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elle Offline OP
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Does anyone have any thoughts or advice about learning to re-relate to abusive parents and family as an adult? These people aren't bad people, just misguided and manipulative (still). How do you create some sort of relationship with someone who damaged your self esteem as a child and who could continue to wreak havoc in your life if you were not strong enough to brush their comments and innuendo off?

When these family members are injured or ill, what do you do? If you can't or won't travel to be with them, how do you deal with the guilt that other family members try to place on you for not putting your life on hold to care for someone who once (and still does) hurt you? Should you be forced to take over the care of a parent in need no matter what they did to you as a child? Does family responsibility and obligation cancel out your rights/need to distance yourself to protect yourself?

How do you let it be "water under the bridge" without opening yourself up to fresh harm because you're allowing that what they did was "okay" with you and they can continue to act that way without risking alienating you after all?


Elle Carter Neal
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Elle,
What you are asking is a hard question to answer. Personally, I would distance myself for my own health's sake and give myself the life I didn't have as a child.

Pain is unforgettable, whether physical or emotional.

Last edited by kristen houghton; 06/17/07 07:38 PM.

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Elle, I have been struggling with this same issue for about a month now. About 3 weeks ago my biological mother called me to "see how we are doing". I haven't talked to her since September of 2005. Long story. I had to cut her out of my life and my kids' lives. Her and I had an on off relationship since I could remember. She got sick in 2004. She is a severe alcoholic and does drugs. She wasn't feeling right for weeks. We were trying once again to be mother and daughter because I had just gotten away from my ex who was abusing me. We rushed her to the hospital one weekend. She was dagnosed with Hepatitis C that isn't contagious. She had a 20% chance of living through the night. By some miracle she made it. We got close til she started using me and manipulating the kids, even playing favorites with them. I had to cut her out once and for all. She called me a few weeks ago like I said, and I slipped into a depression for almost 2 weeks. I wrote a mean, hateful letter to her to finally tell her how I felt about what she did over the years to me and that I was putting astop to it because I couldn't protect myself when I was a child but I could protect myself now and I sure the heck wasn't going to let her tear my kids up too. I haven't sent it yet. I read it to 2 people and they think I should send it no matter how much it is going to hurt her to read it. I little itsy bitsy part of me feels guilty for writing it and wanting to send it. But it felt so good to get out on paper and out loud what she did to me, what she put me through and how I feel now. You have to do what makes you healthy and happy. If you are better off without them in your lives, then so be it. If your relatives don't understand why, oh well, let them be mad. You know what happened, you abuser knows what happened. You need to keep your sanity. *hugs*


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Thanks for your responses - although it's not nice that others have been through negative child hood experiences too, it does make me feel better that someone else understands my frustrations.

Hugs back to both of you.

This morning I made a slight change to my perspective when I decided to make a commitment to only allow myself to "worry" about those members of my family on the days and time period that I have to interact with them. I want to stop stressing every day during the week about have to phone on Saturday for example. I don't know if it will work, but it seemed to click for me today.

From what I've read around the Internet, it seems very much like having an adult relationship with a formerly abusive parent is an all or nothing situation. Either one of you "gives in" - the parent reforms/behaves or the child takes the continuing abuse, and the relationship is there, good or bad - or you end the relationship? Do you think there's any way to have some middle ground or a superficial relationship? I'm trying to pull back from my family, but my family wants more and more from me.


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I'm just chiming in here because I was abused as a child and have since ended all contact with my family.

I joined this forum so that I could take part in this dicussion.

I'm going to try to recount to you my experience with trying to reconnect with my parents, as it may help you:

- Throughout my college experience, I would attempt to have contact with my parents. Each time it would begin in a positive manner and end in abuse.

- I broke off all contact with my parents. It had been about 3 years since the last contact.
- Once my life was going well and I started to feel "normal," some part of me chose to forget what happened in my youth.
- I received a phone call from my mother, inquiring as to how I was, etc. I had forgotten that my mother was specifically not given my new number. I have since learned that my aunt gave it to her.
- I remember thinking it was nice that she wanted to know how I was. I told my friends (who had not been abused as a child) and they encouraged me to reconnect with my family.
- I went up to visit. I called and received calls from them frequently. Things were going well.
- One day, about two weeks later, my father called me to yell at me for something I had done at the age of 7. I instantly crumbled - many of the old emotions came back. I could not stop myself from crying at work, etc...
- I would receive calls from them on a semi-regular basis reminding me of things I had/was doing wrong with my life. "you haven't paid your student loans off yet?", "well I haven't met him but I'm not sure he's right for you" etc
- For several more months, things went on like this. They would yell at me for not doing a chore, even though I no longer live in their household, etc. I would often give in and do as they asked.

It took me a while to realize that the old cycle had returned and that I was under their "control" again.

I have since attempted to convince them that we should seek group therapy, but have been shot down. My parents think that if I want therapy, that's fine but there is no reason to involve them.

I realize that there is nothing I can do to mend our relationship. They dictate everything and if I listen... it's just the same thing over and over again.

I hope that you can find a way to work things out between you, but I have completely cut out my parents from my life.

If you choose to attempt to be with them, I urge you to be wary and not allow yourself to be abused by them again.

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Thank you for sharing that, A Mouse. What a terrible and manipulative way to treat you. It doesn't sound like it's really possible for you to have a healthy relationship with them.

My hugs to you.


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Thank you all for joining this discussion. Abuse endured as a child definitely could bring about strong feelings when it comes to whether or not the victim will have a relationship at all with their abusive parents. In some cases, the abusive parent changes and a relationship between parent and child may be possible. In other cases, there is no chance of reconciliation since the abuser continues to abuse their child, even though they are adults. I think it's important to recognize that it will vary from person to person. What works for one will not necessarily work for all.

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Thanks for your article Kelli.


Elle Carter Neal
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You're welcome!

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Originally Posted By: kristen houghton
Pain is unforgettable, whether physical or emotional.


I don't think this statement is completely accurate.
I believe that mental pain is often far more difficult to overcome than physical; Our minds are extremely able at retaining such experiences, and we feed off the negativity of such things by reliving and remembering the events which brought us such distress.
Physical pain is very easy to overcome. I remember being in great pain when i broke my leg, and I remember being in great pain when I was riding, and my horse tripped and fell on me...
But I don't actually remember the physical pain...It's not so much that. I remember BEING in pain, but I personally don't remember the severity, the acuteness, the discomfort of the pain itself..
I think we remember the distress at being subjected to the pain. we resent and at times, detest the situation which brought us pain, and we recoil from the possibility and dread of ever experiencing that pain again.

Could that be waht you mean?
I am not challenging you.
I am merely trying to illustrate that our fears are largely generated by our mental attitudes and responses.... I hope I do not offend.


"Things are not what they seem.... Nor are they otherwise...." (Lankavatara Sutta)

"The purpose of Life is simply, to be happy, and to make others happy." HH the Dalai Lama.



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