Monday, February 21, 2011

Divorcing Your Parents

Recently, the Daily Mail published an article entitled, “I’ve Divorced My Parents (and it’s breaking my heart)”.  It was about a 40-year-old woman who was the only child of divorced parents.  The article described many things, including her childhood (happy) and the people her parents had become.  The examples she provided of their behavior were not criminal, but they were sad.  Due to multiple instances of mental cruelty, she “divorced” her parents.  The tone of the article indicated she was still grieving for the parents she never really had.  The most astonishing thing wasn’t the article itself, but the responses:  over 200, last I checked.  It seems that many, many people have done the same thing.

Reading the responses to the article was enlightening.  Now, I no longer think my sibling and I are among the few who have little to do with their parents.

When we’re growing up, we are taught to love, obey and respect our parents.  They raise, nurture, teach, feed, clothe, shelter, guide and protect us.  Many of us are grateful for the sacrifices our parents made for us.  I’m no different.  It’s in large part due to my parents that I have become the strong, independent woman I am today.  I respect them for that.

Some people may wonder why my sibling and I are not close to our parents and have little contact with them.  It is because we do not love or respect the people they have become.  Additionally, their behaviors affect not only their health and safety, but the health and safety of others.  After many years of being repeatedly belittled and manipulated by my mother, I realized that I did not have to listen to the jealous, negative, nasty vitriol she often spewed.  Add to that their gambling and drinking addictions, and I think many people would understand why we do not wish to be a part of their toxic environment.

Deciding to limit contact with our parents was confusing, difficult, and sad.  For a long time, I felt guilty.  We’re supposed to love our parents, right?  After understanding that we were not responsible for their behavior, their problems or their poor choices, I realized it was the best thing to do.  Frankly, it was a relief.  No longer do I feel guilty about it.  Although we email, phone, and play “happy families” occasionally, I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders because I’m not beat down all the time anymore.  It’s not that we aren’t friendly to them.  We are.  In fact, most people would be shocked to know the truth.  It’s just that we don’t confide in them or trust them.  It took many, many times of the trust being broken to learn my lesson.

I don’t expect people with close familial relationships to understand this.  Limiting (or eliminating) time with your parents is a difficult thing to do.  In our case, it was necessary to preserve our sanity and to clear the path for us to go forward instead of constantly being pulled backward.  Ultimately, it is up to every person to decide what works best for them.  If your relationship doesn’t leave you a better person or isn’t mutually beneficial, it is time to reconsider the terms of the relationship.  This goes for all relationships, not just family.  Sometimes, sadly, it becomes about self-preservation.  You are worth it.  Do not allow anyone to treat you poorly or bring you down, even if they’re related.


  1. I can understand this...a didn't have the issue with my mom...she was awesome, and my dad died when I was around 11...but I had the same type of situation with two of my brothers...cordial but certainly not close.

  2. i have a great relationship with my mother, and a good one with my father until he died, but it took a few years to get the thing with father right. two strong willed males with thick heads..

    i can understand the family dynamic tho'. i agree, if it is broke, sometimes the best fix is to throw it away.

    good post as usual!

    Bruce Johnson JADIP
    Evil Twin
    stupid stuff I see and hear
    The Dreamodeling Guy
    The Guy Book
    The Guy Book

  3. great post.Not all families are baked dinner on sundays and pass me the icecream bowl. You have to do whats best for you. Glad you came to a solution.Too many even adult children hang on to guilt feelings for too long in regard to parents.

  4. As you prob know from some of my posts, my mother has been a drug addict for over 30 years. For years I was bitter, angry and resentful, but eventually I had to realize that holding on to all that hostility was hurting me, not her. So, I forgave her and let her go.

    Great post.

  5. The key word in your post was: Toxic.
    You can love someone but if they are toxic to you, detaching is the only right thing to do. I don't believe in this kind of thing - family is family! And yet,...ask me how long it's been since I spoke to my older sister. She was my sister, mom and best friend for years and when my dad died,..Well lets just say it was a terrible, terrible shock. She is toxic to me. Take care of YOU!

  6. Great post. I always worry that my estranged dad is getting up in age and I'm (technically) his only child. What happens if he ever becomes incapacitated?

    I think a lot of people know how you feel, but it doesn't come out so much due to shame or guilt. I'm glad you wrote this.

    hed hed above water

  7. While my relationship with my father is outstanding, my relationship with my mother is strained at best. I do still have contact with her, but we are nothing like what we used to be.

  8. I can't personally relate but I know plenty of people that have terrible relationships with their parents and it would be EXTREMELY beneficial for them to limit contact... but it's hard. Especially around holidays and events.

  9. I divorced my ex because of his dysfunctional relationship with his parents.
    I think it's pretty courageous that you speak so openly about this. You're right, probably some people don't get it, but clearly this is an issue for more people than some folks realize.

  10. I understand how you must be feeling.....*hugs* I don't have anything more to say....just that I understand.


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