If the adult relationship you share with your parents is toxic, it?s time to cut the cord.
Image by @coffeekai via Twenty20
by: E.B. Johnson
The relationships we share with our parents are special, but they can be complex, challenging and nuanced too. While some enjoy a bright, supportive bond with their former caretakers in adulthood ? the same can not be said for everyone. For some, the relationship that bridges the space with their parents is a toxic one. And one that seriously undermines their happiness and mental wellbeing later on in life.
When the adult relationship you share with your parents becomes toxic, it?s important to address it with honest and with clarity. You are not beholden to anyone else?s pain, and you do not have to allow anyone to treat you poorly just because of the space they inhabit in your life. Find that life with your parents is fraught with conflict, anger, resentment and chaos? It might be time to cut the cord and live a life more freed.
Little means more than how we see our parents.
Our parents form a crucial part of our lives, and they form the first baseline by which we determine the course of our behaviors, personality and even our relationships. Little means more than how we see our parents. They are like gods to us, but when our relationship with them erodes, it can be a harrowing thing to witness. From constant conflict to endless criticizing ? a toxic child-parent relationship is not one that should be taken lightly.
Though we often like to think of toxic relationships as only relating to our lovers and our friends, they also apply to our parents and caretakers too. In our adult lives, these bonds can become complicated and fraught; but that?s no excuse for demeaning behavior, or otherwise undermining our happiness and our confidence.
Just as we cut-out and cut-off those partners who abuse us and shout us down emotionally, we have to learn to create space and cut the cord with our toxic parents. The process is a long one, and one that requires patience and a major dose of brutal personal honesty. You deserve to be happy, and that includes the connections you share with the people who call themselves your parents. Don?t take abuse, no matter what form it comes in. Stick up for yourself and your wellbeing and do it with understanding and confidence.
Why you allow your parents to treat you poorly.
Even though we know our parents are toxic people, we often allow them to continue in their behavior unchecked. Why? While the reasons may vary, they all have the same key in being overcome: tapping into our understanding while uncovering the various reasons behind our refusal to stand up to our toxic parents.
When we grow up as the victims of dysfunctional parents and homes, it can skew the way we see relationships while warping the way attach. Often, this truth manifests as insecure attachment ? in which you cower before your parents and accept their toxic behavior in a desperate ploy to receive their love or approval. This outward validation always ends in disappointment, however, and places far too much power in the hands of people who have no business holding it.
There is a lot of societal pressure when it comes to our parents, and expectations that follow us all the way through childhood and into adulthood. The problem with this, however, is that society isn?t privy to what goes on in your family behind closed doors. Despite that, many cultures demand unquestioned allegiance to the parental unit; as well as the quiet secret-keeping of their indiscriminate abuses.
Feelings of guilt
As children, there is a certain level of guilt that comes with watching your parents provide for you. Whether they overtly use this guilt against you or not, it?s hard to see the very real and valid concerns you have as justified ? when you also see the people that you love struggling. We have to separate ourselves from that guilt, however, with the understanding that we did not ask for our parents to sacrifice for us. It was a choice they made when they brought us into this world.
Not every soul clings to a toxic parent-child relationship in adulthood because they want to. Sometimes, it results from total necessity. If you are dependent on your parents for anything (be it shelter, food, money, support, etc) ? then it can strip you of your independence and your ability to provide those things for yourself. Knowing this, you accept their poor behavior (and even abuse) in order to keep yourself alive, comfortable, or otherwise in the physical state you find yourself in now.
Do you rely on your parents for the money that keeps you housed, fed and alive? Just as this financial dependence can land us in hot water when it comes to our romantic relationships, the same could be said of our parents. The more financially dependent on them you are, the more likely you are to put up behaviors that you wouldn?t otherwise allow around your dog. Financial insecurity is a very real determiner of happiness and where our boundary lines lie.
Signs your adult child-parent relationship is toxic.
Concerned that the relationship you share with your parents is a toxic one? These are the most common warning signs that it?s time to create some space and cut the cord between you and your caretakers.
Constant blame game
Toxic parents love a blame game. In these occurrences, everything is always your fault, and you?re always to blame for every bad thing that happens in your life (and theirs). Your parents might also have a total inability to be accountable, and they might pass that same in-accountability down to you too. Though you are forced to shoulder the burden of their blame, you may find yourself behaving the same way in your own later partnerships; going out of your way to shift the blame, whether you realize it or not.
Manipulation comes standard in the toxic adult child-parent relationship. Usually, this manipulation occurs in the form of emotional blackmail. This can manifest in many shapes, but it usually plays out as a sort of shame-blame game that keeps you beholden to the historical list of ?life-affirming? gifts your parent has supposedly bequeathed to you. Likewise, your parents might use rage or threats to hold you hostage to their relationship. This, in any instance, is emotional abuse.
Think back to the last time you opened up or tried to share how you were feeling with your parents. Did they quickly shut down the situation? Or otherwise downplay or deny your feelings as being ?a bit over the top?? This dismissal is not healthy, and it?s not a normal part of a happy relationship. It?s a toxic behavior, and one that is often used to silence victims in order to avoid facing up to hard truths. When someone opens up about their feelings, we have a duty to respect them whether we agree with them or not.
Always on the attack
Parents who criticize you, go out of their way to point out your flaws, or belittle you, are toxic people. On the other side of that, when conflict is the norm, and you find yourselves constantly at odds and constantly at one another?s throats ? it?s a massive red flag that cannot be ignored. This isn?t normal behavior, nor is it conducive to building happiness in our lives. It?s important to remember that you are not beholden to anyone else?s historical choices, nor are you required to withstand their abuse (in any form).
Zero respect for boundaries
Boundaries are a crucial part of any relationship, but they become especially important in our adult child-parent relationships. Our parents forever see us as their little children, but we have to make sure we dissuade them of this notion through a constant reaffirmation of our boundaries. That means sticking up for our physical privacy and the walls we put up around certain relationships or experiences in our lives. We are entitled to privacy, and we are entitled to be treated in a way that aligns with our values.
Love and competition
The relationship we share with our parents and caretakers changes over time, but sometimes this is not for the best. As you age, you might notice that what was once a supportive relationship morphs into a competitive one. More and more, your parent begins to see you as a threat, and makes their love more of a competition than an unconditional badge of support and affection.
Is the love and affection your parents show you completely conditional? If you went off the grid tomorrow, dyed your hair purple and changed your name to ?Herbie? ? would they welcome you with the same open arms into their homes? Unconditional love means unconditional love. It means letting people lead their own journeys and loving them in spite of it. A parent that withholds love or affection when their child does ?wrong? is someone who is more concerned with control than love.
Refusal to listen
Communication is a key component of any relationship, but it requires listening to one another as much as it requires talking at one another. This is especially true for our parent-child relationships; especially in today?s increasingly polarized climate. A parent that refuses to listen to their child is not a parent who loves their child. When we love someone, we want to know who they are and we want to know their perspective. This happens through communication and learning how to actively listen to the people we love.
How to cut the cord and stand on your own two feet.
Don?t allow your parents to take advantage of you and your needs forever. Find the courage to stand up for yourself and empower incredible transformation within your life and your future. No one has the power to change your life but you, but it takes action and a dose of brutal and radical self-acceptance.
1. Set some boundaries
Before you confront your parents or begin any dramatic separations, it?s important that you get clear on your boundaries and what you want from such a relationship. Not all toxic parent-child relationships have to end in explosions and estrangement. It is possible to set up limitations for yourself and then demand respect of those limitations.
Get away from your parents and take some time considering what you want that relationship to look like. Don?t answer phone calls or texts. Don?t rush over for Sunday dinner. Instead, spend some time on your own and really look at their behavior and how it affects you.
Compare this behavior to what you want (ideally) and then work inward for the compromise where your boundary lines stand. Boundaries are crucial for any relationship to work, as they help us to communicate expectations and understand what?s expected of us as well. Figure out what things matter most to you and figure out too what behaviors you need to be surrounded by in order to feel as though you are secure and confident.
2. Discover your courage
It?s not enough to simply identify the boundary lines that keep your heart and your psyche safe your your toxic parental attacks. Once you know where the limits lie, you have to lean into your courage and stick up for them (and yourself). This means getting more assertive and verbally communicating our needs to the people we fear most. Beyond that, it also means taking action when those limits are disrespected or otherwise dismissed.
Be assertive and start sticking up for your boundaries and your limitations. You have a right to the draw the line ? even with your parents. No one else can or will take better care of your physical and mental wellbeing.
Communicate where your boundary lines lie, and what behaviors you will and will not accept from them. Make it clear that you are your own person and explicitly relate your right to equal happiness and peace if necessary. Just because they are your parent does not mean that they are more entitled to life than you are. They are little more than the vessel that brought you here. Appreciate them, value them, but don?t put them on pedestals they don?t belong on.
3. Find a way to accept the truth
The journey to finding your freedom is not an easy one when it comes to toxic parents. Setting boundaries is key, but so too is accepting some core truths that have the ability to empower and motivate you. Primary among these truths is the realization that you don?t owe your parents your happiness. Just because they gave you life ? and sheltered that life ? does not entitle them to your wellbeing. You don?t have to inflict pain on yourself in order to match their own. You can walk away, and you can choose a better life.
Understand that your parents don?t have to heal for you to get well. Know that you don?t have to live a miserable, drama-filled life just because they did. You don?t owe them anything, at the end of the day. But you do owe yourself. After all, you are the one who has carried you this far, and you alone will be there at the very end.
Find a way to accept these truths and find a way to understand who you are apart from your parents. You have a right to live a life that is peaceful and fulfilling; a life that is aligned in respect with your authentic values. Accept that you are in control of your own life, and that you don?t have to maintain a painful relationship with someone who cannot see you for who you truly are. The sooner you accept these truths, the more possible it will become for you to create the necessary space to find your peace.
4. Lean into the space
Space is a powerful thing with a special way of helping us to uncover our ultimate paths. It can be difficult to know what to do with your challenging parents in adulthood, and we can become blinded by all the outward pressures and perspectives. By creating space, however, we can get closer to our ultimate truths and make more effective decisions for our lives and our futures.
Put some space between you and your parents, both physically and emotionally. You don?t have to move to the other side of the world, but you should go out of your way to make it clear that you?re your own person, with a life that is lead a part of their expectations.
Stop being beholden to their calls. Don?t rush to the phone when they text and don?t feel obligated to put yourself in their presence every time they request it. You have a right to your independence, and you have a natural right to explore who you are within that space. We cannot become who we are meant to be when we?re forever covered by the shadow of someone else.
5. Be a better you than they were
If you truly want to overcome a problematic child-parent relationship, you have to become committed to becoming a better version of yourself. These specific types of toxic relationships take a lasting toll on our confidence, our emotions, and even our understanding of self. In order to overcome these lasting effects, you have to commit to becoming a better person than your parents were, while letting go of the pain they?ve left you.
Shed the guilt and the heartache that your parents have handed down to you. Be the authentic and courageous person they didn?t have the chance to be. Be a better version of yourself than they were ever able to imagine for themselves. They say that revenge is a life best lived, so live well and live without fear of their judgement or their condemnation.
Reach for your enlightenment and your truth and don?t let anyone hold you back. Your parents ? when it all comes down to it ? are just people. They are no better than you, and they never were. Your knowledge and your experience are sufficient for you to make decisions for yourself. You are smart enough and capable enough to determine the flow of your own life. Stop clinging to their darkness and reach for a light of your own. Be better than they were and heal yourself through a life better lived.
Putting it all together?
The relationship we share with our parents is important, and it can define who we are and what we want from life. Sometimes, however, this relationship is toxic and haunts our adult life. In order to safeguard our wellbeing, we have to get honest about our needs and take action in the name of our mental and emotional health. No parent has the right to dismiss, belittle or otherwise demean their child?no matter what age they might be.
Set some boundaries and be honest about what behaviors you are and are not willing to accept from your parents. Dig deep, and tap into that courage that has brought you this far. Stick up for yourself and communicate these boundaries to your parents. Communicate too what the consequences of non-compliance will be. You don?t have to entertain abusers and people who belittle you or devalue your contributions. You have a right to respect. Accept these truths and create some space between you and your parents ? so that you can figure out what you need to do next. When you?re ready, cut the cord, and commit to becoming a better person than they ever had the chance to be. You don?t have to carry the pain of a toxic parent forever. Let go and start living a life that is authentically yours.