Why People Discount the (Adult) Child and Defend the Abuser

Poster creation by Judy Baxter
Poster creation by Judy Baxter

“They say “But she is your Mother!” and I respond “Yes, and I am her Daughter”.  Darlene Ouimet

I have found so much freedom in realizing that I don’t have to explain or justify my decision to draw boundaries with my parents or with anyone else, to anyone. I don’t have to help people ‘understand it’. I don’t have to defend myself or prove myself. There is a reason that some people don’t accept my decision to disengage from my parents and family. There is a reason that this offends certain people but the reason may not be what you think it is. It certainly isn’t what I originally thought it was.

Throughout the comments in this website, and on the Emerging from Broken Facebook page, people often share the belief that people who haven’t ‘been there’ or haven’t walked a mile in these shoes don’t understand what we are talking about when it comes to having parents who are unsupportive, disrespectful abusive or dysfunctional. For a long time I agreed but I have come to realize that this conclusion isn’t as accurate as I used to think it was.

I have discovered that people who have or have had loving parents actually do understand what I am talking about; it is the people still stuck in defending their own abusive /discounting parents that fight the hardest against what I am saying. It’s actually makes sense that it is that way too; People who KNOW what love really is don’t think my mother and her actions regarding me were very loving; they don’t think that the way she treated me had any foundation in her love for me. People who had parents who modeled real love, recognize the truth about what love is. And they don’t stand up for neglect, disrespectful actions, discounting actions, corporal punishment, emotional abuse, verbal abuse or any other type of communication from parents that is less than love.

People who know what love really is and experienced that love from their parents, don’t think my father’s neglect and disinterest in me was loving OR normal. They don’t think he did the best he could. The reaction that I get from people who actually WERE loved by their parents is understanding and empathy rather than the judgment and criticism that we so often hear. Statements such as “but they are your parents” or “I’m sure your parents did the best they could” are not flung in my face by people who know what loving parents really are.  Since I have come out of the fog about the whole dysfunctional family system I have met people who have a whole different reaction to my story; I have met people who say things like “OH MY GOSH, No wonder you don’t have a relationship with them anymore”.  People who learned love from being loved say things like “HOW can parents treat their children like that?” and they don’t understand why or how these parents could communicate such rejection towards their own children.

People who know what love is don’t defend people that communicate so much less than love.

The people that have a need to stick up for the dysfunctional family system are the ones that have judged me the hardest. The hate mail I get always leaks the truth about the writers own abusive childhood and the need to defend their own parents. These comments/emails contain statements such as “my parents beat me but I deserved it”. Sometimes I get a huge paragraph describing the offences that they endured at the hands of mean hateful parents and the final sentence is “but I know my parents loved me”. (I want to ask “HOW do you know that they loved you?”)

There are truth leaks in some of that correspondence about what kind of parent the writer is as well. Many parents are afraid that if they see the truth about the way their own parents treated them, then they will have to give up the control they exert over their own children and treat them with equal value. When the adult child has grown up with the belief that the one with the most power wins, and that compliance and obedience ‘proves’ love, they are not so willing to give up power over their own children because they believe that when children ‘jump’ it means that they ‘love’.

There are a lot of parents that really hate that I am suggesting children of all ages have equal value to parents because of their belief in parental rights and entitlement. Many parents believe that they “own’ their children and that their children “owe” them for the fact that they were even born but these beliefs have NOTHING to do with actual LOVE.

My mother used to say to me that no matter how nasty and mean her own mother was, she still ‘loved her’. I say “what does any of that have to do with love?” Her mother didn’t show love. She didn’t act in a loving way. She was not loving. She was mean and nasty and selfish. I never saw one action initiated by my grandmother that was related to love. And I have to conclude that my mother thought she ‘loved her mother’ because she went along with the way her mother treated her and never questioned it.

I have a choice about what I accept and what I don’t accept and what I accept or don’t accept is based on the fact that today I know what love is and I know what love isn’t and it isn’t compliance and obedience to dysfunctional rules. Choosing love meant that I chose to reject anything less than love. When I chose love, I chose life, I chose truth and I chose ME. 

When a parent denies their child a voice, blames the child for any traumatic events they experienced growing up while still denying that there even were any traumatic events, and continues to paint that child as “a problem”, “unforgiving”, or any other negative blaming descriptive phrases, ~ There IS NO real relationship between that child and their parents. There IS no love lost when there was no love in the first place.

So when someone approaches me with judgment for the decisions that I have made or for my work here in Emerging from Broken, I consider where they are coming from. This judgment ultimately is about them, I mean think about it; why would someone argue that abuse from parents is ‘not abuse’ because it is an action delivered by a parent, or that parents have special rights just because they are parents? Why would  people react with anger or judgment towards someone who expresses freedom from walking away from abusive people just because those abusive people were their parents?  What could possibly be the motivation behind sticking up for abuse and abusers? When I understood the truth about the answer to that question, I no longer felt defensive about my actions. I was able to let go of the need to defend my choices when I realized that the way people react to my choices is about them and not about me; people who have had loving parents do not defend abusive parents.

Not everyone is ready to face the truth about their own past. Please share your thoughts about this topic. I look forward to the conversation.  Please accept my apologies if I don’t respond to all the comments. This blog has active conversations on a minimum of 5 posts all the time and generates close to 1000 comments per month. I have been accepting more clients (Yes, I work on the phone and on Skype) and I am unable to spend as much time responding to all those comments the way that I used to. 

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 in the upper right side bar or click this link~ Emerging from Broken The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing

1,121 response to "Why People Discount the (Adult) Child and Defend the Abuser"

  1. By: Silvia Garcia Posted: 1st December

    My family turned their backs on me and preferred keeping a relationship with my abuser. They say I’m not forgiving or humble enough. My so called mother still lives with my abuser. He is her partner. She was aware since I was a child of the abuse. I’ve had to cut out of my life everyone, one by one. I was sexually abused from the age of five. But to my family I’m the crazy one.

  2. By: Voce Posted: 14th September

    I went no contact two months ago and they let me go easily. I was adopted at 6 months by a White family. I was sex.ually abused by my the father that adopted me and he has put me down and never encouraged me. I am the Scapegoat and all of my siblings learned to dismiss me as less than and the crazy one. I basically was killing myself with drugs and alcohol and found myself strangled, abused and raped by multiple men in my life. I lived with severe depression and wanted to jump in front of the train tracks one Christmas when I was berated over the phone because I did not say good bye to my Sociopath step mother. These evil people put me down over and over and treated me like I was nothing. It took .until I was 49 and suffering from multiple health problems to say good bye even though my father is now 89 and I’ll and my Step mom has cancer. I do not CARE! Good Riddance!

  3. By: Lenard Posted: 26th February

    Thank you for this post. Sometimes I feel lost in a sea of unexplainable enabling bs, and it helps to hear not everyone believes I have to accept whatever horrible thing they do just because of shared genetic material.

  4. By: Richard Posted: 24th February

    As the 55 year old son of a narcissistic mother, who has given up 28 years of his life; trying to help his mother and figure out what the hell’s going on- I appreciate and value, your experience and knowledge on this subject. It took me a long time to realize just how complicated being a narcissist and living with a narcissist can be. I must say, I am an empathetic person towards all human beings. I’m not really sure if I used to be that way. I think my mother gave me a rare gift in that; when I look at my life I have a lot of narcissistic behaviors. Through my mother’s abuse I began researching and trying to figure out the Dynamics of our relationship. It hit me like a brick wall that my mother is a narcissist and a little later on, that I too, had been practicing some level of narcissistic abuse on other people. Through her narcissism I was forced to look deep inside myself. Extremely painful and terrifying. I didn’t like what I saw in either of us. I feel, believe and hope, that I am one of those very rare narcissists that is recovering.
    I made one huge mistake, I challenged her personality disorder.
    This opened up Pandora’s Box! Any experience hoe strength advice you could give me with me appreciated beyond anything I could think of at this point. Please forgive my selfishness.
    Sincerely, Rick

  5. By: Survivor? Posted: 22nd February

    Being beaten up in a rage on Christmas day by my own older adult brother who has always loved and protected changed my world. He is being abused emotionally and mentally by his wife and child (yes exactly like the mother) and took it out on me. That night I dissapeared. The second night he did it again in front of my parents and my dad was encouraging it and holding me for him to harm me more because he had called his guard dog or my brother on me. He twisted the truth to have him feel sorry and attack me. My brother left home young and never knew of the horrors of how I grew up like a single child. Im the youngest of three. My sister is only a couple years younger and moved out in her mid 20s. I had not seen my brother like this but knew he was violent with his wife and kids. He did it again a few years later around Christmas and for 2 years my own mother kept blaming me and saying I started it and I attacked him while my brother balatantly lied. The first lie was he did nothing to me that first night. The second night they witnessed me defending and trying to attack him back because of what he did the first night. So that’s all she see’s. He can do no wrong. He is the best and has done everything they asked of him to the best of his ability – a good son and friend to them. He always viewed me like his ex-wife in my 20s…doesn’t like me and says he will cut ties when my parent’s die. He already has to a degree anyhow. I was stuck in a shelter that I used to volunteer at as a young person – for a month and then no place to go with $12 in my account. They couldn’t give me cheap housing because I had assets in the form of a house I got from my dad which never allowed me to go to school because I couldn’t get a loan. All of my life he prevents me from moving forward and still calls me a moocher and wish I would die. Suffice it to say my dad is a malignant narcissist. The third time he beat me up again for my dad I didn’t go to the hospital this time but to doctors and it took another 7 months to heal – and yet I have never fully healed as my neck is damaged and certain motions and excercise set it off for pain and headaches, and months of sleepless nights with my arm going numb from the neck down. The third time my mom decides that its ok to say that she is happy I got beaten up. She is actually saying that for months and months. I have a sick family. Triangulation – mom dad and I. My brother never apologized this last time. I threatened that if he touches me again I will take down the houses and both my brother and parents for what they did through the law and have recorded things so that at least will keep them scared. I reconciled with my brother although it took a year but his plan is to leave me alone when they die so I have to manage my life on my own. I have done ok so far but my math has always been weak and understanding of my life. I spent the last few months trying really hard to accept him and his family even though we had a fall out with his wife. I accepted the further cruelty and emotional mental abuse of him not accepting my gifts or my mom’s because we celebrated without his kids for once and he and my dad were angry that the boys were not there – they were away and we could do it again and again and include them. He doesn’t allow me to spend time with his kids and is morally superior although his house is full of holes in the walls above their beds from his rage fits thanks to his wife. He actually thinks he can do whatever he wants with his family and kids and the law doesn’t apply to him – that’s what he said to me and wrote to me. He has gone so far as to harm my reputation with his kids and hurt them only to try to hurt me – not able to see one another unless they watch TV in grandmothers house – not really visiting just being used to watch TV bc you can’t talk or spend time with a kid who does that for 6 hours can you? They are zombies. They even eat Christmas dinner in front of it. Im
    being paid back for the year I ignored them because of his violence and suffering on my body that third and hopefully last time. My real doctor retired last year, and another doctor moved and I don’t see him as he is far. The last doctor didn’t really care. Surprising to see how many professionals in the medical industry don’t care include the emergency physician who man-handled me while I had soft tissue damage that doesn’t show until 48 to 72 hours later – pain that you cannot imagine that doesn’t allow you to move, forget the bruising and cuts…your mind is mush. My sister was in a shelter at the exact same time and sleeping in her car and has never returned to normal since from her abuser – she married my dad in the form of another man, her husband. My brother married my mom in the form of another woman, same frame, same attitude of stubbornness and non affection but very clever and emotionally and mentally abusive. He is whipped as they say. Last night was confirmation that my parents think whatever my brother does is ok even disrespecting them by using their house as a TV place because he won’t bring one to his own house, and using them to fix his life and not reailzing that its disrespect to deny gifts after your mother made an entire brunch for you. HE has not celebrated it since to pay me back for what he thinks I started. So what if your kids weren’t there….no one is stopping you from having 10 birthday parties and trips? That was our choice. It was waiting for his wife to plan an event on his actual birthday like she does for everyone…so we didn’t hear anything for 2 days and finally decided to have an adult stress free one. Big whoop! To the abusive and narcissistic all powerful men, this is disrepsect. In our family, our dad is called the Godfather – and he actually believes it. He comes to the Godfather’s house. My dad is perfectly trying to distance me from my siblings and all family and make me alienated like my mom. He won’t allow her to work or have friends (only in recent years and her friends are the one’s who meet every 3 months). He literally is a stone age man – no wife of mine is going to work! I expect a hot meal in front of me! So it goes…I’m stuck here completely f up and jobless and every job I’ve had I’ve been fired from – except for volunteer work…and eveytghing Ive have tried to do for myself has failed including self employmnent, side projects etc. Nothing and no one has helped me forward my life including my siblings. Thanks. I think I was literally born to be my Moms sidekick and dads extra hand or maid or “house read it house wife” – clean up. WIth constant ciritiscm from my mom about everything and her abrasive nature and emotinal and mental abuse and his narcissism to the malignant state, I cannot win. He has it set up for me that I lose on life even when they are gone. I wish I could just leave permanently. He has made my brother I am sure the trustee and boss of my life because if its not my brother its a neighbor or a tenant male who will control it. I have to get away from all of them once and for all and very very far away. But with my non existent passports to other countires and hatred of the cold in the mid and eastern sections of this country…where do I go? I hate small towns and country too and that includes farms. I like the downtown and nature close suburbs. My life never changes but only gets worse.

  6. By: Melinda Posted: 13th November

    Re: “victim mentality” and how it can attract abusive people to us…I don’t think Darlene was saying that the onus is on us to prevent abuse.

    Rather, I think she was saying that abusers/bullies/narcs have an uncanny ability to spot what they perceive as “weaknesses” and they hone in on that.
    Predators just seem to know who they can hurt with impunity. It certainly is NOT our fault that we were hurt, but abusers can tell who is exceptionally sensitive, who has low self-esteem, etc.
    And they know that some people have already been worn down by previous abuse so they exploit that even more.

    We are never to blame for things that others have done to us. However, I can infer from Darlene’s statements that when she became more empowered and started on her healing journey, she learned to identify the real source of her pain (the abusers) and to see her own value, thus taking back her power from them.
    I think it’s about fighting back and saying “no more”…it’s not about blaming us for what we’ve experienced.

    Saying “no more” to toxic friendships/relationships; “no more” to being treated as anything less than the smart, kind, worthwhile people we are.

  7. By: Melinda Posted: 13th November

    On Maria’s comment…I know it’s from 2013 but I feel compelled to agree with Amber and others who replied.

    Maria, I doubt you will see this and others who replied to you said most of what I thought.
    But I will say that it’s not about “blame”. It’s about speaking the truth.
    Speaking the truth is vital to healing. The truth isn’t always pretty. Sometimes it hurts.

    And you know what? Sometimes “blame” is deserved. Sometimes people have the right to stand up and share their stories, even if it makes you (and people who think like you) uncomfortable.
    Most of us know that we aren’t perfect or above criticism. But we have the right to speak on the ways in which we were hurt and talk about how we plan to heal from it.
    It baffles me how in this time, there are still people like yourself who deny/invalidate the experiences of others and push this “forgiveness” narrative, telling people to “stop blaming and get over it”.

    Some folks have been REALLY damaged by their experiences. They have the right to talk about it, especially with others who can relate.

  8. By: Melinda Posted: 12th November

    Also, I know that there are people in real life who perceive me as “lying” about what I’ve experienced.
    But I know that I’m NOT lying about it. I am often reminded of the times when my mother would blame me for my stepfather’s abuse.

    “If you cleaned your room…if you didn’t talk back”…if this, if that. At the time, it made me feel that I was entirely at fault for his behavior.
    Just excuses for abusers, that is all it was.

  9. By: Melinda Posted: 12th November

    I’ve gotta say that I agree with Tundra Woman in her response to Carol re:post #1101, especially the part where TW said: “Thanks for the wonderful modeling of relationships. Thanks for leaving us with your selfish decisions to play martyr while we continued to be terrorized and terrified by the incessant fighting and bickering”. I couldn’t agree more!

    I’m not sure why Carol would come to a site where people are trying to heal from trauma…only sick narcissists try to inflict more pain on those who are already hurting.
    But I agree wholeheartedly with what TW said in reply to her.

    You know, I love my mom with all my heart. And I generally believe that she loves me too.
    But what Tundra Woman said struck a chord with me. My mother met and married my stepfather in the late 90’s, and is still with him to this day.
    My home life…my life, period…was a chaotic nightmare because of my stepfather’s abuse and my mother’s passive acceptance of his cruelty. It is something that continues to haunt me in my thirties now. Maybe some people will feel that I should “get over it” but I can’t.

    My mom is/was definitely the martyr type. She doesn’t see herself that way, but she is.
    And because of it I suffered tremendously and still bear internal scars that won’t heal despite attempts at therapy and being married to a good guy.
    Because the fact is that as much as I love my mother, she failed to protect me.
    She chose an abusive partner over me and allowed him to wreak havoc on her only child’s mental health growing up.
    I would never call her a “bad” mom…that wouldn’t be fair. But I do feel that most of her decisions have been selfish and it continues to affect my life as an adult.
    If you ever read this, Carol, you should be aware that some of us ADORE our mothers but we also have to tell the truth about certain things.

    My mom had a tough time after my father left her for another woman but she continued to make bad decisions with men.
    She went from relationship to relationship until she met my stepfather, and that was when things changed for the worst.
    Tundra Woman’s description of being terrified by constant fighting and feeling unsafe in her home as a child was SPOT ON.
    That was my experience too. But despite that, my mother stayed with him.
    She was a fairly independent woman with a job of her own so I don’t believe she stayed for financial reasons.
    I just think she has VERY low self-esteem and is a very weak, insecure person in many ways.
    It seems like she is determined to be with this man until death…I don’t know what she sees in him.
    Our home was not a happy one because he created an environment of fear and hostility with his unpredictable rages.
    Seeing my mother stay with a person like this only made me feel worse about myself growing up, because I then started my own pattern of dating guys who were verbally and emotionally abusive.
    I only broke the cycle when I met my husband.

  10. By: Susan Posted: 15th October

    Thank you for your perspective. I have been struggling for years now to care for my abusive, neglectful mother after she suffered an aneurysm. I have often wondered how so many people can dismiss my current difficulties even though many know the kind of mother she actually was. Your comments and experiences make some of their behavior make sense. That gives me a sense of peace and I really appreciate that.

  11. By: Hava Posted: 5th October

    someone here wrote “My mother is very toxic and takes my very breath away when she is near. ” exactly what I experience ! I suffer from this a lot as I ive with my parents .I find my self stuck in the room just waiting for my mother to go out so I can get out and organize my stuff to go to my day. It is not conscious but I’d stay in bed late and turn to life only as she is out .and I understand its too much stress on me which I just prefer to avoid. I have also health problems. It might be from a life tie of nerves . The character of my mother is : gets in my room and personal belongings . If you confront her she doesn’t remember . she did nothing I’m making up. as a child it became a habit of me to make a big effort to prove I’m not making things up. It was impossible to deal with words. The only way boundaries are set is if I physically break something. then its the only thing she cares about. I donot do that. I found ways to mess uo her things to retaliate when I she meesse with my stuff . word==I shut it up by earplugs. Its after a long time expeience. /there is no other way to get close without injuring myself. this toxic behavior is evident as I became self sabotaging .I’m angry .and nerves around my mother and now my father too. It helped to define these acts as bulliying and as controlling.i.e if some one breaks your lock to your room just to tide it up and peak at your drawer =its an act of control and I’ve identified she does this as revenge . Donot listen to people :”but they are your parents” If you feel bad IT Is enough reason .You donot need another justification and advice or approval from others .to cut. But I think I tend to be insecure with low self esteem .maybe people who suffer from this kind of relationships are often insecure about them being ok. aperson with good parents would not stay if he feels bad about something .it is not an isuue even. hopes this helps for others.

  12. By: Lil Posted: 1st May

    I have recently made the decision to remove myself from all of my family. A long story, but too many lots of toxic dealings and past physical and emotional and corporal abuse I can no longer live with. Being forced to fight my brother (I am a female) at the age of about 8 years old. I mean battering each other as a fight in front of my parents as my father had to prove that a boy is stronger than a girl even though he is 2 years younger than me. Using a belt on us for so long (on our bare bottoms) only 3 out of the 5 sibling’s. A regular show. (I cant even remember what the punishment was for as I was so scared of the belt). The belt was given a name. Black Bess!! 16,17,18 and more times for each of us that had to bend over and touch our toes. My 2 brothers and me (as I was the eldest and should always know better! Growing up and being treated so unkindly. Being locked out on my 18th birthday due to dad being a control freak. I wouldn’t mind if I was unruly. I was well behaved and had a steady boyfriend who only took me out for a meal. No clubs as many 18 year olds do. I even asked for dads permission if it was ok if I was running a little late. At least he knew where I was. But no! He threatened to lock me out if I was late and I unfortunately was by about a minute! 1 minute!!! Time flies when your having fun. My boyfriend ran with me (he’s asthmatic) and he is my husband after all of the rubbish treatment we both have had to put up with. If he was not a good man I would have been roaming the streets alone and in danger that night! I have tried to love and be loved and be accepted for who I am but I can never change their ways. Mum has told me so many things (truth and lies) like dad never wanted me when I was first born as I was not a boy. Then I found a letter when I was older (a teenager) proving this. Mum told me dad raped her. My siblings have all come to my house invading my space, pulling our parents down for the abuse and treatment that when I lost it and informed our parents about how the past has affected us, my siblings back stabbed me and told parents I made it all up. The toxic from the clan of them have caused me to grow stronger enough to now pull away for good. This is just a very small snap shot. If I was to tell you everything, your website would probably go into melt down! Just a shame its took me 42 years to do this!

    • By: SJ Posted: 31st May

      I am so sorry for all the traumas you have been trough.

  13. By: margaret Posted: 21st March

    i realize now that my parents really didnt do the best they could have—they chose the path of least resistance

  14. By: Becky Posted: 3rd January

    Thank you Darlene for posting such an important and helpful article.

    I’m 46 and have always known my family has lived in denial never dealing with the hidden abuse and instead often taking out their own problems on others and me because they all saw me as the ‘spoiled brat’ of the family. My father was the ‘known’ abuser in my direct family but except for me, was never directly confronted on the pain and problems he’s caused. My mother would confront him occasionally when he was strongly abusive to her only and only later when I was in my late 30’s. Since a small child and into my late 30’s, I often tried to confront him on his abuse of myself, my siblings and mother. However, since I didn’t know how to deal with the abuse constructively my confrontations only appeared to the family as ‘talking back’, being a ‘bitch’, ‘unhelpful’, etc.; not what I considered abusive but typically judgemental without merrit and directed at the wrong person causing me hurt due to their own ignorance. The lack of support from the rest of the family has always caused me more pain over time than the abuse itself. However I’ve learned as I’m sure many others have, that extended abuse causes deep underlying problems one doesn’t see until they can profoundly reflect back at their past and current lives.

    Instead of any support from my mother or siblings, I sometimes received additional abuse from them all even though my mother and siblings have all stated what a horrible person our father has always been. I found the abuse from my father was easiest to deal with once I became an adult because I’d always hated him since a small child and once I was able to get away from him, I just didn’t care about him. I had no feelings for him except when in his presence when visiting my mother, I detested him. When I was no longer living in the same small town as my family my father’s abuse was redirected at me through my mother and siblings causing those relationships to become more turbulent. The little abuse and judgements from my siblings and mother were what caused me the most pain. At the age of 38, I slowly started to end the relationships and contact with my family. I was 43 when the last time I communicated with my mother.

    Because I loved my mother deeply, I struggled with ending the relationship with her and still do to this day. Since I’ve ended that relationship, I’ve always known it was the right decision for me but I’ve struggled mostly with how and why she treated me the way she did and why she always chose my abusive father over her own children.

    Until I was 42, I never opened my eyes to the truthfulness of my mother’s love to me or in general. Nor did I open my eye’s to the love my siblings could show to anyone. My mother often said she loved me but I struggled to believe her and always told her so often telling her I believed whatever kindness she did do or say was only out of obligation because I was her child. Instead of showing love, my mother either added to the abuse when I was a child and always chose to stand by my father (when I was a child or an adult) even knowing the pain and problems he caused. I couldn’t see my mother clearly because she sometimes tried to comfort me after a bout of abuse, she herself was abused by him and she’d say she loved me anytime I would say good-bye to go back to my own home. As a child, I always told her to go away when she’d tried to comfort me after a heavy bout of abuse because her idea of comfort was telling me I didn’t need to get so upset and I needed to calm down. I always knew my reaction to the abuse was right, I just didn’t know how to explain it until I started becoming an adult in my twenties. When I was 30 years old and my father became abusive on Christmas eve to my mother and myself, I pointed out to her that we’d never had a Christmas he didn’t ruin with his abuse and alcohol. At that time, I made the mistake of hoping one day I could have the relationship I’d always dreamed of as a daughter with her because I left to go back home that Christmas eve and my mother came with me.

    When I was 30-38 it seemed my mother finally started to stand up for herself but it was only when she was being heavily abused herself did she ever confront him. She always believed I and my siblings over-reacted to his abuse. My mother left my father when I was 30 for 2 weeks and again when I was 34 for 6 months. After the 6 months, she went back to him and he stopped verbally and physically abusing her but still manipulated and controlled her in many ways particularly in the relationship between her and me. He eventually went back to his regular verbal abuse and I think occasional physical abuse as well.

    At 40, I finally started to question my mother’s love for me and her love in general for anyone. I started to realize she didn’t know what love was possibly due to my father’s abuse and lack of true love from her own parents. I told her this a few times but she told me I didn’t know her and believed I was messed up for my own reasons that didn’t relate to her or the family. My father and siblings believed the same. I knew they didn’t know what true love was because they grew up believing in similar lifestyles, were always so cold and distant and living in denial. I felt sorry for them because they couldn’t open their minds to the possibility of all the amazing and different things life has to offer and how important real love is. However I’ve always struggled to understand how they lived in such deep denial considering how the world we live in now commonly and often tells us that living in denial is toxic and that dealing with problems so we can put them in the past is the only way to move forward in life let alone love truly and deeply.

    Your article is very helpful in understanding and putting it into perspective why my mother, siblings and even extended family are not supportive and why they continue to live in denial. It’s also very helpful with understanding the friends that have come and gone in my life. I’m a person who cares too much of what people think however I’m learning to be careful of this but know it will always be a big part of who I am. Caring so much is a big reason why I struggled so long with keeping and then letting go of the toxic relationships with my family. It also helps me to understand those that have treated me so well and possibly why I appreciate good people so much more now. Trying to understand has been a downfall and power for me. Your article will be helpful in it not being such a downfall. Thank you Darlene Ouimet!

    • By: Catherine Posted: 2nd November

      Thank you for sharing your story. This helped me.

  15. By: Carrie Posted: 28th December

    This article was really beautifully written as well as eyeopening to me. Reflecting back on reactions friends and significant others have had to my explaining my current relationship with family members and the abuse at the hands of one specific person that has led to the dysfunctional way we all relate to each other, I can now see that the most supportive responses were from those who had a childhood that was nothing like mine.
    I was lucky enough that the abuse, severe as it may have been, was only from my step-mother; and that i was able to learn what love was supposed to feel like from the rest of my family. I always knew that something was wrong with her and the way she treated me, unfortunately this did little to keep me from blaming myself, it did at least allow me to understand that it wasn’t normal and it certainly didn’t come from a place of love. I honestly think I owe the fact I’m not totally destroyed by her actions to this early knowledge and understanding. It was damaging, as abuse is.. but it wasn’t confusing because I never struggled with the idea of whether she loved me or not, as I imagine one might who were abused by a biological parent and in an environment where they never experienced what real love is. But, my main issue is not about my step-mother but about my father. I have always been incredibly close to my Dad, and he has never even raised his voice at me, let alone hit me. But, I still struggle with the fact he allowed his wife to treat me the way she did. He is still married to her to this day, and now even insists that “nothing ever happened”, “I’m exaggerating the severity”, “everyone gets spanked and it’s not that serious” (which is ridiculous because a)he never spanked me & was never spanked by my grandparents and more importantly b)being ‘spanked’ by her was a rarity and would be considered a good day in comparison to the closed fists, kicks to the stomach, and head smashed into furniture that was much more her style) But, despite the handful of times the bruises were so bad he had to come up with a story for my grandparents that I had fallen in gymnastics practice and smacked my face on the beam, the time my mother called him hysterical because my back and butt were black and blue and for the first time she got me to admit what was going on at my dad’s house, or even when my elementary school called CPS as he was asked to come down to the school, which led to a CPS case being opened and for them to visit our house regularly; he still refuses to admit he remembers anything out of the ordinary happening or my step-mother being at all harshly inappropriate in the way she ‘cared’ for me. And I know he sounds awful only hearing this about him; my confusion to the way I feel about him is even more exponentially mixed up. When it’s just me and my Dad, we have so much fun and I feel like I can tell him anything, he makes me laugh so much… and then, all the hurt and anger I constantly push into the depths of my thoughts re-emerge and I want to hate him for leaving me with her when he left for 2 week long work trips, for always saying it would never happen again that he would leave her if anything ever did but never following through, for always picking her over me and my safety, for having the audacity to now ask me to “forgive her” while somehow simultaneously refusing to admit she has done anything wrong. I think this epic denial must come from a place of immense guilt, at knowing it is directly his fault despite never being hurtful himself, that I was emotionally and physically abused for over 10 years of my childhood; because he wasn’t unselfish enough to be alone even if it meant I was forced to be with a woman who I honestly feared might kill me at some point, who kicked me out barefoot in the rain one night he was away on business and told me I had to live outside and not come home until I had an answer for one of her unanswerable questions: “Why are you so stupid?”, a woman who regularly loved to force me to sit in front of my mirror and to look at myself while I said out loud things like, “you are stupid, you are ugly, nobody will ever love you”…and so on but I couldn’t repeat myself (which was disgustingly genius in that there is no better way to force someone to believe awful thing and hate themselves, to lose any bit of confidence than to have them tell themselves all the horrible things abusers tend to say.) And yet, this is the person he chose to raise me, to be alone with for weeks at time, and the person he continues to believe and defend to this day, despite seeing all the effects she has had on his one and only daughter, including PTSD, crippling anxiety, and panic attacks. I love him so much, and he says no one will ever love me as much as he does, but how can that be true when he couldn’t even TRY to keep me safe, and when even now, he can’t do the one thing I ask; which isn’t even an apology, all I want is for him to admit it, just acknowledge what she did to me, that what i experienced was real. That’s all I need so I can begin to move on and heal, but he can’t… no he won’t. And, I don’t understand why.
    I’m so sorry this turned out to be so long, I didn’t mean for it to be… it all just kind of spilled out. So, if you’ve read this far, thank you. And to all the others out there with parents/guardians that instilled fear rather than give love and support, I love you and I believe in you. <3.

  16. By: Tundra Woman Posted: 15th December

    Dear Carol,
    You start right out acknowledging “it is heart breaking both ways” and then go on to continually refute your own assertion. So which is it? Of course it’s allllll about YOU and your insane defensiveness over what you want others to believe you “gave” to your own kids-who have now walked away. For good reason. You don’t have to agree with those reasons at all. You can be “right”-and they’ll continue to be gone.
    You got your ass kicked because YOU MADE THE DECISION to stay with your ass-kicker. You had a choice. We didn’t. We were Hostages/Unwilling Audience to your piss poor decisions. Thanks for the wonderful modeling of “relationships.” Thanks for leaving us to deal with your selfish decisions to play Martyr while we continued to be terrorized and terrified by the incessant fighting and bickering. Thanks for pretending you didn’t have a choice when you sure as hell did-and you chose to stay in a violent relationship or more likely a succession of them. And yet you’ll demand the adult children “respect” you? When you live your life disrespectfully, what’s to respect? Respect is earned-and you continue to be way too lazy and entitled to earn it.
    And now you’re angry because your victim self got “kicked to the curb.” Ah, so indeed you *do* feel profoundly entitled to be in the lives of the very children you so clearly neglected and abused. Sounds to me like that’s just where you belong with your empty threats and bogey-man crystal ball predictions.
    No, you DID NOT “do the best you could:” You DID WHAT YOU DID without a damn thought for anyone else
    -except yourself. Apparently you’re comfortable in your transparent cloak of “Imma Victim! WAAAAA!” No doubt you’ll stay where you are-in the pig trough of self absorbed post-partum females. It takes a lot more than giving birth to be a parent just as a marriage takes a lot more than a wedding. The reality is, it’s not about them, it’s allllll about you-just not in the way “you just are so damn sure you’re right.”
    TW’s Rules of Life #2: When ya do what cha did, ya get what cha got. Deal with it.
    Good luck with being “right.” Apparently your ego is more important than your kids.
    The Old Widow Broad

  17. By: Carol Posted: 12th December

    it is heartbreaking both ways
    next generation its all about winning
    when you’re dead it doesn’t matter
    so stuck in yourself you don’t see that
    your momma gives all she knew to you
    and you are too good for that
    you can’t forgive that her life was different than yours
    and that she loves you beyond measure
    you just are so damn sure you’re right
    well when your kids kick you to the curb
    i look forward to meeting you
    she did the best she could while she was getting her ass kicked

    bunch of ass holes

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 13th December

      Hey Carol~
      What do you think you know about my life or my mother or about what anyone here is sharing?? How would you have any idea if my mother did her best or not?? How would you know if she “loves me” or not? How would you know about her actions? I think this comment is about your life and your kids, not about my life or about this website and it’s readers. The relationships that I have with my 3 adult children are nothing like the relationship that I had with my mother. Since I raised them with mutual respect, and to know that they are loved and equally valuable, they don’t “kick me” to the curb.

      Normally I don’t publish comments like yours, but I am publishing this one so people see what kind of judgement I get on a regular basis. Do your homework (in other words read my story) before you make judgements and assumptions and offer me explanations about something you know nothing about.


    • By: D Posted: 23rd October

      Carol-I “did the best I could while getting my ass kicked”…and yet, my (adult) children do not feel unloved and they have not “kicked me to the curb”.

      I was raised by a single narc. I wore two hats-golden and scapegoat. She was unpredictable-I never knew which ‘mommy’ would show up. My feeling were disregarded, I was invalidated, I learned to be afraid (and I am still afraid today). There’s more-but it’s not important.

      I had my first child at 19, no one, not one person wanted me to (keep) this child. NM wanted me to abort…it would be too hard for me..she also claimed I would not be welcomed to live with her if I had ‘that baby’.
      friends didn’t think It was a great plan to have a baby.
      Strangers wanted me to consider letting (their friends) adopt the child to be.
      The father was willing to split the cost of an abortion with me…(instead of the 23 years of child support I guess)

      Anyway-I decided to keep the baby. I was told I could not do it. What’s the plan?

      I would do two things-
      Feed her-so she could survive.
      Not do what my mother did to me, maybe she would also thrive.

      And she did. She is a wonderful, smart, healthy, educated, confident, happy young woman.

      She is a college graduate.
      She takes care of her health, emotional and physical.
      She shines.
      She doesn’t take any crap-not even from me. ?????
      I adore this young person.

      And to think, my only plan for her was to feed her and treat her like a separate human being-with respect.

      Carol-if you want your kids back-take responsibility for YOUR mistakes, hear them, say You are sorry!!!!! Own it. Apologize and allow them to tell you what you did!! They probably want to love you.

  18. By: Joy Posted: 4th October

    My parents always made it very clear that I was unacceptable to them because they thought they were “beautiful” people and I was not. They also made it clear that my sister was also beautiful. I was often told to shut up and laughed at. My father has died and never once told me he loved me. My mother is 82 and just lives a block away. She still smirks at me and makes fun of me. I have struggled my whole life trying to find a safe place for me to exist. My husband doesn’t seem to understand even though he has witnessed her cruelty many times.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 5th October

      Hi Joy,
      Welcome to EFB ~ This stuff is so heartbreaking. I am glad you are here,
      Hugs, Darlene

  19. By: Emily W. Posted: 13th September

    Thank you for writing this excellent article. I feel a weight lifted off my shoulders reading about supporting the (adult) child’s choice to not give their parents a free pass in the relationship.

    For me, I didn’t realize that my parents were toxic until I went to college. Then, I saw healthy mother-daughter relationships and began questioning my own upbringing. My best friend in college went shopping with her mom, and her mom didn’t tell her what to buy. They went to lunch together, and her mom didn’t guilt trip her about not having a boyfriend. Her mom didn’t “joke” about her daughter’s weight, sexuality, intelligence, or interests.

    The realization that my mother didn’t express her love for me in a healthy way (if it’s love, honestly) lead me to do some soul searching.

    I tried to make amends, I changed my tone, I approached my parents with respect and an open mind. Every attempt I made ended with my mother telling me that I was an “unfeeling slob that didn’t care if she hurt her parents feelings.”

    As a child, I was never allowed to express my emotions unless I wanted a lecture about how to feel. Now, my parents say I’m unfeeling but, when I do say “I feel x because…” they cut me off and tell me that I’m wrong. And then say I never talk to them. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.

    I finally decided to cut ties with both of them and move to another state. I am grateful that others may agree with this decision. I get so tired of hearing “What about your parents, they must be hurt…”, or “Well, I’m sure you can amend things…”, or “Oh, come on, give them another chance!”

    These phrases are almost the exact ones that my parents used when I was growing up. The people that say these phrases often are in denial of their own toxic upbringing… They expect me to not feel and continue being emotionally abused.

    This article made me reflect. Thank you.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 15th September

      Hi Emily W.
      Welcome to EFB ~ So glad you are here and thank you for sharing!
      hugs, Darlene

  20. By: d ch Posted: 4th September

    Women Of History ?@WomenfHistory

    Once you’ve accepted your flaws no one can use them against you.

  21. By: d ch Posted: 4th September

    Jane Err
    Your words are very encouraging! You say…. But…it is now up to them to decide if they are willing to do the work on themselves, because I am worked hard to understand, and now know, the damage they have done up to now. I live in the present and look toward the future. This is not about blame, it is about my own self-respect, and spending time only with those who are honest with themselves, and treat me with real “love.”

    Right now I’m debating trying to reestablish contact with my NM. I am concerned about the emotional setbacks (depression, anger, etc.)if I do.

  22. By: Jane Err Posted: 3rd September

    WOW! I cannot tell you how amazed I am by your writing. While my parents have been verbally abusive my entire life, it took me until I was into my 50s to really understand our family dynamics. Watching my brother do the same (if not worse) to his kids, has been triggering. After years of depression, and untreated ADHD; I realized that, while genetically pre-disposed, it was the bitterness that I grew up with, and continue to experience that has been most damaging. When your parents are elderly (Mom 79, Dad 82 soon), it is a hard choice, but given recent events, I can only communicate through writing…and unfortunately, my mother continues to put minimal effort into accepting my reality, or engaging in any self-reflection. It is almost as if my parents are making it easier for me to lose them when they are gone. My ex-sister-in-law seems to “get it;” but your article shed some light on why my current (much younger) sister-in-law justifies the behavior of my parents, my brother, and her own parents (who she claims were abusive too). What I finally realized is that if my family continues to treat me with such hate and disgust, and any interaction results in them telling me what is “wrong” with me, I cannot imagine why they would want a relationship. I am already on SSDI (USA), so they believe I am the one who is “crazy.” In reality, they are the ones who are miserable and hateful, but unwilling to consider that there is anything wrong with their behavior. All I know is that for every step I take forward away from depression, interacting with them sets me back two more. Since I my grandmother was bipolar, and am convinced my mother has worse ADHD than me, I do not blame her. However, if my parents cannot refrain from verbally abusing me, or smoking in my face, than I will no longer interact with them. But…it is now up to them to decide if they are willing to do the work on themselves, because I am worked hard to understand, and now know, the damage they have done up to now. I live in the present and look toward the future. This is not about blame, it is about my own self-respect, and spending time only with those who are honest with themselves, and treat me with real “love.”

  23. By: Jacqueline Posted: 23rd August

    I have an impossible time to cry even though I feel it on the surface. My mother would mock me as a child and call me liver lips. She once told me that she couldn’t relate to me because I was weak. I can rarely ever cry but struggle with anxiety.

    I have endured a life time of rejection. I am now in the cycle of rejection again because my 26 year old, non working, living at home brother lied to my parents. We hired him to help him to learn a work ethic at our home. MY husband and I stopped an inappropriate relationship with a 13 year old child who is friends with my daughters and whose parents are going through a separation. She spends a lot f time with us. We told him to stop and the every time we turned around it was in our face again that it had not stopped.
    My mother, father, and siblings and their families have shunned my family. Sent messages to my children undermining me. Would not let me explain my side. My husband and I went into counselling to make sure we were doing the right thing. My brother lied about incidents that happened while we hired him where he lied to my children’s face and mine to cover up wrong doing he did.
    My mother has pulmonary fibrosis and sent 13 messages to my text that she wants nothing to do with me after attacking my brother in his lowest mental illness. Which I did not…ever. That I caused her to have set back in her health and that she is destroyed as is my brother. I wasn’t allowed one word to explain my side. He automatically is believed. Even though two other family members shared their strong concerns before this and told me I needed to protect the little girl that he was having the inappropriate relationship with they won’t speak out. Then there are pictures of them all going tubing and at the beach drinking and smiling and they don’t look devastated.
    I am going for counselling and praying that I can be set free. Even when my mother cuts me out of her life…my own self hatred and her words repeat like a broken record. I want to be free and not hurt anyone in the process. I pray my family just doesn’t come back to drag me back in. The difficult part…her life will end soon. There never had been resolution for anything. A relative once said it isn’t the end hours of a persons life that count but all the years of life lived before. My mother has been manipulating me and others her whole life with health problems and her death to come that could happen anytime when there were not any true health problems…but this time it is sadly true. I love my mother and all I have always wanted is to have a true mother daughter relationship with her…but it will never be. My husband says to take all the energy and effort I pour into my FOO and turn it towards my own family. He said the fruit and reward from it is always received and makes our children flourish even more that they are. I wish none of us had to endure these things. My life has been hindered by self hatred and feelings of worthlessness. I want to be free…

  24. By: Cori Rice Posted: 14th August

    I’m torn between no contact or low contact with my mother and definitely no contact with father. No matter how much I try to explain to my mother about why I need to distance myself, she is always making excuses and defends my father’s abusive ways towards me. Every time I try to tell her how it makes me feel all she says to me is “he’s still your father”. It makes me cringe because she’s letting off the hook. Being my father does not mean he can abuse me.

  25. By: Mary Posted: 13th August

    I’m so sorry to read that I am not alone in this. I suffered a great deal of psychological abuse, teasing, and some physical abuse as a child by my parents and sister. Because everyone else in the family downplayed it, or when it inevitably came up in conversation, people would say things like. “Haha, well, we had to go along with your sibling and come after you or we’d be the target!” in my mind I knew it was bad, and at the time I was horribly embarrassed more than anything else, but I kind of told myself that it was on the harsh end of normal sibling rivalry or just a slightly dysfunctional family dynamic.

    Now that I am married, and have a small child of my own, it’s almost like I’m remembering things I shut out of my mind long ago. I remember being my son’s age (6) and I remember how awful some events of my childhood were. Admittedly, it’s made me terrified of my son being bullied and I overcompensate with snuggles and I love Yous and fun times that I never did with my parents.
    I’m remembering some pretty wicked stuff. Like the times my sister would premeditate attacks on me and get everyone who would go along with her to gang up on me. I’d be watching tv or minding my own business and there they’d be, with sinister grins, and I’d be terrified. Like, panic terrified. Because they’d knock me unconscious and leave me alone in the woods miles from anyone. They’d routinely tell me how ugly I was, what a terrible personality I had as an infant (wow, how many years does a parent get yo be pissed off about a fussy baby?!) my dad would say, in front of my friends (make and female) as a teenager, “why do you do that to your skin? You look like a corpse. Get a tan like your friend here!” But I am Irish, and very fair skinned (got it from him, funny enough) and cannot tan. My self esteem was tanked. I had few friends and the ones I did have were not of high quality.
    I suffered all kind of terrifying ailments as a kid but my parents ever took me to the doctor for any of them. They lived in a very affluent neighborhood in a nice home that they had paid for in cash. They had insurance and everything, they just didn’t bother. Now I’m nearly deaf in one ear from what the ent said looks like an infection I had as a kid but never got treated for. I suffered a stroke in college due to a congenital heart defect that caused me a lot of discomfort and chest pain as a child. I required several open heart surgeries to correct it. My father came to the hospital to tell me that the reason for my issues was that “I don’t take good care of myself.” I was very fit, rarely drank, never smoked. My mother didn’t show up for surgery at all, because “the grandkids had swimming lessons.” I could have died. In fact. A week later, I nearly did. Complications from surgery caused fluid to build up all around my heart and didn’t allow it to beat. I passed out and went into convulsions. I would require another open heart surgery ASAP. I asked my mom to wait with me, telling her I was scared, and she just said, “just because you get sick doesn’t mean the world stops.” And she left me alone. Those could have very well been the last words she ever spoke to me.
    the next year I graduated but wasn’t going to walk in my graduation. My dad gave this long winded lecture abou how I should get a cap and gown and walk in the ceremony, so I ordered everything and signed up for commencement. When I got to my parents house to go to graduation together, my dad opted out, because golf was on tv.

    There’s so many things – funny what sticks in the mind and what is blocked out. I had a crummy childhood, and so when I got to the age of high school reunions, I was reluctant to get involved. I did end up meeting with a few groups of childhood friends and the VERY first thing out of their mouths was, “Wow, I was SO scared of your dad.” I still feel that sting of embarrassment and my dads been gone for many years.
    I’m sort of venting on an old post here, ha. Sorry about that. But I’m doing the work of weeding through it so that I STOP being such a people pleaser that does it for fear of rejection instead of pure kindness (never works with family). And getting more quality friendships in my life. Like a big detox. The detox and remembering feels, oddly, more painful than going through the traumatic events. And the abusers, like you and many have said, try their hardest to get a bunch of people to be on “their side” and “against you.” So dumb. Why do they need to create gangs like this is some kind of weird West Side Story?! It seems that people side with my abusers be at this point But I hope I’m making progress and breaking bad habits and it’s not for nothing. Thanks for your article, it was healing to read as I work through this.

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