The Deception of an Emotionally Unavailable Father


passive abusive fatherI have tried to talk to my father about the problems with our relationship since my first child was born over 20 years ago and although he pretends to listen to me, he never listens to me. I know this because he never tries to change anything about it. My father is emotionally unavailable. Not just to me; I believe he is emotionally unavailable to everyone. He sent me a birthday card this year and it said how he had all these fond memories of me. I wondered if he knew who he sent the card to? What memories? But I am tired of asking and last year when my father called to ask “if he was able to arrange it”, could he stay with us and attend our daughters graduation, I told him that I was tired of having the same old discussion with him; seeing him just hurts because it is a big reminder of his disinterested in me and how he delivers that same message to my kids about them. I told my passive abusive father that our relationship was pretty much “no relationship” and I was tired of telling him how much he discounts my kids by cutting them off and never listening to them when they are talking. I told him that I was tired of constantly being reminded that I have never been important in his life by his lack of interest in my life.

I told my daughter about my decision and because of the frustrations that all my kids have with their grandfather, she understood my decision. I told him (and my daughter) that he was welcome to come to the event, but not to stay with us in our home. There is of course way more to this story, and years of dysfunctional history behind this decision but for the purpose of this article, I am going to leave it at that for now.  

Last month I got a letter from one of my half sisters. We have our emotionally unavailable father in common but we have different mothers. I think I was 16 or 17 when my sister was born; we have never actually lived in the same home or even in the same city or province and don’t really know each other all that well but like all good victims living in the dysfunctional system of victim mentality, I covered up for my father when it came to my half sisters (and to everyone else for that matter) and even believed all my own lies up until about 7 years ago when I faced the truth about my life and my dysfunctional parents. 

There are a few things that I want to point out about her letter that are very common to the dysfunctional family system. Please keep in mind that my half sister is a victim of the family dysfunction and in this case she is just as much our fathers victim as I was.

The following letter was sent to my daughter with a CC to me because my daughter made a comment to my father on facebook about him not seeing his family in Western Canada (where we live) and my sister decided that my daughter must not know why he isn’t visiting us.  She decided (falsely concluded) that I had not told anyone that I told my father I didn’t want him here. She waited three months to ask Katie about her comment on facebook and she attached a screen shot of the conversation on facebook to refresh everyone’s memory. Here are the relevant parts of the letter she wrote to Katie and I; (I only took out the first part which was specifically to Katie)

“Hi Katie and Darlene,

I thought it would be better to go straight to the source, so here we go. The discussion was on March 22. It’s in the attached photo so everyone’s memory can be refreshed.

Katie: I think you should ask your mother why your grandfather hasn’t visited you, because it’s not what you think. You should specifically ask what happened on the most recent attempt when he called her and said he wanted to come for your graduation. I don’t think you got the message. And I think you’re old enough to be allowed to know what’s happening, perhaps it’s time you make your own decisions.

Katie, you should also know that the last time I visited you guys – which I know was a long time ago but hey I barely have money for groceries, let alone travel that isn’t being paid for by work – your Mom told me that our father was the Mom she never had and how lucky we were to have such a caring Dad. Darlene you talked to me until 2am one night about all the things he did for you through the years. What happened?

Darlene, you don’t owe me anything. But if you are willing, please explain what happened and why you are poisoning your family against the man who stood up for you when you had a teacher who was bullying you at school. Who changed your diapers and your kids’ diapers. Who like every other human is not perfect but who loves his family as much as any person ever could.

Aunty ….”          

And my response;

“I no longer have that rogers email address but Katie forwarded this to me today

You seem to think that Katie doesn’t know the truth about this. (and I will never know if YOU know the truth about this because Dad is a master of twisting things or leaving enough out to make himself look better) I am very honest and respectful with all my kids. After years of asking Dad to listen to me and stop changing the subject constantly to be about him, I told him that I didn’t want him to visit anymore. It was a constant reminder of how absent he was throughout my life.  Dad doesn’t know me and he never bothered to. You mention that I told you the he was the mother I never had. I did say that but it was only for the short period of time when Katie was born. Just for that time he helped me so much but that does not make up for the constant pain he caused by his passive abuse and lack of interest in me or my kids. I told all of my kids that they could make their own decisions about relationship with grandpa but for me I was done. I guess the final straw was when he was last here and he started picking on Amy and all three kids were very effected by the way he cuts them off and never wants to hear what they want to tell him.

It sounds like the only story you know about me is also one of the only ones he ever tells. (the abusive teacher story) but you don’t know the truth about that one either because I could never face it in order to repeat it. It was Dr. Quenelle who threatened mom and dad that it they didn’t get me out of her class that he would get a court order to get me out of it. (Dad didn’t want to confront the principal and make those waves) Dad told that story as the hero, but he wasn’t the hero.  The Dr. advocated for me.

 You asked me what happened? Well I woke up and faced the truth and stopped telling myself what a great dad I had. The truth is that I never really had a dad. He didn’t even keep in touch with me after my parents got divorced. Barely a phone call and no answers to my letters.  And the phone calls were all about you and (my other sister) anyway. (And there is a LOT more than just this truth). Who changed my diapers?? You say that as though that gives someone “rights” ~ I doubt that you know any of the truth about my childhood. (except his three favorite stories; the zoo and the monkey, the chocolate bar sales and the dr. story)  You only know what Dad has told you. (and I can tell from your email that he has told you very little even about the last few years) Think about it.

Relationship takes two and the burden of it should never rest on just one person. Dad has reaped what he has sown. Don’t blame this on me.” Darlene

I never received any response to this email I sent my sister and Katie who also replied to her making it very clear that she knew all along what was going on (and more importantly Katie addressed her own issues with her grandfather which had nothing to do with this event), didn’t get a response either. I would guess that my sister was shocked to realize that Katie knew the truth all along but I would not be surprised to find out that my sister would only use that knowledge as “proof” that I had brainwashed and “poisoned my family” very efficiently.

Key Points: My sister says; “Katie; I think you should ask your mother why your grandfather hasn’t visited you, because it’s not what you think. You should specifically ask what happened on the most recent attempt when he called her and said he wanted to come for your graduation. I don’t think you got the message. And I think you’re old enough to be allowed to know what’s happening, perhaps it’s time you make your own decisions.”

My sister is SURE that Katie does not know anything about why my father didn’t come to her graduation. The fact that she thinks Katie “didn’t get the message” refers to the phone call where I told my father that I didn’t want him staying in our home. My sister assumes that Katie was not told about that phone call and that Katie is “old enough” to be told what is going on so that she can make her own decisions regarding having a relationship with my father. My sisters shows how she doesn’t even consider that this could be anything to do with our father doing anything wrong? My sister is very sure that I am the bad guy here. My father obviously left out all my REASONS for saying I didn’t want him to stay in our house. I was very clear in my communication with him in that phone call. My father left out any of the details that could cause him to be held accountable. My sister only has one side of the story but she is sure that she knows the whole story because that is how the dysfunctional system works. We don’t question everyone or even consider that there may be another side to the story but instead automatically believe the one who has the most power in the relationship.

Then my sister goes on to “prove” to Katie that I have always said my Dad is the greatest and that I can’t just change my mind now by telling her about a late night conversation that took place years ago when I was still living under the dysfunctional family RULES. Under those dysfunctional family rules I didn’t think that I had a right to change my mind when it came to things I had once said were “wonderful”.

And then my favorite paragraph of all; “Darlene, you don’t owe me anything. But if you are willing, please explain what happened and why you are poisoning your family against the man who stood up for you when you had a teacher who was bullying you at school. Who changed your diapers and your kids’ diapers. Who like every other human is not perfect but who loves his family as much as any person ever could.” 

She says that I am poisoning my family against the man who stood up for me when I had a teacher who was bullying me… a huge lie of a story that I use frequently in this website because it is such a great example of how this whole dysfunctional family system thing goes.  And then the diaper thing! (I changed her diapers too.. if she wants to live by those rules.) This is the best that she could come up with to prove that my father loved me? This example bursts with “obligation” and that I own him something, but what I see from her example is the proof  or the “truth leak” that my father doesn’t love me because those are the only examples that she has that show my fathers love for me. She thinks those things prove he loves me and that he is a good father to me! Her definition of love is messed up. I don’t live by that definition of love and I feel sorry for her that she does.

I never told my sisters about my childhood because I thought it would be unfair TO THEM. I didn’t tell them the truth about my father because I lived in the false belief that it was BETTER for them if I went along with the lies just like for so long I believed it was better for me too. They believe that I am the problem and I never stuck up for myself to prove anything different. I kept all my fathers dirty secrets and now I am the bad guy… AGAIN, but I know it would not have mattered if I had not kept those secrets. I would have been the bad guy anyway.

I used to think that my 2 half sisters had a much different experience of my father then I had. I thought that he was better able to be a parent when they were born. I even told them that he was different with them because we had different mothers! I also thought and believed that I should have or could have been a better daughter so that he would have loved me. Today I don’t think any of that is true. My sister is a victim of this dysfunction just as I am; she prefers to live in the false comfort of the fog.

She says that my father loved me the best he could?? How the hell does she know that? The best he could according to who?

And I am so much happier now that I don’t live in that horrible fog anymore. They can have all that dysfunction but as for me I escaped it.

The cycle is obviously not going to end yet, in the rest of my family.

Please share your thoughts. Please remember that this is not about my sister but about the lies my passive abusive father has convinced her of. She is a victim of the whole thing too and I have no doubt she lives in a lovely thick fog storm. After all, she thinks the fog master is a wonderful father.

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


181 response to "The Deception of an Emotionally Unavailable Father"

  1. By: Tracy Posted: 11th May

    The story telling over and over, the constant sabotaging of “conversations” to make them about him. The lack of phone calls. The disrespect to my sons by interrupting or dismissing them when they talk. I can so relate. It screws up the mind and to this day I cant be around my dad for more than a few minutes, sometimes not even that. My mother is is #1 enabler, and that too has messed me up. I am 45 years old and I still cannot speak to my dad about anything. It’s like I become this wilted flower, or fake superficial small talker (he even controls that ). I am so angry at them for not being around to come to any sporting events for my kids, no holidays, they live over 5 hours away on purpose and it makes me sick. Yes, it is a blessing on some occasions, but I would like them to be more involved with my sons. Not going to happen. He would have to change his personality.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 11th May

      Hi Everyone
      I can’t keep up with all the comments anymore therefore I am closing comments on all posts over 150 days. This will be done automatically and I am sorry if the comments shut down in the middle of an active conversation.
      Please feel free to share anything you wish on the more current posts.
      Hugs, Darlene

  2. By: Jessicah Hobbs Posted: 9th March

    I too have a father who I consider emotionally unavailable ???? and I too feel like I’ve never really had a father???? and my Dad’s side of the family (my Grandmother in particular) just defend his behaviour???? They too are living under the fog, and it’s SO FRUSTRATING ???? but there’s nothing I can really do accept stay positive and minimise family visits????

  3. By: DXS Posted: 14th June

    Reminds me of one frustration I had as a child. We never took “vacations” per se. Oh, mom would CLAIM they were vacations. (My mom was all about “appearance.”) It was more, “Dad had a business trip, we were along for the ride.”

    I complained about this, only to be told to shut up and it wasn’t true.

    Hey, even before Crack berry addiction, there were ways to take business on vacation with you.

  4. By: marquis (female) Posted: 24th February

    I love the blog! I had to laugh when your sister said that your dad did the best he could in loving you and love me the best he could according to who? That’s what I always tell people, in what way did my parents try to love us? They tried to list ways “how good parents love their kids,” I told people ‘that’s nowhere near my parents at all!” I don’t know why people waste their time with that nonsense of they tried to love you.

    I told people there is no try either you love me or you don’t – why do we always have something in the middle? There is no both either you do or you don’t! My now ex therapist didn’t like that months ago when we discussed it. She told me last week with my parents ‘there must be some like because I do things for them.’ I looked at her which I already explained to her months ago that ‘they used us and I just milk them for the money yet you don’t see anything wrong with parents using their own kids for their own gain.’ I didn’t repeat myself which I felt would have been a waste of time to a gullible therapist/woman anyway!

    I am glad I found a blog on father-daughter relationships, I see too many happy stories about them and not enough stories about those who lacked a father. I always spoke a lot about my mom and not enough about my “dad.” Growing up, we never had a real dad. Why is that so shocking for people to hear and not understand is beyond me! As I have said on here, elsewhere, and to other people that my dad married my mom (each other) for the very wrong reasons for producing children. My dad was never in our lives, although, he still had residency in the house because he was the only one who paid the bills. He was always and still is gone 3 weeks at a time and when we moved to AZ (except my siblings only me and parents), he was gone over the weekends and came back Monday when he felt like it.

    My mom expects us to care because “he is our dad,” like my sister and I always say why should we care? My sister told me months ago ‘ahhh, all of these years, now he wants to be known as a dad – a father? Why bother now when you are (me) almost 30 yrs old?’ My idiot therapist said ‘well, may be he wants to make up for the lost times.’ I asked her ‘how is making up for the lost times when he won’t admit to any wrongdoing he’s done and still is doing plus still isn’t here with his “family” as he calls it?’ I say that to people all the time and as always no answer from them.

    I told her ‘you’re a parent, you do realize by not being there for your kids at all and as they get older – that’s many more years that’s lost.’ She partially agreed with that saying ‘there’s room for your parents to be the kind of parents they should have been if they choose to.’ I said yes, a choice but there are not going to, didn’t you already say that? Which is it?’ I have sensed she contradicted herself several times. My dad has told women he is single and no children, my sister told me growing up before I was born how her, half sister, and brother didn’t care that he was gone.

    She told me ‘you know, every child gets upset when their own parents don’t love/want them and isn’t in their lives wholeheartedly; it gets to a point where you just don’t care anymore because nothing will ever change and I grew up with a realization of not ever caring. I am 45 years old, why do I still need to hold onto “mommy and daddy?” How is that helping me now? Those are a lot of years lost, both of them don’t know me like they want to believe.’

    Sister said how she is so sick of people telling her that they are your parents and she replied ‘only by DNA not physically, spiritually, and emotionally.’ Now, “that man” may have residency here but how was he involved with me? My parents’ priorities were fighting and threatening one another about money, the past, his whores, frauding the gov, him saying he’s the best dad we ever had, etc. I told therapist and other people where in there did he say anything sincerely and lovingly about us? Everything he said surrounded him and him only yet my ex therapist couldn’t seem to grasp that at all!

    He is violent, he got this outrageous temper like he wants to hit you, he’s good at starting fights yet is a coward if you threaten him, threatens you, he got into a fist fight with my sister when she was 16 and the cops believed my parents over (he hit her first which almost caused her to kill him with a big screw driver and mom protected him like always), he would sell his family to the devil or somebody just to get what he wants (god, if that isn’t a narc/sociopath, I certainly don’t know what is), zero responsibilities, accountabilities, and nothing he says is his fault, everything about him only revolves around him! Is it hard for people to understand narcissism?!? He sheds about 1-2 tears and they dry up no problem, has zero empathy, zero love, zero everything about him.

    He has threaten me and I told him what I’d do to him. Did anybody step in when I told adults (when I was kid) about what he said? No, that’s a parents way to “toughen their kids,” is what I was told by people! This is the other side which I don’t share with people because again it is embarrassing! This is “how men are,” is what I was told by people. I mean, what is there to say? An absentee father!

    He stopped giving out presents, well, his presents were always so bad and screwed up definitely not from the heart. Funny, he don’t mind giving the mistreatment but don’t do it to him because he will get very angry. My dad (mom too) never listens to what I have to say as “children don’t have a place to speak,” oh the child is seen not heard crap! He says I do listen but everything he said or did was agreeable with my mom and talks to me privately claiming he was on my side but didn’t wanna show it in front of mom. All of these years, he plays the devil’s advocate so well which he is 2 faced to people – tells people all kinds of tall tales and smirks behind your back. He has always been very unfair to us, like I told people and ex therapist what fairness? Fairness never existed in this “family” and never will! Again, she was always so dumbfounded. I told her I am almost 30 yrs old, who needs a dad now? She (other people too) think I or my sister are so distraught because of a lack of father that we have “obligations to him,” what obligations? Another guilt trip.

    ““Your mother, she has had such a hard life” speech” people tried to use that guilt trip on me, but never worked. My dad said something similar to this about my mom going through Jim Crow in the South (found out all 50 states had it not just the South and he grew up in NY) that she is such a closet racist (that is true) blah blah yet he ain’t no better!

    He has such women’s issues as they shouldn’t take a man’s job only they should stay home and make babies. My lousy mom has no backbone is such a poor example of a real woman. Long ago, my sister and dad got at it at her old house in CA. He and mom barged into her house during xmas break when I was 16 and had no idea; I thought my sister agreed about coming over for 2 weeks. She didn’t mind that I came over but not our loser parents. She told dad you don’t ever come to my house unannounced and unexpected among other stuff she said. He got defensive saying he will do what he wants and your my daughter. She said oh now, I am your daughter but do it again and I will have no problems having you arrested for trespassing. She told mom this and mom said the same crap that dad told her, sister mom she would have her arrested for trespassing too.

    That wasn’t pleasant back then, mom demanded dad he take her back to AZ because of a selfish bitch daughter she has! Yep, the daughters are always the selfish bitches while brother is a king but at times he gets put into the category of being selfish with us too lol.

    Hmm, what else about my lousy dad? He is a dead beat, mom and him were doomed on day one of their marriage. I found out from sister that mom told her the first 3 yrs of their marriage didn’t work while mom told me the first 10 years of their marriage worked, which is it? lol Mom claimed they fell in love within 2 weeks, then got married. She went from dead beat number one which is her old boyfriend from high school and dead beat number two my loser dad!

    My dad would sit there and make you upset so bad that he is smiling in your face. Mom said threaten him with the cops, no, why can’t you open your damn mouth? Obviously, saying something will never do anything because he will deny it right there saying I don’t know why your so upset while he is drinking tea – seen him do that a lot in my life. Mom can’t say crap because “I don’t know what to do,” is her favorite answer yet I told ex therapist ‘you wanna call that woman having a lot of wisdom at almost 67 yrs old? She clearly has no role in life and never worked hard for anything. She is a user, mooch, and gold digger!’ Again, ex therapist was dumbfounded! Mom should open her damn mouth and say something, quit with the lousy empty threats and put those empty threats into action.

    See, that proves that we were never important. Dad made it clear how we were never important in his life, we were born to “be added onto his taxes so he can get more money from the gov,” plus we were “nothing but a burden to him, it’s a woman’s responsibility to raise kids not him.” Told people ‘wow, sounds like a great dad, huh?’ lol Sad, how there are quite a bit of people who see nothing wrong with what they are doing.

    I hate going places with him, he made it so miserable. He never wanted to buy me food since he is the one who suggested I go with him, he took my allowance back then to pay for dinner or lunch because “that’s how life works, when your friends take you out they deduct from you,” no they don’t!!! He doesn’t mind spending your money but never spend his, I told him long ago why even give me an allowance? If I didn’t do something right, it was a yelling match coming home upset because I did something wrong at the gas station long ago which is his fault for explicitly explaining it correctly. Mom and him got into it not like it helped or solved the situation anyway. Then, he can’t understand why nobody wanted to go anywhere with him we were all selfish yet again!

    His “life teachings” are so poor. Instead of helping, he will just watch you and say ‘that is life showing you how hard it is.’ Look, I can’t pick up this 100lb box (which I can’t) and he said ‘keep letting life hit you hard on the head,’ his fat ass was sitting down! I have told him plenty of times how he is annoying and nobody likes to be around him, ask your other children! He didn’t like that especially about sister and brother as my sister was the evil one poisoning me, brother, and half sister (the child that isn’t my dad’s don’t know why he calls her his daughter he never treated her like his own child anyway).

    I’ve had people say ‘this is your dad?’ Yea, straight up narc, huh? You should see how animals react to him, omg, dogs wanna tear him apart! I hope they do one day! Even today, I don’t say much to him unless it’s about money and that’s it. My ex therapist couldn’t understand that part as I tried to explain it yet did me no good. My dad says he did nothing wrong and we should be grateful for having him as our dad. I’d rather be raised by wolves, tigers, bears, horses, etc anything but him and my mom!

    I’m now 28 years old, why should I care? Like people have told me ‘your mom needs a backbone and just leave him,’ how if the money is fraudulent? If my dad frauded the gov? Of course, she should have done this years and years ago. Isn’t this something? My sister calls our parents now by their first names and my mom blew up that she calls him by his first name. Mom said he is still your father, sister said dad or no dad, he never was a dad and still isn’t one today there has been no changes in him at all. Mom yelled how do you know? Again, has he tried to make amends with my sister or brother and her daughters? No, remember, narcs say they know everything!

  5. By: Kelly A Posted: 15th November

    Sue, thank you. I really think that I recently decided that for myself in the last few days but reading your comment just now sort of sealed the deal. And I like that term: ‘antiseptic’. I’m going to adopt that attitude in dealing with them. I have always had an ‘I know what you’re doing’ approach to this whole thing, but my mistake was in trying to make THEM see it and in letting them see me upset BY it. In lashing back at them when they both attack me, I gave them the very thing they were after. ‘Proof’. ‘Oh, look how she acts, look at what she says and we just want to tell her change because its not us…WE get along perfectly fine’ (of course they do! The golden child and the narcissist ALWAYS get along ‘fine’).

    In any case, yes. Like filing taxes. We were all recently invited to Thanksgiving dinner at my uncle’s house (my FATHER’s brother, by the way). Our last falling out which was on my birthday (Nov 1) and she did not call me. When I called her out on it, she replied, ever the victim: ‘well you said that you were going out’. I replied, ‘that’s tomorrow’. Then she said: ‘well you said you wouldn’t answer anyway’. So you just DONT CALL your OWN DAUGHTER on her BIRTHDAY?! I did say that but that’s not the point. You do it anyway and its MY CHOICE if I pick up or not. I spent the last 16 years telling my drunken father the SAME THING and HE sure never listened! He called anyway and not once in 16 years did I pick up (not that he deserves a medal either but at least he TRIED)! I dont think she liked this because she couldn’t refute it. So it became ‘oh I can never do right by you’ and blah blah you know the drill. So after that, I had decided that I wasn’t going to go to dinner ‘because they were there’. Then it dawned on me: why should I be the one kept away?! Realistically, they’re MY family anyway, not my mother’s. I share actual genetic material with MY uncle and MY grandmother. Why should my sister and mother keep me from enjoying myself with people I am related to? So I changed my mind. I AM going. I am going regardless of whether or not THEY are going. And I told my uncle exactly as you said: ‘it’s just a business transaction. I don’t have to deal with them, I just have to be respectfully cordial to them which I will be. I’m not a child. Contrary to what she tells people, I’m not interested in this big brawl. My beef is with HER and my sister and how THEY treat me. All I have to do is smile politely and pass the potatoes’. He laughed but it’s true. It’s not a contest or a war. If anything it’s a crusade. One I won’t win with them but I don’t need them to validate me anymore. I validate me. Healthy, supportive, emotionally whole friends and other family members validate me.

    In Decemember the three of us will be together again at a concert in NYC. It was my idea to buy the tickets and while we each paid for our own, I have them because they’re on my credit card and it was my invite for the presale. After the most recent incident (I call them incidents because they aren’t ‘fights’ to me. I’m not trying to ‘win’ anything and I am not after anything I don’t rightly deserve for any reason other than that I am a human being on this earth too) I thought about selling THEIR tickets and sending them the money. Then I rethought about it. This isn’t MY problem, this is THEIR problem. I am going to the concert anyway. They can come and sit next to me OR they can be bothered with selling their own tickets if they can’t handle that. I’m certainly not going to skip an event that was MY idea and MY plan to avoid them and why should I burden myself with the hassle of selling THEIR tickets? Come or don’t come, I didn’t pay to see YOU…

    I couldn’t agree more about the neutral territory thing. Each time I went NC with them, when I was ready to try again (silly me), I did so with just a bit more trepidation than the last time. I stopped sleeping over their house. I stopped inviting my sister to anything (I got a lot of flack for this from my mother too but I’m 35 years old and not obligated to entertain her. Her lack of friends is HER problem, not MY problem…funny though, she never seems obligated to take me along..). I stopped riding with them if we all went somewhere. I wouldn’t take whatever my mother wanted to give me (‘I bought this for you’, etc) and I wouldn’t let her pay for me. I tried to eliminate ANYTHING she might use as leverage later. The fewer opportunities they had on THEIR TURF, the less they jumped on me. She would NEVER say the things she says and do the things she does in the presence of others. NEVER. The jig would be immediately up. Game over. She needs to do it in private so that I can react as I always have (and even THAT was TAUGHT!) and inadvertantly give her her precious ‘proof’. I’m done ‘proving’ to her that I’m the problem. Now I’m proving to myself that I’m worthy.

    Thank you Sue. Thank you Darlene. Thank you EFB.


  6. By: Sue in MN Posted: 15th November

    A Reply for Kelly A’s post:

    I was at your point 20 years ago. A little trick in thinking that often helped me when I started to distance &/or break off my relationship with my relatives was to develop the mindset prior to making an unavoidable phone call or sending obligatory greeting card was to treat the whole event as quickly-executed, emotionally-detached, but cordial business transaction then I moved rapidly into an activity I enjoyed with people who respected me. Moving through it quickly minimized opportunity for them to aggressive/manipulative. Being cordial often times threw them off balance because they weren’t prepared for that either.

    To this day I still receive letters from my father who is in his 90’s informing me that he destroyed my last card/letter/package because my “tone was antiseptic” or “very newsy” which to translate into his terms was that whatever I communicated didn’t include stories of misery, slander or feeding into an argument he’s carried for decades.

    The term “managing” the relationships would suit it to. It’s like filing taxes – just hold your nose and before you know it you are done with dealing it for another 12 months. Like with so many things with practice most of the time I can have a short transaction with my father or brothers and come out the side with very minimal damage for two reasons:
    1) I never give with much time including NEVER hand over control of locations or circumstances.
    2) Since the ordeal is a ‘business transaction’ I am calmer therefor my thinking is clearer so I can anticipate their reactions then choose usually NOT to respond or even cut them off if necessary.

    I agree EFB is a sanctuary! Love it love it love it.

    ~Sue in MN

  7. By: Kelly A Posted: 13th November

    My sister does this very same thing to me. I have gone no contact now a few different times and I keep ending up back in their fog, but each time I tread a little lighter on the eggshells I know are still there. The last time I did this, just this past summer after my beloved dog passed away (the only realy family I ever had), a few months went by and I got an email from my sister (who is 33, manipulative and abusive herself, always my mother’s ally and who still lives at home where mommy takes care of her and she gets to be the ‘golden child’). This speaks to the point you made in another post about how one can have narcissitic tendencies without actually being narcissist because clearly my mother can turn this off depending on what child she is dealing with. My mother doesn’t respect me, she claims I dont respect her but she equates ‘respect’ with compliance. She usually doesn’t even regard that I HAVE feelings at all on her own but this belief is compounded when I accidentally step on my sister’s little toes. Ultimately I think its really all about my mother anyway. Keeping my sister happy, keeps her mouth shut and when her mouth is shut, my mother can pretend is all is right with the world. All my mother has to do to get what she wants (false harmony, compliance) is to give my sister everything that she wants. Simple enough I suppose.

    The letter my siser sent me this (copy/pasted exactly as written): “are you going to not talk to everyone forever because i feel like this is stupid and juvenile. i’m not writing this out of anger or to piss you off, i seriously just want to tell you how i feel. you used to not talk to everyone only when there was a fight, but lately you stop talking to everyone for months and for no apparent reason. i feel like our entire “family” is effed up enough without our tiny 3 person family being broken up all the time too. believe it or not, i miss my sister. i miss being able to talk to you and joke with you and make fun of people with you. i had a lot of fun when we went to MSU and we were all just sitting in a damn parking lot. i had fun because we were all together, which is rare, and we were all getting along, which is even more rare. that time in the parking lot though, makes me feel like this not talking crap is even more useless. summer is coming and i’d love to be able to do stuff with my sister. i love her and i miss her. even if she doesn’t feel the same.”

    I replied to her with (only a laundry list of grievances I’ve wasted my time expressing time and again was removed from this text):

    “I’m sorry but I don’t feel the same because I’m not treated the same. When you two figure that out, maybe things will change. Until then, I’m sorry but no, I’m not interested. I’m quite fearless and very fine alone. I can’t count on anyone anyway. All you do is throw weaknesses and mistakes in my face. All you both do is blame me for everything. I’m tired of it all. So it has to be goodbye”.

    She then replied with: “I am sorry that you feel that way. Just remember that Dad is the one that decided not to talk to anyone too.”

    My parents divorced in 1998 and my father is an alcholic. Now in his 60s, he refuses to get help for his problem and last I heard (neither me nor my sister have spoken to him but a handful of times over the last 15 years) he had gone no contact with my uncle and grandmother (who had tried repeatedly to help him in every way…enabling with money, shelter, etc until it wore them out too and he got angry and disappeared). He inadvertantly 9nvalidated MY reason for going NC with them.

    They bully me and treat me like I don’t matter. I am ‘asked’ by my mother to constantly accommodate my sister’s whims, no matter how foolish or childish they may be and no matter if they inconvenience or harm ME. I am expected to open the bathroom door or allow her to enter, even while I am showering so she can ‘get what she needs’ (often ‘what she needs’ is hairspray). But just because it is posed as a question, doesn’t mean it is. The expectation is that I don’t have a choice. If I say ‘no’, I am ‘not cooperating’, ‘causing a fight’ and ‘being childish’. And if I acquiesce, which I do less and less frequently these days, I sacrifice my own needs/wants for my sister (and ultimately my mother becuase when I say ‘no’ to my sister, she runs and gets my mother who ‘asks’.

    I am treated with disregard in every fashion. It’s okay for them to run hours late and not even have the courtesy to call me (‘oh, we were late, get over it, it’s not a big deal’) but ye if I run 20 minutes late and tell them, I’m told I’m irresponsible for having done so and they leave/eat without me! It’s okay for them to ‘forget’ something but I am ‘careless’ or ‘irresponsible’ if I do. I was even told that when I was unfairly fired from a job because one woman who didnt like me wielded more power than she should have, that it was MY OWN fault (but when my sister was NOT HIRED by an employer because the interviewer didn’t like HER, of course it was THEIR fault).

    In the letter I copied above, it’s clear that neither my sister or my mother think THEY have any responsibility to the health of our family. THEY discredit me enough to compare me to my alcoholic father and think I’ve left the situation for ‘no reason’ despite the fact that I’ve told them time and again WHAT the reason IS. I am seen as the one who is responsible for the total relationship and therefore also for breaking up what’s left of it because I chose to stop sacrificing myself to them.

    Darlene, your blog has truly changed my life. I think I was halfway there, as I stopped ‘taking’ the abuse some years ago and instead created a firestorm of more because I stood up to it. But my mistake was that I didnt stand up in the way I should have though. I stood up by lashing back. It’s hard when the very people who are supposed to love you the most, don’t and you can see it. I see now that by lashing back, I was only giving them what they so desperately needed in the first place from me: proof. Proof that I am ‘the bad one’, ‘the problem’, the ‘unreasonable one’, the ’cause’ of all the familial unrest. They have also painted me as this to other relatives who listen to my poor victim mother whine about what an ungrateful, horrible, selfish, child she has in me. It never occured to me though, that she people she finds the most sympathy with are her own sisters who were raised by my equally abusive and dysfunctional grandmother. I am always told exactly as you wrote: ‘that no matter how nasty my mother was to me, I still loved her’. And now I know that they didnt love her, they FEARED her.

    Thank you Darlene. Thank you for having the courage to write this blog. Thank you for making it searchable and accessable to people like me who were looking for ‘more’ (maybe not answers or validation per se, but ‘something’). Thank you more than I can ever say.

  8. By: Sue Posted: 16th October

    Dearest Darlene 🙂
    Nearly 20 yrs ago I received the best advice of my life. My pastor’s wife suggested I distance myself my toxic parents and brothers instead of continually allowing them to torture my mind. Since then I’ve spared my son and myself years of misery. Contact isn’t 100% cut off but it’s extremely limited much to my brother’s & my father’s frustration. My ‘system’ isn’t without flaws. I still managed to accumulate shoe box packed tight with letters from my father insulting me and attacking my son until I burned them; and my brother had succeeded to come between me and significant other(s) and attempted to take my share of inheritance our mother left us (he failed). The same brother angrily cross examined me on my experiences of being molested; yelling at me that he knows others whose “parents ****ed them but they got over it!” Twenty years later, I systematically enforce my boundaries & I’m thrilled that through my example my 22 year old son enforces boundaries when dealing with them as well.
    I thought as time went on their relentless hunger to control would lessen. My father is still angry & perverted at 96 years old. It’s not kind to hope someone will pass away but I know I will be relieved when that day arrives. My father and my brother ‘feed’ off each other then turn their attention to me and my son.
    Have you found that after a toxic parent passes away that toxic children with similar traits loss their steam? or does the dynamic remain in place? As time passes and one’s mind clears I realized each time on the rare occasion I see this brother he handles me roughly. We were at the same home on Saturday 10/12/2013 where a relative was in town for a short visit. Before getting in my car he comes in for a hug and ‘I love you’ & I replied with ‘I love you’ just make a fast exit but THAT wasn’t good enough for him. Before breaking his embrace he forcefully grabbed the back of my neck and shoved his face within an inch of mine and said, “I REALLY LOVE YOU.” I feel sickened to describe it but I can’t keep it inside. On the other hand I feel safe in knowing it will likely be a very long time before I’ll cross paths with him again. At least I have that.
    Your insight is wonderful and truly a Blessing.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 17th October

      Hi Sue,
      Welcome to EFB ~ I have found that the death of a parent changes nothing when it comes to a sibling who has learned to abuse in the abusive/dysfunctional family system where they have been taught that the one who has the most power wins. The only thing that changes a person is the realization that abuse is wrong. The lust for power over others is a crazy thing when the one who has it believes that it is ‘love’ and proof of worth when others bow down to them or fear them or react to them in fear. That is where the controller/abuser gets their self-esteem. I know that is sick.
      Thank you for your comments,
      Hugs, Darlene

  9. By: Sheila Maberry Posted: 8th August

    First, kudos for speaking your mind to your Aunt. Never doubt speaking your own truth. I hesitated when my middle “sister” (I use this term loosely–I am the youngest) friended me on Facebook. I am almost 50 but, the little girl in me who has never been accepted by her though somehow THIS time would be different. LOL I didn’t invite her to my first wedding because of her behavior and although I was married 27 years I was in nc for over a decade due to her behavior and life choices. During my divorce instead of supporting me her response was “have you thought about this.” REALLY, she hated my ex-husband but, still chose to judge me for leaving.
    Then during my divorce I was verbally attacked, called a liar etc. during a phone call. She called me psychotic for being on Facebook and Google. I have had a lot of academic success and writing success and so if you Google my name of course I come up! So, her arrival on Facebook was hypocritical but, expected. I made a reference to an Aloe drink that was funny and not horridly appropriate and immediately received an message saying she was going to unfriend me. I finally stood my ground and told her I did not, nor would not edit myself for her or anyone. She continued and abusive tirade that mentioned “we will never be close” I jumped on that chance. I said “why would I want to be close to someone who is that judgmental of me.” I am now blocked 🙂
    Katie, it took me almost 50 years to stand up to this monster. She has lied about me, treated my children horridly, said my son was “the ugliest baby she had ever seen,” etc. She is the one with reams of skeletons and secrets. Never let someone make you doubt yourself. Your Aunt should have understood your anger and respected that you chose to speak the truth, from the heart without editing.
    I wish you and everyone peace. I would like to say that I didn’t cry with the exchange betwixt my sister and I but, I did. Not for long. The little girl that never understood why she hated me is who can’t reconcile reality with the dream of having a loving sister.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 9th August

      Hi Sheila
      I passed your comments on to Katie.
      Welcome to EFB and thank you for sharing part of your story here.
      hugs, Darlene

  10. By: Lora Posted: 8th August

    Hey Darlene! Excellent article! I too am grateful that I don’t live in the fog anymore and it’s through witnessing my sister’s behaviour that I realize how far I have come. I am close to my nieces and I see signs of the dysfunction within them and do my best to serve as a model of recovery.

    I do my best to pass on resources and explain that they have choices to live a better life. It’s not an easy task when I have my sister believing I am a trouble maker and causing a rift between her and her daughters. It just places me back into the old patterns that I am fighting to escape from. The only difference now is I have better skills to deal with this and I can witness for myself how I too was a part of it all. It’s very disturbing once you leave the fog and come to the realization what you’ve really been a part of. It’s all part of recovery and I’m just grateful I found my own path.

    I have learned to accept that not everyone will choose the path towards healing and for those people I have compassion, all I ask from them is to stay off my path. Don’t tear down all my good work because you lack the faith in yourself to do your own work. All the resources we need to help ourselves are there for everyone, it’s up to each and everyone of us to choose them.

    Thank you for this article Darlene, it’s just another step for my healing, Big Hugs!

  11. By: DXS Posted: 8th August

    All this time reading Darlene’s blog, I have been focusing on my mother. I’m now seeing my Father’s part in it. My mom constantly said “your dad wanted kids really bad.” Then under another breath, she would say, “Your Dad wanted me to raise the children while he worked to earn the money.” Typical 50’s attitude. My father was unable to talk to me. My mom said, “you had plenty of opportunities to bond with your father.” Um, I was a kid, how come *I* had to make the effort? Why didn’t *he* make the effort to get to know me?

    I went to a counselor in my 20’s. The counselor said, “Your parents didn’t validate you.” At the time, I thought it was psychobabble. Now I see the counselor was right.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 8th August

      Hi DXS
      Yes, seeing the truth is the key! And there is so much of it to see!
      thanks for sharing,
      hugs, Darlene

      Hi Lora
      YAy ~ thanks for sharing your victories!
      Hugs, Darlene

  12. By: Amy Turon Posted: 8th August

    Darlene, I am fairly new to your blog, so this was a new story for me to read. Your stories come right out of my own life. I am so amazed at how similar our stories are, how you describe my life so perfectly, and explain the intricacies of a dysfunctional family.

    My own sister did very similar things in my life. My parents are both passive-aggressive and my father is a narcissist. They twist the truth, triangle, and live a life of continual judging others.

    Like you, I eventually came to see the truth of my family. It was very, very painful. I too had to disengage. My siblings have no contact with me and, like you, assume that I am poisoning the whole family with my “lies.”

    Thankfully, I am now free from their dysfunction and have found a new family through my 12-step recovery group. This new family provides the loving support, kindness, and acceptance that I never, ever got in my family of origin.

    Thank you for this blog that you write. I know it can be painful to put the truth out there, but it is very helpful to those who are just coming to see the truth about their lives.

    You are loved by your family here on “Emerging from broken.”

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 8th August

      Hi Ginger
      I think that my dad thrives off everyone else doing all these things ‘for him’. I think what my half sister did ‘backfired’ on her because she didn’t realize that my kids all knew that I said my dad couldn’t stay with us anymore AND why and because my Dad pretended not to know why. As I said, she is a victim of his as well.
      p.s. the fact that your siblings didn’t come to your mothers funeral is a bit truth leak isn’t it?!
      hugs, Darlene

      Hi Amy
      The biggest victory is what you said “Thankfully, I am now free from their dysfunction” ~ YES
      hugs, Darlene

  13. By: Ginger Cooper Posted: 8th August

    I so wish people would not use facebook which is an open book as a weapon to confront other people.. this not only is not everyone else’s business it was not right for your half sister to do that.
    If she had healthy boundaries, Your half sister would have confronted you about the issues you have with your dad. She had no part is the problems between you and him period. Nor does she understand it fully because she was not there. I noticed she never said how he had been there for her. Nor the things he had done for her.
    The choice you made for your dad not to stay at your house was just that your choice. and it is one thing dealing with family out in the public eye but it is another to have them come into your home and leave your kids open to them fully.One of your major jobs as a parent is to protect from abusive people. which you did great job:)
    What also made me think, is why did your dad did not address the issue? It is always that way he talks to her and manipulates her to do his dirty work.. Trying to leave his hands clean in all of this..
    At my moms funeral I invited my siblings to it. But I did not invite them to come stay in my home either. I only get along with one sibling. None of them came to it…how said is that.

  14. By: DXS (JJ) Posted: 7th June

    I did not cry at my father’s funeral. My sisters got mad at me. They said, “you don’t have to be strong.” What they don’t know is….. I was NOT being “Strong.” I just felt nothing.

  15. By: DXS (JJ) Posted: 7th June

    [quote=Darlene] and they wanted me to be what they wanted ~ which wasn’t ME. :)[/quote]

    I felt this way my entire life. That my parents were trying to MAKE me be “this other person” that I couldn’t be.

  16. By: DXS (JJ) Posted: 7th June

    It has been a shock to me to realize that my own father was emotionally unavailable. My father the “nice man everyone likes, helps kids with the farm animals at the fair, blah blah blah” was emotionally unavailable. I wasn’t in to the farming thing, so he could not talk to me unless it was filtered through my Mom.

    When I was 25, I was offered a job on the other side of the country. I was SO EXCITED about driving across the country all by myself. I was EXCITED! But NOOOOO……. my mom has to “invite” herself to accompany me on that trip. Took my mom 25 more years before I got the “real” story. Apparently Dad had insisted that she go with me. But NO, Dad couldn’t tell me this directly. He told Mom, and then Mom manipulated the situation to get herself “invited” to go along. I always KNEW there was a “real” story. Just took Mom 25 years to tell me.

    Dad did not like doing “parental” stuff like discipline. Mom had to do that. My father was NOT a “parent.”

  17. By: KS Posted: 23rd May

    My family on my dad’s side were emotionally stoic people. They believed that you shouldn’t show any weakness. They were obsessed with what everyone thought of them as well. My dad was emotionally distant as well. He has never once shown pride for anything I have done. I was always worried for a while what they thought of me, until I had counseling for depression and anxiety and my counselor said “Why the hell do you care what they say?” and I was like…uhh your right. I had a huge emotional outburst at my dad that year, and asked him to name one time he was proud of me and all he could say was “I’ve been proud of you for a lot of things.” But he couldn’t name one time in particular. After that I just really stopped caring what they think. I feel like I have my own identity now that doesn’t conform to their standards.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 23rd May

      Hi KS
      Welcome to EFB ~ Yes, sounds so much like my Dad. It hurts but the truth set me free ~ I don’t think my identity would ever be acceptable to them because it is mine and they wanted me to be what they wanted ~ which wasn’t ME. 🙂
      Thanks for sharing,
      Hugs, Darlene

  18. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 26th February

    Everyone ~ I have just published a new post about Passive Abuse and how the message I got from passive abuse was the same as the message I got from more obvious abuse. I use my father as an example. (the only reason I don’t share much about my father is because there isn’t much to share; he didn’t bother himself with me too much; and that is passive abuse) I look forward to the comments on the new post;
    Here is the link ~ “Emotionally Unavailable Father; The message of passive abuse”
    Hugs, Darlene

  19. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 24th November

    Hi Kimberly
    I have trouble crying too. There was a lot of damage done to me when I was told my emotions were wrong, and that me feelings were invalid. (But that doesn’t get in my way! we can progress without tears, although I wish I could cry sometimes. It might come back one day!)
    thanks for sharing!
    hugs, Darlene

  20. By: Kimberly Posted: 23rd November

    My father was very passive and he only spoke if he was wanted to critical or make fun of me or someone else and then have a good laugh and if I got upset or anyone else, then we were just being too sensitive. All my life I been told that I am too sensitive, my mom would accuse me of having crocodile tears, fake tears to get my way, It was more of me being afraid to cry and trying not to have them come out, I got beat for crying. It is a wonder I can still cry today, my theraphist who was my godsend in life, beside a best friend who told me the truth and never prettied it up and was flat out honest both saved me, they opened my eyes and said Kimberly you can cry and you should but I couldnt, and still to this day i have to hear a song like you are beauitful by christina augerialla just to be able to have a river of tears, that song if played in a public place is a danger to me, I will cry and I wont be able to stop!
    I think my dad being so passive and my mom so violent and possessive did things to my mind that cant be fully repaired.

  21. By: Mimi Posted: 24th September

    Thanks Sinitta! That term “baby steps” always brings me to that movie, “What About Bob”. Fun movie if you haven’t seen it.

    Anyhow, yes, baby steps to freedom, I agree. Lots of self reminders!! The further I get away from mother, the better I am. The freedom feels good!!


  22. By: Lynn Posted: 23rd September

    Hi. I had to comment even though it’s been a while. Sinitta wrote in 146 “I feel like a burden” which I guess means a burden to the family. I don’t know if it’s age or maturity or awareness or what BUT I’ve made a major shift in my perspective. I used to feel like a burden to my family, and a burden on the planet. What did I do to take on the notion that I was a burden? Nothing. It was what was done to me that put such a burden on me that I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. The shift is that I realized THEY are a burden to me! Their dysfunction, lies, betrayals, and unity with evil burden my heart and soul. So, I’m done with them.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 24th September

      Hi Lynn
      This is awesome! Thanks for sharing this very very important shift. That is the truth that set me free.
      Hugs, Darlene

  23. By: sinitta Posted: 20th September

    Thanks Mimi. For me personally taking a massive step back from my family has helped me. I feel like a burden and weight has been lifted off my shoulders, that I was completely unaware of. I changed my mobile number deleted them off my Facebook account. Of course that alone caused negative remarks which I don’t care about

    Anyway baby steps towards a better life. The stronger I get I totally move towards stronger healthier people. Rather than the old dysfunction,however in order to do this I needed to start with my family and not just “shut up and put up” any more.

    Seriously listen to your feelings though Mimi,and honour them. They are giving you an important message. I think the ‘cloud”is telling you to take a step back from them. Anyway it gets easier I hope.Actually I know that to be true. You know taking one step at a time and relearning new ways to parent myself

    Lots of Love

  24. By: Barbara Posted: 21st August

    It’s unfortunate that NarcMothers often have Enabling Fathers (EF) in the mix. And you have to No Contact the EF as well.

    Thank goodness my father wasn’t an EF – he was more emasculated but he fought against my NM – eventually she almost killed him.

    Daughter of Narcissistic Mothers

    Thank you, always – for this fantastic site Darlene

  25. By: Alaina Posted: 18th August


    I’m not religious myself and have never read the bible at all but my father was the son of a mennonite preacher–fairly rigid from what I gather and I’ve known my dad to struggle with many issues concerning religion and his father, so the misuse of religion often grates at me as well. I liked what Don said about honouring not meaning obedience. I have obviously no expertise whatsoever but I wonder if it can’t be interpreted as speaking more about honouring the souls of our parents, as opposed to honouring their words, choices, actions, etc. Can you not tie this up also with the idea of loving the sinner but not the sin? For example, calling someone out for their lies would be honouring their souls, would it not? Because lies must corrupt the soul, right? So therefore in protecting the lies, you are not honouring their souls. You honour the God in their heart/soul by bringing light to the truth. Also, I think honouring would mean doing it in a respectful way. I.e. caring for that soul… So, though I’m not religious, that is essentially my ethic whenever I’m trying to address someone who has done me wrong. It’s an ideal I’m not sure I’ve always met but I try to. Be firm with the truth but care for the person inside them… It’s like in this post, where Darlene recognizes her half-sister is a victim and obviously cares for her as such but still tells it like it is, or her daughter’s statement that it is more rude and wrong to let someone disrespect you and your loved ones… after all, what does disrespecting someone do to the state of your soul and your relationship with God? Seems to me you are helping and honouring them by speaking the truth, whether they see it or not… Anyway, those are my thoughts, as the heathen that I am 😉

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