Toxic Parents: How do you know when it’s time to let go?

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Toxic parents

Our parents are the ones who should love us the most.

So we think and so we believe and in an ideal world, it would be true.

In our hearts and in our minds, we WANT it to be true.

But sometimes it isn’t.

Sometimes for whatever reason, we as adults come to understand, maybe after years of guilt, frustration, hurt, emotional abuse and manipulation, financial burdens or relationship break ups and lots of disappointment that one or both of our parents are toxic people.

As much as we wish they were different. As much as we long to believe that they do really love us and care about us and will be there for us, when you have a toxic parent, there will come a day when you have to face the facts.

Our relationship with them is full of emotional, physical and spiritual poison and it feels like it’s killing us.

By definition, any toxic relationship is primarily characterized by actions and behaviours that are emotionally damaging. It is riddled with feelings of guilt, insecurity, self-centredness, control, manipulation, insult and threat.

A healthy relationship is one where there is mutual love, caring, respect and compassion, where there is care for the welfare and well-being of the other, where we feel loved and accepted for who we are and the relationship feels SAFE.

A toxic relationship does NOT feel safe.

It feels anxious and destructive and drains us emotionally, physically and spiritually.

It feels like a burden, an obligation and a trap and because it’s our parents, it’s not generally a relationship that we talk about or even consider ending.

It’s acceptable to divorce your partner, it’s acceptable and encouraged to leave any sort of toxic, abusive relationship in fact, it is actively encouraged, EXCEPT when the toxic person is your parent.

That’s where the guilt really kicks in!

This is the person who helped create you and shape you and gave you life.

This is the person who raised you and put a roof over your head and put you through school.

This is the person who is supposed to love you the most and always be there for you and love you no matter what.

But instead, your parent is the person who is constantly criticizing you, who is always putting you down and manipulating you with guilt.

This is the person who is telling lies about you and to you, sabotaging your relationships, attempting to control you and demanding all of your time and your energy.

This is the person who is spiteful, malicious, contemptuous or impossible to please.

This is the person who always lets you down, who breaks promises and is unreliable and tells you that you are never good enough.

This is the person who who will not be happy until your life is as miserable and unhappy as their own.

You cannot appeal to your toxic parent’s better nature and hope they will “get it”.

You cannot reason with them or depend on them.

They do not care how tired you are, how sick you are, how overwhelmed you are. They want what they want when they want it.

Loving your toxic parent will not protect you from who they are or how they behave.

Being the best daughter or son in the world will not change your toxic parent or make them finally approve of you.

A truly toxic parent has no concern about what his or her behavior does to you or those around you. They will have no hesitation in destroying your mood, your relationships, your finances, your goals or your physical or emotional health.

In my clinical practice, I have had many clients who are the victims of toxic parents.

  • Parents who pit one child against the other.
  • Parents who delight in planting seeds of malice and mistrust and doubt.
  • Parents who see their adult children as competition or who are jealous and resentful of their success or relationships or family or lifestyles.
  • Parents who want to keep dragging their child down into their own pit of misery and bitterness and addiction.

If you found a venomous snake in your house, you wouldn’t reason with it, analyze it, google it to see if perhaps you were doing something to attract it in the first place.

You would take action to get it out of your life!

A toxic relationship with your parent needs you to take action!
This doesn’t mean it will be easy because it won’t. It will be one of the most difficult things you have ever done.

  • It will involve dealing with masses of guilt and lots of soul searching and tears.
  • It will mean finally giving up the dream that you can have a close, loving relationship with your parent and giving up those dreams brings feelings of grief and loss.
  • It will mean risking the disapproval of extended family and friends and may cost you some relationships from people who cannot accept your choices.
  • It will mean making a decision on the action you will take that will make you feel as safe as you can be when dealing with your toxic parent.
  • It will mean deciding how much of a relationship you will have, setting strong boundaries and doing what you can to protect yourself and limit the toxic fallout.

The GOOD news is, it can be done but you WILL need support, understanding, clarity, good advice and lots and lots of self love!

Here are some tips to help you start the process:

Accept the fact that you cannot change your toxic parent.
You know this logically but you really need to get this emotionally. This is the way they are and it has NOTHING to do with you!

You may have been trying to figure them out for years, looking for the way to make things right, trying to find the right words to please them but what you need now is to just accept that this is who they are.

It is not your job or your task or your responsibility to change them into who you want them to be or who you think they should be. Accept your toxic parent exactly the way he or she is right now.

Don’t give in to guilt.
Toxic parents are experts at manipulation and their key weapon is guilt. They have spent years knowing exactly which button to push and when to get the result they want.

You may have been trained for years to put their feelings before your own or have given in to them to keep the peace. Ask yourself this question: “Am I making my parent’s feelings and needs more important than my own?”

Guilt is a method of controlling you and making you do what they want. Learn to recognize when you are being manipulated by guilt and refuse to take it on board. If you have trouble with this, get help.

Years of chronic guilt is difficult to overcome as you may not be able to see things clearly and guilt is often associated with strong anxiety, which is why when you give in to guilt, it initially feels better as the anxiety goes away. However, this is usually followed by resentment and anger and more anxiety.

Limit contact with your toxic parent wherever possible.
Decide how much contact you can handle with your parent and start setting boundaries.
Make or take less phone calls. Let it go to voice mail or set a time limit for the length of calls.

Make yourself less available. You need to honour your own time, relationships and limits.
Learn to say “no” by starting small and working up to bigger things.

Again and I can’t stress this enough: dealing with a toxic parent, taking actions steps is NOT EASY. But IT MUST BE DONE!

  • For your emotional and physical health.
  • For your happiness and well being.
  • For your relationships with your partner and your children and your life.
  • For your right to live the best possible life you can have, in safety and peace and love.

You are not responsible for your parents happiness.
You are not here to live the life they want you to live.
You are not here to live up to your parents expectations or dreams. You are here to live your own dreams.
You are not here to sacrifice yourself for them. They as adults have made their own choices and will continue to do so.

Here are some tough questions you have to ask yourself:

  • Am I willing to sacrifice my own health and happiness for my toxic parent?
  • Am I willing to sacrifice my relationship with my partner for my toxic parent?
  • Am I willing to sacrifice my job or my income or my finances for my toxic parent?
  • Am I willing to give up my dreams and my needs and my career for my toxic parent?

Ultimately, this IS your decision, it IS your choice even though at the moment it may feel that you have no choice at all.

If you need help to find your choices, to explore your options and get help and support in your relationship with your parents, I will help you find your way and do as much as I can to help you take the steps to freeing yourself from your toxic relationship. One little step at a time.

It will be challenging, it may be full of sadness and grief and fear but you can do it! I have seen relationships change in amazing ways and sometimes, in ways people never thought possible!

You can find a free, one hour webinar recording with my most valuable tips on how to deal with and begin to recover from Toxic parents, as well as many other free resources here:

Watch my free replay of my Toxic Parent Webinar Recording.

Ready to start dealing with your toxic parent and get your life back?

Book your free 20 minute Discovery Session with me on Skype.

Got a toxic parent or know someone who does? Share my blog and let them know they are not alone and I would love to hear your comments!

best wishes

Kerry