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Cutting Ties With A Family Member

A short while ago, I received the following note from a reader in Connecticut:

Dear Dr. Kim,

After suffering for days after another huge dust-up with my dad, I was googling words of comfort when I found your journal on the blow up you had with your father over home-schooling.

To Reconcile or Not To Reconcile

I related so much to you feeling helpless and at the mercy of a toxic, self-centered narcissist. This is how I have felt throughout most of my history with my dad.

To be honest, it was such a letdown when you concluded that you couldn't cut ties with him. I understand why you came to this conclusion but I believe my situation is different. I wish I could read about people who have actually cut ties with a toxic family member and have been healthier for it. Your dad - at least his temper tantrum came out of loving his grandkids.

All I am finding out there are stories of how people forgave and got back together. Can I really be the only daughter out here who feels mostly sadness and anger when she thinks about her dad? Am I the only one whose father makes a habit of emotionally abusing anyone who is culturally obligated to respect him?

Thanks for letting me vent!

Yours truly,

Ann C.


I appreciate Ann writing in, and I am sharing her note here with hope that any of
you who have some thoughts for Ann will share via the comments section below. Thanks so much. - Ben Kim


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I feel for Ann and wanted to let her know that at 23 I cut ties with a narcissistic dysfunctional and destructive father who was incapable of thinking of anyone other than himself. I reconciled briefly when I heard he was dying and will always feel that was the right thing to do, but I have no regrets about cutting him out of my life or that my children never knew him. Life is too short to battle with people who exert only a negative influence. Blood ties are not everything. I am now 54 and my only regret is having such a man for a father, not that we were estranged for more than twenty years.

I'm posting this as a "reply" only because I can't find any access for a new comment.
Briefly, I have a daughter whose biological parents were both toxic and hurtful. She cut ties with her father at six when her older sister reported abuse but continued with her mother until she sent abroad to university in her early twenties. She tried reconnecting for awhile with her father and found that he was still abusive. She has cut all ties with both and is living a very wholesome, creative, engaged life that anyone would be proud to be a part of. I've been in her life for many years and we recently did an adult adoption. I have been "mom" for a long time, now its official! Happiness.

Our dad was abusive in many ways, and also had his charming and caring side. As the father of five kids born within six years, he had a lot on his plate supporting us, and he also had a problem with alcohol, although I am realizing this in retrospect. Both and he and my mother had bad abandonment issues from their childhood, that were never resolved. The abuse from Dad included sexual abuse, which again I only realized (remembered) in later years. Needless to say, that was very upsetting to me, and took a while to come to terms with it. But paradoxically, this also helped me to start softening my attitude toward him. I realized just how troubled he really was, how unsupported he had been as a child and young adult, and thus, how much unresolved anger he carried. I found it in my heart to forgive and love him as much as possible in the circumstances. We were semi-estranged in his later years and didn't spend time together, but we did keep in touch by letter. We both signed our letters with "Love."

What you have described is how my husband has been behaving for over 25 years. He is a narcissist and a real charmer. He had me fooled for all these years but after reading a few books on the subject, my rose colored glasses were changed out for a new prescription! Now I see how he has isolated me, used me as a scapegoat, and wrecked a large portion of my life in relationship to other people. I am now in my fifties and taking the plunge into disconnecting from him and starting a new life. I am scared to death because of all his words of 'I will not survive without him' haunt me. I can forgive some aspects of his behavior because he is an alcoholic and has unresolved childhood issues. But I will not forget his lies, empty promises, and dismissal of my feelings and emotions. I pray for all of you here and hope you return the favor. My kind to YOURSELF. Start there and the rest will follow.

I just wanted to say that you can do this. I am in the same place as you with a man who sounds like the same guy. Do not let it become 27 years, or 30. I have heard similar messages, and they stop me from taking steps that I need to take in order to feel good or even just stay healthy. Fight these bad words off like the enemy that they are. You must be incredibly capable to have endured this relationship this long.

My daughter was also sexually abused by her biological father. I divorced him when my children were 3 and 6 because he was abusive and he was also an alcoholic. Soon after I left the marriage, he started abusing my daughter when he had visitation and she was at his house.

Long story daughter had low self esteem, anxiety and depression for the majority of her life. She starting self-medicating in high school and died at the age of 22.... an accidental overdose.

She was not able to cope with what her own father had done to her. Sexual abuse, especially at the hands of your own parent is devastating and a lot of people never recover. I truly believe my daughter would still be here if he didn't sexually abuse her. I wish people would realize how sexual abuse of children robs them of their lives....breaks their spirit and soul...and sometimes they just never recover.

I understand that he was probably also a victim of abuse....but that does not mean you can go on to victimize someone else. There are plenty of people who were abused that would never do that to a child. They make the decision to victimize a child. I don't think I can ever forgive him.

My ex-wife wanted nothing to do with her Father because he had sexually molested her when she was young. The difference was her Father had brain cells missing because of a diving accident. She wouldn't see him even though I said it would be better for her to forgive him in any way she could. He died, and she never got over it. Forgive to make yourself feel better, not for the other person.

Ann, nobody likes having to cut ties with family members. I cut one, though, and it wasn't easy to actually do that until I realized that my family member was obviously not at all in need of my presence in her life. Were she to have needed my presence in her life, I believe she would have been more polite towards me than rude... less verbally abusive, and less demeaning. I've forgiven her for her unkind words and actions, but I'm not really interested in keeping the companionship of mean-spirited people whether they be related to me or not related to me. I respect myself more than that. Besides, maybe the way she treated me was the only way she could communicate her desire that I stay away from her... who knows? It doesn't matter. I'm happier not having to dread the next encounter with her, for I have cut the ties completely and have no interest in re-establishing a very hurtful (to me) relationship. Like I said, I respect myself more than that!

Hello rising star Ann! Your predicament will help and even enrich us all. None of us can alter one dot of the past, nor do another's thinking for him or her, but great good can come from any past.

Blessings come in some unlikely camouflage, sometimes. You have been dealt an intense and challenging opportunity for fast track personal growth!

Your father is powerless to stop you from loving him (at a distance), forgiving him and yourself, and enjoying NOW the magnificent relationship you will have in the future.

The self has rights as well as others, so quarantining yourself from your toxic father, indefinitely, reversal contingent upon the likelihood of growing a mutually validating relationship, is rational self-protective behaviour.

Our minds are not the seat of our spiritual nature, but they are the gateway thereto. Our minds are not wholly limited by the constraints of time and space, as are our bodies. Claim those future joys NOW, when, in perhaps other places and new times (even very soon), you will be savouring a vastly better relationship with your dad, and he will be thanking you for it, for being the one who was the wiser and more gracious at the time.

Draw from the best quality spiritual wells that you can find, (cherry pick, why not!), to sustain you in the present. Almost certainly the worst that will happen due to this sad situation is delay... Be it this earthly stage of your life, or the next, it will improve, and improve out of sight. Relationship reality is designed to be inexhaustibly good, but often gets off to a rocky start.

Yes, we get cut up by bad relationships, especially the family ones, because relationship is primary reality. However, there are simple laws even children can use, that have an unstoppable positive momentum. Relax, keep sharing your struggle (a burden shared is a burden eased), and crank up the gratitude NOW for the future turnaround...

re: Cutting ties.... I completely agree with Marian L. in her July 2nd post. It took until my 50's to cut ties with an abusive father. I never regretted it and only wished I'd done it sooner and saved myself years more of pain. I wrote a chapter about the experience of cutting ties with him in a book called.... "It's Okay Sweetie.... One Day You'll Fly Far, Far Away" I hope it helps

My mother was always the buffer between my chauvinistic, stubborn, and non supportive father, I could not go to college because I was a girl. When she died I felt like I had to try and get more involved with him and his health. I have 3 brothers who my dad adored and none of them were even calling him. After 5 years of taking him to the doctors calling twice a week and taking him out for lunch and listening to every stinking complaint every week he accused me of stealing money from him. I was shocked, and tried to reason it away, but he kept at it, so I told him if he needed me for anything he could call but that I would not be calling him. I would not be taking care of him, quite frankly I told him to call my brothers. I truly did not contact him and after awhile he started calling me and coming to my house for short visits, I felt relieved until I got a call from the police saying they had found my father dead in his house. That he had been dead for a few days. I am almost done with closing the final chapter of his life and I am finding out how very hard his childhood was as tots during the depression and taken from his family because they could not care for him properly only to be mistreated by the nuns and the cook at the orphanage. He kept that all from us, he wanted us to have a better and happier life than he had, he complained and argued with me and my mother more than anyone else and I don't know why that is, but it could have been a lot worse for us but he always provided, always made sure we ate, showered and studied for school since my mom worked 3 - 11p. We hardly saw her and my dad really did an OK job raising us, we are still close, and we always had a secure family unit. So I guess what I am saying is there might be damage done to your dad that you don't know about, he survived it, he might not be dealing with it the way you think he should. If he is crushing your spirit then tell him to call you only when there is something that only you can do for him. No one should endure a soul crushing attack from a person who says they love you. Only you know where the line is in the sand that no one can cross. If your dad is at that line, let him know, don't let him assume or wonder. Tell him flat out why you will not be contacting him any longer. He might just need that to understand that he is causing you damage. I wish you the best and hope that you will be happy with the outcome.

Hi Ann ~~ I did cut the ties. It was the only way I could find peace. Along with cutting the ties I wished him well. Honoring that he has the right to live his life with choices just as I do. Do I wish things were different. Sure.. but they are not. The saying It Is What It Is.... When I made the choice by taking account did it make me happy. Did I try. Did it make any difference in our relationship by my trying? NO... It has to be a 2 way street. There was never... any effort to resolve our conflict... sorry... I love you's... so... I said.. I'm done.. this isn't good for me. And that was a kindness I gave to myself... and at the same time.. I don't dwell or hold anger towards him anymore either. His life experiences left a mark on him that he couldn't resolve.. I saw that.. and I hold empathy and love from afar.. This works for me.
I hope this helps - Scherie

Hi Ann~~I can relate so well to what you have said. My 45 year old unmarried son is verbally abusive and has no filters when it comes to talking to me. I am a professional psychiatric social worker and do not and have never "analyzed" him. He is my son. I have always loved him with all my heart. Yes, he is a narcissist and will never come visit me; I always have to drive to him. He always spends his time with women. But not his mother. The last time I went to visit him he said he needed his privacy. He went into his bedroom and I took my purse and left. A moment later he called me and asked where I was. I was in my car about to return home (a 1 and 1/2 hour drive). Since that time we have talked briefly but not about the incident. He is toxic to me emotionally and I no longer want to put up with his grandiosity and abuse. I am in the business of helping people resolve conflict but sometimes, yes many times, you just have to wish the other one well and move on with your life.

Sadly I have an abusive son...numerous ways...mid 20's. Only abuse I have ever experienced. I keep waiting and hoping he will grow up one day but don't know if it will ever change. How does one cut links with their one and only totally narcissistic child?

Although I don't know exactly how Ann must feel I can definitely relate. I made the decision to cut ties with my biological father after several attempts to reconcile which included lovingly telling him that I forgive him for not being there for me as his daughter. That was my attempt to also help him forget about the past and try to start fresh together but he was stuck and felt it was okay to be emotionally abusive. I came to a point where I no longer felt anger towards him but sadness that he missed out on being apart of my life. I believe both parties have to be willing to reconcile and recognize mistakes we've made as humans. If one person isn't willing to do that and believes it is okay to be emotionally abusive then I believe you are left with no choice but to disconnect. Personally, I believe in God and having Him as my spiritual father has also helped in the process of forgiveness and no longer being connected to my father.

One way to deal is to do some constellation therapy. Usually it is advisable to bring your parent, but since narcissist a are devoid of empathy, I would advise you to go it alone. You will feel heard and understood.
One thing I used to practice was to make a phone call to say hello and at the first sign of negativity I would say, "well, it's been good talking to you. I have to go now.." After a while my mother began to be more polite. She did not fundamentally change her ways but I got to save my own skin.
I broke with the objectionable behavior, and did not stick around for the abuse. Both my parents, narcissists, have died.

Dear Ann, When I saw your letter, I could relate very very easily. How much I wanted to just move away like all my siblings, but strangely, life kept me and my family very near my parents. For me, when I have issues, I always turn to prayer. I did some self therapy, like writing letters and burning them, etc. The thing is, as my dad aged, I became concerned with the feelings I had toward him, which we would probably not condemn me for. Because I was/am on a spiritual journey in which I sincerely want to be a better person, I often turned inward to reflect on my own self and focused on any toxic behaviors I may have picked up. I also focused on where in my life I was lagging or sabotaging myself due to the abusive memories. Ironically, my mother, who was "pure sugar" as my brother in law fondly calls her, became unable to get around, etc. The tables were turned and he had to take care of her. He learned a lot and grew, but still, with his cancer getting worse, the focus seemed to still be on him. Ann, I hard. Mom passed unexpectedly nine months before him. I realize now, she "did it on purpose", because in those nine months, and honest talk from his kids, he did deep soul searching. He was lost without her. My last phone conversation, I felt a sudden urge to tell him he had become a very sweet person in his old age. He quietly broke down in tears and thanked me.
I had been one of the kids who always seemed targeted by him in the younger days. I honestly went through life thinking I had somehow been a terrible person and deserved to be treated as such, but unable to name what that terrible thing I did was. Due to my spiritual nature, I began to get "messages" from my mom that he was passing. Ann, my deceased mother's face is in the window of my house in a picture I took when a bizarre 30 second wind "storm" blew in our window and took the top of a tree off. I was taking insurance pictures. I felt this whole thing was a "sign", because I kept staring at the empty top of the tree and kept thinking, "head of the family tree". Later, in looking at the pictures, I was shocked and yet heartened to see my mom's smiling face in the window!!! I got messages for days after, and finally, one day, a literal prayer card appeared on my counter-a prayer about sorrow and loss of loved one. I broke down and got on my knees and DEMANDED of Jesus and my Mom (yes, demanded) that they help me let go of all hatred, resentment, anger toward Dad. And they HAD to get him safely to the other side. I cried, demanded, prayed...and was generally wiped out. I woke the next day feeling very different. I sat in bed staring and suddenly, I just was all gone. I could not then, nor can I now, conjur up any of the old bad feelings...I can't do it, even if I wanted to! Some siblings are still wrestling with those old feelings and I long to help them. I was there for him at death, I saw him see the other side, I loved and supported him, and I gave his eulogy-a task only one brother timidly offered to assist in but not do. If you have a "spiritual bent" like I do, I encourage you to turn to that. It took some years, but it made a difference. I grew more confident, more loving. I found out later that he enjoyed my visits and phone calls; he told them, "Fran makes me feel good, she makes me laugh. I hang up and I just keep laughing." I was amazed. Even when I was still wrestling with forgiveness, I had made a difference. Don't stop reaching out to him, in small ways. Work on your own self as I did, to build your confidence, and if you're willing...pray sincerely. It was probably the greatest gift-to be freed from the toxic feelings-I will ever receive in my life. Don't give up on yourself. You were put in his life for a reason, and he in yours. You can do this!!!! God love you!

Ann, You are commanded to honor your parents. This doesn't mean you have to be around them if they don't celebrate you. Forgive your father, Bless him with your words but keep him at a distance. You will find freedom in that and it will give him the opportunity to hear from God for himself and repent. It may not happen in your lifetime but trust that God is the God of reconciliation and there is the Resurrection!

I am the husband of one of the people who have responded. It is too bad that you have to bring religion into this picture. We are not commanded to honor our parents. I would suggest you go back and translate the commandment from the original to the present. Honor to and from. When there is no honor from there is no honor to. The only difference in your parent and someone like Hitler and Bin Laden is blood. And they have blood relatives who should honor them? All it takes to be a parent is an act of sex. That does not require we honor that sexual being. My wife's "father" has been abusive to her and her siblings all there life and their is no reason that they should have to honor that abusive person. When my wife's mother died, her father called the one daughter, who is just as narcissistic as the father and did not call my wife or her brother to be there at her death, even though we were the ones who told care of her medically. The ugliness goes on and on and I can not wait for him to die.
He had appointed the one son to take care of his finances, which he did by consolidating all, and presented them to this "father" who immediately accused him of stealing $40,000. He appointed my wife and myself health care providers, we are both RNs, and let his neighbors have their say over what we had to say, denying that w had any intelligence at all.
He used to beat his sons. He used to verbally berate the daughters, except for the one I think he had sexual relations with, to the point that they would piss the floor. This is a "father" who needs to be honored? To be for given? Maybe. But not forgotten. He has split the family, and now he is near death he want it all to be normal. Normal should have been for the past 50 years. He missed out, and made the rest of the family miss out. **** him. he is a nobody like Hitler and Bin Laden. The physical health of many suffered because of him and the health of his wife was atrocious because of him. Honor. Look up the word and bat it around and think in terms of my wife's situation.

Amen, Brother. I agree with you 100%. I was abused, but nobody stopped my Dad from beating me. And my Mother was long gone. Am I suppose to love her because she carried me for nine months. The bible teaches love first. I forgave my Father because his brain was screwed up, my Mom had the choice not to be screwed up, but she chose to be without chidren, now wants forgivnes. She can have it, but I don't know her as my Mother.

You have to do what is best for your own mental and most importantly spiritual health and disconnect from anyone whether they are a friend, family member, boss etc who invalidates and evaluates you. You are not obligated to continue to subject yourself to invalidation from another regardless of who they are.Somehow most of us have been given this piece of false data (We are tied to family no matter what, blood is thicker than water, etc etc.) and use it to operate, without really examining it. I would however write him a letter formally disconnecting from him. Do not make it antagonistic or with a lot of emotional charge. Just simply state that you are disconnecting and why (that invalidating others is not okay) This will bring closure and allow you to let go.

You are not the only person who cannot reconcile with a toxic family member. Imagine growing up in a house with lead paint or mold in the walls. You've been exposed to poison and it leaves its effects. As an adult would you choose to purchase a home with mold in the walls? Knowing it would make you sick? No, you wouldn't. This is common sense and self-preservation.

We are exposed to unpleasantness all the time. Strangers who are rude or small problems like a flat tire and dead cell phone. These are things we need to learn to deal with, sure. Being cut to pieces by a family member, those who should love and respect us the most, is not a cross I think we need to bear. We deserve to feel emotionally well, happy and Alive! To make the most of our time here on Earth.

There are some people who need to do a lot of work on themselves emotionally before they can truly seek to heal broken ties. Focus on your own well being, your work and chosen family. Give yourself permission to cut ties and be happy. Years from now should you see true growth and healing in your dad you can always revisit your decision. Those who wrong us, and scar us, frequently should have to work to earn forgiveness. To seek a person's forgiveness is to truly desire to not repeat the mistakes. If your dad has not shown true remorse than his actions will not change. Wish him well and move on.

Good luck to you in this less than ideal situation. You're not a bad person for wanting to be at peace and to live free from toxic people.

I currently am in the same boat as Ann C and will find any comments interesting - I am currently praying fo be willing to make amends with my mother but find I am holding this resentment as she continues her damage...

I have prayed for the same thing for thirty years now, and I can honestly say that it always worked. I always forgive the mean, awful comments. I face each day expecting better treatment. I believe completely that my family member can change. God has answered my prayer. I forgive and he can change, but he doesn't. He is not praying or trying to change. My forgiveness only allows him to continue acting in such an awful way. I have sustained him just enough that he has not had to change.

You teach people how to treat you - forgiveness is overrated if not accompanied by the 'offender's' willingness to change....

Love is a big word, that includes: love them so that your actions will be as "burning coals on their heads" (Proverbs 25:22). Paul goes on to explain this in Romans 12, where he also says, "IF POSSIBLE... live at peace with everyone."
Unfortunately, it is not always possible to live at peace with everyone. Which is why scripture is very clear about the importance of EXCOMMUNICATING Spiritual BROTHERS & SISTERS. What is true about our spiritual family is certainly true about our earthly families--biological or otherwise (as in workplace families, adoptive families, societal groups, etc).
We must be able to draw lines in the sand. Some forgivable behaviors are unacceptable.
If a family member refuses to repent of unacceptable behavior... we are commanded to excommunicate them.
Refusal to excommunicate persons for significant unrepentant behavior is not healthy for ANYONE--including the persons exhibiting the unacceptable behavior.
<strong>Unconditional Love and Forgiveness Does Not = Tolerance</Strong>

Ann, I feel you on this issue. I recently cut ties with my family because I feel they will never understand how much they hurt me and disrespect my boundaries. I don't think they care for me as a person and don't really spend any time getting to know me for who I really am. I feel sad about it, as it was done in the last few weeks, but it has created so much space in my life already to fill with activities and relationships that are more meaningful and don't leave me feeling emotionally bereft or totally upset and anxious about who I am. Take good care of yourself and know that your intuition knows what is best for you.


I have cut ties with my family. Everyone's situations is different so it's hard to give any advice on someone's whole history which typically is largely unknown. However, for me, growing up in a somewhat verbally abusive household, a few black and blue beatings and hair grabbing-yanking episodes, it over times caused me to distance myself from my family emotionally. After some time, I just never really felt close to anyone anymore. This is probably about 15 or so. Granted, we had some dinners still, I was at all holidays, etc.

Our family I always felt was a bit dysfunctional, although, my parents would sort of laugh as though I was incorrect when I would occasionally say it. As time went on and I moved upstate and then out of state, whenever I returned, I would be optimistic that when I returned, there would be a greater closeness when I left. It never happened. The first 24 hours were great, and then everything seemed to drift back into the same old type of routine.

Eventually, there was a situation which caused me to walk away. For me, I feel much better without them in my life because toward the later years, I felt there was always some kind of "dig" being cast my way and I just really didn't like them as people. Yes, they were kind to people and so on, but I just didn't like the judgemental aspect of them towards others as they would look for faults - an unfortunate trait I learned growing up and had to work hard at removing.

Not sure if any of this helps, but again, for me...I feel at more peace having removed myself from their negativity and all the past BS and quite frankly embarrassing and shameful things that I experienced as a child. I don't feel that blood is thicker than water. I find that many people just suffer abuse in whatever forms simply because someone is family. That to me is non sense. No one should have to put up with BS that tears at their fabric.

It is absolutely fine to cut ties with a self-centered, narcissistic family mostly to protect yourself. In all likelihood you are dealing with a psychopath who manipulates you and loves having power over you. I am a very forgiving person and forgave my brother many times. His last act was to isolate my mom from all other family members, put her in a nursing home and steal all her money. This is after a lifetime of dealing with him and forgiving him. Everything was always about him. It took me years to figure out he is a psychopath (actually a psychologist and a minister figured it out). I have cut my brother off permanently. Ann C. for your own protection, please Google psychopath and see if the description fits your father. Dr. Kim is very wise, but he should know you have to cut ties with a family member who is a psychopath/sociopath who by the way are all narcissists.Good luck Jim, retired Government Auditor.

Ann, you shouldn't feel like you're the only one - I cut ties with my mother about 14 years ago - after years and years of subtle psychological abuse. I realized in adulthood that I never really looked forward to speaking or visiting with my mother - I always felt worse in conversation with her or with her present. Without going into a lot of detail, when I took the time to step back and analyze her behavior toward me, my siblings, and people in general, I realized that she is a textbook sociopath. Of my 5 brothers and sisters, only two still speak to her as they've all come to the same conclusion (the final two have a misplaced sense of loyalty to her that she exploits rather adeptly).

I can say without hesitation that I do not miss her presence in my life at all. The only thing I regret is that I didn't grow up with a mother who actually cared about her kids - we were all more or less "accessories" or stage props and were treated accordingly. I envy friends who have strong bonds with their parents - they don't realize how fortunate they are.

I would suggest that if your Dad is abusive (emotionally, physically, psychologically) you could always experiment with reducing /eliminating your exposure for a period of time and seeing if you feel it improves your mental state. If it does, cut those ties permanently, if not, there might be something else going on. We all want to believe that our parents love and cherish us, but some of us aren't so lucky. Reconciliation is possible only if the person you are dealing with is mentally stable and has a conscience - without these things you are wasting your time. There is enough toxic crap out in the world coming at us all the time - the last place we need it coming from is the people around us.

Best of luck,


For Ann C....check out This is a site for people with toxic parents, mostly mothers but also fathers and other family members. You do not have to keep ties with abusive family,keeping ties because of guilt, obligation, they're old, etc. is sometimes the worst thing you can do for your mental and physical health.

Dear Ann:
You are not alone. I understand how you feel. Although many therapists will point out that cutting ties with family can be very detrimental to your own psychological well-being, there are certainly instances where their toxicity is too great unless you have the mind of a monk. I was thrown out of the house at 18. Due to financial reasons I was forced to go back several times. My parents were not all bad and I am grateful for the shelter, early education and care that they provided, however, I became the scape goat of many of their emotional problems for most of my life. I am the oldest of three children and suffered many things due to physical and psychological abuse. I was also their support during the emotional turmoil of my youngest sibling's gender reassignment and my middle brother's chronic epileptic seizures. Living with them and later visiting with them throughout most of my life was an emotional holocaust. I found myself having to cut ties about three years ago when I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer and found very little support from both parents and family. My mother's response was "that is nothing" and my father said that "I had dropped a bomb on them" on the day of my surgery. I sometimes miss the house I grew up in and the warm meals but I was so stifled emotionally by them that I decided at age 42 to take the rest of my life to try and heal myself in every way possible. When a simple conversation is impossible and there is no understanding or respect, one must love oneself first. The challenge is finding other "adoptive family" that will love and care for you the way you have always hoped. For that, I ask God to guide and protect me. I wish the same for you. God bless

In response to "Cutting Ties with a Family Member", I would like to share my experience that may be helpful. It's not my father, as my parents have both passed away, but it is my ex-husband. During the duration of my marriage, he was involved in addictive behavior, which affected the duration of our 26 year marriage. I was caught in a cycle of abuse for this duration because I forgave him and would try to see the best in him...he has good qualities, blah, blah...
When authorities became involved I still had a hard time cutting the ties and was actually drawn back in to the cycle of emotional abuse that I had been caught in all those years. I finally became strong enough to say 'no'; I can't take this anymore. I still vacillated between being caught in this cycle and trying to get out of it, even when separated and eventually filed for divorce.
I have cut ties with him, but I have forgiven in the sense of letting go of resentment, not for him, but for me. I was tired of being angry and being caught in my own cycle of abuse. I have taken control of my life and to do that I have to make peace with myself and let go of the anger and hurt. He has to live with himself; knowing how he has treated me. Me, I have to move on and let go. Letting go takes effort; it's not easy.
Healing takes time, lots of it, and it comes in stages; it's like grieving, but letting go and moving on is important for your health and welfare.
Granted, this is not my Dad. You can't divorce your Dad, but you are entitled to living your life free from abuse and control. I made that decision to be free of it and am still healing.
Hope this makes sense and helps somewhat...

Hi Ann,
My husband had a very rough childhood. His parents divorced twice, his mom remarried 4 times, and she suffered from mental illness. She has been at times physically abusive, and very often verbally abusive. My husband truly feels no attachment to her at all. It took me years to understand the depth of all he had gone though, and for "family's sake" tried to maintain a relationship with her, even though she had "disowned" my husband several times in the past. The worst started when she decided to move cross country to our city, and became involved in our church. None of our friends there knew the history, and saw the face she chose to present to them in public. The verbal abuse continued and was starting to include our daughter as well. After my husband suffered a verbal attack in the church parking lot, and a series of attempts to break into our home, threatening phone calls and texts, I finally understood how my attempts to make peace were hurting my husband. After talking with our pastor, we came to peace with our decision that you can forgive someone, but dont have to have them in your life, or submit yourselves to further abuse from them. I'm not saying it has been easy. Our pastor has moved, and I fear for when this comes up with the new guy. Of course rumors have been spread about how terrible we are to his poor mom, but those who know us, and who now know the situation have set the record straight. Our holiday season this past year was so nice and tension free because we didn't have to worry about being with her. We still make every effort to avoid public contact, and I still worry about what she will do or say if she ever has the opportunity to get close to us again, but it was such a good, healthy choice for our family. Of course I've simplified the background and history here, but I think you will get the general idea. The most important part is forgiving in your heart first. If you still hold anger, your dad is going to be on your mind all the time. I I hope you will find what is best for you and your family as well.

In response to Ann's note, I can honestly say I am much, much healthier after cutting ties with the toxic members in my family. In my situation, my children would have been adversely affected, big time. With that in mind, I am glad the ties were severed 5 years before my first child was born. It is a hard place to be in and each situation is possibly different; I am sorry you find yourself with this challenge

Hi Ann, I have to comment on your letter. I totally understand how you feel. I have a family where the "tree" is all broken. Here's the pattern: I disliked my grandfather and grandmother and my aunt (my age) on my father's side. Two or more of my aunts on my father's side were estranged from their father when he died. My father is, or was, a narcissistic, control freak, rage-aholic who beat my mother and abused us without hitting us, and he was a sex addict (I eschew the word "womanizer" which suggests the woman was to blame). My sister will not speak to my father, and barely has civil relations with me and my other sister. Her daughter will not speak to her. My daughter has not spoken to me for two years. My mom at 80 is an alcoholic (not drinking but definitely not sober) and a prescription med addict, also a narcissist. Guess all of us in the family carry that trait to one extent or another. I have been sober for 29 years from alcohol and from sex addiction, 2 years. Neither of my parents have stayed in contact with my sister's daughter or mine. THey do not know them. My middle brother is diagnosed schizophrenic and my baby brother is probably an alcoholic and never contacts me.

What a family tree, huh? At 81, my father is different, but still self-absorbed. He'll call twice a year if he thinks about it, and my mother will call if she wants something. I have forgiven (but still work on it) both my parents and my sisters and my daughter. In fact, I am very grateful to all of them for the contrast they provide in my healing. If my daughter had not disappeared from my life with no words about it, I might still be so awfully co-dependent I'd still be depressed and suicidal. I was very needy of her love for me. I realize she doesn't need me anymore since she's an adult. I miss her, but I'm happy that she's doing what makes her happy.

Hatred for anyone hurts only myself. I have said before to my daughter, that I will know I am healed when I can stand in my mother's presence and love her without condition, meaning, she doesn't have to do anything or be a certain way, or say the right thing for me to love her. In this culture we are taught to find what is wrong, blame someone else for it, and then kick them to the curb. I think there may be a time period when leaving an abusive relationship will be helpful for the one who is abused. But not for the purpose of making that person change the way they are. Only for the purpose of finding a way to make yourself happy and to heal through forgiveness.

I don't know if it would have helped for my daughter to say to me, "mom, I need some distance from you for a time and I'll let you know when I'm ready to talk again. Please do not contact me until then." I think I could have accepted that, but that is hindsight. I'm a communicator so it feels like it would have helped my pain over the seeming separation. In truth, there is no separation. We all have the same Source who loves us infinitely, with NO conditions. I have decided to be happy no matter what. Even if my daughter never contacts me again. It has nothing to do with me or what I've done in the past. Every moment is new and I live from the NOW. I've learned to love myself like my parents never could love me or themselves. THIS is the only purpose of my life - to love myself (without that, there is no love of others) and to experience joy.

I truly hope you find that in your life. You are 100% responsible for your own happiness and joy. No one else can give it to you, but YOU. Blessings.

Ann, my toxic parent was my mother and if it's same sex parent, there are some differences I suppose - do be careful of the men you are drawn to associate with because if you have a toxic parent it can be very difficult to have a marriage or relationship that functions or lasts. My mother's animosity first showed when I was a teen; we'd emigrated to another country and when I didn't have the protection of her parents, my grandparents, she went wild. My father was my saviour. I heard him trying to defend me when she attacked me. I would sit on the landing of our house crying silently and listening to them fight about me. Problem with that was I got stuck in the oedipus part of my relationship with my father. Though for some weird reason, I didn't look for men like him, but men who would be abusive towards me in some way. First marriage to a sociopath made me feel like I was in a sandwich between him and my mother and I cut ties with my mother for 2 years and it did bring me peace. But I reconciled with her - perhaps we all want the "storybook family" and I wanted to have children, them to be the perfect grandparents, etc. That didn't happen either, much to my amazement. I sent them flowers when I found out I was expecting!! (Indicative of my "giving" nature). All my life I knew my mother's legacy might live on inside me and trust me, it's hard to get rid of it. I had no other relatives in our new homeland to go to and so I suppose that's why I never cut ties permanently. But in retrospect I will say that it might have been better in some ways if I had, but then again, I wasn't drawn to men who respected me so problems always ensued. If you can find another family member who loves you and is geographically close, I think you might benefit by getting this father out of your life. My father died before he was 70; I think from the stress of living with my mother. He had a mensa type mind and was also very funny. When he died mother went to live with a gentleman she was in the airforce with, back in our homeland. She did this less than a year after my father died. That man also died. She came back to live with my sister. She didn't have a Living Will. My sister, a nurse, told me she took her life with an overdose of morphine. Then I found out my sister had mother change the will to her advantage, less than 6 months before she took my mother's life. I was decimated one more time. I'd asked my sister for my mother to live 6 months with her and 6 months with me. It would have worked - I like theatre and many things my mother liked and my sister lives in a hillbilly environment. But again, I never had a good relationship with her either - she just played it to her advantage since the day she arrived. I know every family has it quirks, but if you have a big problem like you have I think I would advise you to end it now. I've lived a lot of my life and I will always wonder if it would have been better if I didn't have the baggage that still takes extreme effort not to exercise. Love yourself, it's important! Trying to understand a narcissist perhaps not so important.

Ann, my toxic parent was my mother and if it's same sex parent, there are some differences I suppose - do be careful of the men you are drawn to associate with because if you have a toxic parent it can be very difficult to have a marriage or relationship that functions or lasts. My mother's animosity first showed when I was a teen; we'd emigrated to another country and when I didn't have the protection of her parents, my grandparents, she went wild. My father was my saviour. I heard him trying to defend me when she attacked me. I would sit on the landing of our house crying silently and listening to them fight about me. Problem with that was I got stuck in the oedipus part of my relationship with my father. Though for some weird reason, I didn't look for men like him, but men who would be abusive towards me in some way. First marriage to a sociopath made me feel like I was in a sandwich between him and my mother and I cut ties with my mother for 2 years and it did bring me peace. But I reconciled with her - perhaps we all want the "storybook family" and I wanted to have children, them to be the perfect grandparents, etc. That didn't happen either, much to my amazement. I sent them flowers when I found out I was expecting!! (Indicative of my "giving" nature). All my life I knew my mother's legacy might live on inside me and trust me, it's hard to get rid of it. I had no other relatives in our new homeland to go to and so I suppose that's why I never cut ties permanently. But in retrospect I will say that it might have been better in some ways if I had, but then again, I wasn't drawn to men who respected me so problems always ensued. If you can find another family member who loves you and is geographically close, I think you might benefit by getting this father out of your life. My father died before he was 70; I think from the stress of living with my mother. He had a mensa type mind and was also very funny. When he died mother went to live with a gentleman she was in the airforce with, back in our homeland. She did this less than a year after my father died. That man also died. She came back to live with my sister. She didn't have a Living Will. My sister, a nurse, told me she took her life with an overdose of morphine. Then I found out my sister had mother change the will to her advantage, less than 6 months before she took my mother's life. I was decimated one more time. I'd asked my sister for my mother to live 6 months with her and 6 months with me. It would have worked - I like theatre and many things my mother liked and my sister lives in a hillbilly environment. But again, I never had a good relationship with her either - she just played it to her advantage since the day she arrived. I know every family has it quirks, but if you have a big problem like you have I think I would advise you to end it now. I've lived a lot of my life and I will always wonder if it would have been better if I didn't have the baggage that still takes extreme effort not to exercise. Love yourself, it's important! Trying to understand a narcissist perhaps not so important.

Hello Ann, reading your email my heart goes out to you. Your story is my story - exactly! I came so close to cutting ties with my father and then just couldn't do it. He's mean, he's bitter, he's cruel, and he's emotionally abusive (and I know you experience all these too), but then I had a realization - I set all this up! I read a book that said something like this 'The person who pushes your buttons the most, or hurts you the most, is the person who loves you the most'. I was absolutely gob-smacked because (for some strange reason) I knew this was true. I do believe we set it all up before we're born to this life, and that my father in this life is someone who actually loves me dearly, enough to share my life and give me the experiences I asked for. Yes, sometimes I still really hate him, but then I keep coming back to what I read. Incidentally, he's 94 now, and he's as mean now as he was when I was a child, but he's my Dad and I'm going to continue putting up with him. For some reason I have an enormous amount of satisfaction in knowing that I'm the better person here; and even though he's fit and healthy now, one day he might need my help and I'll be there for him. I don't know whether this might help you Ann, but basically I think you should do whatever gives you peace in your life. You only get one shot at this life, so please try and enjoy it. If this means getting your Dad out of your life, and you not having any regrets at all, then that's what you should do. He won't change; that I do know, but is there any chance that this might be what you set up to experience in your own life? All the best to you Ann - Alison

Well said Alison!! Your words spoke to me as well, so thank you for sharing them :-)

Dearest Anne;
I had major problems with my Dad but coming from a Buddhist approach, I really tried to understand from his perspective and I realized where he was coming from. He also expected automatic respect because he was my parent.
I didn't like how he acted but he was frustrated, afraid, lonely and never knew how to communicate. I truly believe that the worse people act, the more help and understanding they need. Even though I wanted to avoid him, I couldn't because he was a loving father when I was growing up. He had completely given up on life after my mother left, didn't look after himeself and had a stroke. He was so grateful for life when he survived and when he lost control, he gained peace !! I looked after all his affairs, took care of him in hospital and got him into a beautiful nursing home. He only lived there a few months but he was happy and I was SO GRATEFUL that we mended fences before he died. I cry as I type this, remembering how he called me 'his mighty mouse' when he realized how I was taking care of everything for him. Peace, love and light to you and your father - Namaste.

In my own experience, I've found that trying to cut a family member off is a nearly impossible thing. It's as nasty (maybe even more) as divorce. I had a major falling out with my mother who, in my eyes, betrayed me and hurt me beyond what I ever expected anyone, let alone my own mother, to do. It was a heart-wrenching, soul-searching trial for me, but ultimately I decided that forgiveness was the only solution. The bitterness of a grudge is extremely damaging to the one who carries it. Even though my mother never asked for forgiveness, I still gave it to her. Since I am a Christian, I believe that Jesus gave us the ultimate example of sacrifice and forgiveness when he gave up his life for us. He lived a life free of wrong-doings, and yet when he was wronged, he freely forgave. I figure that no one can wrong me the way that we have wronged Jesus, and if he can forgive, so can I. My mother and I now have a better relationship. I admit that I am still wary with trusting her fully, but I do trust God and have peace knowing that he loves me and wants the highest good for me. Forgiveness is a powerful thing. It empowers the forgiver to move on with her life and not be bogged down by the negative opinions and wrong-doings of others. It brings such a great peace. I highly recommend practicing forgiveness freely and frequently!

All my siblings including myself grew up being beaten, verbally abused, and assaulted every day in some way. It is amazing my mother's husband didn't kill one of us as he sure came close a few times. The healthiest thing I ever did was to break my contact with him completely and to tell him he was not to see me nor to contact me in anyway, including phone calls. That was a big turning point in my life in becoming happier and in letting go of a miserable past that would continue if he was in my life still. All of my siblings feel this same way but have not cut the ties and continue to feel victimized of their childhood and life. Each has to figure it out their own way but we all agree that he is a psychopath and enjoys harming family in anyway he can. My mother stays because he is a paycheck and makes it possible to live retired and in a better way than she would otherwise. It seems like spouses do that in varied ways, some split the house in half and each lives on their own side as per the benefits of finances. Getting back together with my dad is impossible; he has physically threatened to harm me such as break bones and continues to demonstrate that violent physical abuse is how he controls people. He doesn't think normal so to trust my safety to him especially as an adult is not a sensible idea. My other siblings just wonder why they were born into such a horrible family. My advice to them is find a way to work it thru and move on; the siblings are still together and always will be but without him.

I so appreciate both Ann and Dr. Kim's stories.

I have ended my relationship with both my mother and a sister. And I feel I am much happier for it. Of course I wish I had a healthy and happy family, but that's not the case. Just because it's "family" doesn't mean you should give up your own pursuit of a happy and productive life. I choose not to eat foods that are toxic, so it makes sense that I would not want to be in toxic relationships.

I appreciate and admire Dr. Kim's patience and persistence.

I completely understand Ann's point of view. She's not alone...

One of my favorite sayings:

"When people undermine your dreams, predict your doom, or criticize you, remember, they’re telling you their story, not yours."

- Walker

I've been through the nightmare of dealing with a narcissistic parent. No need to feel guilty about cutting contact with them until you yourself have made necessary self-healing adjustments. Then you can decide about healthier contact parameters if you want that. A helpful resource:

Best wishes,

I believe in forgiveness being the only way...we do not know what triggers a negative emotional response in others..we would like to, but sometimes that is just not can still respect another person for all the positive things about are not obligated to respect, accept or tolerate objectional behaviour..and they should be told that...if telling is too difficult, writing it out also works...I had a toxic relationship with my father...and was so glad I did truly from my heart forgive him..because as I matured I realized that I was deeply loved...I was not understood, and was probably a disappointment in many ways..but once I forgave - the load off me was unbelievable...and from that act, I learned to forgive others in my life...perhaps the whole experience is one of learning...I truly believe life is all about learning lessons...and if one is fortunate enough to have a family, feel blessed...I am now 80 years old...and have proven to myself that this philosophy really works...sometimes it just takes a giant leap of faith and getting past one's own ego...we are where we are in life often in a reaction to the actions of others around us....and they to us Dad is long gone, but my leap of faith left both of us with a far lesser load to carry .... our relationship turned a corner for the best, and I would not have had those new memories to cherish if that one small step had not been taken....while words can be toxic...they can also be healing...good luck!!

Hello Ann: I appreciate your plight. I don't subscribe to the idea that we honor relatives just because they are our relatives. I have had no communications with my sister for 15 years. Before finally breaking with her completely, I experienced on numerous occasions the extent of her treachery. Here's the rub: Do you override the protective mechanisms that are natural to being human and being in human interactions, i.e., do you allow the abuse to continue? Or do you react naturally and protect yourself?

What good does it do to repeatedly subject yourself to nastiness that can be avoided if you simply say "No"?

Grudges are unpleasant and they can be damaging to your health. If you respond "normally" to an abusive situation, then you protect yourself and decrease the heartache and desires for revenge that normally arise when a relationship has become destructive.

We humans spend too much time rationalizing everything. I'm a practicing Buddhist and find no conflict with the tenets of Buddhism that call for compassion and forgiveness. It's easier to be both compassionate and forgiving when you remove yourself from the situation and thereby prevent continued abuse.

It's possible to maintain a position of self-care and safe boundaries that involve cutting a toxic person's influence off while also staying open to a future relationship if the person changes.

I think the main thing, when you feel able, to is visualize taking virtual scissors and cutting off all the puppet strings and effects of abuse and replacing it with safety and love and comfort. And then visualize releasing your father, setting him free from the things he's done, not as much for his sake as for yours.

You deserve to be treated well. You can't fix anyone else, but you can protect yourself from their damage and love yourself.

This is in reply to Ann's letter wondering if there is anyone who has not been able to forgive and forget the trauma endured at the hands of a narcissistic parent. Both my mother AND father were narcissists and I continue to struggle with feelings of anger and resentment even though my parents are now deceased. You can show kindness and consideration toward your narcissistic parent, but you are not obligated to spend time with him, including holidays, birthdays, Father's Day. When it doesn't matter how much you give, as is always the case when dealing with a narcissist then choose to give to yourself first and foremost!! Best of luck to you in this endeavor, and know there are many of us who have had to establish safe boundaries with toxic people, even toxic family members.

Ann, your letter hit home with me. I too, had a narcissistic father. I just had to separate from him when he refused to get help. I tried numerous times to arrange therapy for us but he wouldn't participate. He wouldn't even acknowledge my efforts to reach compromise. It had to be HIS way. I realized how much healthier I was without him in my life. I have a happy marriage, love my job and have great friends. Sometimes you just have to let toxic people go--even if culturally we are told to "honor" them. If you want to talk more privately about this, I would be happy to. I wish you well. There is no roadmap for this one. On a positive note, I think I'm a kinder person now because of having to heal from the abuse and injustice of this situation. The only thing you have power over is your own healing.

I currently am in the same boat as Ann C and will find any comments interesting - I am currently praying fo be willing to make amends with my mother but find I am holding this resentment as she continues her damage...

Dr. Kim and Ann C.,
Sometimes the healthiest thing you can do is to cut ties with narcissistic family.
My father is a blatant narcissist, and a pedophile, and a sex addict. He is currently married to his 3rd wife who is only a few years older than I am.
He walked away from us when I was 12 or 13 years old, without a backward glance, and took up with a second woman, who he then walked away from when his daughter with her was about 12 or 13.
I tried several times as an adult to connect with him but he wasn't interested.
He was also physically abusive to my brother, and beat him in the yard in front of his friends, and he was sexually abusive to me. My allegations of sexual abuse are not based upon my word only, but there are inappropriate instances observed by others in his behaviors towards me.
My mother has a personality disorder and is also bipolar.
There have been times where I cut ties with both of them in order to move forward and be healthy in my life.
I have a Master's Degree in psychology, and I am just now completing my dissertation for my PhD in Psychology.
I will not negotiate with emotional terrorists, and I will not victimize myself further by begging for relationships with toxic people, even if they are related to me by blood. I also will not compromise my recovery from their abuse by settling for, or allowing, their poisonous behaviors into my life.
Ann, it is annoying and disturbing, and also unrealistic, to look for affirmation in the media when choosing to cut ties with a toxic family member. Most people don't have the strength or courage to do so. And then, you must also make sure you are cutting ties for the right reason -- to love yourself, protect yourself and your recovery -- and not just for revenge.
Then, after cutting ties, you must be prepared for the aloneness that can follow.
Wishing you well,

You are not alone. My best friend has cut ties with mother and father. She was abused as a child and the mental abuse continued into adulthood. Whenever they were given any information about my friend they would use it to hurt her. She came to me once and said she had just been with her mother and felt so awful. She told me what happened and I told her that is not normal. That was over 25 years ago. It took a couple more decades for her to cut ties, but has been great for her. The drama is no longer emanating from the cut off relatives. They no longer insult her and make her feel bad on a regular basis. They no longer trigger her because they are cut off from contact. No phone or email contact. She moved out of state. It has been the best thing and she has started to recover from the abuse that she suffered at their hands. You can try bpd central. Borderline and narcissist personalities often have to be cut off. It is hard for people outside of these relationships to understand that there are crazy moms, dads and even grandmas and grandpas out there. If you have experienced this a little then maybe you can understand, but otherwise if people grew up in a leave it to beaver type atmosphere they cannot comprehend how evil these people can be to their children and grandchildren. Read Walking on Eggshells and Living with the Borderline Mother. You have to figure out what motivates them. It is the key. If you figure out what motivates them you can control them like you do a 3 year old. Watch out though because some are vicious. They will get you arrested. Ruin your credit. Cause you to lose your job or friends. It is best to not rely on them for a thing prior to cutting ties. Make sure you have credit monitoring. I had different friend who's parents took out loans in her name of $50,000 while she was still in high school. Protect yourself then cut ties. Explain the boundaries then stick to what you say. Tell them if you do x, I will cut ties or whatever consequence you decide. Stick to it. You can train them but it takes time.

I saw Ann's post and wanted to reach out to her. With a narcissist the only truly effective way to be free of their grasping, greedy emotional vampirism is to cut them off. If this is what you did, you did the right thing, and it is hard at first - a lifetime of being told you were always wrong is a tough habit to break free of, lol. But after awhile, when you find you don't feel dread when the phone rings, when you don't have to go to family occasions to face their latest onslaught of criticism, when you find you are thinking of what YOU want to do instead of what they want you to will find some peace in your life and you will never go back. I was in my 60's before I discovered what a narcissist was, and in finding that out, discovering why my relationship with my mother and one sister was always set up so I was on the outside. I only wish I had learned what those two were when i was much younger. Still, discovering their true nature freed me of them. Read up on narcissism, you will find many blogs and they will fortify your resolve to stay away from this toxic person in your life. The narcissist is really a cancerous tumor on the family, and if the family is to be healthy, this tumor has to be cut out. Hang in there Ann, you are approaching the light at the end of the tunnel and for the first time it isn't an oncoming train...

Ann, I had a tumultuous relationship with my Mom for most of my teenage years, 20s and 30s. However, I elected to keep her in my life. I decided that if she were to drop dead, I would have regrets so I did the work through therapy and managed to forgive her. The biggest hurdle was learning to accept her as she was and that she wasn't going to change. I had to up my tolerance levels. Sometimes, she still ticks me off but I get over it. We talk and visit often now. With age, we have both mellowed. Good luck with your Dad. Whatever you do, do what you need to do to be healthy and happy.

I just wanted to send you some positive energy and tell you that you are NOT alone. There are many of us who struggle with the narcissistic family dynamic. Four years ago I made the most difficult decision of my life - to separate from my parents. This was after many, many attempts at reconciliation including mediation with a counselor who specializes in this area. My parents stormed out of both of the meetings and refused to comment on factual occurrences with anything other than angry, abusive remarks. Because of their unwillingness to even acknowledge my feelings, I knew there was no where for the relationship to go - at least not in a healthy way. A wonderful book to read is "Will I Ever Be Good Enough" by Dr. Karyl McBride. It really helps you to understand what is happening and provides some guidance on your options. While I do wish things were different with my parents, I know they will not change. After years, I have come to the place of acceptance and now choose to focus on the things I can control - raising a healthy child, being the best mother I can be and growing a successful business :-). Let your own light shine!

My heart goes out to you Ann. You are not the only person who cannot reconcile with a family member. I have a daughter who blames me for her every wrong decision in life. She thinks I love her sister more - I do NOT. I have forgiven and forgiven and forgiven, and yet she calls me in her drunkenness, cursing me out. After 15 years of trying to fix things, I finally decided that I would no longer be abused by her. And you know what? Good for me. I blocked her phone number. Even though I miss the "good her" terribly, I do not miss wondering what mood she will be in if I answer her call. Sometimes relationships can't be fixed. We can continue to love the person and to pray for them, but we can only fix our own hearts and minds. Good luck with your dad.

hi ann,
i felt compelled to write on this forum, something i've never done, to let you know, you are not the only one who has found cutting ties with a family member to be the healthier route to personal well-being. i am 33, almost 34, and stopped speaking with my dad right around my 30th birthday. i think i just reached a breaking point where i realized my 30 years living in relationship to my dad have always been intensely emotionally draining, and emotionally unsafe. he is not an abusive person in terms of anything physical, but emotionally his narcissism has a way of twisting things and making normal ways of relating feel very far away, and very confusing and painful. we don't live in the same state, which made it easier to cut him off than if he lived down the road. still, it is not purely straightforward and easy. i don't think most things in life are ever fully one way, there are always multiple readings of a thing. however, within that idea of multiplicity, we do have to make solid choices that seem to have the most positive results overall, and to me, it seemed like stopping communication was the best thing. at what point does one stop thinking things will be different? one has to stop at some point, i think, or spend the rest of life waiting for changes that will never come, and deal with what it feels like to live in that emotional roller coaster, or emotionally stifling place. i feel much freer for having done it, like a lifted weight. i don't generally wonder if i am making a mistake, i have felt a freeing in myself in not having this added element of stress bopping in and out of my life. life has enough unforeseens that can be hard to swallow, as i get older i think i learn to actively ward off the stressful aspects that i am aware of. it's unfortunate if this is a family member, but i am a very very forgiving person, try enormously to work things out with people in my life and provide open lines of communication, and be willing to admit my own mistakes. but this requires the person opposite me to be capable of the same, and i haven't experienced my dad that way, ever. at a certain point, it's an awful expression, but i think one has to call a spade a spade, and protect oneself. some people will never hit you, but i realize, are emotionally manipulative in a way that endangers the heart. and i want to protect my heart from unaware, unhealthy people, even if those people include my dad. at the same time that i cut him off, until the day i die i will remain open and quietly rooting for him to shift some really unhealthy aspects of his personality that make having a relationship impossible. i really love him, as he is my dad, but i also love myself, and see the need to protect myself more than i need to protect him.
Sorry this became so wordy, I hope it's somehow helpful to you.

Ann, Given that you are currently unable to stand your feelings towards your father, I can offer this: In my own experience it is better to let go..for now. Years later the person that is toxic towards you or others may find that part of their self that is that way needs to be addressed. Then they will possibly come back into your life and ask forgiveness, or not. Such is the way of this life. Hope this is of some help for you at this time in your own life.

Dear Ann,

I'm writing this to encourage you so that you don't feel like "The Lone Ranger" out there. You are NOT the only person who feels sadness and/or anger when it comes to a parent. Fortunately for me, I'm not personally dealing with that type of situation, but I'm sharing from the perspective of a friend who does. Years ago I took a Peer Counseling training course at my church where we would counsel church members or the public (within our realm of training) and we had a Senior licensed counselor that we met with every week to discuss our cases with and get feedback/direction. Well, my particular Senior counselor had major issues with his mom. He explained to our group that sometimes you have to cut the cord because it's too emotionally/mentally draining and damaging for you to be around a particular person, EVEN IF it's a family member. Some people are just toxic like that! For him, it was his mom. She had a drug/alcohol background so growing up was not fun for him(physical & verbal abuse) and to this day, he cannot spend more than 5-10 minutes talking to her. He learned years ago to "cut the cord" and keep his distance. It obviously took him some time to embrace the reality that he will not have any type of close relationship with his mom and he is settled with that and moved on. "It is what it is" so he had to embrace it for his own sanity and emotional health. Additionally, I was at a business conference years ago and I remember a speaker named Larry Diangi telling us that in life, you may experience what he called the "Hi & Bye" people. These are people, even family members, who you just cannot be around for any length of time. So it's more of a "Hi, how are you, good to see you, see you later"(in passing) interaction. Due to damaging in their own young life, some people grow up to be too toxic to be around......and obviously many of those people have children who have to deal with their toxicity. I hope you understand that you are DEFINITELY not the only one who has this experience and can embrace it for what it is. I hope my words have encouraged you somewhat as it is a reality that not all parents have a great relationship with their children.

It is my opinion that we are not obligated to be in the presence of persons who continually make derisive and abusive comments and actions. I think any counselor would advise you to stay away from him as long as he continues to speak to you in his destructive manner.

Your words are common sense, but the way that abuse works is insidious. I was a counselor, and it still happened to me....very slowly, over time and with growing intensity. The normal self-preservation mechanisms get turned off

Forgiveness is a two-part process. Since she feels she has been emotionally abused by her father, she needs to pray first for peace and boldness. With the boldness, she must find the right time and place to confront her father with these two issues and amicably clarify them for him since he continues to do it.

1. Kindly express clearly how she feels he is emotionally abusing her, delineating with only a couple of examples; not blowing off steam for years of this abuse.
2. She needs to say these words to him, "I forgive you for all of this, and with the forgiveness I receive a clear conscience. I love you, but will no longer tolerate your emotional abuse. I will keep family ties as long as you can respect me as both a human being and your daughter. If not, I will abstain from this relationship so that both you and I can go on with our lives without guilt. We will both have freedom without hurting each other. Thank you for understanding my position. If you can receive this clear communication, I will respect your position as we journey through life as a family."

I can relate to Ann C. My father is the most toxic person I have ever known. He has been a physical and an emotional abuser all of my life and the one sweet person who has been at the receiving end of this is my beautiful mother. Ironically,my mother now has Alzheimer's and he is in complete control of her life...lets just say that he never lets her forget that she forgets...his ego commands him to always be right...never kind.
I am currently living with stage IV Breast cancer and have completely changed my lifestyle ( and might I say I am currently healthy, with no evidence of disease). I have changed what I eat, drink, think and do...and one of my areas of change was to avoid toxins. Thus includes toxic people, so I've cut ties with some of my toxic friends and try to surround myself with people with good energy. Unfortunately, I cannot cut ties with the man who is my father because that would meani would not get to see my mother. I am forced to be exposed to his toxicity at least twice a week. I have tried everything possible to deal with this...including forgiveness and understanding. I've read books on how to deal with this...followed what the great spiritual leaders if our time suggest ...but nothing works for me. Every time I visit with my mother, I come away feeling like a bucket of black tar has been dumped over my head and I'm dripping with slimy sticky toxins!
I will shower as soon as I get home and do some deep breathing and mediation...that helps somewhat.
I comfort myself with the hope that some day, I will be able to cut ties with him for good. I'm sorry I have no solutions for you Ann..I just wanted to let you know that you are not alone in your struggle . In a strange way I got a little comfort from your letter...if you ever find a solution...I love to know what it is!

Hi Ann, I just want to let you know that you are not the only daughter with the same issue. I have been having a strained relationship with my mother for a long time. She seems stuck in her traditional thinking of demanding me to fulfill certain responsibilities and to live up to her ideal image of a good Chinese daughter. But I am so "Westernized" to a point where I can never ever fulfill her demands and thus is a big disappointment to her. She has created such a huge sense of burden and guilt trip that I do not feel any joy when talking to her or in her presence. So yes, sadness, anger and frustration is all I can feel. Even though she was a good mother when I grew up, memories of her emotional outbreak and quarrels with my dad during my teenage years, as well as her continuous "terrorizing" and manipulation of my emotions during my adult years have made me dread any interactions with her. I have stopped talking to her for half a year and during this time have found tremendous peace. I used to feel guilty and depressed about my "bad behavior" (being irresponsible) but I've somehow let go of that feeling because I know that my distance from her is for my self-preservation. I don't know how things will pan out in the future but I am going to go with my gut feelings. So, no, you are definitely not alone.

My Mother made a sibling and I Executors and Trustees of her Estate. After my Mother died my sibling and another sibling decided that they didn't like the Estate Plan my Mother had set in place and wanted to set it aside. That would have been illegal plus it would have required breaking the trust my Mother had put in us. I refused. I was sued not once but twice. I have cut all ties with both siblings and have been happier for it ever since.

If the person you are dealing with is damaging your Spirit, you owe it to yourself to end the relationship before it destroys you. I did and I am not sorry.

I would say,all you can give is:unconditional love to everyone and forgiveness is a big factor in our development of soul.From that point it is up to the other person as to which way they go.If you keep on as a being of the light,I believe the other person sooner or later will begin to grow and unfold.Bruce

To Ann~
My father was an emotional abuser because he didn't know any other way. He berated and belittled my brother till he broke his spirit and was physically and emotionally abusive to all his children and his wife. My mom and I left him (what he did to my brother afterward is a long, sad story) and despite fighting tooth and nail for visitation, he abandoned me at a vulnerable age (I was 12). Breaking ties with him was not my choice, but I find myself a better person for not having remained with someone who would've broken my spirit and kept me from learning who I truly am. I've seen him once since then (he strolled into my work one day, apparently expecting me to be overjoyed to see him after 6 years or so) and haven't seen him since. I am now 48. I am not now nor have I been sorry not to have him in my life since I was about 14. I personally feel I'm a better, stronger person for not having him in my life. I don't know if this will help, but I can say I broke with my father and do not regret it, other than what could've been if he had been a different person.

Dear Ann, I empathize totally with you as I have experienced this kind of situation with my oldest son. After years of being used and listening to his abusive and vulgar tirades, I decided I would never speak to him again, nor do I ever want to see him again. His sister and brother reached the same conclusion recently. Toxic people have emotional/mental issues that require treatment from a professional and should they not seek treatment, it doesn't matter how many times the 'victim' forgives them. They will continue their toxic behavior any time it suits them. Even though it was very painful to make the break, I continue to be glad I did it. People who consistently behave abusively to other family members do not love them and could care less about their feelings. I have found that many toxic people are what used to be classified as 'sociopathic personalities'. I don't know what term psychiatrists call it now. I support you in making the break from your toxic father for you own emotional well-being.

This is a complex subject and space nor time allow a full discussion of it. I would urge you to go to the Mayo Health Clinic website and research "sociopathic personalities'. You will most likely recognize some of the characteristics in your father. By doing this, you will at least understand what is going on with him.

Best wishes in your endeavor,
Lavella M.

you are not alone. I have done so, off and on, with various family members, over the years. My approach is one where I told my family member what behavior I couldn't be around and then I would leave if it continued. I want to give people a chance to change and to appreciate the good things I bring to the relationship. So, when the abuse would occur I would excuse myself saying something like "I can see you are not in a very good place so, I'll come back when you are feeling better." I may come back later that day or a week later. It often depended on how close we lived together.
In college I noticed a shuffling would occur amongst my siblings around the 3rd or 4th day I visited, during school breaks, where the family dynamic of birth positions would begin as my sibs tried to recreate the familiar. The teasing and slide remarks would begin and the earlier kindness of a guest would begin to disappear. It was at that point I would hug everyone and thank them for such a nice time and then, tell them it was time for me to head home. I think we need to be our best advocate and expect kindness and respect from others; especially family.
Hope this gives perspective.

I haven't spoken to my parents for over 11 years. I just turned 26 at the time and my mother (unhappy, controlling, angry, and manipulative) made feel rotten for taking my parents to an American restaurant instead of Korean to celebrate my birthday. They of course didn't have a present for me themselves, but gave me a present that one of their friends thought to buy me. My whole life, birthdays and Christmas was just an afterthought for my parents. I wouldn't say they are particularly thoughtful or maternal. They aren't bad people and I was never abused, but I'm also not as blind as I was when I was growing up. My father is controlled by my mother and she doesn't allow him to have a relationship w/ me as long as I choose not to have a relationship w/ her.

Without getting too much into detail, I consider myself a good egg Independent, smart, happy, healthy, and spiritual. I'm not weak minded and much to the chagrin of my mom who would love nothing more than to control me and have me run to her for advice, I realize that when I die I have to held accountable for my own decisions, right or wrong. My mom and dad are first generation immigrants. They worked very much my whole life and their absence had greatly affected my older sister who is 4 years older than me. She got bad grades in High School, fell in w/ the wrong crowd, never went to college and married the guy she met at 19. He's uneducated and comes from a poor family as well. They argued that since she went astray, they had to be extra careful w/ me and refused to get me a car at 16, even though they bought my sister a brand new car of her choosing. I didn't car about the car, but did mind the fact that they were so lax on her and now decidedly more strict on me when I always got straight A's, graduated at the top of my class and had my pick of top universities. I also had a core group of friends that excelled in all aspects of their life. I basically always had my shit together. Ironically, instead of my parents recognizing this and being glad, they cracked down on me like I was a criminal. Fast forward to me graduating college. They are stricter than ever, impose a strict curfew, want to break up all my friendships and dating life, want me to live at home indefinitely because that's the Korean good daughter thing to do and want me to work for them at their company. They basically said it was my duty to work for them and discouraged me getting a job else where. I knew they could use the help, so I complied. Basically, isolating me and controlling my money, monitoring my outings, phone calls, etc.

I finally had enough and just left w/ friends leaving behind my cell phone, any money or material things they bought me, and never looked back. For me, I never cared about these things, but my parents made sure to be the one to supply me w/ them so they could yank it back as punishment whenever they wanted to control.

Since then, I have thrived in my career, married my husband now of almost 8 years (been together for over 10) and have a daughter (5 yrs) son (3 yrs) and have a baby due this fall.

I have to admit that it was the hardest severing the ties for the first couple of years. After all, I'm a good girl at heart and always tried my best to make my parents happy. However, I told myself that if I continue to be in this toxic relationship w/ my family then I will turn into them. I didn't want their negative influence to poison my healthy relationships w/ my friends and now husband. My mom doesn't like it when others are happy and doing well when her life is miserable. Even when I would go on trips w/ friends she would try and make me feel guilty that I wasn't going w/ my family and she never wished me a good trip.

Looking back, I'm glad that we are free from that heavy negative influence of my mom/dad. She really doesn't know how to love, because her love is conditional and instead of relaxing when I'm w/ her I feel like she's going to blow in anger over anything. I don't want my children to experience that or even know that kind of behavior exists.

Sometimes I think to myself what it would be like to have them back in my life, but I know that I am better off this way. They won't change, nor do they want to change who they are and who am I to change them? Better to wish them well, but keep separate lives.

Also, its a reminder to me to be kind and respectful toward my children. They can pick up on things that I might not be aware of just in our daily interactions. I know the kind of person I am really will affect whether they want to hang out w/ me as an adult and respect me in the future. It's not just automatic because I gave birth to them and I demand it of them. It's a good reality check for me.

Hi Ann, Understand that I am writing this because it is one more opportunity to support my own healing. My father passed in 1975 and frankly it was a relief that left me feeling very guilty for not 'loving' him. I was assigned the task of being my mother's caregiver in 1990 I left that job in 1994 six weeks before she died of a stroke due to the fact that I had become suicidal mostly a result of enduring the abuse by her and my siblings. Both of my brothers and both of my sisters tried to hold me responsible because I didn't 'love' her enough. 2 years ago I cut off ties with the sister I had reconnected with in 1999 because she was repeatedly abusing me and refused to acknowledge the abuse, then she called about 2 months ago to announce that she had brain cancer...I am okay with the fact that she declined to talk about the abuse and hung up.

I am not responsible for the early years of abuse, I am responsible for the adult years when I could have separated but was too dependent and I have recognized that abuse breeds dependency and have forgiven myself for falling into that trap. Recognizing the fact that they chose to abuse me and to continue after they were called on it gave me the freedom to separate and pursue my own life. Every day without them in my life today is a blessing. At 70 I am continuing to find joy as I walk free on my own path. Whatever your choices for your life I respect them and wish you well. The abuse I suffered at their hands was extreme and covered the spectrum and I recognize that most people may not need to take as extreme of measures as I did to find peace.

Ann, I sympathize with your struggle over this difficult decision and wanted to briefly share my experience with you. Personally, I completely cut ties with my family of origin over 10 years ago, and have no remorse over that choice. Trying to please them by meeting their expectations while dealing with their toxic self centered drama helped drag me down mentally and physically, almost destroying my health in the process. When I eventually developed a serious condition, they were nowhere to be found, too caught up in their own lives to support me, which made me (finally) realize that their priorities didn't include me. I cut contact and moved away, which was liberating. I'm much happier and healthier now, I've found people that I truly resonate with, and my life is so much better. The choice to leave was mine, and I have no regrets. This is your choice Ann, and your life. Whatever you decide, you also need to make a choice to make peace with your decision, which can be harder for some than the decision itself. I pray that you find peace in whatever you do, and take care of yourself. Many blessings.

No, Ann, you are not alone. There are very self-centered people of all ages. I can relate to your sadness and, yes, even anger at times. It goes with the territory. In my case, it's my mother. My husband and I just finished spending six months taking care of my mother as she transitioned from living in her home to living in an assisted living facility. My mother didn't want my husband around. He and I work as a team. So, we stayed our six months, but it was very difficult to not have my biggest support by my side. My mother is nasty, needy, and narcissistic---not a good combination, by the way. And, to make things worse, she can't or won't see it. And, the conclusion for my husband and me is that we don't go where we cannot work as a team. Be encouraged, Ann. Sometimes we have to make very difficult decisions in life. Sometimes, people push themselves away from others. And it is very sad. Very sad indeed.

My son was in a similar situation with his father. Our relationship broke down because I had to prioritise the wellbeing of the children. Following this, the younger totally cut off relationship with his father. It gave him space to recuperate and find himself again. Now, there is occasional contact, but it is very much on my son's terms, and he thinks nothing of terminating a phone conversation if it starts to 'play on old tapes'. It has taken several years, but he is a well-balanced, popular individual and the stronger for it. By contrast, his older brother did not cut off and tried to keep the relationship going, but has suffered greatly as a result, leaving him disillusioned and wounded. Although he still communicates with his father from time to time, he doesn't have high expectations of the relationship. (Both of them are adults now and have both forgiven their father.)

I think the eldest in the family tends to carry a greater sense of responsibility, which may explain my situation as outlined here. It is not easy, but you definitely aren't the only one! Sometimes it takes drastic action to disconnect the bad power/control, and there is no guarantee that the toxic person will change, but as adults we have to be responsible for ourselves and we have to be our best not only for our own sakes, but for other people as well. Some people are toxic because they simply do not have much awareness of or empathy for others - being self-oriented is their default mechanism. Being ruthless about not feeding this narcissism may be the only way forward.

Stay free from guilt if you know you have done your best; walk in freedom and peace. You will likely gain greater insight from a place of rest as the years unfold. Trust God to work it out. Without His love and grace to strengthen me in my own situation, I would not be here today.

I had a very toxic familial situation for many years and had a pastor encourage me to cut ties. I considered it but was hesitant, having grown up myself without grandparents. In the end I moved away, read a very helpful book called "Boundaries", and slowly recreated the structure of the relationship with firm boundaries. When things got ugly I hung up the phone, drove/flew home early, etc. The relationship still has bumps but it's comfortable now. But I still have to hold the boundaries and can't get to vulnerable. I was working with parents who wanted a relationship but didn't recognize their role in criticizing and being generally hurtful. I encourage you to seek out a good counselor for advice and maybe do some reading, but ultimately you must establish safe boundaries and protect yourself and your family. If you set boundaries with an adult and they do not respect them, then you must step away for protection. I think people should be given a chance to learn from failed boundary respect, but only if they show sincere desire to change.

Dear Ann
Firstly, I'm so sorry about your relationship with your Dad; it's a real loss, isn't it? I've pondered the same question re the whole of my family of origin and, in case it's useful to you, here's where I'm at:- firstly, I'd suggest you forget about forgiveness. There's so much emphasis on it, before we've really, honestly felt the loss and grief connected with being abused. Forgiving becomes another stick to beat ourselves with, another way to feel bad if we don't do it. Instead, in recent years I've learned to give myself regular, safe opportunities to express all related feelings. As a result, there's a noticeable, growing, steady feeling of peace inside that translates quite naturally into compassion and understanding of myself and others. Note, self first, then others (the reverse of what most of us are taught). Continuing to spend time with people who've routinely and collectively abused me sometimes feels like betrayal, but overall I'm grateful to be able to consciously choose to have occasional, carefully planned and timed contact without compromising my own health and wellbeing. And of course it's no coincidence that as I treat myself with care and consideration, their behaviour towards me has become more respectful. It's a balancing act, so there are tricky moments but overall, it feels worth the effort. Whatever you decide, I hope it brings you the peace and harmony that we all need - and deserve. With very best wishes.

Dear Ann, I feel your pain and fully understand where you are coming from. I had a father who abused me in many ways. He died many years ago but I was left with a mother who has a borderline narcissistic personality disorder. I forgave her many times only to be stung again and again by her sick selfish tricks. I spent so much of life trying to please her and to be accepted. I now know that for her I will never be enough. I will never be smart enough, pretty enough, or visit enough. Insert whatever I will NEVER be enough. I spent many years in counseling, talking to pastors, support groups and an emotional free seminar to finally be able to let go of my mother. I am a Christian and that seemed to make it harder as for so long I believed I had to honor my father and mother. This caused so much conflict because they were not honorable. A 12 step group called ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) brought me the most help. An Emotionally Free seminar was also very instrumental. I finally wrote my mother a letter and broke soul ties with her. For me it was the healthiest decision I could make because having communication with her has always been so toxic. Here’s a little bit of what I said to her. “ I have longed for a close relationship with you all these years but at this point God is leading me to say that the best way for me to honor your position, as Mother is to honor and care for your daughter. To do that I will place my care in God’s loving arms to mother and care for me. I will also give you up to God for him to offer his precious love and care for you.

I release you from all responsibilities as my mother. I would like to request that you release me from all responsibilities as your daughter. This includes …. At this time I am feeling God take my hand and lead me in a different direction, a direction that allows me to concentrate more fully on meeting my own needs, basking in his love and allowing him to take on the role as mother.

I do wish you well Mom and I pray that we both find the peace that only God can offer as we live into the days ahead.”

It was a painful process to endure in the beginning because soul ties run deep, but it was so freeing as each day I began to concentrate on a life of my own. I was able to concentrate on what I wanted and meeting my needs which was a totally new concept for me. For any readers out there with mother’s like this I suggest a book called, “You’re not Crazy It’s Your Mother”. I didn’t find the book until years after I let go of my mom, but it would have been so helpful. Each Mothers Day and other days when people are glorifying their mothers I just insert God and his great love or me and he pulls me through.

All the best, Nan

It's totally up to you, Ann, whether you continue your relationship with your (toxic) father or not. It would be helpful to read the "Thought of the Moment" that Dr. Kim posted for today: sometimes you just need some distance and separation. How you do this is also up to you. Try to keep it as non-toxic as possible for your own sake. Only you know what will work for you (and for your father). And always keep in mind that change is always happening. At some point you might feel stronger and more detached from what has happened in the past and what might happen if you re establish contact. A book that helped me was "The Road from Estrangement to Reconciliation" by Laura Davis. You may be able to find other books that will help you. I support your wisdom to do what is right for you right now.

My husband has cut ties with both of his parents. It was about some serious abuse he received as a child. As an adult he finally had the courage to confront calmly and asked for an apology. His narcissist father laughed and said " he would do it again". His mom is co-dependent and sides with his dad. So cutting off was all he felt he could do. Our family prays for them to repent and we would forgive and reconcile if that ever happened. From time to time he will write and call with manipulation , " honor your father and mother guilt" , and " we love and miss you". No apologies. Why is that so hard? They know what my husband requires to have a relationship with him. The controlling has gone on and on. My husband mourned a while but he is doing better than ever before. More peace in our home.

Dear Ann: You are the creator of your life & your emotions. You are the only one you can do anything about. People we love disappoint us. They will never be who we want them to be. Please think through old cliches'. "They are who they are; it is what it is; the one doing the loving is the one who benefits most; blaming is a waste of good energy; forgive to promote your own good health; accept what you cannot change; never allow anyone to abuse you; choose relationships that nurioush your life and theirs.; be grateful; if your family is too warped, sick, or evil to relate------form your own family of loving human beings----some people cannot love. One must first love themselves before they can love another, etc. etc. " Ann, be responsible for YOU. Choose what is right for you. Love, laugh, give, respect, nourish, appreciate and CREATE GOOD! ANN, YOU CAN DO THIS! Love and blessings. Sylvia

I cannot tell you how it happened, but I am free from feeling of guilt from letting go of family ties that were harmful. Probably it was time and distance and that the other party was happier not to have me in her life too.

Hello Ann
My father was abusive in many ways, my mother not much better. They were out of my life for a long time. I think I knew this was the right thing to do when I realised I was not to blame for any of it, they had no right to treat me the way they did.
I reconciled briefly with my mother once my father died, I have no regrets of not seeing him, he didn't deserve me or my children.
I am glad for the time with my mother before she passed away, I was able to forgive her.
Believe in yourself.

Ann , I understand how you feel, and I also know its not easy to breakup or completely disconnect from your Father or another family meber, but there comes a time that you have to draw the line and go on with your life.
I am almost in the same boat, in my case its my siblings. Almost for the last 35 years we( three Brother and Sisters including me) did not have much of relationship. Our older sister almost 75 now, has been the source of all pain and fighting among us. She would go out of her way to hurt my Mom, did things that was embarrassing to us as family and so on. My older Brother, younger than older sister but older than me, is just unapproachable, he has not talked to me in the last 35-40 years. This situation is tearing me apart and I am always asking myself why? what went wrong? why we are like this. I love them as brother and sister but can not stand them. In the past whenever we tried to get together to start all over again, we just ended up in fights and disconnected again. So far the only time that the remaining family are together with out fights , were when my Mom and then when my Older Brother died. We know now and it was mentioned that we will only see each other when one of us die! What a sad life.
Although we are living in the US. we do have an ethnic background, and I believe most these disagreements are due to our cultural background and our upbringing in a different culture.

Thanks in advance for any thoughts, advice, words, actions, for solution of our problems.

There's plenty of advice telling us the benefits for getting toxic relationships out of our lives, but none of that helps when the toxic people are your own family/children. I too have felt nothing but sadness, anger & resentment for too many years as my adult children continue to drain me both emotionally & financially. But how do you give up on your own flesh/blood? You would think it'd be easy to walk away, or even setup boundaries, but it's much more difficult when dealing with those closest to us. In my situation, I can't just stand by & watch my children fail if I'm able to help - especially when there are grandchildren that would potentially suffer. Wished I knew the right advise to give Ann, but hope that she knows she is not alone out there :-)

Dear Ann:

No, you are not the only one who feels that way. And this is the first time I've put my thoughts in writing.

There was a sign posted in my father's auto repair shop that read, "Everyone in this room brings joy: some by entering, some by leaving". Sad, but true.
His passing ended years of undeserving criticism and ridicule and brought me an indescribable relief.

I didn't have the strength to cut ties for fear of being ostracized. But as the years wore on, I came to dread answering my phone. My mother would call on his behalf and, lacking the courage to tune him out, I always wound up in tears.. I would delete his emails before opening them. Family get-togethers became unbearable.

I don't know what "place" you hold in the family hierarchy, but I was the middle child. I say "was" because my parents have passed and the ties with my brother and sister have been permanently severed. And what did this bring? Another wave of relief.

My daughter is going through the same thing with her father. Her staunch commitment to being respectful (definition: being at his beck and call) is taking its toll on her health and family life. Her father is such a selfish,
controlling male this his wife won't live with him and both of his other daughters suffer from illicit drug addiction. He calls my daughter "the glue that holds him together". I hope she is strong enough to hold HERSELF together.

I honestly don't know how to end the cycle without professional guidance. I DO know that you deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and it is my hope that you find a counselor that can help you achieve that.

My heart and prayers are with you.


Hello Ann,
and others who are struggling with this kind of situation - whether the abuser is a parent, a sibling or a spouse/partner - or just a "friend".
To go or not to go?
When explanation or discussion doesn't work - whether because the abuser simply doesn't see that his/her behaviour is abusive or because they have no wish to give up their power over you - a time comes when for everyone's good you have to cut the knot, break the connection.
Sometimes this is enough (with a little time) to start a process of change. Sometimes it is not. Either way it can be very painful as the healing process begins.
One thing I think we must all keep clear in our minds: To forgive does not mean to allow the abuse to continue. That can never bring healing. However, to hang on to our anger, hold a grudge or simply brood on our wrongs will not bring healing either. So, if change is not happening, move out, try to understand what makes him like that so that you can understand a little bit, then make a conscious decision not to harbour a grudge nor let his behaviour spoil your relationships with others - and allow healing to happen. I find that prayer is a great help in this.

Learn from the master Jesus Christ. Forgive (even 70x7). Love your enemies and those who spitefully use you. Consider what they who disrupt you so deeply are in your life to teach you. It’s eye-opening when you see what they are mirroring back to you about yourself and your ability to love. Pride is a biggie. Usually what upsets us most about others is a flaw we really dislike in ourselves.

I disagree remember Jesus said to love Him more than your family and if your family was getting in the way, you need to cut ties with them. Just like in any abusive relationship, you are not obliged to be with them forever. I do not advocate divorce but separation until that person genuinely repents of their behavior, but absolutely not. You don't just go around forgiving everyone who doesn't repent. People must be repenting to get forgiveness. And even that, the people who most of these sayings is directed to are the believers who are following the ways of God, not everyone else. Judge yes.
Good post here:
And good book here:
Breaking the Bonds of Adult Child Abuse: A Biblical Textbook on Abusive Narcissism.

I personally have cut ties with most of my family, the only people I still talk to are my parents. It's easier I guess if you are young and removed then as a younger person and much harder if you always were expected to be part of the family. But I plan on moving away from the state I live in and then eventually I won't have any reason to have any ties to them anyways. If your family was a bunch of pagan heathens you wouldn't want to associate with them because Christ doesn't have dinner with Belial. And it said not to have dinner with pigs who still want to force the circumcision, because then you are guilty of your own allegiance to them. 2/3 of Israel fell in 70 AD for not opening their eyes to the error of their ways and the same thing repeats over and over through history. By all means, move along, cut ties with people who don't repent of their ill will towards you, and don't ever try to force the gospel on people, if they don't hear you, just stop trying, only God can make them hear anyways.

Love is a big word, that includes: love them so that your actions will be as "burning coals on their heads" (Proverbs 25:22). Paul goes on to explain this in Romans 12, where he also says, "IF POSSIBLE... live at peace with everyone."
Unfortunately, it is not always possible to live at peace with everyone. Which is why scripture is very clear about the importance of EXCOMMUNICATING Spiritual BROTHERS & SISTERS. What is true about our spiritual family is certainly true about our earthly families--biological or otherwise (as in workplace families, adoptive families, societal groups, etc).
We must be able to draw lines in the sand. Some forgivable behaviors are unacceptable.
If a family member refuses to repent of unacceptable behavior... we are commanded to excommunicate them.
Refusal to excommunicate persons for significant unrepentant behavior is not healthy for ANYONE--including the persons exhibiting the unacceptable behavior.
Forgiveness does not require tolerance.

I am sorry to hear of the difficulty you described & I felt compelled to write that yes, there are people that have severed ties with family and are healthier for it. I did from my mother after years of struggling to create change. While I will always feel some grief at the loss of the relationship I wanted that I will never have my life is fully blessed. The bonds of family can be with the ones you choose rather than with those of blood. All the best to you...

I am saddened but not surprised at how many women have responded with strength but sad tales of broken families.
I haven't spoken to my father in 25 years. He left our family to find himself. He isn't mean, abusive or an addicted to anything. I was an accident, he was 20. My mom was a difficult person (now we know Asperger's), but he would diagnosed as narcissistic. He did somethings when I was young and again when I was 19 that were selfish and had long term effects on who I was and I would learn to cope with life.. My life has been filled with emotional neediness, eating disorders, alcohol abuse, irresponsibility due to a lonely confusing childhood. Living a life in fear and looking for love in all the wrong places. People can be narcissistic without being abusive or controlling, When he left he believed I was a spoiled brat and that stuck for him, when really I was a sick unsure, confused young women, but eating disorders were little known at that time. Somewhere along the line I just figured it wasn't important to have him in my life, but it also kept me living my life as a victim for too long. I plan on seeing him this year, for me, so I am sure it is behind me and I don't have any surprise regrets when I hear he has died.

Hi Ann... Yes I can speak to you first hand about cutting ties ( turns out it is-was permanent) and I couldn't be more peaceful about it. Both my sister and Mother suffer from narcissistic type personality disorders ( bi polar and borderline) and both have had an incredibly toxic affect on me most of my life.
With the help of a few wonderful counselling professionals I was given permission to ' let go' of my role in being a part of that type of abuse. I was encouraged to set healthy boundaries and was warned to be prepared they may not accept it and also they may ' ramp up' and make things worse . They did just that... Which gave me even more reason to severe the ties. They weren't treating me with any kind of human decency or respect and I gladly choose to not be a part of that anymore!!!
I'm happy, peaceful and have no regrets.
I also let them know my door was always open if they felt they could honor my wishes...
The people in their lives still putting up with their deceptive and toxic ways are still complaining bitterly... I smile and think ' thank goodness I gave that up' . Truly you will be fine. Stand strong and show yourself the respect and love that those who ' abuse' aren't able to show. That is LOVE. Good luck...

Dear Anne. Well done for asking about this subject. Most children growing up feel its there fault that a parent is not the loving respecting influence that other have in there life. For many years I tried to have the father daughter relationship that I saw my friends have. My father always had a reason for not making the effort after my parents divorce. Saying uncomfortable with my mum. His new wife his new children...too far away. Not enough money. When I went to college and was earning. I tried visiting. I told him how he made me feel. The usual he would cry and tell me how difficult it was. But he still never did. I used to feel so empty and hurt by his rejection. I loved him then and still do. But I don't allow him in my life as now I feel he is only a family member not the dad I deserved. I have done a lot of work on myself to feel whole. The best workshop was the Brandon bays workshop of emotional and physical healing. It allowed me to forgive my dad and also myself. I feel whole and able to love in an open and honest way now. I no longer seek out similar child-like emotional inept men. I realise my father probably has guilt for his choices. But these are his life lessons. I feel better for making the decision to cut him out of my life. He still has the option to contact. But I am not waiting for it anymore. This is my life and I deserve happiness and love from the people in it. You do too. It is your choice to be happy in which ever way you choose. Sending you love in this difficult time. Forgive there failings and move forward to a whole and happy life. Xxx

Thanks Denise, I found your comments supportive and very balanced. There are a number of psychological approaches to self-healing that can aid such a decision about reconciliation.
Psychoanalysis, deep reflections on the past to clear a way forward for the future is one. It is a long-term process and can be expensive. Gestalt Therapy can be another. I have used this process of role playing each person in a conflict between two, with myself as victim, playing myself in conversation with the other , abuser, and then reversing the roles. I have done it at home in my lounge room to try to understand and shift a relationship. Sometimes this role playing of each other can assist the process of a shift in oneself, even, less often, in the other. A shift in oneself can lead to a shift in the other, For me it rather tended to perpetuate a ten year separation, which was probably inevitable anyway. There has been some reconnection in recent decades, but a background of religious and cultural diversity difference was strengthened rather than more deeply shared and understood. It feels like looking in from the outside and therefore much safer!
As an educationist and a parent, I too have found that home schooling has been an issue that can divide families. When schooling became mandatory in the mid-1850s in England, it was seen as a way to improve the life of children, free then from early indentured labour situations and offer more options for a better future. As an educationist, I found many education institutions are struggling with the numbers of children in their care, nurturing and self-fulfilment via a deeper understanding of the world (natural, social and political and economic) around us is abandoned in efforts to control more than educate, even in ivy league situations. To school means literally to train. To educate is to draw forth an inner knowledge, which conjoins with the outer knowledge to form something new. In Rudolph Steiner terms to educate is thus to come to know all of human cultural history and at the same time, but slowly, develop the skills of numeracy, literacy, artistic and literary expression as well as develop the skills of emotional balanced and balanced social interaction. All a sound educational basis for future learning and life.
I wish you all the success in your endeavours.
In my experience criticisms of home education are often grounded in fears for the future of the participating children. This may be true if the parents are schooling to only one way of thinking e.g. a narrow extremist religious view of the world or are using home schooling as a basis for permitting neglect. My experience is that this rarely happens because there is some minimal oversight, at least in my place, of what is happening.
Letting go of a toxic relationship can be easier for everyone involved, freeing yourselves and other family members to live full lives. A number of my friends have done so successfully and it is a useful role- model for others in the family, especially children, to see us adults refuse to engage with those who use emotional manipulation or abusive behaviour to try to gain advantage or make us comply with their wishes, rather than negotiate reasonably and come to an understanding of each others positions. There is an insightful Old Testament saying: 'Father, (or mother) forgive them for they know not what they do". It took me many years to understand why my mother enjoyed using that phrase - it is all too true in an era where people around the world have contact with each other more than ever and are still living traditional, indigenous lives of subsistence, and others are enslaved to a capitalist corporate structure where rural and urban lifestyles can be very, very different. Learning to celebrate differences and to let go of excessive or harsh judgements can also free oneself and the other from rigid cycles of relating, but not always.
I do hope this is useful and I do wish you a whole and happy life.

Look up and listen to some interviews with Dr. Eric Love, a master of Bach Flower remedies. This could be a simple way to change within to help you make the right decision for you.

How refreshing was your reply, Steve?
You responded just to the cry from the original person, without loading upon her shoulders one iota of your own stuff.
That's impressive.
And quite rare ......

Thanks for the kind words Chris. It just seems that ultimately one must be at peace and think clearly to choose the optimal path for themselves. From the interesting interviews I've heard with Dr. Eric Love on, Bach Flower remedies are an affordable, no-side-effects tool that can help a person to see through the fear and confusion confronting them so that they can make the necessary choices. Really remarkable results have been achieved.

I guess that puts us in our place! Arrogant comments like that are one of the core reasons why I have never been able to tell anyone the very weird things that happened to me so as to get some understanding or advice or a sense of what might be the right thing to do. When things are darkest, I remain isolated by people like the commenter, and have panic reactions and desperate solutions that would not be necessary for anyone who had a friend or relative who could offer me (or anyone similar) a sense of belonging.

Bottom line that should easily be read from this comment section: There are a lot of strong people out there suffering alone and in silence from the effect of an unusual, unchecked epidemic of insane behaviours, and others (we know) not so strong who have been disabled by the disease and passed away without telling.

One of the Scots poets once said something like, Family are the people that have to take you in if you go there. That so many have written shows that they feel a sense of community and the hope of acceptance by members of their real family: People who can understand and offer a place to go, if only in their minds.

Shame on you, Chris !

Hello Ann,

I am the oldest of three children, the daughter of a father with whom I have loosely cut ties. I say loosely because I am still connected to my siblings. They have not severed ties with our father. There have been occasions when, because of family events involving siblings, I do see my father. Since we all live very far apart, it has been only on rare occasions that I've seen him - maybe once every 5-10 years. Otherwise we have no contact with one another.

To say our dad was toxic toward the women in our family is an understatement. I was placed in foster care when I was 15, my sister when she was 14. Our younger brother was never removed from our home since our dad was more respectful toward him. It was never evident to people outside of our family. I had to bite my tongue when my siblings married and their spouses chastised us for reacting the way we did – until they too were victimized. It only brought attention to the need for healing in our family – all of us, not just our dad.

After years of destructive behavior by my father, I decided to cut ties in my late 20s to protect my young family and to stop the chaos that was impacting us. I'm now in my mid-50s. In retrospect, I can say it was a wise decision, though not well understood by others.

The decision to cut ties was not an easy one. The difficulty was that cutting ties with him meant it would impact other family members, hurting my mother the most. The decision was necessary because there was a significant negative impact on my entire family each time we saw each other. When my oldest son was in preschool, for example, during one of my parents rare visits with us, his teachers reported a drastic negative change in his behavior. There were other occasions that raised similar flags indicating that I needed to make changes.

Initially it was difficult for my siblings, my mother and extended family to accept my decision. My mother was heart-broken. Friends and family viewed me as a trouble-maker and were very harsh with me – even disowning me for “causing such pain.” No one seemed to recognize that it was my dad who was really causing the pain. I just stood up to it. I was breaking free of a co-dependent role in a dysfunctional family. I knew it would be painful. It took about 20 years for some family members to understand and respect the decision I'd made. Some never did.

This decision caused me greater pain than I could have imagined but in the end, it was still less pain than would likely have been had I allowed it to continue. A very significant part of this process was to forgive my dad. Without forgiving him, I would not have been able to heal. Without healing, there would have been no beneficial purpose in cutting ties.

Forgiving him didn't mean brushing away his behaviors as if they never happened. There were permanent effects that could not be erased. I learned to accept what was done as fact (separate the emotions from the actions); and to extend genuine forgiveness to him (as a gift – regardless of whether he deserved it). This allowed me to let go of the past and move forward. The negative emotions – especially anger - were really only hurting me, not him. He did not deserve my forgiveness but without it, I wouldn't have been able to heal. Cutting ties has not been for his sake - it's for mine. Likewise, forgiveness has not been for his sake – it’s for mine.

I still hold fast to the boundaries that I laid back in my 20s but I have a different attitude now. I find myself asking my siblings how he is doing and I always hope for the best. In a perfect world, he would also heal and we would have no cause for separation. I can only do my part - which, for me, means I can love my father at a distance. I'm not waiting for him to do his part. He may never be able to do his part for whatever reasons. When our paths must cross, his toxic efforts no longer have meaning to me. I admit my weakness that I still must maintain distance in order to maintain a reserve of love but it is what works for me. In the meantime, I'm still healing.

I think of Desmond Tutu's message about forgiveness toward those who destroyed lives in South Africa ( ). Here in America -

If you must cut ties, let it be for the right reasons. Be sure that you are not retaliating as that will come back to bite you. You will be challenged. If your objectives are true to your good, you will withstand the challenges.

I hope this was meaningful to you, Ann. It has made all the difference for me. I wish you well in your journey.


Dear Ann-- What a wrenching situation! So many have this experience; but only few speak of it. What you've said takes guts. Please check out and Ron & Nancy Rockey. In them you will find understanding and answers. They may have a book or YouTube video that speaks directly to your situation, and their book, Belonging, addresses the pain and damage both you and your Father experience. Have courage. There are answers beyond what you may have thought possible! Susan

One really important thing (that it took me way too long to figure out!) is that forgiveness and reconciliation/restoring the relationship are NOT the same thing. Forgiveness, whether or not that person is repentant, is just as much for you as for them; it helps you heal, as you let go of the anger. However, forgiving someone who is unrepentant doesn't mean that you have to try to restore the relationship with that person before they repent. If you go straight to reconciliation with an unrepentantly toxic person, you open yourself up to continuing injury (spiritual, emotional, or physical) from them.

Incidentally, I first discovered Dr. Kim when I was going through my own horrible experience with a toxic relative, and found his post about whether or not to reconcile!

Someone somewhere once said "you can't divorce your family." I know that to be true and if nothing else, I would like to cut ties with my family. I have lived most of our lives 5,000 miles away and at one time in another country. I didn't go to my mother's funeral and of course none of the 5 forgave me but I don't care or have ceased to care. I just want to live and let live and I don't want any of their visitations to the island where I peacefully live and hope to die without a funeral for them to attend or not attend. We all managed to abuse each other in some real or imagined way and personally I just want to be left alone, leave the past where it belongs and live in peace. I only have one life to live and I want to control who and what comes into my life from this point on. It's not that I have ceased to care about them as persons just the fact that we are related.

Ann, you are NOT alone. I am almost 50 years old and have suffered thru decades of physical and emotional abuse from my Dad. As a very young child I was aware enough to know something was very wrong- he was not like other Dads- no Mike Brady or Father knows best- he was cruel and manipulative, mean, scary - always got a thrill from ruining someone else's good time, always trying to undermine others, get even, one up , win at all costs. I tried off and on my whole life to have some kind of relationship with him- I'd feel bad for him, feel guilty, feel 'in- Christian' because I was not forgiving and forgetting - no sooner would I give in and give it another try and he would be right back at it- the emotional abuse- violating boundaries , being inappropriate, making things up about me- always painting himself as the victim in our relationship roller coaster. I was grown up by now- had two daughters of my own- and thought I was doing a pretty good job of insulating them from his toxic behaviors. The turning point for me was when I realized I really wasn't shielding them at all. He made them uncomfortable, creeped them out- made them cry with his snarky remarks... And one day he poked my 15 year old daughter in the chest with his cane and made some off color remark about how she was dressed in a manner- shorts and a t-shirt- that would make the boys not able to focus on their studies and want to do things to her. My head exploded - I had been listening to this garbage my whole life- but my kids? No f-Ing way. Not one more second of my life has been wasted on that man. Leopards do not change their spots. narcissists do not develop the capacity to feel for others . My job as parent is to protect my kids from creeps and bad guys - and he is one of them. I don't have to feel bad about not wanting my kids or myself to be around that- anymore than I would feel bad for a great white shark that I didn't want to swim with . It is what it is. No amount of feeling bad for the shark is going to change it into a cute and cuddly pet, It wasn't born that way. I can let go of all my anger and hatred and resentment by simply understanding that my Dad wasn't born with the capacity to be the kind of decent human being who can be around me or my family. It's not my fault. I don't owe it to him to 'fix' things- he will play his game - the only game he knows - over and over til the day he dies. If he could learn from his mistakes- he would have a long time ago. He's just a shark doing what sharks do. To expect any different is crazy. To make excuses for his behavior is to operate under some misguided assumption that Sharks can turn into puppies is they are just loved enough. I hope this helps you Ann. It's ok to save yourself and your family and stop expending energy feeling bad about it. The very best predictor of future behavior is past behavior

My father was the same way, my daughters are creeped out by him, my mother is a weak enabler and narcissist as well. I've always been treated as the "bad one". I realize now because I questioned the behavior. Both parents lied extensively and backed up each other's lies. When I cut ties it was for me and to protect my pubescent daughters. Also, when it came out that my cousin was molested by her stepfather, my parents said that she was in love with him. The poor girl went through hell and is obese to this day.

Dear Ann,
I understand the way you feel about your father. I come from a family where verbal and physical abuse was "normal". Both of my parents made me feel like sheet most of the time. They did not care about my opinions and my feelings, they just wanted me to be "normal", in their own way.
I cut all sort of relationship with my father for 3 years and that was very paintfull because everybody was against that decision and also because I could not forget all the pain he made me feel.
At the end, I was so sick that that pain was killing me. I chose to reléase the pain by understanding that he did not know better. That did not mean that I forgot all the pain but I was able to start a new life. I can tolerate his presence but we are very far away from each other. I moved to a different city and we do not have to see each other often at all.
I understand your decision and as far as you feel good about it, nobody can make you change your mind. Wishing you all the very best.

Dear Ann,
NO! NO! NO! NO!NO! First, you are NOT the only one emotionally/verbally/physically abused by a parent (or other relation).
Second, you do NOT have to remain in the relationship, or even have contact with with them if that is your choice. I like to say "Just because she's my Mother, doesn't give her the right to hurt me". My Mother is a very dysfunctional person who caused me severe emotional trauma (and an eating disorder) for 40 years. (Well for the first 20 years, I take responsibility for my actions/reactions as an adult.) It has taken me YEARS of therapy and HARD, UNRELENTING work on myself to finally give myself permission to release myself from that relationship, let go of blame and anger, and take responsibility for my own happiness, stop seeking it from outside myself, and most importantly, stop engaging in dysfunctional relationships with men--where I was trying to find love the same way I tried to find it from my Mom, and never could. I accept all responsibility for my actions now and pursue my own happiness. I have had to cut her and my Step-father completely out of my life, and I cannot tell you what a relief it is to have done that. Does it make me sad, yes sometimes, but that is overshadowed by being free and happy. So no, you do not need to feel obligated to accept ANY FORM OF ABUSE just because he is your "Dad". My Mother had a horrid upbringing herself. I learned (therapy) and came to accept that she did the best she could with what she knew and that it was SHE that needed a Mother, and therefore, could never be an adequate Mother to me. I could go on and on, but I will recommend some healing work that a wonderful therapist taught me, so that now I can say I wish my mother all happiness, I feel sad and compassion for her, I send her love and forgiveness, but she will not be part of my life -at all- any longer because I value myself and my Self-esteem (which I had to fight so hard to regain) and my sanity and my emotional healthy too highly to be in ANY TOXIC RELATIONSHIP (and that's all she knows how to be in) with anyone, friends, men, anyone! Please take care of yourself and your children and exit that relationship if you need to!!! You owe no one anything!! So many people let their parents treat them terribly because that's all they know, and then, they go on to pass that terror down to their kids (whether admitted or not) in some form--- even if by only allowing it to go on, it tells the child: "it is okay for someone to abuse you"... Stop the cycle of abuse. The deep work of Byron Katie, Eckhart Tolle, and other "new thought" authors are what helped me. I think there is also something called the mother wound website. Find a really good therapist that does Byron Katie's work, and you can be released from this relationship and its effects, if you choose. I learned to set boundaries, and those never worked with her because she would continually-- knowingly or not-- violate them. The only answer FOR ME, was not having her in my life. And girl, you have the power! Much love and light, and thank you Dr. Kim, for all you do! Gina M. Austin, TX

Wow Ann. I had no idea there were so many people out there that felt the way I do. Thank you for sharing and bringing this topic to the surface. I grew up with an abusive mother.Her favoritism to my elder sibling was very evident, she made no secret of it. She made no secret of telling me or even other people how ugly, or stupid I was. Truth is you actually believe this to be true after all I was reminded if it constantly. As a child I learnt not to trust my mother and as an adult I know that this was a wise decision.I tried breaking away from her on many occasions and finally in 2010 I heard the words after a very petty argument leave my mothers lips "That's my child and I will do what I want for her" these words reinforced every emotion I felt over the years.I never hesitated in telling her never to contact me again.I have never regretted these words either.The time I have spent alone and very far away from her and my sibling have been the best years.I finally achieved peace.I believe I have the ability to do anything.I have an amazing career in IT.I have amazing friends and most importantly all the people in my life right now, are the people I want in my life.They add value and have helped mold me.Its been 9 years since I have seen my mother and 5 since I spoke to her. Never a day goes by when I feel loss! Good luck in your journey!

Ann, thanks for sharing. It does feel better to vent and to know that you are not the only one experiencing a narcissistic parent. I won't go into details, but that narcissistic, controlling parent for me was my mother, and unfortunately my father went along with whatever my mother decided :( My parents both died in 2013, and missed so many milestones in my life, including getting to meet their wonderful grandson (now 12 yrs old). This was not by my choosing. One very important lesson I learned from this is how to be a good parent, most importantly raising my son with unconditional love! Also, knowing you do not own your children. The goal is to raise them to become independent and confident, to think with their own minds. With that said, I hope to never miss a milestone in my child's life!

Hello Ann,

I have been through a similar experience, but now the experience has changed because of the difference in how I handle it. My mindset and perspective on life advanced and matured. So though the person has not changed, I don't take it personal. I realize that they know not what they do and I feel no weight or hesitation in forgiving them. Well this person in my life for a very long time anyway, and I have had to depend on them financially (another thing that they use as a fake guilt trip or manipulation tactic), but I see it as an opportunity to shine through adversity. I see it as an opportunity to push me to be a more loving person, despite how bitter the other person is. Love those who despitefully use you and scorn you. You can't control other people's behavior, but you can control the way you react to it. Because of my change and advancement of mental perspective, I have became a better person. My perspective about trials is different. Also many times people behave in a certain way because of their past hurts, and their true identity is trapped within. They rarely express who they really are because their soul has been trapped by a spirit of hurt and pain. They are blinded by their own pain. They only see themselves as having struggles, which is selfish in the eyes of close immediate family members. But it is like a soul in a paralyzed body. This soul wish to express themselves so much more. Just as a paralyzed person's movement is inhibited, people who are blinded by pain has been inhibited in expressing care and love to people.

There are so many things I know intuitively about relationships, behavioral problems, mental distress, negativity and the root causes of these things which in many cases are spiritual roots; which then eventually sprouts out to other parts of our being which are physical and mental. For example: unforgiveness is a spirit that gets heavier each day individuals lays their heads in bed without resolving their conflicts. Because the first conflict that develops has an attachment piece which grabs other conflicts and it continues to mount on each other. It gets heavier on their spirit,each day they walk throughout; affecting the soul, then affecting the rate in which hormones secrete, then in turn affects the physical body. Chemicals and fluids in the body begin to become unstable, hence displacing the inner body environment from having optimized levels within the cells, blood, organs and tissues. The body tends to have a heavy feeling in this case. This leaves any individual vulnerable to sickness such as: cancer, arthritis, severe depression, fevers, etc.

Warm Regards

Michael Cooper

There are many ways to cut ties with a toxic person. Sometimes you can simply place physical distance between them and yourself. At other times, you will need to do something more than this for whatever reasons, often due to emotional ties that cannot be denied, but must be dealt with somehow. A website I found has helped me tremendously with such It describes various personality disorders, how encountering them will make you feel, what not to do and why, and what to do and why. It is extremely well-organized and includes descriptions of various personality disorders, along with definitions of 100 behavioral traits of the personality disordered, and includes a "toolbox" of different things you can do to take control of your own life and feelings no matter what the personality disordered individual in your life does. I've been in therapy for these issues for many years and maybe it's just time, but this site, along with the online Survivor-to-Thriver manual (from another site, and is a whole nuther can of worms) has helped me more than anything I ever encountered. Good luck.

Dear Ann C., I don't know if this will help you, but this is my story:

I, and my two siblings, had a tumultuous relationship with both parents all of our lives. The problems increased over time as both parents drank more to cope with their issues. My brother married at age 19 to get away; my sister married at age 18 to get away; I did likewise. The tension also interfered with sibling relationships until we all reached mid-life. We never became real close, but we had occasional contact with one another.

In 1986 I had an opportunity to move to a different state and I acted on it. My two sons were then in the military, I'd been divorced from their father for 12 years, so I was free to relocate. I was weary of family opining on how or where I should live my life. I relocated, returned to school, and eventually earned an M.A. in psychology. That has helped me untangle and understand many of my family's dynamics.
I believe personal freedom is making goals and reaching them, in spite of everyone else. We each, after all, have only one life to live and no one can live it for us.

Remember that respect should be earned and that it is a two-way street. When I treated my parents with respect and received none in return, I decided I had only one choice: to be happy doing what I loved or to be miserable doing what they wanted.

I was able to forgive them both. I understood that they were uneducated and inexperienced in many aspects of life. This caused them to have many unreasonable fears and to push those fears on their children. However, although I forgave them I chose not to associate with them any longer. They didn't call me so I didn't call them. This is another example of a two-way street.

Today I am nearly 70. I have reached many goals I set for myself and achieved happiness in many other areas for which I did not necessarily plan. I am still working and am grateful to be able to have something to look forward to each day.

My parents both passed away over a decade ago. The strongest emotion I felt when learning of each death was relief. I did not feel guilty for my feelings because the important question of whether we would ever have a loving relationship was no longer an issue. Fate had stepped forward and closed the chapter.

I do have a few good memories from early childhood and I will always be grateful for them. I have friends, one I've known since age 2, who admire and respect me, and that is enough for me. That is all anyone can ask for.


Carol C.

I have had nothing but a tumultuous relationship with my mother since I was young. After I had my son at the age of 20, I had no help from her or my small family. There is only 8 members in my family and for some reason they all hate me. My mom married a man who HATED me around 11 years ago and he would call me horrible names in front of her and she never stood up for me. In fact, nobody has stood up for me. I have no siblings and not a lot of friends so I don't have a good support system. 2 years ago, I noticed my mom was having memory problems, so I was the one to get her to the Dr's and she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. And since she was in a verbally and emotionally abusive relationship, I let go of the past and I moved so she could move in with me and my son. Well that lasted for about 8 months and then went back to her husband and she screwed me over with all the bills. I have chosen to just leave her and my family out of my life. It's one of the hardest things I have ever done, but I had to do it or my heart would keep hurting. I wrote my uncle an email and explained my life, to which I got no reply and then my mom decided she didn't want to talk to me or my son for 6 months. Lol, who says that? So I have cut her and my family off all of my social media and deleted all of their phone numbers. I am not a part of the family. Yes it hurts at times because I am sick and so is my son with a genetic disease, but I don't have a caring family. My family holds secrets and they are very fake on the outside and inside. It's like it's all small talk and nothing serious can be mentioned. So I am done and my son is my only family. Good luck Amy.

Dear Ann,
I read your letter and immediately identified with you. I am no longer in touch with my father or two of my sisters. without going into all the details, I can tell you that he and my sisters caused extensive pain unnecessarily and in confronting him about it, he said he would fix it and did not. When you hear that your heart can be broken, it does happen and it happened to me.I had once a year bouts with atrial fibrillation for ten years and after all the family issues occurred, the bouts increased to 3-4 a week and I had a serious heart procedure(pulmonary view ablation) done to prevent it from happening. I learned that it is mentally and physically bad for me to have a relationship with my father and my sisters. It does not stop the feeling of loss but I am much healthier staying away. I come from a family of 10 siblings and never would have thought this could happen. It only took 67 years for me to realize all the hurt he has caused me. I too am sad and angry but have concluded that it is his choice, not mine. I hope this makes you realize you are not alone!

Hi Ann and Dr Kim,
It was a tough decision to make, but at my age 72 I have finally had to break off communication with my 97 year old mother. She maintains relationships with my ex-husband and makes me feel inferior because the marriage failed after 17 years. She has always made me feel shame at having been born with asthma, has passed that attitude on to 6 of my 7 brothers and sisters who did not have any health issues.
She has belittled my one of my brothers (of a set of premature twins) and made him feel that he never measured up to his twin; we call his twin the Crown Prince because she has favoured him SO much. (When she sold her house and moved next door to the Crown Prince, she gifted him $190,000, that's right, one hundred and ninety thousand dollars.)
All of our lives mother has pitted us one against each other and seems to thrive on the dissension. She has always had a scant relationship with the truth and in the past 14 months she has accused me of taking any of her belongings that she can't find (her will, her personal phone book, her towels, her cane - I've lost track of all the things I've apparently taken from her home). When she fell and broke her knee last year, the two kids she had the least regard for (the unfortunate twin and me) were the ones who cared for her, cleaned her home and took her to all her drs' appointments, shopped, cooked, etc. The final straw for me was the accusation about her personal phone book. I left her that day and told myself that I'm done, but not before my blood pressure hit the two hundreds. She told friends and relatives that we weren't giving her meals and one cousin was asking another if they should call the RCMP and have them look into elder abuse. When that happened I went immediately to her family doctor and asked him to intervene. He had mother assessed at the Seniors' Clinic for dementia or Alzheimers. She was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, short of dementia and able to make her own decisions, one of which was to stay in her home and not go into an assisted living facility. The assessing geriatic specialist said the lying and dissension-making was a personality trait and not part of any cognitive impairment. Did I mention that she is legally blind and partially deaf? We were terrified that she would burn herself, or trip and break her hip, or burn the trailer down.
The Crown Prince has offered to pay me to go back to assisting mother; can you even imagine? However, I am done, and I feel like a ton has been lifted off me.
Over the years I have tried many, many times to have a normal mother-daughter relationship with my mother, even telling her about my feelings over the years. She said all the right things, and I actually thought, in 2010, that we'd turned a corner and had a chance at last to be a loving and caring mother-daughter. What a fool I was. Now, though, I am done and I know I was not destined to be part of a normal, loving and caring family. Only one of my brothers is still trying to be "family" to our mother; he sees her for 3 or 4 hours every Saturday. The rest of the family sees mother as little as possible, does virtually nothing for her and she is reaping what she has sown in this family. During the 1200 plus long distance minutes she spends on the telephone she is still telling her stories to our friends and family from Vancouver to Halifax. That is no longer part of my life now and I feel so much better, if just a little sadder, anger almost gone. I wish I had the answers but I am not looking for them now and am starting to get my health back. I can understand why our father left us in 1961; he couldn't live with the belittlement either.
I've read the comments here and I didn't realize I wasn't alone. I also didn't realize that I was as strong as I am. I draw on that strength and music and books and my work every day and every night. Ann, I can only surmise that you are stronger than you think and that's what will help you through. I hope you have hobbies and friends that will help too. I'll keep you in my thoughts.
Best regards,
Shirley G.

I too share Ann's experience with family issues. For me, when I avoided family I ended up with the same issues showing up in my life (relationships and work). After decades of emotional stress my health deteriorated. I've learned through TCM that anger and sadness /excessive stress damage the liver.

The stress and anger came from the blame and shame of being told I was responsible for everyone else’s emotions and mistakes as well as being unable to process my own thoughts. In all honesty, I didn’t think I was allowed my own thoughts. I too listened to people speak of forgiveness and reconciliation. Try as I could, I experienced being caught in the emotional turmoil. Like Ann, I struggle with forgiveness – after all it was not my fault, why did I have to get the abuse?

Eventually, I learned a meditation that helped me to forgive me, love me, and accept me and what I had been through as well as bathe me in loving light. Then, in the same visualization, I was able to forgive and bathe the person in loving light. There was an option to visualize a blade cutting the attachment to the person, build a bridge or to cut and build a different kind of bridge. I chose to cut the tie. Tears streamed down my face… and I felt peace. Later I built the bridge in a different way.
Although life isn’t perfect, I am now attracting kinder, considerate people. And when people with the same behavior as my triggers arrive I spend less time out of balance. As for family, respect is extended and I don’t press my luck. I can understand where each is coming from, their perception of reality, and I can respect their choices (I am not responsible for them) while honoring my path.

The relationships in life are “better” in that there is less hooks into my emotional well-being. Or perhaps more accurately, my energy is in building the kind of relationships I desire to have. As a friend so kindly pointed out, the ugly duckling was a swan AND needed to be with swans, not ducks. One still might choose to be cordial to ducks (give no reason to be attacked) while staying centered and disengaged from the unhealthy behavior.

I encourage you to take time and surround yourself with loving light… then, when ready surround your Dad with the same. What worked for me was “Please forgive me. I forgive you.” Although your Dad may sense changes in you, your meditation is yours alone. I encourage you – for the sake of your health, your heart, kidneys, liver, spleen and stomach to find ways to release the emotion. I also encourage you to set aside time to each night to bathe you in light and to release those who have crossed your boundaries into your space with “Please forgive me. I forgive you.” There are times I have paraphrased it as “Please forgive me for attracting your “a**holiness” and seeing such in you, I forgive you for being such a jerk along your spiritual path that I could not miss it.” Then, over the course of the meditation, I can finally bring it to a peace within me and CUT the dysfunctional attachment. There are still people where this is an ongoing practice as I learn to disengage from the emotion for my health.

I also find the juice cleanses, a clean diet, gentle exercise and having my space in order to be helpful in restoring the emotional/mental balance. I do them for me. In the past clutter and disarray kept hurtful people away. Today, I live gentle boundaries and work to cleanse my inner world and somehow, there are less of the hurtful ones and I have time to enjoy life. My goal is to make it as friction-less for me as possible. I hope sharing my experience helps and that you are able to make the shift early in life. Having to clean out a trail of toxicity is time consuming and one does not get the opportunity to have the time spent in crappy thinking/feelings back. One can only come to terms with “now” is the best time to live more fully and gently.

It is not always a bad thing to stop communicating with a family member if it is making you ill or bringing you down. I have a sister who left when my parents became ill. Never one moment did she offer her help. I had both of them in two hospital beds at home at the same time. I did it all alone until they died. The twist is now that they are both deceased her hand is stretched out for "Her Share" it's amazing how she has time to collect but not to nurture.

I have a very toxic sister-in-law that dislikes me intensely because I married her brother. I tried hard to make the relationship work for 27 years. She has said she hates me as much as her ex husband and she threatened to kill him twice. She has no boundaries, resisted the restraining order against her from her ex 16 times, hit and spit on the police when they came to arrest her, and served 6 months in prison as a result. There are many other terrible things she has done that I don't need to get into here.
About 10 years ago my husband and I wrote her a letter telling her that she didn't have to like me, but she did need to keep her feelings about me to herself. She refused to do so, and he and I broke off a relationship between the two of us. (My husband still has a very limited exposure to her).
I think it is extremely important to forgive any person who has hurt you. There is a quote about unforgiveness that I think is very true: "Bitterness is a poison we drink and expect the other person to die." Unforgiveness affects us in so many detrimental ways. So it is vitally important to forgive the person who has victimized or offended us. However, we do not have to forget what that person is capable of doing. I can forgive the person (stove) who burned me, but I can certainly remember not to touch that stove again.
I have prayed about this relationship and asked God to show me if I am ever to get back into it again. I have had peace about not being involved with her for the last 10 years. She is a woman that knows no boundaries and doesn't even respect the boundaries put in place by the police; let alone us. I have to have healthy boundaries in place with her. She will yell, scream, hit, and publicly tell everyone she can on Face book or any other media how terrible she thinks I am. The boundary I have put in place protects me emotionally from a very abusive situation. I can't do anything about the intense hatred she feels for me. The ball is in her court, and it is up to her to choose to be civil to me. I understand that she is really upset with her brother for not having the relationship she wants with him and is transferring her anger to me.
I do believe before the ties are cut, that every avenue of healing the relationship should be tried first. I also believe that forgiveness is crucial. I pray for her, and I keeping asking God if I am to enter back into the relationship at some point in the future. I want good things for her and have forgiven her totally, but know I need to provide a boundary in our relationship for now.

I had to "take a break" from my sisters over 14 years ago and I don't miss them. To put it simply: Don't be reckless with other peoples hearts. Don't put up with people who are reckless with yours.

I can relate. I recently cut ties with my sister who has shown me very little respect over the years. She presents herself when life is great but often retreats and provides silent treatment when things aren't going well. Clearly it is a sign of mental illness but no one else in my family can see it. It really affects me when her behaviour is negative thus I have decided to move on and experience life without the toxic cycle of moods. She has unfortunately made very poor relationship decisions dating a man +20 years her senior and my parents actually seem proud of it because the man is quite wealthy and my sister contributes financially for my parents. The cycle of dependence has blinded my parents so much that they can no longer provide the guidance that she needs. I have lost a lot of respect for them but I have decided that I will keep a safe distance from my parents though will always be there for them. It was not an easy step to take but removing oneself from negative environments is sometimes the only option to move forward with dignity. Best wishes.

Matthew 10: 34-38

Think not that I am come to send apeace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his across, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.

In other words, follow the Lord at all costs, and let the family cards fall where they may. In the end it will be well with you.

Part 1 of 2 -- Ann, I’m sorry to hear of your toxic relationship. You’re definitely not alone. A friend chose NO CONTACT w/ toxic biological mom, who abandoned her 2 young children. Bio tries everything to re-establish contact, including guilt & involving other family members. My friend chose to protect her child & herself from toxicity. //

I’ve had good relationships. And experienced abuse. With abusive bio dad, I cut contact at 18 so I wouldn’t alienate my mom. He said he could find me; I had nightmares. Later regretted not trying to have relationship w/ him; tried unsuccessfully to find him. Abusive step-dad #1 moved back with his wife. Alcoholic step-dad #2 sexually molested me from 11-12; I was blamed. Our relationship was confused; he died years ago. //

Fortunately my family lives far away. Mom is not abusive to her friends & never abusive in letters (there would be proof). She was mainly abusive by phone. I’d cry for days after some chats, until I set clear boundaries. Now family doesn’t know my address or phone #, & I stopped calling. Any mail is sent to a friend, who forwards it to me. (I’m not well enough to check a PO box.) Mom writes often; tries to guilt-trip me into calling. I write when health permits. Abusive sis & I occasionally correspond by email. //

Several social workers told me Spouse #2 was a psychopath. Short private retreats helped me emotionally distance, rest & clear my head. After 19 yrs, I fled w/ restraining order to emerg shelter. On Judge’s advice, NO CONTACT w/ spouse—until supposedly on his hospital death bed 17 mos later. His tears & words were fake. I cut contact again. He became more nasty; died 6 mos later. He planned for legal/financial abuse to continue yrs after his death. Before I left him, I prepared carefully so I would not give into temptation to go back. //

After I fled, behavior of spouse’s kids was despicable & very hurtful. They don’t know my address or phone #. They can contact me by email or mail sent to my friend. I remember the kids’ birthdays & anniversaries. Also our grandkids’ birthdays & Christmas, including money gifts. Rarely hear from kids. I keep in touch, because grandkids don’t understand why loving grandma would suddenly stop contact. None of the above abusers accepted true responsibility; none showed true remorse. //

Part 2 of 2 -- What have I learned? I don’t regret staying in my marriage till I had tried everything possible to have a good marriage & home. Didn’t want to look back & think, “What if I had…”. I learned what are my responsibilities & to not be responsible for others. I learned about boundaries, codependency, narcissism, Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) & psychopaths. I will never understand NPDs & psychopaths. I learned that my integrity is very important to me. I’m mostly over my anger, but still feel sadness for what could have been. I learned to look after myself & trust my gut feelings. I learned to let go of fairytale thinking. Words are meaningless unless actions match them. I forgive. Forgiving does not allow/enable toxics to continue to abuse. I learned that my real family is my friends. In emerg shelters, I learned emotional abuse can be more damaging than physical. It can take time to assess damage & to heal from emotional abuse. Long-term abuse can destroy health. Losing all trust & respect for someone is a huge red flag. NO CONTACT is my choice, because of choices other people make. When tempted, I remember I promised myself [I wouldn’t call OR ____]--unless I witnessed remorse & long-term change. Only then would reconciliation be possible. No excuse for abuse, & it’s exhausting. We cannot reason with some people. There is no one-size-fits-all solution; sometimes it’s safer to stay with an abuser. I can’t turn my love off & on. Every choice has consequences. My choices allow me to live in peace & safety. Yippee! //

All this to say, you MIGHT want to set boundaries with your dad (e.g. phone 1x/month, contact only by text or mail, chat ends if he ____, discussions are limited to _____ topics, tell him ____ is unacceptable & hang up/leave if it continues, contact only on his birthday, chats are no more than ____ minutes). Be very clear what your boundaries are, then stick to them—the hard part. If (when?) he oversteps your boundaries, re-assess. It may help to rehearse some scenarios or prepare a cheat sheet (cue card). Let him leave a phone message. Take a few deep breaths to calm yourself before calling back or responding when he's abusive. //

OR if you sever contact, know it’s because of HIS choices. Any guilt feelings would be “false guilt”. You may be blamed; he may not want to release control. If you send him a letter, your words may be twisted & used against you + he may inflict more abuse. When you decide & follow through, it will eventually get easier. You will enjoy living in peace & emotional safety. You are brave to re-assess your relationship with your father. I hope & pray you have people to support you in this journey to emotional wellness. //

“Today I close the door to the past. Open the door to my future, take a deep breath, step on through and start a new chapter in my life.” ~ unknown

Relationships are difficult, and guidance and or examples of good healthy relationships is not common. To put it simply, if a relationship becomes harmful to you, physically or mentally or both, it's healthy for you to end it. And while some may pressure you to explain yourself, you owe no one an explanation.

Ann, My parent was so abusive from my infancy on that I thought I was the defective one and I lived in secrecy and fear for 50 years, did not have a family, did not pursue any of my abilities or talents. She would have found and destroyed all of it. At 50 I heard she had a stroke and was disabled but alive. I am a person of faith and I fell on the floor crying but thanking God for stopping her, an odd prayer for me. When I realized she literally could not accomplish any more cruel actions I suddenly was free to feel compassion for her, and to be near her without fearing for my well being or my life. It allowed me to know that I still needed to "love" my mother, even if just by serving her needs for care and comfort measures. It was a gift to ME to show her my tenderness. It was the kind of giving that is more wonderful than receiving. On our last evening together we watched the most spectacular sunset and I thanked her for taking me to church when I was little (it was a resource for survival to me) and she thanked me for helping her in a sweet sincere voice I had never heard. Each of us has such a made-to-order life experience that I think we just have to live it out until a clear answer comes to us. I couldn't have "decided" to reconnect with her when I still had to protect myself against her crazy hatred. Please do what is best FOR YOU, and perhaps keep one corner of your heart or soul open in case a miracle should occur? I do not think we can tell others what to do. But I encourage you to do what you need to do, and believe you are worth being loved! All the best to you sweetie.

After cutting ties from my toxic mother 10 years ago, it took me at least 5 of those years to realise that I could still love her as the woman who gave birth to me, fed me etc, but I am not obliged to like her as a person. I no longer have emotional meltdowns on Mother's Day, Christmas and her birthday. I have freely sent her loving and healing thoughts, with no expectations of anything in return. I don't allow her animosity towards me to fester within my heart.
Severing the ties with a parent is incomprehensible to anyone who hasn't experienced an abusive relationship with a mother or father. It's been easy for some people to judge me based on the public face my mother shows them, but I don't feel the need to air dirty laundry just so I come out looking like the good guy. Let others think what they will.
Life is too short to stay in toxic relationships, no matter who that relationship is with. Wish your father well and walk away. You deserve so much better.

"HOW deep?"

If you dig down deep enough into ANYONE, you'll find some traces of decency and humanity buried in there, right? (As they say, Hitler loved his dogs.) But how deep do you have to dig, in order to find that goodness?

How much toxic waste do you have to claw through with your bare hands, before you reach any evidence of hidden kindness?

How many layers of concrete do you have to blast through, before that person will let you see their one deeply hidden molecule of niceness?

And how much abuse do you have to take, in the meanwhile?

And is that really how you want to spend your life? Exhaustively trying to excavate scraps of decency from someone who has basically buried their goodness beneath a rubble of darkness?

I have the same reaction whenever I hear someone make these kinds of statements:

"I know she seems rude, but deep down she's actually really kind."

"I know he acts stingy, but deep down, he's truly generous."

"I know he lied to me and cheated on me, but deep down he still loves me."

"I know she has a horrible temper and says awful things to her children, but deep down she's a sweetheart."

I don't know, you guys. I don't like it.

I'm not saying that you should throw people away or condemn them. Every major religion in the world asks us to search for the common light of humanity that is hidden within everyone. Of course you should always look for the best within people. Of course it's enlightened to give people the benefit of the doubt. Of course it's the highest virtue to forgive others for their shortcomings, as we would be forgiven for ours. Of course it's compassionate to look at the difficult circumstances of a person's life, in order to better understand why they may have turned out so broken, bitter, and mean. (Remember, though: Lots of other people had equally difficult destinies — or worse — and still find ways to be kind and generous to others.)

But it doesn't mean you have to voluntarily expose yourself to abuse and cruelty.

Without denying the possibility that every thorn has its rose, I think it's wise to keep your distance from people who repeatedly and consistently demonstrate injurious, neglectful, or flat-out cruel behavior. You can pray for them and wish the best for them, but you might want to cross the street when you see them coming, just to be on the safe side.

I don't think it makes you extra spiritual to keep putting yourself in the pathway of degradation and suffering just because you have decided that — against all available evidence — this cruel person is actually a sweet person.

Generally speaking, people are pretty much what they show you they are — not what you wish they were.

People who behave cruelly toward you are more or less cruel people.

People who behave nicely toward you are generally nice people. (Unless they are full-on sociopaths, of course, which most people are not.)

You can almost always count on that.

That being the case, I think you're allowed to choose what sort of people with whom you wish to spend the precious waking hours of your one rare and beautiful life.

I choose to spend my life with people who are not afraid to wear their goodness and their niceness on the OUTSIDE.

I choose to spend my time with people who aren't afraid to show love, or to receive love.

I choose to share my life with the nice humans.

I don't find nice humans to be boring; I find them to be an oasis.

Keep it simple: Be nice to others, be nice to yourself.

My story (cliff notes version) ... my mom and dad divorced when I was two, and my brother and I lived with our mom in New England while our dad moved 1000 miles away with his girlfriend. He remarried and had a daughter, and my mom remarried about the same time and had two daughters. My mom's new husband was an angry physically and emotionally abusing tyrant. He had no love in him towards either me or my brother. He did say "we" love you once that I can remember ... before he whipped me incessantly with a belt. My mom used our fear of him to control us, always threatening to disclose some imagined infraction to him when he got home from work. There were countless episodes of public humiliation, such as belittling me or pulling my hair or slapping my face in front of my friends, kicking me in the arse, and whippings over the slightest infractions (not getting a good enough grade for "behavior" in school, or watching an unapproved movie with a friend, which, incidentally, caused him to beat me with a belt buckle, sending me to the hospital, all the while coaching my little uninitiated mind into lying about how it happened so he wouldn't have to go to jail and my mom wouldn't be kicked of the house by the bank). My stepfather rarely called us by our names, instead preferring to use one of the 35+ belittling nicknames he came up for us including "pig", "animal", and "lazy man". When I was 15, he had had enough and gave my mother an ultimatum ... it was either us or him. She chose him and sent us away to live with our dad. My brother and I were always the ones to blame.

Meanwhile, I never could get over loving my dad or missing him, but he never took much interest in me and my brother's lives. There was a few times we visited before we were sent to live with him permanently, but we always felt distant. My dad NEVER called or sent us birthday cards and had no advice, emotional support, or financial support for my brother or me at any time.

I am 43. My stepmother died five years ago and my dad died four months later. My sister inherited the entire $500k estate. My brother and I were intentionally disowned but we knew it was coming as we had cut off contact from them three years prior. Meanwhile, my sister shot up $500k into her arm in less than 2 years and then called my brother and I for money! We helped her but when she had taken what she needed we never heard from her again. Little did I know that she was plotting to sue us behind our backs after we had literally picked her up off the streets and gave her food and shelter. Needless to say, there is no contact between us and no further contact is expected or desired.

Meanwhile, my mom just died. I spent two weeks with her before she passed, serving her organic carrot juice everyday and comforting her by giving her the peace of an imagined reconciliation. My brother came for a few days as well. It costed us over $1500. But the truth is she never took any interest in our lives. She never offered any emotional support, financial support, or advice. Anytime the topic of my childhood or her husband came up it was her way or the cryway. She refused to visit us unless her husband was welcomed with open arms into our homes (they were too cheap to get a hotel.)

Four years ago, I told my mom's firstborn daughter the truth about why I don't visit and she never responded or spoke to me again. Neither my brother nor I went to her funeral. The day before my brother in law who I have only met once and doesn't know me at all called me to vent my sisters hate about how selfish and horrible a person I am. My brother and I were of course disinherited and disowned, not even getting a photo album as a memento of my mother. We never asked for anything from either our mom or dad. We weren't even told where she was buried. The real kicker here is that these people have the greatest pride in being super duper christians, and are the most avid church goers imaginable. I guess we are reading different bibles.

The point here, Ann, is that your situation is not uncommon and there are many of us trying to navigate our lives through dysfunctional, unloving families. Many of us have it far worse as well, and somehow manage to live healthy productive lives giving love freely to all who will receive it.

I consider my parents to be "negative" teachers by showing me by their action and inaction all the things an adult should not do, especially in interacting with children.

I think that there are more people out there that would benefit from cutting ties with family who treat them poorly and make their life worse. People allow way too much in the name of family and I allowed it about 20 years too long. I've always believed in forgiving others and going above and beyond to make relationships work but if it's one sided then that's not a relationship. It took me a long time and lots of contemplation but I know that it was the right decision disconnecting from my Mom six years ago. No big fight or anything, just quit communicating and she did the same. Her lack of apology (ever!) and not reaching out confirms that I made the right decision. The way I see it LIFE IS SHORT and we all have the right and duty to put your emotional and physical health first. Sure, it's a little sad but I do not miss the roller coaster ride that her criticism and games would take me or my poor husband on. She also has a tendency to gossip about everyone behind their back and then act like they are their best friend in front of them. I don't like people like that and I don't want to associate with people who do that even if they are related to me. When she gets old and frail will I be there if she needs me? Of course. But in the meantime we send each other birthday cards and that's enough for me. We all deserve to have peace and contentment in our lives and if that means cutting out family then that's what you need to do.

Dear Ann,

There is such freedom in letting go of those who bring us pain, whether they are family or not. You deserve better! Cut those ties, walk away and don't look back! I have never regretted for a moment cutting ties with my toxic family members. I live a life of joy and peace, something I doubt they will ever experience.
I am not a religious person so I can only tell you from my own experience how much better I felt when the toxic ones were gone from my life! :) The old sayings about "you can choose your friends but not your family" is so true, my mantra is "friends are the family you choose for yourself" surround yourself with quality people who love you for who you are. I have the utmost respect for you for reaching out to ask "is this okay?" YES! YES! and YES, you need to advocate for your own peace of mind. Draw the line in the sand and walk the other way. You will be glad you did. Wishing all the best for you.

I agreeIn the Bible at times the word “forgive” means “let go.” So forgiveness does not always require that you forget what happened or minimize the wrong. Sometimes it means that you simply need to let go of a matter, for your own well-being and that of your relationship.
Maybe your father is actually OCD and/or ODD like one of my siblings which poses a great challenge. A side that is a suffering soul and a side that is quite spiteful. Since you cannot control the other person you have to control your reaction to the circumstances.
For the past find a professional that is certified in “Bad Cluster Removal Therapy.” Some things trigger our emotions and if we remove these they will lessen the emotions which are aroused in the future.
Distance yourself. The avoidance procedure will lessen the opportunities you give someone else to push your buttons. Forgive for your health and so this pattern of emotions is not placed on others in your immediate circle. Emotions – especially bad ones settle in our weakest points in our body resulting in illnesses so attempt to forgive and distance yourself for yourself and your family.

Dear Dr. Kim,

Wow, I never expected you to post my letter to your readers, and I never, ever would have thought that so many people would respond. I always knew there were others in situations similar to mine, but I thought we were few and far between. The volume of comments my simple letter received blew me away! While it saddens me that so many people have had to deal with toxic relatives, each one of the responses from your readers made me feel better, like I'm not alone. I derived great comfort from reading each comment and I've gained strength from the support. Even the people who wrote in and said that things will get better if I change my perspective, while it might not have been advice that I was looking for, I still think it's something to consider. It truly touched my heart that so many people wrote in, with no other intention but to help me. Can you please tell your readers that I appreciate their kindness so much? I really want to thank them from deep within my heart. Their letters meant a lot to me.

Thank you so much for putting my questions out there, Dr. Kim. I feel so much love from your community.



Same story here. I did cut ties with mom for approximately 20 years. When her husband was ill, I went to see them because I knew that mom was feeling alone as my step father was dying. I turned 55 years old. It's funny how we can still be so caring when that person is in pain or sad. Soon after my step dad passed away, mom started her abuse, again. I went to a family counselor for the first time in my life and explained how much better and fuller my life was without mom in it. She was once again rubbing her toxins all over me. I wold put the telephone in the bedroom closet and go out to the den and scream. I would get bouts of diarrhea when I knew she was coming to visit. I allowed myself to become physically ill because of the stress she caused me. The therapist basically said, "you are not required to accept abuse from anyone in your life". I was making a decision to cut ties once again, when all of a sudden, she told me that she had cancer. I stayed somewhat distant, aloof, and firm with her. She tried to manipulate all the way to the end. But, I was empowered, I stood up firm to her, I told her "no" to many things and held my ground. But, I told her I loved her and she went to her grave with that.
I don't have any regrets now that it's all over. I would recommend, staying in touch with the abuser, just to be empowered to have the power of saying no, or making your own decisions.
I said no to her going to my sons wedding with me. I said no to her coming to my house to visit more than once. I said no to taking her out for a trip somewhere. I said no to her talking bad about my relatives on the phone. I said no to ruining many of my family plans with my grandchildren. I did make Birthday reservations at a resteraunt for her birthday, under the name, "Donner, party of 8". The whole family got a huge kick out of that when I stood up and told the waitress, "that's us we are the Donner party". We all had a good time despite her. She did not get to divide us all, in the end.

Hello Ann,

I just wanted you to know, that in my own experiences growing up in an extremely abusive (physically, mentally, emotionally, sexually) and religious 'man controls all' household from infancy-age 19, the best thing I've done for myself is let go of the invisible hold /control my father had kept on me. It's a sense of power and control because he is a manipulator. I have cut ties with him. It's too much of a trigger to have him in my live.

I am only 30 years old, yet I have experienced horrible situations and lived through many types of abuse at the hands of the people who created me, among other family friends, as well as an ex-partner.

Guilt was a huge factor as to why it took me many more years than some of my siblings to cut loose, the ties with these evil people. Also, psychologically speaking (it's my degree, haha), people who experience trauma need to work through it when they are ready. I started to work through my issues several times in my earlier 20's, but I wasn't ready yet and would relapse (either with alcohol dependency, depression, anxiety).
Eventually (this past year) I was finally ready to deal with my past traumas and to do the work I needed to do to move on and continue my healing.

With weekly intense therapy over the last year, I've finally realized why I need to cut these toxic people out and that in doing so, it has decreased so much stress, anxiety, my own negative thought patterns and other self-destructive behavior out of my life. I am sober now! I have started going to a gym and meeting with a nutritionist. I suffered 15 years of emotional binge eating and have conquered many things through therapy.

Our time on Earth is short, and we really have to make the best out of it. It's hard not to feel bad to cut someone out, but remember who you are doing it for. If it's your kids, then 100 % yes, they deserve to be treated with love, care, respect and not abuse. YOU too deserve to be treated fairly, with respect and not with abuse. You are allowed to have good memories with someone who is toxic. This is important to remember, regarding guilt. Not every part of my childhood was evil and abusive, there were some good memories over my years. Growing up abused has changed the way I do things, I set boundaries now, and if someone stresses me out I will put my foot down and say something, because I will not take that negativity here on out! Good luck.

Goswami Kriyananda (Chicago), said to me once (not ever having told him my whole family disowned me at Father's instructions, to have no further dealings with me & not to allow me access to my siblings' children). The Guru said to me: Sometimes family karma is so hot you have no choice but to leave. Hope what this Holy Man said to me will help you, Ann.

Ann c.,
I have been struggling with the forgiveness issue for awhile and I see no reason to completely forgive my own narcissistic family and I can't see any good that would come of my reestablising ties with them. The stronger I get, the more I don't feel the need to let their dysfunction into my life. Maybe someday I will feel more forgiving, but it should serve to soothe my own soul, not to force me to put up with their behavior anymore. No contact is OK and the best choice in many cases. Don't let your guard down. Narcissists are mean.
Becky S.