Are there Excuses for Emotional Abuse and Child Neglect?

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Is there an excuse for emotional abuse and child neglectSometimes it strikes me that my blog may not be “fair” to my mother because I had two parents and the truth is that my father did as much damage in my life as my mother did. Although I want to write about my father, there just isn’t much to write. My father was emotionally unavailable and emotionally absent and by definition my father was emotionally abusive.

My father didn’t contribute much to my life at all. He didn’t pay attention to me, he didn’t affirm me, he didn’t communicate with me in fact I don’t know what role he did play in my life other then financial support while I was growing up. 

I think that my father is dissociated. The “disconnected from the world and from himself” kind of dissociated. Perhaps he has dissociative identity disorder and since that is what I had, I know a lot about it.

My father is passive and apathetic as though nothing matters and nothing impacts him. He refers to himself as easy going. I think that he is passive abusive and as I said emotionally abusive.

Why was my father so apathetic when it came to me? Why did he behave as though I didn’t matter and communicate that message to me through so many of his actions and inactions? Growing up, I didn’t think that it was about HIM. I thought that it was something that was wrong or missing in me.  Realizing that he was dissociated at first made me say “OH YA that makes sense” BUT it didn’t go any distance towards my freedom from the pain I had always had in relation to my emotionally unavailable father.

People say things like “well at least he didn’t beat you.” And I never knew what to say to that. That statement is a guilt trip. It is like saying …“well you should be grateful that he didn’t do anything violent like some fathers do”.  People say things like this as though the good about the fact that he didn’t beat me cancels the bad about the rest of what he didn’t do. Good does not cancel bad. Good is Good and Bad is Bad. Two different things.

In this blog ~ “Truth is Truth”

My father didn’t care about me.  He neglected me. He didn’t engage with me and he wasn’t interested in my life. I don’t remember conversation with him when I was a kid.  That is emotional neglect. I don’t remember any conversation with him that was about ME as an adult either. 

I found the following definitions of Emotional Abuse on the US Department of Health and Welfare site.   

Emotional abuse (or psychological abuse) is a pattern of behavior that impairs a child’s emotional development or sense of self-worth. This may include constant criticism, threats, or rejection, as well as withholding love, support, or guidance. Emotional abuse is often difficult to prove and, therefore, child protective services may not be able to intervene without evidence of harm or mental injury to the child. Emotional abuse is almost always present when other forms are identified.

And These from the Department of Justice in Canada;

Neglect is often chronic, and it usually involves repeated incidents. It involves failing to provide what a child needs for his or her physical, psychological or emotional development and well being. For example, neglect includes failing to provide a child with food, clothing, shelter, cleanliness, medical care or protection from harm.3 Emotional neglect includes failing to provide a child with love, safety, and a sense of worth.

Emotional abuse involves harming a child’s sense of self. It includes acts (or omissions) that result in, or place a child at risk of, serious behavioural, cognitive, emotional or mental health problems. For example, emotional abuse may include verbal threats, social isolation, intimidation, exploitation, or routinely making unreasonable demands. It also includes terrorizing a child, or exposing them to family violence.

My father didn’t protect me from my mother.  I don’t remember my mother hitting me with a belt when my father was at home, so he may not have been aware of some of that physical abuse, but this one time she slapped me as hard as she could across the face because I was late getting home.  The truth about that situation was that my father forgot to tell her that I had called and that he had given me permission to stay later at my friends across the street. My father stood there with his mouth hanging open when my mother slapped me.  No one comforted me.  No one supported me.  He didn’t protect me. He didn’t say anything to her in front of me to validate me or stand up for me. I was hit and it was a mistake ~ but so what?? Who cares about Darlene? She is “just a child”. 

My father failed me. There is just no denying it and believe me I tried to deny it for most of my life. I tried to tell myself that he was busy and that he had an important job. I told myself that his mind was elsewhere and it needed to be so that he could provide for us. I was in effect telling myself that his actions were correct… that he had many things in his life that were far more important than I was and that I was the one with the problem for feeling unworthy and unlovable.  

But really, are there excuses for emotional abuse and child neglect?

The truth is that it doesn’t matter even if my father had some unknown disease that caused him to completely detach from me for some unknown reason… the damage was done and it is the damage that needs to be dealt with instead of excused by finding out the answer to the WHY questions.

Deciding that my father fits the description of being dissociated did not contribute in any way to how I was able to heal from the damage that his lack of interest and emotional neglect of me caused.  Like the above definition states ~  “Emotional neglect includes failing to provide a child with love, safety, and a sense of worth…” And that IS the damage that was caused by my fathers inability to have any kind of real relationship with me.

The real emotional healing came with self validation. I realized that just because my fahters actions and ill regard for me showed that I was invalid and unimportant in his life did NOT prove that I was invalid and unimportant.  The fact that my father didn’t hit me or even yell at me did not make him a good father.  The way that he regarded me fits the descriptions of emotional abuse and child neglect. The fact that he didn’t even bother with me is the fact that I had to deal with. The damage that he caused to me by his emotional neglect and passive abuse is what I had to face in order to overcome that damage.

My father was emotionally unavailable and emotionally abusive. His lack of contribution in my life was his fault and it defines him. NOT ME. 

Please share your thoughts about the subject of child neglect, emotionally abusive or emotionally absent fathers, focusing on the damage instead of the reason or anything else that you wish to share here.

This is the truth that set me free.  

Darlene Ouimet

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98 response to "Are there Excuses for Emotional Abuse and Child Neglect?"

  1. By: Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker Posted: 20th November

    I like the descriptions that you offer here of emotional abuse and neglect. My dad emotionally abused me with his rage and threats of violence that kept me in constant fear of him and fear for my life. Fear was such a constant in my life, that I didn’t recognize it as fear. My mother emotionally abused me through neglect like your dad did you. At age 3, I knew my mother was emotionally unavailable. She was numb for some reason that I never understood but recognized. Emotional abuse leaves much deeper scars than any other form of abuse. It isn’t the physical abuse of incest that I still, even today, occasionally stuggle with. What I struggle with to heal is the scars from emotional abuse. The emotional abuse is what tells you that you are worthless, bad, damaged, scarred and scared of living. Emotional abuse is what does the most damage to the child and to the adult on the receiving end of abuse. When someone like my mom or your dad is emotionally unavailable, it is more difficult to see the damage that they have done with their passive-aggressive behavior than it is to see the damage done by those who physically and verbally abuse us. The damage of emotional unavailability is often covert and therefore less recognizable as abuse.

  2. By: J Posted: 20th November

    Hi Amanda,

    I wanted to say how sorry I am to hear your story too. I’ve heard a similar story from a friend before (not the violence, but the lies to the children about their mother). It must be so hard to be in that position. It’s so awesome you were able to stand up and leave your abuser, but yeah, just terrible that he’s chosen to continue the lies with your children. I have so much respect for you doing what you did for your children, and I really hope that things pick up for you, and that one day your kids will see through the lies.

    Take care of yourself & thanks for sharing!

  3. By: Diane Reyes Posted: 19th November

    Very true, and the abuser will always always always blame the victim.

  4. By: Amanda Posted: 19th November

    Darlene my current situation as a parent having left my marriage to domestic violence 7 years ago to protect my children is still so terribly painful.The emotional abuse is so very hard to prove and to understand as a child living in it.As my children have grown into adults they have chosen relationship with him over me. He and they blame me for breaking up the family and are very angry with me. Whilst he physically and emotionally abused me and the children because I took action to stop it I am the one still being punished. It is evil and very painful and his action to isolate me from our family has worked. I am the scapegoat the reason for everything bad in my families life because I broke up the family. I don’t think anything will change and that my children will ever see the emotional abuse that is happening. So it is not easy at all to stop and do something about it as a parent either. I love my children and tried my best to protect them. And now I suffer alone without them.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 19th November

      Hi Amanda
      Welcome to Emerging from Broken
      I am so sorry that this happened to you. I makes me sick how often I hear this story; that a mother stands up for herself and her kids and the abuser somehow gains hero status with the kids and convinces everyone that his wife is the bad guy! They might see it one day. I have seen it happen where adult kids suddenly realize that the Dad is the problem. None the less and regardless of the outcome today, you did the right thing! The alternative would have been staying in the abusive relationship. I have a friend who left her husband and unbeknownst to her the husband was sexually abusing the daughter. The daughter chose to stay with the father. This was really about the daughters fear of the father and how she was brainwashed that without the father, she would not be okay. Abusers have this way of making their kids feel like without them they will die. Abusers set themselves up as God and that is a difficult mould to break out of.
      Again I am so sorry for your pain.
      Hugs, Darlene

  5. By: Sophia Posted: 19th November

    I also think that my parents tried to deflect any emotional responses or criticism they didn’t like by insisting that children had to be respectful and grateful to their parents, end of discussion. The truth is that we should have the right to not be hurt, no matter what other things the parents do for us. And this whole thing about being ungrateful and disrespectful, ooohhhh this makes me mad, because they chose to have children, we didn’t “make” them have us, did we?! And taking care of children and meeting their needs is a parent’s responsibility, not a FAVOR they are doing for us! I know they love to harrumph and express disapproval about how we treat them. When my stepsister decided to cut off communication with them, my father was so mad. He said that he was there for her in her life, when her own father wouldn’t even visit her. But I think she had it right, he may have been present in the house, but he wasn’t really in her life, wasn’t emotionally available, didn’t ever really make a deep connection.

    Can I also say that so often when parents remarry and households get blended, no one pays much attention to the emotions of children whose lives are suddenly transformed. All of a sudden there is this new person who you are expected to regard as your mother or father. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But my parents didn’t want to concern themselves about the emotional adjustment we had to make. It was all about them.

    Boy, I’m getting steamed just thinking about all this crap all those years ago, and now I have to put it aside and go to work! Thanks for the time and space to share and vent and get stuff sorted out. I think a lot about what others here are saying about their lives as well, and I hope we can all grow and benefit from mutual regard and support.

    HUGS,
    Sophia

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 19th November

      Sophia
      YES you go girl! I have thought about this stuff countless times! My father remaried when I was around 14. He really dumped me then. NO one thought about how it felt to us. My mother used it to make sure I was aware that he was not the “good guy”. This steams me too. I might write about it one of these days) You make very good points in all your comments! (refering this time to comment # 29 ~ hope everyone reads it as it shows more great insight for the purpose of fog busting!)
      Hugs, Darlene

  6. By: Sophia Posted: 19th November

    Thank you, Darlene. It’s helpful to me to realize that people are complex and not just one way or the other. My parents were at times able to be affectionate, kind, supportive, good company. But they could also be judgemental, critical, and emotionally undermining and demanding. I do have to feel the depth of how that hurt me and created a false belief system, and not worry about seeming ungrateful for thw good things. In fact, they always accused us of ingratitude whenever we tried to express our distress at the wrongs that were done. Space needs to be created to allow for ALL feelings. At least now I know I can do that for myself and I can feel that it is correct to ask for that in all close relationships.

  7. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 19th November

    Sophia
    It IS a huge thing to realize. I was raised in an upper middle class family. I had all my physical needs met; food shelter clothing, education etc. I had dance lessons and went to brownies ~ we went to all the best resturants and I knew which fork was for which dish. I don’t remember much emotional affection. I think that we were viewed as a normalwell off family. I thought I was so lucky. I kept kicking myself because I thought I was so ungrateful for the way I had been raised. I thought that the good cancelled the bad (or is should have) but actually I was trying to erase the memory of the bad by trying to remember only the good. It has only been the truth that has set me free. I had to look at the good things and realize “so what!” they did not cancel the abuse!
    Thank you for sharing. You are awesome. I never think you are whining!
    Hugs, Darlene

  8. By: Sophia Posted: 19th November

    It feels like a huge thing, realizing now that I was treated with NEGLECT. Emotional neglect, from family and culture. How can I say I was neglected when we had a comfortable home, money, food, clothes, medical care, educational and cultural opportunities. We certainly lived better than many people in the world. And I did get loving affectionate touch and attention, at least as a small child. But emotional honesty was very suspect in our household. How many times did my father call me “Sarah Bernhardt” because he thought I was over-reacting to something? How many times did my step-mother accuse me of crocodile tears because she thought my unhappiness was FAKED? They valued the appearance of a “normal” family above and beyond anyone’s personal happiness or unhappiness. I don’t even think they ever tried to assess if they were happy or not themselves, they just did assessed their level of social acceptability. Even as I write this, I feel like someone will ask me what the heck I am complaining about. All my life my emotional needs seem excessive to people, and that this is a problem, a fault that lies within me. They ask me why I can’t just get on with things, why do I also have to make a big fuss. I guess I just wished that someone would say that it was ok for me to have my feelings. Recently, I have decided that it is ok to honor my feelings, and make time every day to connect and feel whatever comes up, no matter how uncomfortable. It’s almost impossible to talk about this with others, there is so much resistance to emotional truth. I feel like my long-term reluctance to do things like build a career is actually a way of going on strike against the stultifying conditions of never having any validation. I just hope I can continue to honor my need for truth and emotional honesty in the face of the FOG that surrounds so many others. I am so thankful for this blog. Even here, I still fear that people will think I’m just whining!

  9. By: Pam Posted: 18th November

    J, It helped me to understand that the lasting impact of all abuse is emotional. My parents also, abused me in such a way as to not leave physical marks but they sure scarred my mind and soul.

  10. By: Karen Rabbitt Posted: 18th November

    Yes, Darlene, emotional neglect takes so much longer to identify. Abuse is more concrete. Something happened, so it’s easier to see. Neglect is nothing happened, so we don’t notice it.

    The “why” question is interesting, too, because of what it covers up. I just wrote a post at http://www.karenrabbitt.com that some might find useful.

  11. By: J Posted: 18th November

    Hi Mike & Darlene,

    It still surprises me to hear people say that about emotional/mental abuse being harder. I always assumed it was the other way round — in fact, it was a fairly common thread for my brain to guilt me with seeing as I was never physically or sexually abused, but “only” emotionally/mentally (and even acknowledging that with the word “abuse” is a very recent thing).

    So thank you for being so clear on that. I don’t at all want to trivialize the horrors of physical/sexual abuse, but it does seem I’ve been more than willing to trivialize the effects of the abuses I suffered. Hearing you guys say this I think helps me to balance out the extremes of my former viewpoint.

    I also liked your point Mike about not having any scars to show others. (“Related to” is probably a better word than “liked” here). Actually I think I wrote somewhere else that the phrase “get over it” is a fairly common one from my father (not often directly at me I don’t think, but you hear it often enough in other contexts and it becomes pretty obvious how he feels). Also he definitely said “at least we didn’t rape her or anything” about my sister when he was complaining to me that she’d gotten upset about something. Pffffttt!!!! >: p

    (That was an angry tongue-out face directed to my dad, in case anyone’s wondering) 🙂

    Actually, this whole post just made me think of a part in Harry Potter where big floating brains attacked someone (Ron, I think??) and when he was getting healed later, the nurse said something like “Thoughts left deeper scarring than anything else” to explain why his wounds were worse than the others’.

    OK, I think I’m done for now.

    Wishing everybody love & light for their journeys!

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 18th November

      J.
      one of the most common themes with survivors of ANY abuse is that we seem to mimimize our own abuse and think that it was “not that bad”. People who have been sexually and physically abused do this too.
      Deep down I always thought that I was a whiner and that I had no “right” to complain that things were “never that bad” but hey… that is what I was always told!
      Hugs, Darlene

  12. By: shane Posted: 18th November

    This is what my sperm donor did to me my whole life.The only difference is my mother has been there for me.He made me feel so worthless that I was going to commit suicide and he didn’t even care about that.He never tried to help me,just turned his back on me.That was almost 4 yrs ago.I have nothing to do with him,I cut him out of my life.That doesn’t even bother him.But I’m doing alot better now and he’s the one who’s missing out.Because he won’t see me graduate from college or get married.He won’t even know if I have a family of my own because he’s not part of my family.He’s worthless,not me.

    Shane

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 18th November

      Hi Shane
      I am sorry that you had such a horrific father.
      hugs, Darlene

      Sophia
      Excellent comments. This is exaxtly what I am trying to get at in this blog post article.
      Thank you for posting
      Hugs, Darlene

  13. By: Sophia Posted: 17th November

    About my father. Both my brother and I lived in a delusion for a long time that our father was wonderful but our stepmother was bad and mean, and if only we didn’t have her around things would be great. We wanted so much to believe that dad loved us and was a great father. I only recently busted through the fog and saw that he was as responsible for our pain as she was. He chose her, brought her into our lives, defended her, insisted that we respect and accept her as our MOTHER. My brother still needs to see my dad as innocent of any wrong-doing. An interesting twist is that our stepsister wished with all her heart for the opposite scenario, that she could have had her mother without my father, whom she saw as depressed and weak. I now also see the ways that dad hurt us independently of the dance he was doing with our stepmother. Not really wanting to list it all here now. Yaaarrrgggghhh, so much nonsense is entrenched in “normal,” sentimental, socially acceptable parenting!

  14. By: Barbara Posted: 17th November

    It’s hard for me to see my Dad in this light because he was a victim of my Narcissistic Mother too. She drove him into severe depression, suicidal thoughts and so on. Running from the home was his only option at that time.

    His mother was N also so he had zero tools to make an assessment of what was happening.

    Even after she died he remained in denial. One day I gave him a wake up call. He admitted that he was just “trying to survive” – and he was totally unaware of what she was doing to me. I said to him “what makes you think that YOU were her only target?” He got it.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 18th November

      Hi Barbara
      Regardless of the reasons we had an emotionally absent parent, the damage remains the same. It IS hard to see a parent in this light but I could use all those excuses for my mother and I did. She was raised by extreemly dysfunctional parents and lived in danger her whole life and no wonder she was such a control freak ~ it was her survival mode. However, making excuses for her was what kept me from facing the truth about the damage casued to me. My father had all his own excuses for being emotionally abusive and I had to set those aside too in order for me to heal.
      hugs, Darlene

  15. By: Sophia Posted: 17th November

    The fog…. that’s a good way to put it. I notice on the link the govt defines female genital mutilation as abuse, but not male! FOG.

  16. By: Libby Posted: 17th November

    Darlene, J
    I think it may be that for some survivors, a father who did not engage in overt abuse – or who was the “weaker” partner – we kind of pull our punches. Because we are sensitised to weakness or powerlessness we overlook the fathers’ responsibility to some extent – we make excuses – I know I did. I amanged to “overlook” my fathers’ sins of omission, his immature behaviour was something I would joke about – and not recognise it for what it was – passive aggressive abuse. His teasing of me was not “fun” – it was awful as it only ended when I cried – his competing with me for attentions wasn’t funny, his breaking of my toys definitely upset me -and it was abusive – his behaviour was inappropriate at best and horrendous abuse at worst. Just because I recognised, intuitively, that he too was damaged, may have explained hi inability to be a dad – but it did not and does not excuse it. He knew better – in fact, he definitely knew better – he was a qualified mental health nurse and later a teacher of nurses. He was the one in denial – and he carried thatthrough to his death – he never, ever understood that all I ever wanted was a Dad.

  17. By: Mike Banks Posted: 17th November

    Darlene.

    Great post!! The emotional and mental that I suffered from my parents has been the hardest aspect of my recovery. First to just identify that it happened – their were only emotional scares, nothing I could show others.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 18th November

      Hi Mike
      Welcome to Emerging from broken! Many people agree with what you have shared! I worked with a woman who had serious depressions and all of it was caused by the emotional and mental abuse she suffered from her childhood. We had all the same issues and she had never been physically hit or abused in any other way then emotionally/ mentally and she struggled more than I did with her recovery.
      Hugs, Darlene

      Libby,
      Yes… all of us really just wanted a dad.
      Hugs Darlene

  18. By: Gabrielle Posted: 17th November

    Hi Darlene, I have only this past year realised that I was subjected to severe child abuse, emotional and physical by my adoptive mother. She was relentless. I also recently realised that my adoptive father was afraid of her too. He stood by for the most part and let her away with it, except when he sometimes went to the cupboard and took out the canes and broke them. She made me go to the shop and buy a new and hit me with it when I got back, for no reason! I had such a bad opinion of myself that I believed no one could even like me because of the things she said. I pushed all the good people out of my life systematically and ended up in abusive relationships. I am 56 now and only beginning to like myself. I survived. Still so much to learn. Thank you Darlene and everyone.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 17th November

      Hi Gabrielle
      I totally relate to what you have shared. I didn’t realize so much about the truth in my childhood that today it seems crazy that I never made the connections except that I know how all this works! Sometimes I struggle to find the way to write about it because the blanket of fog is so hard to see through ~ not for me now, but for me before and I know that I am trying to get others to see through theirs. I believed everything said to me and all that I was accused of too. I totally understand that.
      Thank you for sharing and welcome to emerging from broken!
      Hugs, Darlene

  19. By: J Posted: 17th November

    Thanks Darlene.

    I think I’m at least more aware of my father’s part in the abuse now. I guess it’s just been that when I’ve felt completely trapped living here (in terms of being dependent, struggling to hold down work etc), being able to (at least sometimes) just have a comparitively normal conversation, and not be actively given s**t/controlled seemed like a comparitive blessing.

    Hadn’t really considered the idea of working in tandem to keep things confusing (whether intentional or not). I do know it hurt that much more when it was my father who said they didn’t want me sleeping with a girl in their house (because he’s generally seemed more open-minded, I didn’t expect it to come from him). And I guess also because I felt like I was finally trying to see myself as an adult with the right to make his own decisions about such things (instead of having to pretend/skulk around/look for deserted places where a car could be parked etc) that they would act accordingly (or something).

    I think that was the big one in terms of realizing the extent of the control they could (and would) exert over me. I don’t think I talked to them for months at that time. Actually, I don’t think I’ve mentioned on here before, but at some time in the past (long before realizing the full extent of the brainwashing etc) I told my mother that if I ever had children, she’d never see them. It may have been more about how her parents treated me (controlling, manipulative etc) at that time — maybe it was easier to see and name when it was a generation removed from me or something. Don’t really remember exact details of what was said from then on, but she cried, and I apologized (of course).

    Oh well. Moot point at this stage anyway — I don’t think I could ever bring myself to have children. Too f**king much of my mother in me. But hey, you never know, right?

    Anyway, probably would need to be able to take care of myself first, before I start thinking about that. Oh, and I suppose a sexual relationship of some description would be a requirement too. (So definitely no need to worry about it at this stage) 🙂

    (Me and my bleak humour).

    I seem to vaguely recall similar things a few times throughout my youth — me saying something, my mother crying, me apologizing. Hadn’t specifically joined the dots re how much I hated my ex-gf crying (always felt manipulated). Although, I think she WAS a manipulator. (Why the f**k is it so easy to find exactly what you already know and hate in relationships?!?)

    I guess it’s just the brain going “oh this feels familiar. therefore it must be right/normal” or something. (Not very helpful there, brain!!)

    Just considering the fact that I’ve basically stopped talking to (or even looking at) my mother if I can possibly help it, but not so much my father. I think at one stage I was thinking to myself “I’ll just cut off contact with my mother”, but I think even I was able to realize that wasn’t realistic. Actually pretty afraid about my father coming gunning for me (emotionally speaking, not weapon-ally) if/when I do cut contact…. never really attracted his full ire before; not sure how I’d respond. (Freeze, I guess, just like I have every time my mother starts up on me).

    I guess I’m kinda holding on to the knowledge that I can f**k things up for him pretty bad any time I choose by telling my mother about his internet habits. I know she feels very strongly against such things, so pretty damn sure that’d cause significant grief. Actually, I think in the past, I’ve felt sorry for him that he’s married to such a cold hard bitch. And made excuses for him — given that he was regularly physically abused as a child, of course he would’ve taken any chance to get away from his home etc. Don’t know why I bother (making excuses). I’ve also made plenty of excuses for my mother — her mother’s just as big a bitch as she is (that one’s true, but here I am trying to break the f**king pattern); which leads me to my next excuse — social stigma of mental illness etc in her day/less access to any help for mental health etc.

    Ok gotta stop there. The excuses are messing with my head too much. I’m doing what I can do. They aren’t. Just going on their merry way (or at least trying to convince themselves it’s merry).

    Actually I thought recently, if I want to start taking action to prepare myself for cutting off, I should start scanning photos of my youth that I might want. (No precedent to back up this theory, but I can fairly easily imagine ones of me “disappearing” once I cut off…. or even if not, can’t imagine them suddenly turning around and saying, “Sure! Have the photo albums!” if I decide I want them at some point).

    Gonna be an ugly time. I guess I could try to see it as “good to have a backup” to start with. Might make it a bit easier to get through. And then I think, am I just trying to make it too hard for myself (in terms of getting emotional looking back at photos) so I have an excuse to bail on my plan?

    And what even is my plan? I guess basically thinking, if welfare & housing app’s go through, just bail without even mentioning it, and then change my phone number etc, just so I can give myself space to adjust to being on my own for the first time. (Figure I’ll need a long time to get used to it).

    Then (VERY vague plans here – I guess because I can’t know in advance how I’ll respond to moving out), if I can eventually start to feel safe, build a routine etc, maybe I’ll get to the stage of feeling able to write/say the things I need/want to say, and find out if there’s any chance of reconciliation (well, not that really — if they could respect my wishes enough that it’s not highly toxic for me to have any contact with them is the best I can really imagine).

    But there’s no way I want to invite the s**t-storm of trying to stand up to them while I’m still living here. So that’s roughly what I’m telling myself at this stage. But I guess I have at least slightly considered the (quite probable) possiblity that there’d be no turning back in any way if I cut off. I truly believe my mother lives in such a fantasy world that she’ll never come out of it (far too painful for her to have to look honestly at her life I very strongly suspect), so not holding my breath on that front. And I guess starting to face the fact that my father is so completely whipped that I’d be stunned if he did anything (or stood back and watched while someone else did anything) that caused my mother to have to look at herself. And maybe he needs to look at himself too. In fact, definitely.

    I guess I’ve resigned myself to the high probability of disownment etc. Not too long ago I was of the viewpoint that if there was a way to get the hell out of here WITHOUT completely burning all bridges, I’d do it, because (assuming here that I haven’t ALREADY been cut out of the wills! Hadn’t actually considered that possiblity before) in my view with what I’ve put up with, I’ve f**king earned it!!! But, I VERY strongly suspect that any monetary reward would be conditional on not rocking the boat. Somehow, I suspect cutting off all contact would probably qualify as boat-rocking — if only because it would be difficult to explain to their friends. (They’d probably just lie and tell them I’m fine).

    Well this was originally going to be a very short reply to your post Darlene. But I remember you’ve mentioned several times before that you’re not worried about length of posts. (At least I’m pretty sure you did.) And plenty of processing going on, so I’ll try to see that as a good thing.

    Last thing I forgot to write earlier — pretty scared of moving out, cutting ties, and then freaking out completely on my own and feeling trapped/alone etc. Oh well. Worry about that if it happens I guess. And at least I will have tried.

    Oh, and I haven’t read the other comments yet, but I’ll second really liking what you quoted from Pam. I think that’s pretty much the stage I’m finally getting to.

    Thanks everyone

  20. By: J Posted: 17th November

    Hi Darlene,

    my relationship with my father is quite confusing. Pretty much all my life I’ve felt much closer to him than my mother. I didn’t feel like he did harm to me like my mother did.

    The blind spot here was that I blamed myself for becoming hooked on hardcore internet porn (arguably addicted) around age 13, instead of focusing on the fact that I first found it in the “recent files” list of my father’s computer (and kept being able to find it already on the computer for some time after – probably years).

    This “little secret” of mine was the cause of undescribable torment over the years. Coupled with the hyper-fundamentalism they indoctrinated me into from birth (not to mention the palpable sense of disappointment — nearly anger — from my mother when I first started having girlfriends), and the blatant rejection when I eventually chose to stop pretending I wasn’t having sexual relationships, I’m still completely f**ked up regarding sex. The hypocrisy of my father telling me they didn’t want me sharing a bed with a girl under their roof while knowing what I know about him is somewhat bitter, to say the least. (I actually suspect he was acting on my mother’s orders when he said that. Not that it really matters).

    In fact, there — I’m still making excuses for him now. Because my mother has the market well and truly cornered on emotional abuse, I think that’s why I felt (comparitively, at least) like I could get on with my father better. At least he wasn’t constantly nagging, pumping for information, belittling, etc etc etc.

    But the other thing I came to realize fairly recently, is that he was complacent (not sure if that’s the right word….. as in, he stood back and let all the emotional abuse happen). And it’s not like he didn’t know — I remember asking him quite often why my mother acted how she did. I don’t remember what he said. Nothing of any use, anyway. Basically “don’t let it get to you” I think. (He’s apparently able to do that for himself).

    It’s probably only the last few years that I’ve started to move away from the “hero-worship” I still had for my father (despite the porn, and the hypocrisy etc) I don’t know if I just wasn’t paying attention before (or perhaps wasn’t as aware of identifying unhelpful/abusive type statements), but he’s definitely said to me “at least I didn’t rape her” about my sister when she’d apparently been upset about something he’d said or done. Also “get over it” is a big favorite of his. ***SARCASM*** — I wonder if that could possibly have anything to do with why I can’t move on from anything?!?!? ***END SARCASM***

    Stupid parents. A couple of months back, when I lost the plot completely and called my friend from high school (he’s a paramedic, and one of basically two male friends that still keep in contact with me — I’ve pretty much stopped bothering with all friendships) crying like a baby and saying I didn’t want to live anymore, he came up and hugged me and let me talk, and I just let it all out (about my parents). He knew I had depression, but I’d never told him the degree of it, or said anything about my parents part in it. (They were out of the house at the time).

    When I first called I’d asked him to come and take me to hospital, because I was afraid to be alone. But once I’d talked it out and calmed down, I didn’t want to go — I just wanted to go to sleep. My parents had come home while we were talking, and he went to talk to them for a bit (I believe he just told them I’d asked him to take me to hospital. I didn’t go with him because I didn’t want to see them). After he came back and I said I didn’t want to go, he was (understandably, I guess) worried and it took a long time to convince him it would just stress me out again, and that I couldn’t see anything useful coming from it. But he said in passing during that conversation “But won’t your parents be worried?”.

    Ouch. This bit is hard to write. Because the answer was “no”. I’m pretty sure I knew straight away (even if I didn’t answer him instantly) that the answer was “no”. Or at least, even if they did, they wouldn’t do anything about it. All they seem to care about is that it doesn’t affect THEM in any way. In fact, since I got to the stage of feeling like I did need to go to hospital (several months ago), and had people telling me that I had to tell my parents….. well I was going to write “they’ve done nothing but make things harder”. That’s not strictly true, my father did pay attention to some of the things I said (like how much the noise of the TV bothers me — they crank it to infinity, but he started muting the ads if I came into the room. He’d also tell my mother to do so occasionally. She remained as oblivious as ever).

    Anyway, as I wrote that (them not caring so long as it doesn’t affect them), it actually makes sense why I had the thought that I did around that time — that even if they came home and found me hanging, it probably wouldn’t take them too long to convince themselves how troubled I always was, and how they did absolutely everything they could to help me, but how I wouldn’t let them etc. (And even if they couldn’t convince themselves, I felt pretty damn sure that that’s what they’d be going around telling all their friends).

    Sorry. That’s probably the darkest thought I’ve ever had. But it felt true. I’d managed to forget about it for a bit, but it came back out while writing that. In fact, I think it was me telling my ex-girlfriend that one on the phone that precipatated the breakdown that led to me calling my paramedic friend in the first place — not unsurprisingly, she got upset, but started yelling at me all my deepest fears: that everything WAS all my fault, and that my parents DO try their hardest and do everything for me, and that I must just not WANT to get better etc etc etc. I started crying in a way I never have before, then just blindly started dialing numbers until I got someone. Not a great night.

    So. Where was I? Oh yeah. My friend asking the question “won’t they be worried?”, and what my instant answer was, was a definite “light-bulb” moment for me. (I can’t really remember if it hit me straight away, or took a while to sink in?)

    But anyway, the mental wheels eventually got to the place of “hmmmm, I guess maybe parents SHOULD be a little concerned if their only son has had to call a paramedic to take him to the hospital?” I think it was just my friend’s (well-intended, if uninformed) assumption in asking the question…. in fact, I think he was asking it to try and convince me to go to hospital, so that I wouldn’t worry my parents. But unfortunately, I knew that so long as they didn’t have to do anything, that would be the end of the matter.

    *****SELF-CENSORED******

    (there we go Darlene, I’m trying to save you a bit of time – many a rough swear word wanting to come out there) 🙂

    Might be a bit to clean up earlier on the darkness front though I suspect.

    So yeah. Much damage. My father has spent a lot of time over the years telling us about his dysfunctional upbringing (which it definitely was, unless he’s just blatantly lied about everything — but I don’t think so). But despite being at least somewhat aware of things (he said to me once “I know we’re part of the problem”), unlike my mother (although who knows? she could be completely aware, but just choosing to maintain the fantasy), he still stood back and let my mother do what she wanted, and also actively propogated fundamentalist religion & hypocrisy.

    Top stuff dad.

    As a final thought, I went to the govt “abuse/neglect” links you posted Darlene. Certainly re-affirmed my belief that I was abused as child (in fact, still am). But hopefully not for much longer — appt tomorrow to try and get on disability pension (with a support worker!!! Finally someone who’s on MY side when I try to take on the red-tape spewing, rule-changing behemoth that is the welfare system in this country!) and then hopefully to find a small, low-income rental place (same support worker is helping me with that process too), and then maybe I’ll find the courage to cut all ties and see where that gets me. Not exactly feeling positive about all this, but hey. I’ve been utterly stagnant for years — finally throwing some big fat rocks into the pond.

    Oh, the final thought was going to be that on the govt abuse site, yet another example of my extreme femininity (I’m a male, btw) was that I fit the female profile of response to abuse. Sometimes I can see it (my strong feminine side) as a positive thing, but sometimes it just gets old. (Those same two only male friends I still have both call me gay for liking some of the things I do. Many of the girls in the youth group I grew up in thought I was gay. I used to be blatantly homophobic, and this bothered me intensely then. I’m significantly better in that regard now, but having a few gay friends has now made me painfully aware of just how homophobic the world at large is. And when one of them asked me what my life with parents would have been like if I was gay, I said “I’d be dead.” I still believe that — the amount of s**t they’ve given me over what they see as the “normal” kind of relationship — no way I could’ve dealt with what theyd’ve dished out if I was gay. I’ve gotta get new friends. And new family).

    Ok, that’s enough from this (occasionally) proud feminine male. When I think about how a lot of the guys I’ve known in my life tend to act, then I feel proud of it. As it says in my HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) book however, western culture is not one where you’re going to be automatically culturally revered for being a highly sensitive male with a strong feminine side. So for now I try to keep it to myself for the most part. It’s probably why I tend to feel so much more comfortable talking with girls than guys (if I know them and feel safe, at least. Significantly harder at other times!!!) 🙂

    Hope everyone’s going well

    J

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 17th November

      Hi Pam
      I especially like your last sentences; you said “I can’t continue in a relationship with people who hurt me and never acknowledge it and never accept their portion of responsibility in our relationship. It isn’t safe.”
      Exactly,
      Hugs, Darlene

      J.
      Your example of hypocrisy is valid in so many of our lives. About picking sides or making excuses; I finally realized that for me that was such a spin. Today I know that they BOTH abused me and that they worked off each other to do it and even to keep it confusing. It doesn’t matter if that was intentional or not however because the key is in realizing the damage that was done in order to heal from it. It took me a long time to give each of my parents equal responsibility for the damage in my life but it was another building block in my quest to see the truth.
      Hugs, Darlene

  21. By: Pam Posted: 17th November

    Darlene, This really resonates with me. There is a big difference between reasons and excuses. There were a lot of reasons why my parents treated me the way they did but those reasons didn’t relieve them of their responsibility to give me the things I needed as a child. There is no excuse, they were responsible and they blew it. They are still blowing it because they still refuse to take responsibility and acknowledge their actions and what they did to me. If they would acknowledge their hurtful actions, then they could received my forgiveness and our relationship could mend. I do forgive them. I do know they had problems, they still have problems, they are a mess; but I can’t continue in a relationship with people who hurt me and never acknowledge it and never accept their portion of responsibility in our relationship. It isn’t safe.

    Pam

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 17th November

      I thought I loved my dad and I thought I respected him. Up until a few years ago I thought that I thought he was the greatest Dad. I think I loved the idea of a dad or maybe I loved that he didn’t hit me; I am not sure anymore. I have realized that I didn’t know anything about my real feelings and that I successfully created all this denial about what my life and my family was really like. I focused so much on trying harder instead of looking at why I thought I had to try harder. I had so much guilt in the way too. I see it all so differently now.
      Hugs, Darlene

      Hi Sophia
      Yes good points. I agree that many parents don’t want their kids to have a better life. My mother had this combination of wanting (and succeeding) to give us a better life then she had but at the same time seemed so jealous of anything I accomplished and treated me like competition and as a threat to her. My father just didn’t care.

      About Circumcision; I think that is a really good example of the “fog” that I talk about and about the cycle of abuse. There is lots I could say about that!
      Hugs, Darlene

  22. By: Sophia Posted: 17th November

    One thing that jumps out at me is how they admit that emotional abuse can be hard to prove and therefore act on. And I also think there is a lot of abuse which is not even seen as abuse legally and is in fact considered normal. I am also thinking about how hard it is often for parents to ALLOW their children to have it better than they did, even when it is clearly in the child’s best interest. My father was typical in beliving that anything he suffered “didn’t hurt him” (denial), therefore it’s ok for the next generation not to be protected from that kind of harm. I hope I don’t offend anyone by what I am about to say. I come from a religious tradition where it is considered admirable and holy to mutilate baby boys (circumcision). If you’ve ever been to one of these events you can see how much the baby is suffering. His first week in the world, where he is expecting love and kindness, someone puts a knife to his genitals. We are told that the child doesn’t remember it, but then the rabbi makes a “joke” about how he moves every fifteen years so none of the boys grow up and recognize him! When this happened to my nephew, all the women in the family were crying and all the men said, “Well, it didn’t hurt me, I survived, and there are worse problems in the world, anyway.” So fathers continue to allow their sons to be hurt. This is not called abuse, people never ask if there are long term consequences, it is legal and even called a religious duty. I am not meaning to focus on this, but it just comes to my mind as an example of one way I saw my father and other men in my family dedicated to institutionalized ritual abuse. It was a scene that has stuck in my mind and what I find most disturbing is how much it was taken as the right and normal thing to do. How many other abuses pass as normal and even desirable?

  23. By: Robin Posted: 17th November

    This is a really interesting post. I have focused so much attention on my mother and what she did(does)that I failed to consider the role my father and step father played in the abuse I suffered. I have read about the enabling father and how he sits back and does nothing. Both of my fathers were this way. But one thing that occurs to me is that somehow abusive mothers seem to gain strength from this silent partner. It’s like the father’s lack of objection or concern justifies the mother’s behavior and makes her feel entitled to do what she wants to to the “bad” child. Instead of the father being a support to the child, he is a support to the abusive mother.

  24. By: Libby Posted: 17th November

    I can match your father with mine. Yeah – even when he was physically present in the room, he wasn’t present in the sense of being engaged with me. My mother wore the trousers in their relationshop – and he wouldn’t have lifted a finger if she didn’t tell him to.
    If anything, my father was more like a rival sibling – he was in competition with me for attention from my mother. I can remember getting particular toys – such as a train set – which clearly met his need/want – and which he subsequently broke. When he did engage with me, it was to tease me till I cried. As an adolescent, getting ready for my first job, he undermined me and put me down.
    When I was finally forced to disclose my abuse, I have no memory of what action he took – if any. I can’t remember if he had anything to say.
    Thoughout my early life – into adulthood, I do not remember receiving a single present that he had thought about and bought, himself, for me. Any conversation that I had with him would become a competition – whatever I had to say, he had to trump it in some way – a habit that continued though to his death. When I married, he competed with my husband for my attention.
    I didn’t trust him, I didn’t respect him – and I have a hard time believing that I loved him – but I did love him. I loved him enough to care for him in his last year of life, rather than have him go into residential care. But I was relieved when he died. And that was when I started the process of getting ready to heal.
    More recently I have learned that he was fearfully abused as a child himself by my grandmother, who was extremely violent. Whatever he carried forward into adult life, it did not include the realisation that his job as a father was to protect and nurture me.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 17th November

      Libby
      Thank you for sharing. These details add lots of perspective for everyone. Of all the posts that I write, it is the father ones that people have the most difficulty with. These posts about Dad stuff get shared the least of any of my work.

      Hi Robin
      something I have noticed over the years is that sometimes abusive mothers are trying to get the attention of these passive abusive men in any way that they can. Having said that, you are right that in the world of abuse, silence equals consent.
      Thank you for sharing,
      Hugs, Darlene

  25. By: Karen Posted: 16th November

    So absolutely true. Any type of abuse speaks volumes about the abuser, NOT the victim. It took me years to realize this fact and place the shame where it belongs.

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