Emotionally Unavailable Father; The Message of Passive Abuse


Emotionally Unavailable Father ~ Passive AbuseRecently someone wrote, telling me that because she stood up to her dysfunctional family and drew a boundary, she is now missing out on ‘the good things in life’. The first question that came to my mind was “what good things are you missing out on because you drew a boundary?” In my coaching practice, the homework would be: Define ‘good things’ ~ what are ‘the good things’? What do you feel that you are missing now, that you had before? Why did you have to draw a boundary in the first place?

And the answers to these types of questions are always very revealing. When I answered these questions for myself I found out some of the lies that I believed and how they were rooted in the shaky foundation of my belief system.

For most people including me, those ‘good things’ that had to do with my dysfunctional family were a fantasy.  I ‘wished’ that I had a loving family. The reality of those ‘good things’ was something very different from how I fantasised it was or hoped that it could one day be.

Christmas dinner and family holidays or celebrations were stressful for me and this continued on with when I married into my husband’s family too. Every family thing I went to was a reminder of how insignificant that I was even when at the time I wasn’t able to articulate how those occasions made me feel.

The boundary that I drew with my father was different than the boundaries that I drew when it came to over (more obvious) abuse. A couple of years ago I told my father that seeing him was a reminder of how little he knew about me and how disinterested he was in me as an individual. The way he disregards me is a constant reminder of how little I matter to him.  It has always been that way.

My father is passive abusive. His emotional abuse is very covert.  Mostly he just doesn’t care, doesn’t listen when I talk to him, doesn’t know anything about me, my life or my kids because he doesn’t care to know and he doesn’t listen to anyone who tries to tell him. To the general public, (and according to my siblings) my father is regarded as this ‘nice’ guy and he is never violent, never mean and never hurtful with his words, but the truth is that his relationship style is dismissive and disinterested all of which is very hurtful. I spent many years in childhood and in adulthood ‘begging’ (in all kinds of ways) my emotionally abusive father to notice me. The fact that he didn’t was and is very hurtful.  There is a very loud message that is delivered to me when I am disregarded.  The message is that I don’t matter, that I am not important, that I am not worth listening to and that I don’t have anything to contribute to his life. My father is emotionally unavailable, and that is very hurtful. Love is an action and love doesn’t damage self-esteem. Love doesn’t define a ‘loved one’ as insignificant.

After years of trying to tell my passive abusive father that his constant cutting me off whenever I tried to tell him about me, and that his lack of interest in my life was a problem for me ~ and due to the fact that there wasn’t any change on his part, I gave up; I finally realized that he wasn’t going to change.

Once I accepted that my emotionally unavailable father wasn’t going to change, I had a choice to make. I could just accept his treatment of me and feel frustrated and hurt every time I saw him or I could decide that I didn’t want to accept the way he treats me anymore.  I made choice number 2 because it was the only choice that supported my newfound self-value. I deserve better than he can or will give me.

To hear my father tell this story he has no idea why I “suddenly stopped talking to him” although I explained it on the phone in the same detail that I have written in this post.  I had to realize that the fact that he denies ‘understanding’ my explanation or even ever having heard it is also about him.

When I realized that being around my emotionally abusive father was a constant hurtful reminder of how devalued I was by him I began to realize that the same was true for all the people in my life who by their actions towards me, showed that they didn’t care about ME.   Even though with all those other people I had already drawn my boundaries much sooner than I had with my passive abusive and emotionally unavailable father, I had not actually realized that part of why I felt so anxious in their company was due to the same devaluing and dismissive treatment of me. Only the details were different. The action parts of the word “love” and the word “respect” were missing.

BUT the message was the same! The message is that I don’t matter, that I am not important, I am not worth listening to and that I don’t have anything to contribute. That message is like a death sentence. That message kept me struggling with depressions my entire life; feeling like I was being held under water and fighting for every breath. That message about me made me try harder and harder to BE whatever and whoever it was they wanted me to be, all the while never realizing that that message spoke louder about THEM than it did about me.

I realized that although other abusive toxic and dysfunctional relationships that I had with other family were much more overt, (obvious)  that the passive abusive nature of my father, the frustration was the same! Being around those people was a constant reminder of how insignificant that I was to them.   No wonder I didn’t like family get-togethers.  I couldn’t put it into words when I was in the fog, but when I came out of the fog, it hit me like a ton of bricks; being around most of those people was a constant painful reminder of how regarded me as ‘less’ than themselves and how they used many opportunities to make that point clear to me. Love doesn’t damage self-esteem. There were no ‘good things’ about that!

I am actually a very social person. I love having people over for dinner, or going out with friends. I love being with people! In my relationships today, I am not discounted. I am not ignored. I am not ‘cut off’ mid-sentence because no one is interested in what I am saying. No one rolls their eyes at me to indicate what I am saying is ‘stupid’.  No one pretends that they didn’t hear me to indicate that what I am saying is too dumb to even validate that they heard me.

Real relationship gives everyone equal value. Real relationship, healthy, functional and equal value based relationship is co-creative and mutually respectful. Those are the good things! I didn’t have them before when it came to my own family or with my in-laws but today I have choices and I exercise my right to have a choice in relationships. I don’t have to accept unacceptable treatment or disregard or any kind of overt or covert abuse that ultimately serves to make me feel bad about myself. 

Please share your thoughts about the reality of relationships. Have you ever noticed that you have not been regarded in action part of love and respect? Abuse isn’t always aggressive and very often it is hidden, (covert) which is much harder to see than more obvious (overt) abuse is. It was in coming out of this fog and into the light of the truth that helped me so much on my quest for freedom and wholeness.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This week A woman lodged a complaint in paypal asking for her donation to the EFB website to be refunded. She told paypal that she did not get the service that she paid for because I didn’t answer her comment. I refunded her donation however I want to state that donations are NOT for that purpose. Donations help to pay the expenses~ tech support, security and back up costs but they are not payment for my responses on comments nor have I ever received enough in donations to have any sort of an income from the work that I do here. The emerging from broken blog is a free resource however it isn’t cost free for me to run it therefore donations to offset those costs are still very much appreciated.  As much as I want to answer everyone, due to the high volume of comments and email that I get I am no longer able to answer them all. ~Darlene

Exposing Truth; one snapshot at a time

Darlene Ouimet

The Emerging from Broken book is ready for download! If you find that the subject matter I am writing about resonates with you, get this book today! This 197 page, downloadable, printable, live linked e-book will put you on the fast track to healing.  Get yours here through the upper right side bar or click this link~ Emerging from Broken The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing –

For related posts see the highlighted phrases in bold throughout this post. One more related post is “Why Setting Boundaries is NOT as easy as it sounds”

194 response to "Emotionally Unavailable Father; The Message of Passive Abuse"

  1. By: Lisa Posted: 18th September

    unter and gave her one.
    Mother called my psychiatrist to ask where I was was and was so convincing that she almost gave my mother my address which could have caused her to lose her license. Most importantly, I think my mother knew that. It was also a threat that if she ever did go to the police my mother would just say my doctor was lying. Sadly, judging from the fact that my dr a) almost did give my info to her and b) admitted that she could see how my mother got away with her abusing me all this time that she knew my mom could convince the less intelligent police of anything about me. Even that my dr, a trained professional with years of medical and psychiatry school was just plain lying. Shortly after that, I left my doctor because I felt she didn’t believe me on some level and I didn’t want her to lose her license over insignificant me.
    My sister claimed she had no contact with my parents, but actually did, and was feeding them all the information they needed to sabotage my life. If anyone on the outside whom they were trying to scam asked, they could easily say that they must have had direct contact with me since they knew all sorts of private things. Nobody would think that they came by the information illegitimately.
    Example, my mother did eventually find out my address and sent me a Christmas card there. No gifts of course. Just a card to let me know she knew where I was.
    There’s never any apology. In fact, my brother committed fraud and blamed me for it when my other family member found out. She threatened to call the police on me. I convinced I was innocent but I still didn’t know until much later that it was my brother behind it. He was so smooth he convinced her he was doing her a favour by warning her of me. But it ruined any relationship I had with her. She never found out it was him who defrauded her of the money. But the kicker is, he emailed me 5 years later to see if he could stay at my place after a hernia operation he was having in my city! He almost ruined my life with his fraud and lies then wanted, even expected, to use my place as a hotel. But what do you expect from a psychopath who looked in on his own sister from a hole in the wall of HER own closet in her OWN room to watch her every time she took a shower!
    I never had recourse because nobody, not even the police, believed me. It was only by my families mercy that I was granted mercy from being arrested whenever they called the police on me with a false claims. It was blackmail and their way of keeping me in line I ever went to the police about the sexual, physical, emotional, or financial abuse they perpetrated on me.
    This is stuff dysfunctional and evil families do. The best thing is to get as far away from them as possible.

  2. By: Steph Posted: 21st May

    I have struggled my entire life with an emotionally absent father. When we were little he was always very involved with my brothers sports and when I asked to try out for sports I wasn’t allowed to. I didn’t really want to try out for hockey and other sports but since he was so involved with my brothers sports I figured it would bring us closer. I was wrong. I became involved with horses at a very young age and have been riding for 20 year and have owned 5 horses in my life. I can count on one hand how many times he showed up for a horse related event, come to find out later my mom made him go and he bitched and complained the entire time. I learned very early that I might as well do what makes me happy because no matter what I tried it wasn’t going to get his attention anyways. I learned independence and no matter what I did I wasn’t going to get attention, love or respect from the man who doesn’t know me. I have also learned what I do and don’t want from a partner in life. I have been in other relationships and have learned what their idea of what a father should be and when it was too similar to my own father I walked away. My boyfriend now is the exact opposite of my father, he always puts me first, is my biggest fan and never lets me forget how much I am loved. Now that I’m in my 20s and my parents are divorced, I don’t have protection from my mother from him that I never knew I had when we were all together. He belittled me, undermines me, ignores me and does nothing but cause me stress and my body has reacted to that stress in lack of sleep and physical pain. My father invites my brother over every weekend and does not invite me. I have been singled out and ignored and I’ve tried so many times to address this issue. I have learned that I could talk until I’m blue in the face and I will always be blamed and nothing will ever change. I can’t do this anymore. I deserve better and I want to break this cycle before my boyfriend and I decide to have a family of our own. I am struggling with the decision to move on and knowing that I will become the bad guy. I have having trouble being selfish in this aspect.

  3. By: Ash Posted: 11th May

    Thank you for writing and sharing your experiences with us Darlene; I have spent my whole life on a carousel of self-torture wishing my parents would love me – on the outside they come across as the perfect parents, making statements about how proud they are of their children. Yet they haven’t called me for over 2 years – I make fairly regular trips to see them (paying the expensive transport costs even though I’m a full time student) and I feel like a dancing monkey desperate for their approval. But NO MORE! I’ve been having therapy and have been learning about self-respect. I am going to teach others how to respect me by respecting myself. I am going to withdraw my attempts at contact, and focus my love and light on those that really do share equal love and respect with me. I have struggled for so long because it’s not overt abuse like you describe, it’s subtle and I don’t even know if they are aware of it themselves… (as I question their emotional awareness). I know that ultimately I have to explain all of this to them, but I’ll do that when I’m ready. For now, I’m going to look after myself which feels selfish but that’s just because of the guilt and shame that has been drummed into me regarding putting myself first. Anyway thank you I really appreciate your writing x

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.