They say that borderline personality disorder which my Mum had(similar to narcissim) often is borne out of childhood sexual abuse, I can’t help wondering if this was true in my mother’s case, and if so, who was the perpetrator. I have my suspicions … but now she has passed I will never know for sure.


Hi Darlene

I don’t know what past my mom had and i never knew my grandparents.. I was never invited into what was it she suffered..but abuse does not have to be passed.. i believe we can choose to keep this going ..that is the cycle of abuse.. don’t you ? I don’t want to hurt anyone…. ….Joy


Hi R.
I am glad that it is resonating well with you!
hugs, Darlene

Hi Chris,
Welcome to Emerging from Broken,
For me this did not sort itself out all at once or quickly. This was a process. As I learned to value and respect myself more and more, it became clear who I needed to set boundaries with. AND they had a choice, they could respect them or not but I got to a point where I respected myself too much to put up with disrespect. Being told that you are too sensitive is a form of being defined… I started asking for clarification such as asking ‘what do you mean by that?? what are you saying?” Again, this is a process.
Hugs, Darlene


Of course abuse does not have to be passed! I am talking about learned behaviour and belief system in this post.
Hugs, Darlene

Hi Janet,
Many many diagnosis are born out of childhood abuse of all kinds. That is what inspired me to create this website.. it was finding out that there was a root to what I had ~ and how to fix it.
Hugs, Darlene

Welcome to emerging from broken!
I am so glad you are finding hope and inspiration here! I live a full life today!
Hugs, Darlene



As always you are right on the mark!

The cycle of abuse can be stopped. I think it takes a great deal of reflection, an examination of the dynamics and really hard work to choose and follow a different path. I think of it almost as a 12-step progam–you take it one day at a time.

My sisters, who grew up in the same dysfunction as I did, turned out to be wonderful mothers–and have actually put a lot of effort in mothering me and three of my brothers. I think they felt a genuine need to protect us and even continued those efforts after they left home.

I know for a fact that my mother was abused by her own mother. My mother often sought out her mother’s sister for comfort when her mother would fly into one of her rages. In fact, I spoke to my Great Aunt about my mother and it gave me at least an intellectual understanding of my mother’s circumstances. What is interesting is that no one has been able to shed any light on my grandmother’s story. I believe that perhaps her rages stemmed from some form of mental illness, but I will probably never know for certain.

I am grateful that the cycle can be stopped!

I wish everyone the very best in their journeys to happiness and wholeness!


I think only thing I learned was that love the kind i got was hurtful and destructive.. love in my home was nothing like i saw on the brady bunch.. .. so ..i learned to accept abuse.. as that was all I knew..perhaps that is why i allow others to do so now. as thats the only thing i knew?


Darlene, Did your mom talk about being abuse? Did she understand it as abuse? I’m asking because I don’t understand why my parents are the way they are. None of my grandparents were ever abusive to me and I never saw them behave that way toward my parents. My dad’s parents were the ones who gave me a sense of security, acceptance, and safety. I lived close to both sets of grandparents and they were a regular part of my life. If they were abusers in my parents lives, it seems there would be some clues. Neither of my parents have ever talked about being abused or even said anything that would hint they were abused without understanding it as such. My dad was and is very psychologically and emotionally abusive toward my mom and she wasn’t much more than a child when they married and he is ten years her senior. Their relationship is sick. I think my dad has always been sick, I can see that sickness in old pictures of him. I really don’t know why he is the way he is. It’s a big puzzle for me.



Hi Victoria,
I never realized what I was doing when I started this whole journey… I was just in so much pain that I wanted to overcome that… but it was through facing the pain that I realized the roots of my pain and that was when I started to realize the abuse WAS abuse and how it can repeat in so many different ways and how hard it is to stop the cycle if there is no healing. It isn’t always physical or sexual or verbal, like with my kids ~ I did way too much for my kids and that was not love either… didn’t teach them responsiblity in a family and let their father bully them..and my mother bullied me in front of them and I said nothing ~ stuff like that ~ which all contributes to the cycle. And it was so hard to set that all straight and teach them the right way without getting MAD at them when it was our mistakes in the first place! But 7 years later now and we have a whole new world! SO yes.. yay that the cycle of abuse can be stopped in all its various forms!
Hugs, Darlene


yes, the false definition of love is at the root of most of this whole thing. And what is “Normal” plays in all over the place; (false normal) I had to find out what was NOT normal so that I could empower myself and validate myself.
Hugs, Darlene

Hi Pam
My mother didn’t call it abuse. She acted as though she believed she was a victim of circumstance. When she told me once (when I was an adult) that her uncle got in bed with her and pushed his penis on her from behind, I told her that was sexual abuse and she wasn’t sure, she even looked shocked and one time when I told her about something that happened to me she said “but he didn’t rape you” as if only penetration was actually sexual abuse… I heard enough stories and saw the way her mother treated her enough to know that there was major abuse. But in those days it wasn’t called “abuse”.

BUT it isn’t always so easy. Psychological abuse causes the same damage. Parents can define kids as valueless by their actions or by not standing up to other family members who are abusive or devaluing. My father was the most passive man.. everyone loved him! But his passivity and lack of interest in my was terrible hurtful and defined me as “not lovable and not able to catch his interest” My mother also suffered deeply because of his lack of interest in her. She had no impact. Good thing we don’t have to know what happened to them in order to heal!
Hugs, Darlene


Darlene, I think not knowing what abuse is sums up a lot of what my family does. Their attitudes are ignorant and that I can understand. What I can’t understand is choosing to remain ignorant. Willful ignorance is evil.

You’ve given me a lot to think about. You’re right that I don’t need to understand what happened to them to heal but still, I’d like to know. It’s just the way I am. There’s no desire to hide in ignorance in me! That’s why I’m here and they’re there…



This post sure sums up my parents! They were both abused in different ways. My mom had a father who was sexually, physically, and emotionally abusive. He was also incestuous to his children. My dad came from an alcoholic father who was verbally & physically abusive towards his family. My parents normal was dysfunctional. I was horrified by their family stories as a child. They made me feel sympathy towards their childhood. The truth is they did have it worse but it does not excuse the emotional abuse I received from them. They did not carry on the physical abuse but the emotional damage lingered.

I got it the worse than my brother & sister, because I was the oldest and they put a lot of expectations on me as a child. I had to be perfect and my mom dressed me up in girly clothes she made. She wanted to give me a better life with things. I had nice clothes, she made good meals and I always had Christmas & Birthday presents. My mom could put me down & push me around, when I was reluctant to to what she wanted me to do. Then, she would spoil me with things and served us kids. Such mixed messages!….I always felt anxious around her, but I so needed to love her. Of course, my survival depended on her & my dad, who was not affectionate and yelled a lot. I was afraid of him. I put up & shut up so I would not get yelled at. So it fits, My Parents were Victims who became Bullies!…


Hi everyone!
Darlene, this explanation of the cycle really brought some things to light for me. My mom’s mother and father have been our only grandparents. My dad’s parents and siblings disowned my sisters and I when my parents got divorced. (I was 11). I have no idea what caused my dad to become a hopeless alcoholic. Really don’t even care. It’s my mom’s parents who always lived close and were involved in our lives. They were amazing grandparents to my sisters and I.

When my parents divorced there was some conflict between my mom and her mother. My mom would say her mother was just angry because she couldn’t control the details of the divorce. There was never any nastiness that I know of. My mom’s dad always saved the day. He couldn’t let much time go on without seeing my mom and my sisters and I. Such a sweet sweet man.

My mom was closest to her dad. (I did ask my mom last summer if she was ever molested by anyone. She said no). Her mom is still living and she does a lot for her. They are close, and my mom runs to her with every little issue, tells her lies, etc.

The thing I can’t really figure out is what it was like for my mom as the middle child growing up. She says she was really shy, like painfully shy. I can imagine my grandma not being very sympathetic with that. Her oldest daughter was very outgoing, polite, friendly, popular, worldly, wealthy, etc. My mother came in second place in adulthood, that was clear. Makes me wonder what that entailed when they were kids. Was she clearly in second place all her life?

No matter what, my mother grew into an unloving, lying, manipulative, stealing, unaffectionate narcissist whose deceipt knows no bounds. She has gotten worse with age. Or, maybe just sloppier. 25 years ago she married a pig who’s never fit into our family. He is narcissistic too I believe. They sort of feed off each other.

My mom’s denial about her “place” in her immediate family has no bearing on my recovery. If it ever did, it does not now. I could encourage her to get to the bottom of it all, but I suspect she prefers the lifestyle she has. Certainly, she has no intention to be accountable at this point. She apologized to me one time…. because there were people who witnessed what she did and even though she tried to lie her way out of it, she did eventually cave in because people saw and heard it. Any other time, the abuse was where no one would see, hear, or believe she behaved that way. So insidious. So careful and intentional.

Peace and hugs,


Hi Pam
The other thing that really helped me in all this “understanding” was to keep in mind that even though my mother may not have “called it abuse” she knew enough to “not do certain things in public” and teach her children to keep quiet about those things… There is a really big “truth leak” in that when it comes to considering their “ignorance”.
Hugs, Darlene

Hi Mimi
I hear your story a different way then you tell it. You said that “there was no nastiness that you know of” BUT you say that your mom told you here mother was angry that she couldn’t control the details of the divorce” and that is what I call nastiness. Now I know that we don’t always know the truth about what went on with our parents and their parents but I think about my mother saying I am not telling the truth, or I remember it wrong… and that is what her mom would say about her too… (just another (complicated) part of the cycle..)
Hugs, Darlene


I love your blog and I nominated you for the versatile blogger award.. go see my post for the details


Thank you so much Shauna! I really appreciate your nomination! I am honoured and deeply blessed by your words today!
I will share this honour with my FaceBook network as well!
Hugs, Darlene


Congrats on your nomination for the versatile blogger award!…You deserve the recognition! Have an awesome day!!
Sincerely, SMD


Hi Darlene,
I didn’t articulate what I was trying to say very well. I agree my grandmother’s “control” issue was nasty. What I was trying to say is, I didn’t witness anything outwardly, as in bickering or fighting in any way. No name calling, visible or sensed anger, or anything along those lines. I wouldn’t have known if my mom hadn’t said there was a problem with her and her mom. She was silently nasty apparently…. which brings me to an AHA moment. My mother is VERY silently nasty!! Haha… the things you learn when you’re typing.

Congrats on your nomination too. I hope you WIN!!!!!!



Thank you SMD!

Mimi, sorry if I misunderstood you. I get what you were saying about not being witness to it yourself. That is very often the case with grandparents. And yay for the ahh ha!

About the nomination ~ I don’t think its one that you “win” it is an award the if you are nominated for… then you won! This is my second one!

Hugs, Darlene


Great post, Darlene. The normalization of abuse and having it accepted as correct is rampant on so many levels.


Darlene, It’s also, true that if they didn’t have something to hide, they wouldn’t mind talking about the past. You’re right and even a good deal of their ignorance isn’t genuine. Just another cover in maintaining pretense.



Darlene, it must be the season for blogger awards because I received one this week too. It’s my first and my blog is officially eight months old! It doesn’t seem like it has been that long!



No apology needed, I wasn’t very clear. It’s interesting to me what you said about it’s often the case with grandparents. Mine treated me like gold. I have observed my mother crossing boundaries with my sisters. Trying to “win” their kids over; get them to prefer HER over their own parents. She would probe them for information, invite them to go on trips without clearing it with my sisters first, etc. That way, if my sisters said “no”, they were the bad guys in the eyes of the kids. So sneaky.

I don’t recall my grandma doing things like that with us. I wonder if degrees of dysfunction vary through the generations? I don’t know what may have happened in the secret times…. just like people didn’t know what my mom did in the secret of our home, when it was just her and myself.

I didn’t understand that being nominated IS the WIN!!! Congratulations on WINNING!!! YAY!!

Peace and love,


That is awesome Pam! Congratulations !
Hugs, Darlene

I think that there are degrees of dysfunction and I also think there are many ways to remind a person or adult child, who the more valuable person in the relationship is. I think for many grown parents it is devastating when their abusive parents win favor with the grandchildren ~ it is a weird system…
Hugs, Darlene


Congrats for your WIN too!! That’s awesome!!

Although my mom put a lot of energy into winning over her grandkids, it didn’t work. She tells herself and even other people that the kids prefer her, that their parents don’t like to share them and they’re envious if the kids have relationships with other people. It’s sooo not true. My mom is in her own little whacked out world. I find it disgusting that in her mind, she’s so important and elevated above everyone else, that she actually thinks her grandkids prefer over their own parents. Twisted!! I can see how that would be devastating. 🙁

Peace and love,


Thank you once again, Darlene, for the truth that you share. It’s been, and still is, a life changing journey to hear truth, and act on it. You have been instrumental in my journey of change and healing.

God Bless you, and keep up the good work.



That is interesting. About 9 months after my mother and I stopped talking, my kids told me that they thought she was weird. The two older ones both admitted they were scared of her! I had no idea the “knew” what she was really like. Today I smile to myself because after all, they SAW the way she treated me! But because it was ‘my normal’ I didn’t think they would suspect anything odd about it. Long stories there!
Hugs, Darlene

Hi Connie
Thank you for your note of encouragement! I appreciate it!
I am glad that you are here!
Hugs, Darlene


My husband believes that compliance and obedience is love. I can never please him. If he is happy with me one day, the next he is enraged with me because I can’t maintain the level of “compliance” that he wants. After 20 years of marriage and heartbreak my heart just feels cold toward him now. Presently he has been giving me the cold shoulder for a couple weeks.

He wants me to apologize for not trying to improve. I used to do that but I realize the futility of it now. I am very discouraged.


Hi Annabelle
My husband was like that too. When I started to face what my belief system was and how false it was, I started to realize that our relationship was really a mess and that the false definition of love was at the root of that mess. He had to go through his own process; facing what he had been taught about love and realizing what had happened to him and even to realize that he thought he actually was more important than I was because he was “the man” so that our marriage could heal and we could have a relationship based on equality. Equal value was hard for both of us to grasp but it was the key to happiness in our marriage. He had to give up what he thought were his rights to expect compliance and obedience because that is not love. If it was love, then why didn’t he “love me”?
It is really hard, but it is possible to resolve this is both are willing.
Hugs, Darlene


I came from a dysfunctional family, but my mother took the biggest part of the physical abuse, which was always a tremendous emotional blow to us children. We always felt like if I do better it won’t happen again, if I get straight A’s at school, it won’t happen again. Little did we know that It wasn’t our fault, it was my father’s. I ysed to pray that he just wouldn’t come home from work. He was mad at me when he died. I still have a hard time trying to forgive him,even though I know that’s part of MY healing. They cycle is now broken. I taught my children that punishment didn’t have to be like that. They were strict with their children, but there was no abuse. Thank God I did something right.


Hi Peppi
Welcome to EFB
Yes, being a wittness to abuse is also abuse! This is very very damaging to children to have to see their mother beaten. Your healing does not depend on forgiveness.. for me the forgiveness happened when I healed. It wasn’t something I ‘decided to do’ I had to learn what forgiveness really is. (there are some forgiveness articles in this site if you use the search tool) I like what you said about punishment does not have to be like what you experenced as a child.
Thank you for sharing,
Hugs, Darlene


Hi Darlene,

I’ve come back to this post for two reasons. The first is that I see my family’s dysfunctional system more clearly now. I too grew up both ways: My family “believe that THEY can BE LOVED by COMPLIANCE & proving LOVE to some people”, as evidenced by playing favorites with some grandchild & children. My brother is alike like my Dad, so he gets the admiration, my sister appeases & encourages her daughter to play up to Grandpa- she is attached to his hip. He loves it and my mom overindulges my niece with things. My dad watches my sister’s kids 5 days a week and that’s my sister’s pay-off.
I don’t buy into that system!…Since, I don’t comply or show blind obedience, my needs go by the way side. Even when I’ve asked for emotional support in the past. I don’t do that anymore- it does not work with My Family. It’s about if they want to, not about someone else’s needs. That is the root of the dysfunction in my family. I set boundaries & limits but they get offended. It’s always been that way. Although, my mom & dad are making more of an effort to come to my house now and include my kids. I question their motives though.

My sister is a master at manipulation- appeasing, kissing up (literally) to my mom, and encouraging a close attachment of her dtr to our dad. Of course my parents, will give the grandchildren many things for their compliance & obedience. I used to think this was the Italian/Polish ( Old World) way of showing respect through obedience and compliance and that is somewhat true, but it is dysfunctional. My parents have stressed the importance of family traditions, pride, loyalty, and the needs of family come first. I’ve tried to live in peace within this dysfunction.

My sister accepts the system & gets her pay-offs and my brother is admired. They even live close to my parents. My sister lives in the same Town- down the road and my brother lives in the next town over. I’m the only one who moved away from the nest, I’m further away (more towns over). My sister has told me, if only I lived closer, my parents would be more involved. Well, I told her That’s not going to happen…I love the town I live in and I’ve made my own life with my family (kids & husband).

I have limited contact with my family and my motivation is mainly for my kids to see their cousins. The kids do love each other and get along. I can not say that about my brother’s kids, which I don’t see due to my brother being done with me, defriending me on facebook and ignoring & excluding my kids on Christmas. I did nothing wrong to him to deserve such treatment!…His wife is another piece of work and is spiteful and manipulative. I’m hurt by my brother’s actions and angry at how his wife maliciously accused my husband of something in the past, which was blown out of proportion. I can’t just sweep that under the rug!…It was Wrong & Serious! I’m recovering from that pain, by facing the Truth and it’s been a long road, which I’m still traveling. I’m seeing & processing the Truth and that is important to My Recovery!


This is excellent! Great work and awesome insights. Thank you so much for sharing them!
Hugs, Darlene


I would be thrilled to be the furthest away from my mother. Unfortunately, I’m in the same city as her, and, I’m the only one here. Both my sisters live hundreds of miles away. When my husband retires, we’re planning to flee!! I am a nurse, and it’s already been hinted at, that I will be the one caring for my aging mother. NOT!! I plan to move across the country and with the wealth that she likes to pretend she has, I will eagerly spend her money paying someone else to care for her. If there is any way possible, I will make sure I’m gone when her health begins to fail.

In the past month, I have observed my mom an her mom’s interactions very closely. I have had to because my grandmother became ill. I cared for her intimately for the first week, then was supposed to be her home care nurse thereafter. That whole set up failed. I am no longer her home care nurse. My mother really ruined it if I’m completely honest about it. I had to step out of the situation. While I was in the thick of it though, I began to realize that my grandmother is also a liar. I saw her behave in ways I’ve never noticed before. I know now, where my mother learned to lie and deceive. I learned that even though their relationship has been strained a times (a sort of power struggle), they are very much alike and support each others dysfunction now. My grandma defends my mother (she’s actually defending her own ways which my mother learned), and my mother somewhat defends my grandmother and downplays her lying, demanding, and to a lesser degree, deceitful ways. They are like a team now…. each in denial. They have also isolated themselves. The responsibility to care for grandma is now almost entirely on my mother. That’s the way they designed it by pushing people away who were truly trying to help and do what’s best and honest. I have less respect and sympathy for my aging grandmother than I did a month ago. She will be 90 in a month. I do love her and she’s alway always been good to me. I won’t forget that. But, I do see things with more clarity now, and where the disrespect and lying came from. I also noticed in my grandma’s house, who the favorites are. She had many more pictures of some grandkids than others. That too is a tactic of my mother with her grandkids. She has favorites, and has never tried to be careful of that notion around her not so favorite grandkids.

It truly is a cycle, and I’m just learning where the cycle is rooted in my family. My grandma isn’t a saint after all. I still love her though.

Love and hugs,


When I realized the definition of love was something that had been taught to me “the wrong way” I came to realize that love is not doing what everyone else wants. Why would it be love to let my dysfunctional family believe they are right to regard me in the way that they do?
Just something to think about.
and the whole favourites thing.. when I look back on that I realize that the ones who seemed to be the favourites were actually standing up to the control a little better than I was… the “favourite thing” was actually part of the control. They could control me without me being a fav. so they did. I had a sister in law that would have bolted if my in-laws treated her the way they treated me… so they used different methods on her….
Hugs, Darlene


Thank you for your insight. It’s not love at all. It’s expectations and performance, and bowing to the desires of others. That isn’t love for sure. Thank you for reminding me of this.

I’m not sure if I’m a favorite of my grandma’s. I saw pics of myself there, but, I don’t think we ever felt favored or not when we were growing up. She was equally good to all her grandkids. My mom on the other hand, doesn’t even try to keep it a secret. She’s not that smart!! haha!
Love and hugs,


this was explaned to me as hurt people, hurt people. It is common for the abused to become the abuser. When i was told i could become an abuser because i was abused. I was shocked and mad, I know myself I am very aware of the Impact of sexual abuse on me. I also know i would never hurt a child. I think it should be said that not all hurt people,hurt people in my case. Hurt people help people, my abuse has left me very protective of children, it also has giving me an ability, to see the signs that others overlook. those signs noone saw for me.


Hi Jeremy
Welcome to EFB
I agree with you. The way this whole subject is put sometimes is really disturbing. This post was written in an attempt to show the cycle of abuse, but not to excuse abusers or abuse. Having been a child who suffered abuse has made me more aware also. In the case of my mother however, it didn’t work that way for her.
Hugs, Darlene


Darlene, I are blessed to have found a web site like yours. I’m sure I speak for many when I say I can not afford therapy so sites like yours are my only savior. My relationship with my toxic mother ended much like yours. Not so much with a bang like I thought it would. We had an argument, she started, much like a hundred before it. An argument where she was hypercritical over something she thought I did to a sibling I didn’t do. A total lie told by a sister years earlier while this sister was strung out on drugs, to divert attention away from her and the troubles she was in. A fight my mother and I already had many times before but my mother loved to bring back up over and over. This was an old and ridicules fight my mother would not let go and I refused be a part of. How dare she side with and enable my addicted sister. I was worthy of much better treatment than that. The last conversation I had with my mother ended mildly, almost hopefully….as if we might patch things up. Yet when I hung up, I was in tears yet again. For hours. She had attacked me. She had sided against me. She had not loved me, again, like I wish she would. She had not given me the impartial love like she always gave the other children. And in the fight she called me a child abuser. I would have rather been shot. The very thing she called me, was being done to me. It didn’t matter that I was an adult. I was still her child. And she was abusing me.

My life has been so unbelievably cruel I cant even make it up. I was born into the middle of a family of six children. After my parents divorced, my mother remarried a man who had custody of his three children. Out of the nine children I am the ONLY child that does not have a drug and alcohol problem. That also includes my paternal father and grandparents. The drama and dysfunction that came with this is indescribable. My mother is not an addict but her enabling goes to levels that is mind blowing. Because I am the only member of the family that does not abuse anything, she somehow cannot find anything right with! I displeased her in ever way possible. She has hated everything about me so much my friends have suggested she is envious of me! I can’t even wrap my mind around that. I educated myself. I am a Christian. I have been happily married for 26 years. I have a very nice and comfortable life and am respected in my community. I’m attractive (so I’m told), heathy, and live in a nice home. I can’t understand why she is so unhappy with me. It breaks my heart. It crushes me. But, thankfully, now, it angers me. I have stopped killing myself trying to win her love.

The last conversation I had with her, I suddenly realized I was like a runt puppy, struggling for food….i.e. love. No more. No scraps for me. Because of the love of a good man, I know I am worthy. I know I deserve better. The affirmation from a mother is so very important. But you CAN survive without it. I have for three years now. I hung that phone up that day with the sudden anger that was almost frightening. There are sill moments where it is still just that raw. But I’m glad. it needs to be that way. Or else I will go back to being treated the same way it used to be. Being the whipping post by her and many, many other many members of my narcissist family.

I truly believe the only way to heal is to cut these evil people out of your life. Don’t think you can confront them and get it all off your chest. You can’t change or fix damaged people. You will only stir up more layers of drama to deal with. Cut the cancer. It will be hard at first. But when these people are doing you more harm than good, it is simple. Leave them. If they were friends you would walk away. Being blood related does make it harder. But all the more necessary.


Hi S.D.
Thank you for sharing your story. Sounds like your childhood was a nightmare ~ many here can relate to that kind of dysfunction! I am so glad that you got out of that mess and realized that you deserved better. I like your analogy of being like the runt puppy… I had a similar realization ~ that I was begging for scraps off the table and always always had to beg just for a scrap of acceptance.. I just couldn’t do it anymore.

Just a note about your last paragraph ~ you are right that we can’t fix damaged people, but they have a choice and they can fix themselves just like I did or you did. It can be worth it to confront them to let them know that the boundary IS in place and now it is up to them. I have seen families heal because someone stood up and said “no more” and the family actually wanted to have relationship enough to do their own work to heal and to finally be responsible for thier half of the relationship.

Thanks for sharing, I am glad that you are here.
Hugs, Darlene


Thanks for your fast reply. It means so much to be heard and not judged. Very few people understand how a person can come to a place in their lives that they can cut off their own mother. That myth that a mother deserves love, respect and devotion no matter what, just because she birthed you is VERY strong. I learned the hard way not share my story with just anyone. I had a few people judge me very harshly or just look at me like I had burned down a church. Unless you knew my life really well, there was no way to grasp how toxic this woman was and why I had to do what I had to do. It isn’t something you can explain in passing. And she was a saint to most everyone. But very different to me behind closed doors. Making me look all the worse for being estranged from her.

When I first cut ties with my mother I was consumed with wanting to confront her. I wanted her to know all of my pain. Her and the sister that set it all in motion. For the first two years I had a constant inner monolog in my head of all things I wished I could say. All the things I deserved to say. The hurt, pain and anger consumed me. I didn’t really have a desire to repair the relationships. I just wanted them to know. Like somehow, if I could vent it all, without interruption, in the exact way, with the exact words needed, and then magically they would understand and or admit how horrible they were to me, over many, many years, I would have a mountain lifted off of me and I could move on. Then, after I finally let those thoughts nearly drive me insane, I realized, in my situation, there was no way that scenario was going to happen. I had tried it in the past and they had over powered me and it had ended with them either making me think I was nuts, wrong, or we would all equally work on things they did to me and ended up doing again.

I also realized over those two years my mother had made no attempt to contact me. No apology. No attempt to even ask why I cut ties. No message from any other family member. It was as if one day we knew each other. Then one day we didn’t. So I knew she wanted it this way as much as I did. She has all of her addicted children to control and continue to keep them in their sick behavior by enabling them to their deaths. She must be satisfied.

I will never say never but, I don’t think we will ever heal this. It will take her coming to me and showing me she has changed…..a lot. I’m just too afraid to risk my mental health in hopes she has stopped her massive favoritism and unhealthy relationships with the rest of the family.

Hugs to you too!


I only got to say 3 things to my mom and then she didn’t speak to me again. I replayed all the things I would have liked to say too, but eventually I realized that she would not hear them, did not WANT to hear them, and the desire to say all of it went away. I did a lot of journaling and validated what I needed to say to myself. I have completly healed from all of this and I live a full life. Healing does not depend on the other person validating me or my pain. It depends on me. I know that today. It is totally possible to completly heal. I have written a lot about this in this website.
Looking forward to your comments on ohter posts too!
Hugs, Darlene
p.s. there is another commenter in this site that uses the name SMD ~ You may find that other readers get you and her mixed up as she comments often. If that becomes a problem, it is easy to change your user name in the comment form.


I can remember always being there to listen to my mom, her horrile childhood and poverty broke my heart, yet at that time I had no feelings or knowledge that she abused me, yet much worse, I could not do enough for her, wanted to help her heal, be her friend.

And she knew that, she used that to hurt me more, made me feel crazy and tormented me even more, she had her carrots to hang out and kept me on a string, knowing that I wanted her love and approval so much that I do anything to obtain that.

Till I woke up, ran away and started to heal.


My parents both were abused…my dad was verbally and emotionally and mentally abused and the woman he married came from incest, and all different kinds of other abuses too. I have always thought that she was following in her parents patterns like you wrote, and that she manipulated and pushed my dad into making the “choice” to physically abuse me on top of also behaving like his father had treated him. And that somewhere they crossed a line that now is impossible to admit to because if they thought about it they couldn’t face the fact that they were monsters. I really do think that is why the rejecting me…telling me that they did the best they could and devaluing me never ended. I do realize that they were incapable of giving me what they didn’t have, but that still does not fix what they deliberately damaged inside of me….and I cannot simply move on and forget! Denial …in all of it’s ugly forms…never heals. I think what I feel more anger and pain about is that I didn’t cut them all off sooner! I feel angry and like I should have known better and should have done this 20 years ago. Instead of all of the devastating feelings and tears I have cried and attempts at kissing up in order to win something or fix something that never was ever going to change in this lifetime. I felt I would lose my family…my connection to people who I loved. And I wanted so desperately for them to want and love me too. It is something that I never wanted to happen…to cut off my entire “family”. It has been the best choice I could have made, but I never wanted to. I just wish I had done it so many years ago because it has been the best thing so that I can heal, if that makes any sense? They are all never going to like or love me in any healthy way and I can deal with that now. Maybe I wasn’t ready to face the harsh truth until last year. It is interesting to me that I married a man who ended up having similar issues to my father….emotionally withdrawn and unaffectionate, does not validate, praise or encourage and seems to not listen. He is very different in many ways too…very kind, pleasant and no anger issues, thank God! He wasn’t detached at all so I never saw these things until after we were married and had our daughter and then he switched. It was like I had been crazy! Last year I woke up a bit and began to really fight to heal so that is when I cut off my family and started standing up for myself like I had never done before with my husband. A year later it has paid off because he DOES love …in a healthy way and it is becoming healthier the more I assert myself and communicate with him my feelings and I don’t let him get away with treating me less than how I treat him. So I do feel very proud of myself for this. I now want to be past all of the other pains from my past. Thank you so much for this place to come to….I have been on here every day since I discovered it this week and I am feeling so understood and like I am opening the floodgates to pour out every single troubled feeling or hurt that I have ever had! It is so comforting…and I feel like maybe in the understanding and comfort I will find more and more healing!


Hi Diane
I went through so much self directed anger in this process, but remember that you were taught to do that (self blame) and that you were also taught to be compliant too. The compliance is survival when we are kids and it is a hard belief to break out of.
thank you for sharing the improvements with your husband! I went through that too and my husband also chose to do his own work. Our marriage healed as well.
I am glad that you are here too!
Hugs, Darlene


Darlene, thank you for the kind words! I hadn’t thought about that for myself, but that makes sense to me. That is very encouraging to hear about you and your husband! We have been married nearly 19 yrs now and I was very frightened to rock the boat….because I was afraid to lose him….but I got to the point where I was so miserable inside and tired of “pretending” …or constantly being compliant is the better word to use!….so I began to work on it all. I never even thought about that HE had work to do on himself, but I did realize that certain issues truly were his problem and not mine…that was an amazing discovery for me, so I did begin to force myself to not react to him or give in or agree with him those times I recognized it. And we have been communicating better and better. I still feel there is much more coming, but I am so happy in the areas we have both been changing in. It is VERY encouraging to hear that your marriage healed and survived everything…thank you for all that you share!


Hi Diane,
I am really happy to be an encouragment! My husband and I are celebrating 21 years on friday! Each year now the celebration is deeper, our love grows and I can honestly say that I am thrilled to be in this relationship! (that is why on my about page here I say “happily married to the same man that I was unhappily married to” When I started this process I had decided to leave my husband and kids ~ all of them ~ because I was so “sure” that it was me. This process was my last ditch effort to make a difference in my own life. Thank God I finally found the right answers.
Hugs, Darlene


Darlene, Happy Anniversary to you on Friday!!! Congratulations on finding the right answers so that this anniversary can be a very joyful one for you both! I have never discussed my marriage like this before because either I was too embarrassed to admit that I was unhappy and miserable nearly every day, or I felt that ppl seemed to have enough issues of their own and I didn’t want to be negative. I would put on a “happy” face and act cheerful….mostly for our daughters sake ….and pretend my way through each miserable situation. I wonder if you did that sometimes too? I always believed that a person could choose to be happy…and I still believe there is truth in that to a point, but I think in this case with my hubby it was me still crushing down and holding back how I honestly felt and not sticking up for what I needed and even wanted in MY marriage. I began to tell myself last year that this was MY marriage and I didn’t sign on that line the day we got married for THIS. That really helped. I feel for you …that you had reached the point of leaving your children and husband …I know that must have been so painful and you must have felt at the very end of yourself. I feel very happy for you that you were brave and at the 11th hour so to speak…you began your fight and your healing YOUR way. I am amazed and floored by how much you went through and have healed from…but you didn’t stop there! You even went on to help so many many others. If that isn’t a sign of true and healthy love, I dont know what is! Here is hoping you have the most special time you have ever celebrated on your anniversary this Friday! Hugs and thanks to you!


Hi Diane
Thank you! I believe I found my purpose in life when I healed. I wrote a post about happiness called “if happiness is a decision why couldn’t I make it” if you put that title in the search tool on the right sidebar it should come up. I think that so much of this is about our history. My entire life was pretend everything until about 7 years ago.
Hugs, Darlene


I think you are absolutely correct about the cycle of abuse and interesting how the two options you mention are very closely related to the two main types of parenting styles – authoritarian vs indulgent. Most people seem to think that these are their only two choices and don’s seem to realise both are equally dysfunctional. I would like to suggest that only functional parenting breaks the cycle of abuse and functional parenting is this: “Parenting is tuning into the emotional welfare of your children and caring about what they are thinking and feeling. It is noticing who they really are and encouraging them to be their special authentic selves. It is the life long job of guiding, nurturing, and treasuring them every step of the way. I call it “permanent parenthood!”” Quoted from


Thanks lulu for the link. I think the same, about what a good parent is :).


Hi Darlene! Well I seemed to have created some drama without even realizing it. I had mentioned in another comment that I reached out to my sister and sent her your link. I make comments on my facebook from time to time about my journey and my sister sees them. I thought I had given my sister a compliment when I said he was my protector and my arms are always open to her but unfortunately she took everything I said the wrong way and she turned it onto her daughters. She accused them of telling me they were abused and all hell has broken loose on their end. This just amazes me at how far I have come and that when people are not in a place to heal that things really back fire. I want my nieces to know the truth so they know they have choices and can break out from the dysfuction. No one in our family wants to deal with this stuff except for me and now I’m the bad guy for revealing the family secrets. If I didn’t have this web site it may have taken me down but not this time. Thanks to you I am standing my ground and believing in myself. Not a place I’m used to being but it sure feels good. I have deleted her from my facebook and pretty much my life now because I realize this is what will come at me if I speak my truth. I guess it’s the piece I needed in order to move forward. I have surroundered the outcome to the Gods and I take ownership of everything I put out there. What I have come to realize is that I constantly had to hear “they did their best with what they knew” well doesn’t that apply to me as well. I’m doing the best that “I” with what I received all my life. I have validated myself on so many levels and the relief I feel is amazing. I have to admit there is a part of me that wonders…what if she took her own life because she couldn’t bear the pain, would that be my fault…did I push too hard with my healing information. This comes from my moms threats and because I see her following the same path I get anxious that she would pull the same stunt. It just reminds me how powerful this stuff is and how much courage it takes to heal. I really admire you for the fact that you have kids of your own and you are doing this journey. The fact that I don’t have kids usually gets thrown in my face and how I don’t “understand” what it’s like to deal with kids etc. That’s what my sister would push at me and once again my opinion didn’t matter. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have made it this far…Since the age of 16 I’ve been on a mission to know the truth. It’s been a long and hard journey but the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter. Thank you for giving me a place to have a voice. Your work is priceless, Namaste!


I have begun to emerge, Darlene. A lot of what you have been teaching, is very similar. Abusive patterns, observations, self awareness, keen realizations… Mom was abused, by her mother. Her Father suffered mental illness, and he was an alcoholic. My Father was nearly the same. His Father was controlling, drank, and his mother, a severe enabler. My father wanted to “rescue” my mother out of this muck and mire. She was only 16, when they decided to get pregnant. In 1976, they got married in December, and in July, I was born. I was the one made to give her Love, worth, and value. I am now 35 years old. My mother, is only 52. She does all of these things that you speak of. I had to cut the tie, in order to emotionally heal myself. I had to break this suffering, and I know she thinks I hate her, because that is what she was taught, but I know, that I love her. I just can not be “that” for her anymore. It was difficult to make this decision. I can not save anyone. I pray that she will heal some day. Thank you for lovingly helping others, exposing your life for all to see. -~E.


Hi Erica
Many of the decisions that we make in order to live, are very hard and very painful. I pray that my parents can heal too.
Thank you for sharing,
Hugs, Darlene


Wow, just wow.

I think we all come here asking: “Whhhhhhyyyyyy? Why are they like this? Why did they do this to me?”

And we struggle with answers like they had abusive childhood and rotten marriages and were victims of society. Or they had mental illness, addictions (also known these days as ‘illness’), or personality disorders. We hear labels like co-dependent and denial and minimization and low self esteem.

And I know for me, all that made sense, and seem to fit, but didn’t exactly answer the question ‘whhhhhhyyy?’

And this article does.

You wrote:

“…It was her turn to be right; her turn to have impact and her turn to be heard…Abusers believe in the system … The sick dysfunctional family system seems to have “worked for their parents” so why wouldn’t it work for them? It was the best that my (dysfunctional) mother had to hope for… She accepted the reality of the cycle of abuse, psychological abuse and dysfunctional family as “normal” and functional …”

This is why my mother WILL not ‘work’ on our relationship. Why she will not listen to me, why she does not care, why she will not go to therapy, why she feels I inflicted the greatest betrayal of her life on her, why she wrote me, “You changed the rules on me.”

If she does, she forever loses ‘her turn’ to be heard, ‘her turn’ to be loved. If I don’t follow the generational rule of being obsequious and unloved, she gets screwed every which way. Since she catered without much reward for her parents approval (thus ‘loving’ them, or showing them ‘love’), she needs me to ‘love’ her by doing the same. If I don’t, she’s victimized both by her parents, AND by her daughter. She loses forever her chance to be ‘loved’.

And she’s fighting as hard to be heard and to be loved as I am. And somehow she bought the koolaid that says, love is a sum-zero game, if she loves/values me, then she can’t be loved herself. Only one of us can be loved–the other has to be the flunky. If there’s no flunky, there’s no love.

And now she has a ‘flunky’ who dares to think she is as good as the boss! My mother honestly believes her flunky is waaaaaay out of line, jumping the chain of command, claiming ridiculous entitlements like equality and respect, when she, the flunky, should be working extra hard to make my mother feel loved.

My mother feels like she worked hard, sacrificed a lot, put in the overtime for a promised paycheck–and now when payday has come for all the painful work she did for her parents, some intern has popped up and said–wait a minute, that’s not your check, that’s mine. You are working for me, not the other way around. And in fact, all that self abnegation you did for your parents–now start doing it for me.

Because when I say to her, I want you to love and value me–she’s hearing: I want you to self abnegate for me, the way you did for your parents.

And abnegate is the perfect word for it. We negate ourselves to win our parents love. She negated herself to show them she loved them and to win their ‘love’ in return–and she never really got love back. So she expected ME to pay their bill, and since I won’t she feel horribly deeply cheated. And to add insult to injury, she feels that I’m asking her to PAY me, to give up her reward and continue the self abnegation for me.

When she rejects all further relationship with me, she is really rejecting the perceived role as flunky. Her turn being the flunky is over, it’s her turn to be served. And here I come along and I refuse to flunky for her, refuse to serve her–and seem actually to have the audacity to expect her to switch her parent-flunkying to daughter-flunkying. No wonder she’s outraged. No wonder she’s rejecting.

And she won’t go to therapy because she suspects that the therapist is going to tell her that she has to at least share part of her hard-earned, long-awaited ‘paycheck’ with me–and she WILL not. It’s not FAIR!!! It’s hers! She earned it, and I have no right to a ‘cent’ of it.

I think intellectually, my mother knows she’s wrong. She knows she can’t defend her position. Our open breach was triggered by her making a ‘joke’ about my divorce, how I was unsuited for marriage. It was callous and insensitive, and hurt my feelings, and I asked for an apology. She WILL not give it. It will kill her to give it. So I struck back and told her and everyone what she said and that I wanted an apology.

Her sense of betrayal is not that I embarrassed her by repeating what she said (although that’s a major part of it, she cares very much about being a ‘nice girl’ and everybody liking her), it’s not because I have judged her for being insensitive when she prides herself greatly on being just perfect and kind and wise and never out of line; it’s because I am doing two things: 1) demanding an apology which puts her in a one-down (ie, flunky) position when she feels she has graduated from that role, and 2) I have threatened to remove her source of future flunkying that she was counting on. The subtext of her ‘joke’ was I was inadequate to a healthy marriage/relationship, so I should just give up and spend the rest of my life taking care of her. By saying apologize or I’m gone…I put her in an impossible situation.

She knows that the joke was horrible and insensitive and that almost everyone would perceive it that way. She would never say that to a friend, or even a stranger. But I’m different. I was to fulfill a different function in her life and when my marriage broke up, it was a very satisfactory thing for her: now I’d have no distractions from my real role in life, the one she raised me for, the one she invested time, money and effort in: my flunkying for her. Had I laughed off the joke, or just let it slide, she would have been reassured. But I rebelled, and then demanded she self-abnegate herself for me. That’s unforgiveable.

She can’t go to therapy and have the joke discussed, because she knows it’s wrong and she will have to apologize. Intellectually she knows she’s wrong here, and she is astute enough to know most of society will see it that way. But emotionally, she feels she in the right. Apologizing sends her back into the self-abnegation role that she thought she had shed forever. And makes her fear that she will never get the love she craves.

Which is odd, because she has a rather decent loving marriage of 20+ years with my stepfather. But I think it is the wrong kind of love: it isn’t the dysfunctional ‘love’ she got and gave in childhood. It doesn’t get credited towards the empty hole of being unloved in her childhood because it’s a mutual respect thing: she has to take his feelings into consideration, she has to respect him–or she’ll lose him. So to her it’s a ‘conditional’ love. She also has love/respect/affection from her group of friends…but again, that’s conditional acceptance–she better behave in socially approved ways, or she will lose that affection.

Whereas the dysfunctional love she gave her parents and was counting on from me is ‘unconditional’. I can abuse you and mistreat you and you’ll still flunky/love me. So if she apologizes to me for her insensitive remark, if she acknowledges my hurt feelings, any love she gets from me will forever be ‘tainted’ as being conditional–and she will forever lose the opportunity and hope for unconditional love.

My mother is looking for unconditional love, that which she didn’t get in her childhood and that which she gave to her parents–and that which she counted on from me. As long as I demand an apology, she won’t get it. And thus is cheated forever.

This is why she feels betrayed. This is why she says I changed the rules on her.

It’s funny, but until I read this site, I never realized that I knew very little about my mother’s childhood. She doesn’t talk about it. I knew my grandparents, they lived a couple miles away. They were not warm fuzzy people. They were repressed, judgmental, very sure of their opinions and how life and people ‘should’ be. I don’t think my grandfather ever spoke directly to me in my life–although he was interested in me in a way and benign. My grandmother was okay,she did treat me like an equal, and was friendly, but there was no warmth or affection. She was interesting intellectually. I have no complaints, but I’m guessing when they raised their children they were strict and cold with my grandfather pretty much running the show. They had 4 children: their golden boy son who died at 15, my mother, my aunt who fucked my husband and is pretty reclusive, and another aunt who was considered odd–she’s scattered and self absorbed but actually the warmest, most engaging kindness person in that family. But she isn’t good at handling life’s complication and is something of a drama queen, but she doesn’t inflict her problems on others (she has a husband who manages them).

So I can only imagine what my mother’s childhood was like. I bet there was no physical or sexual abuse, but probably a lot of strictness, not much warmth or affection (a little from my grandmother), very high standards and not much room for mistakes and the ever present vague threat of being rejected and cut off.

This has for me been one of the most healing posts/events of my life. I understand on a visceral level in a way I never did before, what happened, what is happening.

Too bad I have no idea of how to fix it.

We are at an impasse; my mother wants ‘unconditional’ love and a flunky to provide it; I will not be that flunky and will be putting ‘conditions’ (such as an apology) on my love. She feels betrayed. I feel betrayed. The problem really does originate with her because she counted and raised me for that role to meet her needs–and expects something of me that she does not expect from her friends, her husband, or her son. She is okay ONLY with conditional love from me. She apparently will never be okay with conditional love from me or my children.

She will not go to therapy or look at herself with insight because intellectually she knows she’s wrong, but emotionally she desperately needs her sick dysfunctional version of ‘unconditional’ love. Insight will force her to give it up, depriving her forever of what she desperately wants.

I have a desperate hope my mother will love me. Without her getting therapy/insight that will NEVER happen. She probably won’t change. I won’t change. We are at an impasse. Who’s needs matter most. She thinks hers do. I think mine do–but I think there’s a way we can get both of our needs met. She does not think so, because it’s a black or white game to her: unconditional love to her means she can abuse me and I’ll still chase after her. She has enough ‘conditional’ love that she doesn’t need any more from me.

So all I can do is walk away and understand and heal and ponder. I WILL not be her unconditional love flunk and prove my love and value by accepting mistreatment. I will not harm myself that way. I’m sorry, very sorry my mother harmed herself that way with her parents, but I will not be making the same choice.

So how can this ever get better?


It occurs to me if all this is true, if what Darlene wrote is true, the very best revenge we can get on these toxic parents IS to just walk away and go no contact. By doing so we are depriving them of what they want most in the world. Just as they deprived us of what we want most in the world–their love.

We think they don’t value us, but could it be that actually they value us most? If my mother put all her hopes of unconditional love on me and she desperately wants that unconditional love–and I walk away; I have forever deprived her of what she most needs.

Yes, yes, she reviles, slanders and devalues me to others and continues to seethe in bitterness that I was ‘ungrateful’ and a betrayer–but that she puts in the effort to do so, does that not show how much she valued me? It’s sick, sick, sick, breathtakingly dysfunctional–but can it also be true?


in order to recover I had to shift my thinking. It can get better for you no matter what she decides. I had to see that I had to recover from the damage and that the solution for MY life and happiness didn’t depend on my mother (seeing it, hearing it or validating it) or anyone else. She has a choice and she picked not working things out. I had a choice and I picked to heal from the damage with her or without her. I have written in a deeper way about this in the guide at the top of the site in the right hand side bar. Please feel free to download it. 🙂
Hugs, Darlene


Diane wrote:

‘… I do realize that they were incapable of giving me what they didn’t have, but that still does not fix what they deliberately damaged inside of me……”

I gave my children what I didn’t have. I realized I didn’t have it and went out and learned how to get it. And I gave it to my children. And they benefited from it. I CHANGED myself for my children so I could give them what I never was given.

Now, since finding this blog, I realize that what I gave my children, I should also give myself…

But if they had wanted, your parents COULD have given you what they didn’t have. Many people hear on this forum have done it. Not to parent bash (because I don’t know your parents), and not to call you wrong (because I don’t know the details of your situation), but hoping to give you something to think about.

It is very possible for parents to give what they don’t have. I did.

“… I think what I feel more anger and pain about is that I didn’t cut them all off sooner! I feel angry and like I should have known better and should have done this 20 years ago..”

Me too. 23 years ago, I walked out and cut out my family and went no contact with them because of my father. Then he died and I came back (with no talk or explanation–just resumed family relationships like nothing had happened). It was a HUGE mistake.

Dysfunction is never just one parent’s responsibility. If the family is dysfunction BOTH parents are playing a role in it. Otherwise there would be a divorce and there would be one dysfunctional household and one healthy household. It takes a while to figure this out though since most of us had to figure it out on our own. 20 or 30 years ago NOBODY talked about this stuff. The only dysfunctional families were those with alcoholism and physical abuse. Everything else was considered normal.

But I have hope. 30 or 40 years ago I remember people, ‘normal’ decent good people actually debating whether certain minorities should be allowed normal courtesies such as eating in the same restaurants as white people. That’s just so unthinkable a position to take now. Those who do so are immediately labeled as having something profoundly wrong with them.

90 years ago it was commonly accepted that women could not vote. Nobody thinks that anymore.

30 years ago physical child abuse was accepted and kept ‘private’. Christina Crawford’s Mommy Dearest book changed that.

I remember when people felt sorry for the drunk driver who killed someone more than the person who was killed (poor drunk, he’s got a compulsion, and he’s going to have to live with the memory of what he did forever…). No one thinks that way anymore.

Hopefully, hopefully, not too long from now scapegoated children and dysfunctional families will be equally exposed. Blogs like this are invaluable. We never realized there were so many of us. We never realized how eerily similar the behavior was. We are figuring it out. And people like Darlene are collecting a body of work, identifying patterns, stamping out fallacies, and ‘codifying’ the behavior so it can be more easily recognized–and as Dr Phil says, what you can name, you can fix.


Hi Kalispell
If enough ‘victims’ heal and stand up to this dysfunctional family abuse, then this dysfunctional system WILL change. I think that the victims are the majority so if the misuse of power is exposed to the masses BY the masses, there is going to be change. That is my hope! I love what dr. phil says ~ that if you can name it you can fix it. I had to name the damage that was caused to me, (not as in diagnosis of them nor diagnosis of me but the damage to my personhood and what the trauma falsly taught me about myself)
This body of work is soon to be in downloadable book form. I hope it goes viral!
Thank you for your comments
Hugs, Darlene


Hi, I too read this and thought you put it brilliantly, I just don’t love or like myself, it’s hard to explain it but it is due to being told every day of my childhood I was no good, or nobody liked me, being an object of constant bullying and ridicule from my step father. I don’t seem to be able to successfully make my relationships work, I constantly doubt that I am truly loved, and deep down, I dread the bad side of me coming out. It often does when I drink, I would say that I have developed an alcohol misuse over the years. I don’t drink all the time but when I do I have the biggest blowouts ever and end up hating myself for days after. I know it’s a working progress, but I wonder do other ‘normal’ people battle with feelings everyday of self loathing. I physically look ok, but inside I die every day. I have so much doubt in myself I tend to go on a path of self destruction. I am certainly not the person I aspire to be. There is a darkness inside, I often wonder will this all go away if I have my own family, but then is that wrong, I know I would love my children, I am also training to be a psychotherapist, so I can help others, as on the surface I appear strong and can take a lot of hits. You did a good job of explaining it all, thanks. to the rest of you, I can only offer my regards, love and heartfelt empathy for those of you who feel alone. I hope things work out for us all and we all get what we want out of life in the end. Those people who abuse never will know how it hurts for a long time, if not forever. Once the damage is done it’s very hard to undo, you carry those abusers around with you, even long after they die. But we will keep fighting, we deserve love, and I am thankful that it was not worse than it was, as I know there are many many others who have suffered unspeakable cruelty, my heart goes out to you will all sincerity,faith, hope and love.


Hi Louise
Welcome to EFB ~ Facing the damage and the reasons that I believed it ‘was me’ helped me to undo the damage. I don’t carry any of the abuse with me anymore! There is hope for complete healing which was the first key for me, believing that I could recover.
Thank you so much for sharing, I am glad that you are here and glad you enjoyed my article!
Hugs, Darlene


You write the truth so eloquently. Thank you for your words.


[…] time permits, go through this link, before linking the concept to the real characters you know : Victims can become the Biggest Abusers ~ The Cycle of Abuse :: Emerging From BrokenYou Might Find These […]


Oh goodness. a.victim of abuse and neglect on so many levels. my parents would.say to me that i think i am special. i tried everything for some attention.. but nothing worked. i.envied my brothers and sisters. i felt unworthy i felt as if i.had a problem. But now i treat people as people not as blood bonds. and i am trying to heal though not fully. i am happy and i.dont.need validation. so thats some progress


This was my Childhood and Life all the way up to August 2015 and I’m 40 now. I stood up to my mother and she couldn’t believe it she was shocked. I want space from her and she refuses to give it. I learning that I can’t change her but I can change me.


Hi Teresa,

I am so happy that you were able to stand up to your mother and convey how you felt. It doesn’t matter if she is unable to receive what you are saying due to her own issues getting in the way. All that matters is you spoke your truth and stood up for you. A few months ago my mother wrote me a letter basically still blaming me for all the things that her and my father did wrong and I finally had the courage to respond back to her telling her just exactly how I felt about the things that she wrote to me in her letter and I haven’t heard back from her since and I don’t expect that I will any time soon.

She can’t guilt trip and manipulate me into seeing things her way anymore and she knows it and more importantly now I know it too!! I broke through all of that sick enmeshment that I had with her where she brainwashed me into believing that I was this ungrateful, uncaring, mean, nasty daughter if I didn’t go along with what she and my father had to say that never allowed me to have my own thoughts or opinions about anything that fed into my low self worth and esteem. I feel so relieved now that I am no longer under her spell and I pray for this for you too.

Me separating from my parents was key for my healing. If I didn’t they would have sucked me right back in to their sick, toxic way if thinking that would have kept me stuck in their web of lies and deceit forever.

Peace to you,


I’ve tried to figure out how abuse is passed down from generation to generation. This out lined it so well. I posted your link on my web page. I hope my children read this and do better than I did. Thanks.


This describes my grandmother …. my mother and now my sister … I wanted to know why they were like this and found like you said that it was generational and learned behaviour … it took me a long time to work it out and break the cycle … but i did and find it hard NOT to slide into the learned behaviour but remember how it felt so i don’t be like that with my son. It is so hard to explain to people outside the family when my other and sister don;t act this way in front of their friends … … but as i tell people … i know the truth and that is all that matters … amazing how i found thi after i had worked it out … i now know i am not alone

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