Cutting ties with emotionally abusive relatives

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Super frequent scribe

Cutting ties with emotionally abusive relatives

Hi Everyone,

 

My husband grew up in a house where emotional and psychological abuse were the norm. When we married I was aware of this and he decided to break the cycle and not subject our children to the abuse he went through growing up. 

 

When our children were younger we visited his parents usually once a fortnight. We always had to visit them and I can honestly say in the 25 years we have been together, they have been to our house no more than 20 times. While they always did and said the right things, it has never been from the heart, there was always something more important.

 

Now my children are older, they are becoming more aware of the emotional abuse their father was subjected to because they have started to do the same to them on our visits.

 

I have now decided we will not be visiting as my children do not need to be subjected to this. I do not feel any loss at cutting my in-laws from our lives, neither do my children. However, even though he understands what they are doing, my husband still feels guilty (yep they love to play the guilt card as often as possible) because I refuse to visit any more.

 

Do any other parents have a similar situation and how do you cope? 

Parent Peer Supporter

Re: Cutting ties with emotionally abusive relatives

Hi @Big_Crab, thanks for sharing what you and your family have been/are working through. The struggle sounds difficult  - you want to protect your kids (and yourselves) but feel like you "should" see the inlaws/grandparents. But I love it that you and your husband decided to break the cycle and build into your family what you want to see happen and protect your kids from harm.  I see this as part of your family journey, seeking out what is best for you guys. I encourage you to make decisions best for your family. 

 

Mod

Re: Cutting ties with emotionally abusive relatives

Hi @Big_Crab, firstly so sorry to hear about the abuse your husband suffered as he grew up; I am sure he appreciates your support and love as he moves through life now. Secondly, well done on breaking the cycle and putting your kids well-being first. Sounds like your children are pretty tuned in and observant too which is awesome.

 

It's not uncommon for victims of psychological abuse (as adolescents by their parents) to then harbor ongoing guilt as an adult. Especially common with narcissistic parents. I can vouch for him here as I had a similar time growing up, one little trick that has helped me is understanding that the emotion of "guilt" actually is just me caring. We only feel guilty if we care enough about something to do so.

It sounds like he loves his children very much, it must be a bit of a storm for him internally, has he ever chatted to a therapist about this situation? Am looking forward to hearing other parent's views on this too Smiley Happy

Parent Peer Supporter

Re: Cutting ties with emotionally abusive relatives

Hi @Big_Crab, as both @TOM-RO and @AeroGirl have said, congratulations to your husband for choosing to break the cycle, and to you for supporting him in that. I'm sorry to hear your husband was raised with such abuse, that would have been awful for him growing up. 

 

I support you in wanting to protect your own children from that behaviour. You are right, they don't need to be subjected to it. And it's great that they are wise to the situation and aware of their mental health.

 

My daughter's father has chosen never to be around, (which has been a blessing just quietly). However the year before last she did search him out, wanting to meet him. To cut a long story short, we did meet up with him over a couple of days, but my daughter wasn't impressed, and after he went back home, started texting her horrible messages and calling the police on us telling them my daughter wasn't safe. We have had to block him, and police also told him to not contact us and to stay away from us. No matter who the relative is, if they are damaging to our kids, the best thing to do is cut ties I believe. 

 

As parents we do know what's best, and I agree with @AeroGirl and encourage you to make the choices that are best for your family. 

 

I feel for the struggle your husband is having with the guilt. Would he consider seeing a counsellor to help him process his thoughts and feelings? 

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Super frequent scribe

Re: Cutting ties with emotionally abusive relatives

Thank you all for your support.

 

Following my husband's last suicide attempt (March 2000), he received counselling which helped him understand just how damaged he was because of the toxic relationship he had. He worked through the emotions and was in a good place with it.

 

Just recently however, he seems to have started to struggle with this again. Probably because his parents are now older and don't keep good health. They play the 'I'm sick and dying' card regularly. I'm sure however they will both outlive us just so they can continue their damaging ways.

 

We have talked extensively about what is happening with our children, and we believe it is in their best interest to not be exposed to them. We have tried our best to provide a supportive and loving environment (just like I was) for our children and I think it is because of this, they are able to see how badly they get treated by their grandparents.

 

 

Parent Peer Supporter

Re: Cutting ties with emotionally abusive relatives

Hi @Big_Crab, I'm glad that your husband previously got some counselling and that you could both see the benefits of it. Perhaps as @TOM-RO mentioned it might be worthwhile seeing the counsellor again (or another one)? and by seeing the counsellor again, it doesn't have to mean that it will be the same as last time, it's just different. I know in my experience, I've seen counsellors on and off over the years, as there seems to be layers to processing emotions. Maybe this could just be the next step in taking care of himself and putting things in place to help him manage these difficult emotions (and to side-step the guilt).

 

So I'm wondering about the other aspects of life - what other types of support do you have around you? any other family members? close friends? community groups? What are some activities that your husband enjoys? that you enjoy doing together as a family? 

 

you're not alone @Big_Crab. and it's just as important that you get the support you need too. 

Parent Peer Supporter

Re: Cutting ties with emotionally abusive relatives

Hi @Big_Crab, firstly you sound like a wonderfully supportive partner and that is a huge advantage in this situation for your husband and your children. May I ask how old are your children now?

 

I agree with the previous posters that some counselling at this time could be a positive step for your husband - as this kind of family guilt runs very deep in our emotions. Even when we know its healthier to cut family out of our lives there is always that little voice inside making us feel guilty. I think its just inbuilt.

 

I have always been of the opinion personally that even family have to earn our respect, time and love. Myself and my siblings had a difficult father growing up and we all had times during our adult years where we stopped including him in our lives. My sister had nothing to do with him for 5 years at one stage.  Each time it  was hard on our mum as she wanted it all to be "happy families" and we felt bad but we didn't want the negativity put on our own children (the grandkids) .  

 

I think most important here is that your husband can safely learn to not take on the guilt, and also feel really validated that he has broken the cycle! That is such a wonderful and difficult thing to do! We all start off saying - Im not going to do xyz like my parents did - but I reckon it is such a powerful force that it can at times be a lifelong battle not to head down those roads. So he is doing an amazing job he really is.

 

Do you find all this a drain on your own emotional reserves as well?  Supporting your husband through this as well as juggling the rest of life's demands can be tricky too. Sounds like you two make a good team with such great communication skills!

 

 

 

 

Parent Peer Supporter

Re: Cutting ties with emotionally abusive relatives

I love the values you and your husband have instilled in your boys @Big_Crab - knowing your self worth, and knowing when to walk away, is a really important attribute you have given them. 

 

It must be so hard for your husband. He sounds like a very caring man, and I can't imagine the inner struggle he must have between loving his parents, but knowing they're not a positive influence. I hope he'll see a counsellor if it starts to become too much again. It must also be very frustrating for you, seeing what's going on and living with the effects it has on your family.

 

It's fantastic the open communication you have within your family. Being able to talk openly and honestly certainly creates a strong family bond doesn't it. 

 

 

Prolific scribe

Re: Cutting ties with emotionally abusive relatives

We went through this 2 years ago because I didn't want my children seeing me continually hurt. I come from a large family and have cut all but 2 of them off. Best thing I ever did and don't miss any of it. And I can answer the Q's my girls ask me quite easily without blame. We've had counselling for it and I am happy that I eventually just let go. I have enough trauma with my own without adding the rest of the mob to it!!
Parent Peer Supporter

Re: Cutting ties with emotionally abusive relatives

I'm sorry to hear that you've been through this with your family too @Lily17. Good on you for seeking counselling to help you let go and move on. 

 

If you feel comfortable sharing, what were the things have helped you the most in letting go?