Withholding Emotional Involvement ~ Passive Abuse

relationship equality

Darlene and Bodie 2006

My Father was a very passive man who seemed to be very happy with his job, his family and his life in general.  He didn’t beat me or abuse me in any other physical way, but he didn’t bother with me much either. As a child I didn’t recognize that I had to work hard at getting his attention.  I didn’t realize that I was inventing things like nightmares and tall tales in order to get a response out of him.  I was just a child wanting my father to notice me.  Ironically, as I have mentioned in previous posts, I was constantly reprimanded for doing things to get attention.

My father was very well liked; in fact he was popular. He was known for his jokes and stories and for his ability to entertain everyone with his singing and guitar playing. When it came to me however, he withheld.  When it came to me, he didn’t seem very interested in being my father.  My Dad withheld his interest in me and his attention from me.  He did not offer input into my life; there were no discussions about school, boys, hobbies, friends or any of the other things I heard and imagined other girls talked about with their Dads.  My father was not emotionally present. I don’t recall resenting this fact; I didn’t know anything different. This was just the way it was.

My father also withheld everything from emotional involvement to simple conversation from my mother, which is likely the real reason that they eventually divorced.  He just tuned her out. When I was younger, I believed that he got tired of her extreme ranting and nagging; that he left her and she deserved it.   The real truth is that she tried so hard to get his attention that she got a little bit crazy after years of having little to no impact. My point is that as the child of that marriage, I thought that was how life and relationship worked.  The wife or girlfriend tries harder and harder and the husband or the guy is just the way he is. If there is failure, it must be the women’s fault; my fault.  I didn’t think about my father’s passive behaviour as a contributing factor to a failing relationship, contributing to both the failure of his marriage and the failure of his relationship with me. I didn’t question the inequality of the responsibility. I didn’t know that this was passive abuse, and I certainly didn’t know that passive abuse is as destructive as any other type of abuse.

This laid the foundation for me to be attracted to men who made me work to be noticed by them. My relationships with men never started out that way, but they always seemed to quickly end up that way. I didn’t realize that relationships were a two way street because I alone carried the burden of the relationship with my own father. Not only was I willing to take the entire burden of the relationship responsibility, but I didn’t know I was doing it.  Part of the reason that I tried so hard without realizing I was doing so, was because I had always had to. It was what I was used to.  I had no frame of reference about what a healthy relationship was. From my experience, I only knew that I had to try harder.

I had to learn what a relationship was before I could have a healthy one. Just like in all other areas, I had to learn the truth before I could live in it. I didn’t know that I was just as valuable as everyone else or that the burden of all relationship shouldn’t be on me. I didn’t realize there wasn’t equality in the relationships that I had, just as I didn’t know that there could be equality in relationships since I had not seen an example of it.

Learning to accept abuse, even passive abuse, rarely begins in adulthood.

I welcome your comments on this post, and look forward to your opinions.

Bright sunny blessings,

Darlene Ouimet

p.s. it is not my intention to suggest that males that grow up in the same type of home do not suffer from these same issues.

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


Categories : Father Daughter



Well that was a lovely way to start a Sunday morning 🙂 Someone putting some very ambiguous concepts into a very eloquent blog. I hear ya Darlene. Thanks for sharing and putting something else into perspective.


Hi Darlene. Thank you so much for this insightful and thought-provoking post. I have had a really tough 24 hrs or so, and it was wonderful to have read something that put words to something I had put on the shelf because I didn’t quite understand its effect on me. It was very grounding to read words so true and beautifully put. I wish you a phenomenal, lovely day.



My father was also fairly absent in my childhood. Passive, great phraseology. He was so busy caring for my very I’ll mother that he had no space for me whatsoever. He was very aware of the abuse she was heaping on me but chose to ignore it. And I did learn from that;I learned that I counted for zip. That I was non-existent. Which completely worked with my burgeoning belief that I was responsible for my big T abuse.

When I was 10 years old I has 4 ulcers. To this day dad says he has no recollection. When I was 4 I had surgery on my throat due to having been choked repeatedly. Again, dad does not recall it. Because he wasn’t there at the time.

Brutal. Another great post, thanks.


Once again I see my experience staring back at me Darlene. My Father was a very charming, charismatic man, who was well liked by everyone. He was completely disconnected from me my entire life. I could never figure out why I was never good enough, and not worthy of being loved. No matter what I did, it was never enough.

I don’t recall ever being held, hugged or told that I was loved by my Dad. He showed no interest in what I did, where I went, what my interests and gifts were. On the other hand he did express his love and pride in my three brothers.

He still tells me how successful my brothers are, and that there’s still time for me to do something with my life. Yet, anything that I have ever done was so deeply criticized, that I would just give up and quit! Dan Hays book was a real eye opener on what kept getting me “stuck” I no longer allow it, and simply share nothing with him.

Wow! …he has missed out on so much by not knowing me! ( I’ve looked at this last line & debated deleting it!) Doesn’t that sound kind of conceited? Naaa! I am worth knowing, and loving and that is my truth!


This blog speaks volumes we really don’t see that being passive is still making a choice no matter what. And when a parent is not there for us emotionally it is a form of neglect. I think this is another one of those subtle things that we don’t catch on to as children simply because like you said there is not a point of reference.

It is very wounding to not be acknowledged. I get really mad when I hear adults say “Children should be seen and not heard” as if children were some kind of object or lower life form. Now don’t get me wrong children should be taught to respect but at the same time adults should earn and not demand respect. What we teach children is what our future will be like.

Sadly most adults just dont get it or they have been so wounded in their own lives they cant see past their own pain. It is that “Do as I say not as I do” attitude (which really drove me nuts as a kid) I admit we all have faults etc. but when a parent doesn’t take the time to acknowledge you and let you know that you are appreciated and loved without having to work for that attention it is like a bullet that goes through the soul.

Thank you for sharing this my friend!!


The attention that I got from my dad was raging criticisms and sexual attention that he called love. My mom was the one who was so disconnected from her feelings that she wasn’t connected to any of her 3 children. My only connection to my mother was as her protector. I was assigned that job very early in childhood.


Wow, once again I am thrilled and blessed by the comments! Welcome to Vickie and Joy! I am delighted to have two more fellow bloggers sharing here!

Everyone, I sliced open my thumb today doing dishes! (dishes are an evil chore.. none of us should have to do them.. lol) .. and the pain is distracting, so I am going to reply to your comments tomorrow. I am sorry for the delay, but I LOVE these comments!!!

Darlene Ouimet


what’s really neat is that all the voices here offer 100 % validation of what my experiences were. I just don’t recall dad being interested in any of us..except for my sister.( who admittedly has more of the Palmer side nature)or my brother, who as the last born child, was his dads youngest and favorite.

On top of being shoveled away to boarding school in Africa, then back to the continent of America for our early and late teens…we lost family interaction from both sides. But that was their mission of choice.
AS we grew to young adults married with children, dad still made his preference known..good grief!
I’ve never reconciled with him..he’s passed over now for quite a few years, as is mom.


Darlene – It’s unsettling how your post gave me so much clarity on a couple of my relationships. Thank you!

Catherine – I’m intrigued by your comment on the Dan Hays book. I googled him and plan to buy the book. It sounds like it might benefit me. Thank you!


Sherry, I would highly recommend Dan’s book to anyone who is has experienced abuse of any kind! I came to terms with so many unresolved issues that were keeping me “stuck.” My inner child was still responding to so many messages! Look forward to hearing your thoughts after you read it.


I agree with Catherine’s assessment of Dan Hays’ book. I did a book review of Freedom’s Just Another Word on my blog. http://patriciasingleton.blogspot.com/2010/04/freedoms-just-another-word-book-review.html

I am still processing what the book brought up for me. Dan is a great writer and friend.


Darlene – Once again, a powerful discussion of a subject that is sometimes hard to pin down. My own Dad withdrew from me when I was about 11. Discovered in therapy later, his Dad had abandoned him at that age. It was very puzzling – “what did I do wrong?”

Catherine and Patricia – thank you so much for your kind words about my book! Sherry, I would enjoy hearing from you when you read it! Here’s my website, with links to my blog and a buy link for my book.



These comments are so powerful and heartfelt.

Catherine, your father DID miss out. No matter how much I understand this stuff, (the belief system, how abuse affects us, same thing happened to my parents etc.) I just don’t get the rejection part. Nikki, is IS wounding. I thought for so long that if I just DID the right thing, that if I could FIND the key that would make me good enough for my parents, then I would be fine. Turns out that I am fine without their love, that their love is was toxic and something that prevented me from growing.. (poison soil in the garden) oh dear….LOL

I have read Dan’s book too, and I also found it a powerful story of healing. Dan’s journey with his own father brought up a lot of stuff in me as well.

Welcome Sherry, I am glad that you found some clarity from reading my post.

Patricia, you bring up something that has been KEY for me in recovery. You said “The attention that I got from my dad was raging criticisms and sexual attention that he called love.” This is how you learned the definition of love! So this is what you had to UN LEARN! I spent a lot of time in my process unlearning all the wrong definitions of everything; love, relationship, respect, MANY things!
Thanks to everyone!

Darlene Ouimet

Cindy Leigh Wilson
April 12th, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Dear Darlene and fellow “truth and self treasure seekers”,
I find myself in a painful place right now. At the age of 52, I am indebted to my father financially due to the complete financial destruction my husband’s brain tumor and my recent loss of my job caused us (we are renting to buy a house he owns. Our credit is horrible and it was the only way we could afford a small house in a reasonable neighborhood–which btw he developed). Because of this, he every now and then enters into a character assassination of my husband and I over something trivial in our lives that he states causes a poor testimony to others (the implication is that he will withdraw his support if we do not line up with his thinking). It has been awhile since I have had to endure this kind of treatment and today’s ranting has sent me spinning so to speak. As I try to stop spinning, I am completely disoriented and find it hard to put one foot in front of the other and walk in a healthy way. I am typing through tears wanting to run as far away from him as I can.

Let me insert something here… IF I EVER DOUBTED THERE WAS A GOD THAT CARED ABOUT THE PAIN IN MY LIFE, MY FINDING THIS BLOG WOULD BLOW THOSE DOUBTS OUT OF THE WATER!!!!! I realize at this moment that I not only need to deal with the “baggage” of my past, but I will also need occasional “crisis” help for the reality of my “now”. Being able to read these posts (comments included) and meditate on them calms me and gives me hope. More importantly it allows me to go into my counseling sessions with a better handle on the issues I need support in dealing with….past, present and future.

Reading the comments about the passive father and mothers allows me to see today that a parent can be passive instead of nurturing and at the same time be offensive (not sure if that is the word that Carla or Darlene would use) with false criticism and abusive. I am not sure what Dan’s book is about exactly, but I plan to find a copy and read it asap.

About an hour after my father’s abusive call (during that time I found out he had just found out he had to pay $100.000 in taxes today on other houses he owns. Obviously his stress played into his poor behavior), my father called again and spoke in a “kind” voice that he thought it would do me some good to go over to his house and sit out by the pool with my mom. “Getting out of the house would help since I have been sick.” He went on to say that he wanted to grill steaks for my my husband, boys and me. This is typical of my Dad wanting to move past one of his outbursts without apologizing. Out of respect for my husband and his desire to “smooth” things over I am going to pull myself together and go–though every fiber in me is telling me this is the dysfunctional thing to do and I am possibly setting myself up for another “target” practices on my character.

Please, please forgive me for writing all of this. This will be the last time that I take up so much space with a “crisis” comment…I know these thoughts are more appropriate for counseling sessions. I appreciate the grace everyone has extended me to make me feel secure enough to be this vulnerable today without the fear of being chastised for using this comment section in the wrong way. I just feel like I have been in the lion’s den and am about to reluctantly return there again. Connecting with this group gives me some encouragement and a hope that when I return I will find a word of wisdom to help me stay on course.

Holding on to the hope of what true Love is in Christ and genuine fellowship with those who have traveled the paths I find myself on right now,
Cindy Leigh


I’ve been reading the posts here and they have been helping me a lot! I’ve been searching for a support group without much luck. I’m not sure if you could write a post that would pertain to my situation or if you have some recommendations for support groups that might help me with the situation I’m in right now. There is minimal information out there for children of parents who were abused. What if you are an adult child of someone who was abused as a child who never sought professional help? My parent was depressed and put us through so much as a children yet I don’t feel I can call it abuse as we weren’t sexually abused or physically. This parent uses their abuse as an excuse for why they weren’t emotionally present and as a reason for all the irresponsible choices they made for us as children. As an adult I’m dealing with anger towards them for the way they treated us and the poor decisions they made. This parent is still focusing so much on their childhood and is seeking sympathy from their children for what they missed out on. This parent fails to see how tmuch we missed out on when they didn’t seek help. The children are afraid of confronting the parent about their behavior out of fear they will be really upset. I’m contemplating seeking therapy as I’m at a point in my life where I have no idea how to deal with this situation. I often find Carla’s posts really helpful as she says she wasn’t physically or sexually abused yet was still left with panic anxiety and other symptoms that to her were unexplainable. I’ve dealt with panic attacks for more than 10 years on and off and now extreme anger.


Hi Sarah,
I wish that I knew of a support group that I could tell you about, but I don’t. I can tell you however that you are reading the right blog! I hope to write a post soon about this comment because you have brought up something that is really important and even key regarding what our message here is really about.
My mother was abused also and she struggled with tons of depression; I totally relate to what you are asking about here. I had to move forward with my own life. It isn’t that I place blame on my parents, just that I had to acknowledge the damage that was done to me, before I could move on from it. I never considered that what my parents did was “real abuse” either, and I made excuses for my mother and father for years. She had a worse life than I did…. however one day when I sought help for myself, I realized I was no longer going to let her treat me badly and make me feel bad because she felt bad about herself. Even realizing that my parents were not very good parents was a process for me. All of it is. =)
Hope this helps a bit until I can write more!


Hi Darlene!

Thanks so much! It helps to know what I’m feeling is valid. I feel guilty sometimes because it’s not like I was physically or sexually abused so I don’t feel like I can classify it as abuse. I actually wondered for a while if I had been sexually abused because I suffer from symptoms similar to those described by those who have been ie. depression, anxiety, severe panic attacks, low self es steem. I’ve also struggled with social anxiety most times I’m able to force myself to go out and thankfully it has never fully taken over my life. I remember in my early 20’s my self esteem was so low that I could barely speak in meetings where I had to present something to my boss or I would fail terribly in job interviews. I think it’s the moving forward and stepping away from my parents particularly my mother that I find really difficult. I feel like the more I step away from them into my own life the more distant they become. I’m not sure why that bothers me when I know I want to walk away from it. It almost feels like I need my mother to know how her actions affected me for me to move on I feel like I need them to validate what happened and apologize which I know is likely not going to happen. I feel like the feelings I’m keeping suppressed are eating away at me the anger at times is consuming. I know I’m not the only one in my family that feels this way I have another sibling who is also suffering similar feelings.

Anyways thanks for your help I’m glad I spoke up instead of keeping quiet 🙂

Keep writing you and Carla have a gift!


Hi Sarah! I agree with Darlene that you are reading the right blog! I worked with a really good therapist to understand why I struggled so much with depression, low self-esteem and anxiety. Just like you, there was no physical or sexual abuse in my past to explain it. But uncovering the “anxious” dynamics in my home helped me to see how it all started. I experienced a lot of anger too- mostly “pent up” throughout my childhood but more conscious as an adult. I take anger to be a sign that I am alive and kicking… that I want life and happiness and need to figure out what holds me back from having that. So, big encouragement to you on your journey and all that it is leading you through right now. You are on the right track.



It is amazing how many people ask me if they might have repressed memories about sexual abuse because they can relate so much to me. For me the recovery wasn’t so much in the talking about the sexual abuse, or any other abuse, it was more about finding out where why and how I believed false truth about myself and realizing where I needed to be re-wired. I relate to everyone who ever struggled with anything! When I decided to carry my message of hope for full recovery and healing, it had little to do with sexual abuse at all. The amount of time that I actually spent in therapy about sexual abuse was minimal compared to the rest of the things that came out.

I wanted my mother to acknowledge her part in my brokenness too.. but she doesn’t. I also know today that If she did, it would not have been the answer anyway. The belief system would still be the same. I had to take hold of my life, and own my own identity. I had to “own” who I am, and live for me and learn to define myself instead of being defined by everyone else, and thinking that they if they loved me enough, that I could love myself.. it doesn’t work that way. It sounds like it should, but it doesn’t.

Thanks so much for your comment Sarah! You are on the right track!
Darlene Ouimet



Withhold: Definition – Hold or keep back, refuse to give, deny, refrain from granting, giving or allowing. If a spouse withholds information and feelings, then the marriage bond weakens. The abuser who refuses to listen to his partner, denies her experience and leaves her isolated. Withholding occurs when one partner withholds affection, information, thoughts, and feelings from his partner. When one person in a relationship withholds, intimacy cannot be created.

Withholding (Also called “Depriving”) is another form of denying. Withholding includes refusal to listen, refusal to communicate, and emotionally withdrawing as punishment. A relationship requires intimacy and intimacy requires empathy. If one partner withholds information and feelings, then the relationship bond weakens.

Feels like you did something wrong… feels rejecting (may make you feel heavy sadness… in your stomach). You may not feel good enough.

When an abuser refuses to listen, appears to misunderstand what he is completely capable of understanding, or declines sharing his emotions, he is “withholding” a part of the essential intimate actions of the relationship.

When a partner really does not understand the other, then at least the intent to understand and compromise should be there, with perhaps a request for the partner to help them understand somehow.)

Examples of withholding might include:
• A partner withholding affection from you.
• Refusing to give you information about where he is going, when he is coming back, about financial resources, and other forms of information.
• Refusing to answer questions, make eye contact, etc.
• Withholding affection and comfort when you need it.
• Ignoring you.
Example: The partner may come home drunk if they suspect you want to talk. Alternatively, they may also go out, ie: with friends by themselves, etc. She may go to a friend’s house instead of be home with you and the family, or she may involve herself with projects.

Consequences: Over time, withholding damages self-esteem. The mistake many survivors of verbal abuse make, including myself, is that they try to “fix” the problem, ie: if you’re constantly rejected for sex then the victim may try to make themselves more attractive, etc. They desperately try to figure out how to make the abuser happy so that he will quit withholding.

The truth is, there is absolutely nothing you can do to please your abuser to get him to quit withholding from you. Withholding, like all other abusive behaviors is about power and control.


I know I’m late getting into the conversation, but I was wondering what your thoughts were on the opposite issue – triangulation between Dad and daughter against Mom. If that’s something you feel you’d like to address, maybe a post?

either way, thanks Darlene for all of your support (via Twitter).


Most of my posts are about my parents are about the difficult relationship that I have had with my mother. My father was not that significant in my life. If you read the posts under the mother daughter headings, you might find more of what you are looking for.
Thanks, Darlene


Just re read this segment of the blog.

Its very enlightening. I am friends with a man who considers us a ‘couple’.I do not consider us a coulpe.He only calls however when he knows I am working and cannot answer the phone.He does not want to chat with me between seeing me oncea week. He has NEVER made the first mmove on me- just chaste hugs.Only wants to eat at one of two restaurants.Has been with me a copuple of times to different restaurants but seems uncomfortable.Only wants me to accompany him to HIS regular support groups, doesn’t want to go to mine ever.

I am also apparently to always pay for my own meal, even when he asks me out.In fact ther first time he asked me to dinner, he told the cashier to split the check.

my mom had just died and I just wanted to be around a familiar face and we had known each other for ages but I had not spent any time with him for 20 years.I thought maybe things might develop further but no…

He isn’t interested in getting to know my daughter.In fact I took a leap and invited him to eat with me at the restaurant where my daughter works. He went.of course we split the check…lol. Two weeks later I did it again. It was my only day off. He said he didn’t want to go.

Now that I am coming ‘to’ after mom’s death, i realize I can either enter furher into this stiff unhealthy thing with this man, or I can step back and say.’I have had enough abuse in my life, and emotional witholding isn’t something I want further experience with anymore.

It feels good to be able to recognize it, and to tell myself I deserve more in my limited free time than to have to play these games with yet another person.His behavior is about him.

I believe he is not interested in experiencing time with me, but in having just a warm body on the other side of the table once a week.

I had to get a new car for my daughter after hers died and told him about the frustration of it. He said.’I hope you get it all figured out.’. that’s it.

Because he said he considered us more than friends, I took a leap and confronted him on some things in a nice way.I think one of the things that bothered me most was when we had terrible weather here and half the interstate was shut down and there were wrecks all over town. I called him to see if he made it home ok. Later it occurred to me that it had never occurred to HIM to see if WE here at my house were ok.

The clincher was when his ex wife told me they never- not once had sex while they were married.

I’m outta there.

I have alot to look at. Why did I seem compliant to this man? because I was. I deserve more. I really now do not care why he is the way he is. i just know I can’t continue to be around someone who is so disinterested IN me, but wants to be AROUND me.I’m just not going to be a backfrop to someone else’s life anymore.I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t notice my departure.

So that is my story of the emotional witholding man.


Thank you so much for sharing about your experience with your Dad, Darlene. So much resonated. I was in a lot of pain so googled “emotional withholding” since it is sad to say this is what I learned to do from unavailable parents. All I have around my father now (he died when I was 23) is a kind of emptiness and longing with so many unanswered questions. As the youngest I got less and less, he withdrew to the garden after work and never asked me about my day, I hid inside and watched tele and ate too many sweet things, longing for the love. I carried that emptiness for a long time. Now have chosen a partner who is very busy with work and has no affection to give. It is the same pattern and rather than take the risk I withhold due to hurt. It is a shameful thing to own this. Anyway all I can say is thanks so much for writing and giving us hope. I love the name of the website, emerging from broken but hopefully its just to discover that all along you were whole, even though your parents couldn’t mirror that. LOL


Hi Deborah,
Welcome to EFB ~ Thank you for your lovely comment. I named the site because I thought that “emerging from broken” described perfectly the journey from shattered to wholeness, emerging into a new life, a life full living. I discovered that I was valid and that I had an equal right to be here, that I was just as valuable as everyone else and that “they” were wrong about that part.
It is very painful to have had an emotionally withdrawn parent. Sometimes I think that I never had a father, but I am okay with that thought today. It wasn’t something that I did or because of something lacking in me like I always thought. It was him.
I married a man who was a workaholic and he also had little time to relate with me. We went through a process too, and today even our marriage is transformed and he comments on this blog often. (he is Jimmy B.) There is hope.
I am glad that you are here.
Hugs, Darlene


[…] post has been inspired by Sarah who left a compelling comment on my last post. I have copied and italicized her comments and answer them point by […]


[…] My father is really into himself. He has this sort of happy go lucky personality and I always thought he was great with people but the truth is that he is really terrible at relationships. He is really only interested in talking about himself and in telling his stories. I didn’t notice that about him for a very long time. The way I saw it when I was younger was that my dad liked everyone EXCEPT ME. That he talked to everyone and he was interested in everyone but me.  I see it differently today. Today I realize that my Dad is pretty much an emotionally unavailable father. […]


If it was not for this article, I’d still be completely clueless as to what the form of this abuse is entitled. Fascinating, good to know, as I’d fallen into an on-&-off “passive abuse”-centric relationship during the past 2 years of my life (gimme some slack; only 22 here!).
Although my parents provided me with all of the attention one could receive as an only-child, I found myself in this relationship (heaven knows WHY), working myself to the bone to receive an ounce of this boy’s affection and attention (I’d be lucky to get an ounce: it was more like “a drop”).
I deeply appreciate this article, and in reading and recognizing your struggle, I’ve come to my own conclusions about how I can detect and avoid this detrimental trait with any potential future romantic partner I encounter…
Thank you, (and I hope my closer friends on Facebook find the time to read an article I just posted on Passive Aggressive abuse..)


Hi LAlbert
Welcome to Emerging from Broken
I fell into lots of passive abuseive relationships until I was in my 40’s… no slack necessary!
thanks for sharing,
Hugs, Darlene


i would like to know, darlene ouimet, did the reality of an emotionally absent father cause you to become an abandoholic? did you start getting attracted to men who were unavvailable? if you did, how did you overcome this?


Hi Joanne
Welcome to EFB ~ yes I was attracted to emotionally unavailable men. There were many problems that stemmed from the ways I was regarded in my childhood and this website is about how I overcame all of them by understanding how I got so broken. Once I knew what the damage was, I had to replace the lies that I believed about myself (unworthy of love etc) with the truth by learning to love and validate myself. Each blog post has some of that process in it.
Hugs, Darlene


Thanks for your quick answer. I am so glad for this site. I have been skimming through the testimonies of others and i am really glad to find i am not alone.


Hi again Darlene..you were so kind to respond to my blog of late 2010.. my partner and I ended up separating….. and last year was so painful…. he too was abandoned by his mother at age 4 and it took a long time to see that he attracted me as someown who needed to take distance as I was very scared of connecting with others due to my own abandonment history….emotionally disconnected/ work preoccupied parents and a mother who had her own deep abandonment all covered over…it was so good to hear that in similar circumstances you and your lovely partner worked it through… my ex wasnt really open to anything psychological.. he put all my reading down….. I thought he was narcissistic cause emotions were too threatening for him… and Im so emotional… anyway….. its such a wonderful article you have posted and so good to read of others experiences…..one question… are there things you feel you did in your relationship that tended to push your partner away or into the role of your parent…. if so would you be able to share some.. kind wishes Deborah


Hi Deborah
Oh yes, there were lots of things that I did to try and resolve my own histroy. I have written about it in here ~ but can’t remember where!
I don’t focus on my marriage healing in this site because it came well after I was into my own healing from the past before my husband. I wish there were more hours in a day but since there isn’t I pretty much focus on my passion for healing at the root of the probelm. (which happened way before my husband and I resolved our marriage problems as those things too, were rooted in our individual childhood history traumas)
Hugs, Darlene


Thanks Darlene i get what you are saying… we need to focus on our own healing and wholeness before we can be a loving partner… and know we deserve a loving available partner…


I re-read this article 3 times……..my husband act’s just like your father an he is also the same way towards our daughter……I’m at my wit’s end an have been thinking about divorce for some time. My husband has told stories about his father an I have hear other stories about his father from other family member’s an they all lead down the same road-my husband learned from his father an now he’s acting like his father did…….I need to know where do I go from here I want to get him help because I refused to let him sabotage our marriage,his relationship with his daughter—-please tell me what I should be doing now or where we should go from here Counseling??? is their treatment? Can he change or get better? How is his behavior going to affect our child?


Hi Elizabeth
Welcome to EFB
I can’t tell you what to do, but there is hope. He can change IF he wants to, and you can heal enough to see what you want or need to do for yourself and your daughter. His behaviour is going to affect your child exactly how so many of us share in this post aobut how it effected them. It’s the message that this type of relationship sends to the child that caused the damage to the self esteem of the child.
Hang in here! I am glad that you have recognized the problem! That is the first step.
Hugs, Darlene


Dont have the courage to be as honest as you, but there is something that touched a chord in your bog id like to comment on: everyone is equally, uniquely, pricelessly valuable. How is it that globally this fact is overlooked; that we each must suffer rites of passage that have no intrinsic meaning in light of the foregoing fact, that we beat each other down because we fail to recognize this universal truth.


Hi “Really”
This fact is overlooked on purpose. People are unwilling to give up their control and power in exchange for equality. This is because people mistakenly believe that they get their validation from other people submitting to them. People are much to filled with fear and insecurity to live by the concept of “equal value”.
Welcome to emerging from broken!
Hugs, Darlene


[…] 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 […]
(this is the link to a post that mentions this post in it and has similar content)


Passively abusive… So it really does exist? Other people see this as abuse as well? I admit I’m still having trouble figuring out what is abuse and what isn’t.

Because of the way I was raised I’ve been afraid until recently to even look into what other people see as abuse…. Like if I read it somewhere else and it resonates with me it still must not be true… like I’m “pretending” to have someone else’s problems because I read/heard/learned it from someone else and didn’t come up with it all on my own. Or as my mom would say being a “sarah bernhardt”… as in “Well aren’t you our little Sarah Bernhardt!”

I’m finding that somethings resonate and some don’t. I reason that the things that resonate with me hit close to home, the things that don’t aren’t a part of my experience. Somehow this means that I’m not making it up. I mean otherwise I wouldn’t I be saying all these exact situations I’ve read I’ve had, I’d think it all happened to me. But I don’t think that. But I’m not crazy, over-dramatic, a liar, etc.

For the first 14 years of my life my dad was just unavailable. Most of the time he was at work, when he was home he was too busy fighting with my brother to pay attention to me. When I would try to talk to him about how my brother was treating me (My brother was extremely abusive, to the point it was agreed that it was too dangerous for the 2 of us to be left alone together… only instead of doing anything about his behavior my mom would kick me out of the house “for my own safety.”) he would alternate between saying it wasn’t as bad as I was making it out to be (then why couldn’t I be alone with him?), or using my mom’s favorite explanation “Your brother is having to deal with being adopted and we have to love him, and make sure he knows he’s loved and a real part of this family (I don’t even know where to begin with this other than wasn’t it important for me to be a part of the family?).” Other than that my dad would try to get control of his house/family back from my brother and there would be physical violence (again meaning I would be told to leave for my own safety and not to come back until I was told it was safe). Then he’d work again from early morning to wee hours of the morning and I’d never see him. When I, god forbid, tried to talk to my dad about any problems I was having with my mom I was cut off and told “I will not listen to anyone say anything bad about my wife! She is your mother, respect her.”

I always wanted my daddy… but up until I was 14 he just wasn’t there.


Hi “A Real Person”
Finding out about ‘passive abuse’ was HUGE for me and answered a lot of questions. Passive abuse is when someones lack of action is abusive. When someone doesn’t bother. It is related to neglect. There was LOTS of passive abuse in my life but I didn’t see it for a very long time.
Sounds like you are coming out of the fog; an expression that I use to refer to when we begin to see the truth. I did not see everything all at once. (good thing because it might have killed me) It took time and the fog lifted in layers as I was ready to see the truth.
The way that your mom treated your brother sent you a huge message; it was realizing those messages that I found the answer to ‘what happened to my self esteem’.
Thanks for sharing
Hugs, Darlene


Thanks Darlene for making the concept clear… its seems if it’s too ambiguous in my head I can somehow take that to mean it really doesn’t exist. Coming outta of the fog is exactly what feels like is happening with me. It’s overwhelming and scary BUT it’s also great to finally be able to see more clearly (I’ve always found real fog scary as well). I can understand now how if too much is seen at once it could kill a person. I have to trust that my mind won’t give me more than it can handle… that as it comes out I am ready, strong enough, and have the right resources available.

EFB has been a wonderful resource… for knowing I am not on the path alone, for seeing others in all different stages of healing (knowing what might be coming helps me not fear it as much), and just seeing someone that fought all those voices in their head enough to put themselves out there. It helps me find the strength inside myself to do the same. I will find my answers, I will find my truth. I am emerging from broken and will bloom into something beautiful from this.

I have to say the name of the site is part of what drew me here. I was getting so frustrated by all the sites & stuff that try to tell me over and over I am not broken… because I feel broken. I told this to a friend of mine once and he told me feeling broken is ok, pointed out how I love gardening and that a seed has to break & create roots in order to grow. I took it a step further and realized that even shit, dirt, and trash could help that garden grow if it was tended right in a compost pile. The compost pile has to have enough stuff piled on it, it has to be tended and turned and has to get hot in order to activate and be useful… then that is spread in the dirt the seed is planted in and helps grow those roots. If the plant is nurtured properly it will grow strong roots and thrive.

I want to grow strong roots and thrive. It’s really all I’ve ever wanted. Finally I am tending my seed… it has broken but that’s ok… in the end I will have strong roots and thrive.


Hi All
A new post just published on this subject:
“connecting the dots about passive abuse and the truth about being lazy”
Hope you will visit there!
Hugs Darlene


Here it is Jan 2013 and I have read this piece for the fourth time since the summer of 2012 and it was one of the reasons I took action to move on with my life, without my husband. I actually felt guilty over the years like I was not doing enough, pretty enough, good enough at anything to hold his attention. The only time I did was during intimate moments when he was getting something out of the situation. Our children were continually neglected by him to the point that the oldest two finally accepted that they weren’t important enough to be seen and our youngest had to annoy to get attention… It makes me sad still to this day and I KNOW we all need therapy in order to become healthy individuals and keep our bond close as we move forward into a different path for our lives. It still hurts because their father doesn’t make an effort to keep in touch and automatically assumes they will be fine when he sees them on a rare occasion. Sad thing is, even though the separation has affected him tremendously because he has to do for himself, he cannot understand why it hasn’t made me or the kids fall apart not to have him with us…he still doesn’t “get” that our lives haven’t changed all too much. He was never really “with” us, so the absence of him totally just seems normal. I just don’t go through days of depression and guilt except for when I think about how long I allowed it to manifest and hurt my children. I feel horrible that I allowed them to believe it was normal and that it was my duty to work twice as hard to take care of everything and still be ignored by a man that once said he loved me and couldn’t wait to be a father. It takes everything I have not to have hate in my heart for him but it isn’t worth keeping negativity in my soul. I can’t make him change but I can control where I go and what I do. I only regret that I hadn’t made the choice years ago. Thank you for putting into words, everything my life for the past 15 or so years has done and that it really does happen. I let my family think everything was perfect and it tore me apart…now I am trying to rebuild what happened to me and live the life I wanted for myself and my children. I thank God that I am as close to them as I am or emotionally, they would be in a much worse position. No one deserves to be treated this way and it is ok to want more.


Hi Lori
Thank you for sharing this. I can relate to what you said that because he was never really with you, there wasn’t much to miss.
My husband and I resolved everything but I can relate to the remorse of modeling the wrong stuff to the kids. BUT it is never too late to be a new role model! It is never too late to re-build. My kids have come along in the process as a result of the changes we made. I was so worried because my oldest was 12 or 13 when I started to see the need for changes. By the time I came out of the fog completly and started to really impliment the changes that needed to happen, he was 14 (he is 21 now) and I was terrified that it was ‘too late’ but it wasn’t. (and YES it is okay to want more! More than OK!)
Thanks for sharing
hugs, Darlene


Hello! I can relate to this blog about “emotionally absent” fathers. It wasn’t until I was grown that I learned that my dad had been married 3 times before my mother and had abandoned 2 sons entirely. This explains a lot….why my mother chose him was a mystery to me for awhile, until I figured out that she was basically an enabler and a control freak who wanted to make everyone “right” (to her own standards of right) Ironically, after my parents divorced…after 30+ years which was amazing in itself, I was the person who had to see to my dad’s care in his old age. Fortunately, he never lived with me although he wanted to….he wanted to be waited on hand and foot like my mother did even though he never was involved in my life…ever. He was a very passive person who let life just happen to him. He was however, easy going which made the last couple of years of visiting him and managing his care easier for me. I guess I figured someone had to do it and he hated my sister. I still believe that my mother resents me for seeing to his care. Mom and I do not talk anymore because I do not do things her way and she is mean and hateful to me regarding this. I do not speak to my sister anymore because of her drug and alcohol problems which she denies (and Mom, the enabler denies too) I am the bad guy and have been for most of my life because I refuse to engage in controlling behavior and enabling with my own children and grandchildren…whom I never see, but that is another sad story. I have enough disappointment in my life without someone constantly reminding me and telling me that it all is somehow my fault! I really like this blog site and reading about other’s struggles because it helps me to be strong in my resolve and to help me develop a better attitude. Julie


Hi Julie
Glad you are here too! Thanks for sharing.
Hugs, Darlene


I am experiencing a major flip flop reading today – is some of it cultural? I’m from India. From all I have observed the mother is noble beyond flaws. And worshipped hand on foot. The dad absent indulgent provider. Generalisation of what I observe. Now… Suddenly I’m getting friends saying I am wrong in labelling my mother a NM. She has earned her way to being cranky difficult and rude. It’s ok. That we view it differently. That western psychology is not contextualising our culture.
I’m seriously 50/50…. Dad is absent. Now… So is mom. And I’m confused.
Can anyone help with this? Please?


Hi Simsim
EFB is read in 132 countries around the world ~ in spite of different cultures, what we are dealing with here is ‘the damage’ that is caused. It isn’t the fact that you labeled her with the title Narcissist that is the problem. The problem is that she caused damage to you. The bottom line is about the message that you got about yourself because of the treatment you received. Facing and validating the damage is where the healing begins.
Hugs, Darlene


I have published a new post related to this one ~ http://emergingfrombroken.com/emotionally-unavailable-father-the-message-of-passive-abuse/

[…] abusive father that his constant cutting me off whenever I tried to tell him about me, and that his lack of interest in my life was a problem for me ~ and due to the fact that there wasn’t any change on his part, I gave up; I […]


I’m having such an “ah ha” moment of realisation reading this article.

It never dawned on me that my father also being disinterested at best in my existence, is a cause for me to this day, at age 47, to have so much trouble handling rejection with people in my life or at work.

I was just so conditioned into thinking the fault always lies within me, even when I’ve done nothing wrong, that anyone in my adult life “rejecting me” in some way, sends me into a lather of self hate, self doubt and feeling that every failing in life is on my shoulders.

Who’d have ever thought I’d start to realise that everything in life that goes wrong isn’t my fault?

Thank you Darlene!


Thank you for sharing your story , I know many women who this would help to put responsibility where it belongs and increase awareness and strength. X.


Thank you very much for validating my feelings about withholding. Meaning, that it is passive EMOTIONAL ABUSE. I am going through it with my family now, which is blended. Ever since my mom died they have virtually “shut me out” of their lives. I wrote them several letters….their response: NOTHING. DEAD SILENCE. No response. I feel that this is what you describe as emotionally passive abuse. I am angry about this. Any suggestions on how I may smoke these people out, embarrass them out, confront them out; whatever. I need a response in order to achieve closure (if that is what this means, i.e., no response). Denying me closure is very abusive, in my opinion, it tells me without telling me: “You don’t rate enough to deserve a response from us.”


Hi Gary
The answer isn’t in about them. I thought that I needed a response or admission, at least some kind of acknowledgement too, but they were unwilling and going forward I realized that if I spent half the energy on ME that I spent on them, I might have a chance and that is what I did and how I healed. I stared looking at how they had defined me (falsely) by their treatment and actions and I saw the lies, and I re-defined me!
You can too.
Hope you will read my book available in the upper right side bar here.
hugs, Darlene


I cried and I cried and I cried… Thank you Darlene for this wonderful insight. Reading this one article felt more relieving than 10 sittings with a therapist. I am married for three months now. My husband and I were in a relationship for a little over a year before we got married. Here in India, families prefer us married soon after we get committed.

i can understand what your mother might have gone through. Throughout this relationship I have been and I still am really afraid that I will end up a lunatic. I feel like I am being driven towards losing my mind. I used to be such a likable person. I used to like myself too…. but not anymore… I feel so tired all the time. Emotionally! I feel like I am trying too hard all the time. But it’s of no use. On the contrary, all this trying has left a severely damaging effect on my personality. I am too irritable now. These days I use such bitter words and go on talking endlessly, trying to make him understand me. I have become a nag. I used to hate such people. Now I am someone whom I don’t like.

I have tried everything… all in vain. Finally I decided that henceforth even I am going to withhold my feelings. No one values them anyhow. Moreover, I insult my own feelings by begging for them to be acknowledged. I felt like I have no other way left to keep my sanity. And in a silly lost moment, I googled “how to withhold my feelings?”
That’s how I found this post. It somehow made me feel a bit better, as I felt there may be some people in this world (even if they are on the other side of the globe) who would understand me, who would know that I am not mad…. 🙂 Thank you.


Hi Meghana
Welcome to EFB ~ You are not alone! There is a lot of information here in this website (450 articles with discussions) about taking our lives back. I had to value myself in order to break free of feeling like I didn’t matter because of the way someone else regarded me. I hope you will find other things here validating and comforting to you.
Hugs, Darlene

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