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, you come to understand, after years of guilt, frustration, hurt, emotional abuse and manipulation, financial burdens, relationship break ups and lots of disappointment that one or both of your parents are toxic people.
As much as you wish they were different. As much as you long to believe that they do really love you and care about you and will be there for you, when you have a toxic parent, there will come a day when you have to face the facts.
Your relationship with them is full of emotional, physical and spiritual poison and it feels like it’s killing you.
What is a toxic relationship?
By definition, any toxic relationship is primarily characterised 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 you feel loved and accepted for who you are and the relationship feels safe.
A toxic relationship does not feel safe.
It feels anxious and destructive and drains you emotionally, physically and spiritually.
It feels like a burden, an obligation and a trap and because it’s your parents, it’s not generally a toxic relationship that you 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 criticising 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.
People tell you things like “you only get one Mother” or “It’s not that bad” or “You just need to forgive them and move on.”
The guilt inducing messages from family or friends can make you feel even more alone and create more self-doubt and self-blame.
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 behaviour 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 therapy 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, analyse 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 challenging things you have ever done, but ultimately, the most worthwhile.
It will involve dealing with all of your guilt.
It may mean finally giving up on the dream that you can have a close, loving relationship with your parent.
It may 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 actions you will need to take that will make you feel as safe as you can be when dealing with your 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 the right support, clarity and guidance and the best tools, skills and mindset.
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 responsibility to try 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 push it in order 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 recognise 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 and taking actions steps 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?
If you live with chronic illness, getting help with your toxic parent is even more important because the stress the relationship is causing you is going to make it even harder to heal and get the best from your health interventions.
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, my proven therapy programs will help you start freeing yourself from the guilt and manipulation and decide what is best for you.
One step, one new skill at a time.
I have seen relationships change in amazing ways and sometimes, people end up having relationships with their parents that they never thought could be possible!
Just because your relationship with your parent feels toxic right now, it doesn’t mean that it has to stay that way and less than 1% of my clients have had to make the decision to cut ties with their parents because they were simply too emotionally unsafe to deal with.
Book your free Discovery Session with me now and lets talk about how you can start to step away and make life easier for you.
Got a toxic parent or know someone who does? Share my blog and let them know they are not alone.
Stuck in the grief of chronic illness?
You need a copy of my Moving through the Grief of Chronic Illness ebook!
Thank you. Check your inbox for your confirmation email.
Something went wrong.