Can you cut yourself off from parents who are toxic? How do you do it?
Parent-child relationships are such a complicated matter that it is very easy for us to get lost in them. It often happens that despite our mutual love and respect, we do not feel like meeting or talking to our loved ones. This is completely natural, as it is not our responsibility to maintain constant contact with our family.
What if you start to feel negative emotions at the mere thought of talking to or meeting your parents? How can you tell if you have a toxic relationship with your parents? How can you cut yourself off? Can you do it without disappointing them? We suggest.
Cutting the emotional umbilical cord, or how to break free from a toxic relationship with your parents?
It is said that childhood ends when we begin to understand that our parents are not saints, and that our lives are not dependent on them. This knowledge alone can be very cleansing for us, but it is often the case that despite leaving the family home, we feel overwhelmed by the relationship with our father or mother. Sometimes the mere anticipation of a meeting or a phone call makes us anxious or fearful, and the memory of our parents in our minds triggers negative emotions. If these types of feelings come up in us every time we are confronted, it is possible that we should think about “cutting the umbilical cord.”
Unfortunately, it is much easier for us to realize that something in our relationship with our parents is not working than to take steps to loosen it. This most likely comes from a feeling that the father or mother simply can’t cope without us. Where does our sense of responsibility for our parents come from? Most often it is caused by things we heard while growing up, such as:
- blaming us for failures in life (for example: “when you were born, I had to quit my job”, “when you were born, we had to move”),
- dumping their frustrations on us (“because of you, I can’t go out to a meeting”, “because of you, I’m arguing with my mother”),
- confiding in unworked traumas (such as relationship failures with the other parent).
Unfortunately, like all toxic behaviors, they are usually given as a gift from their parents, or our grandparents. If your parents grew up in similar circumstances, maintaining this type of relationship is a completely natural course of action for them, and it may be hard for them to understand why you’re starting to have a problem with it years later.
Why should you become independent as soon as possible?
Getting rid of the emotional umbilical cord is one of the most important things for your development. You can’t feel 100% good about yourself if you’re blocked by frustrating commitments and inflated expectations of yourself that often don’t align with your vision of the world. Having relationships in your life that suck the energy out of you will have a direct impact on your commitment to your career and your relationship with another person. What’s more, persisting in this type of toxic pattern can translate to your relationship with your children when you start a family yourself.
If you continue to feel guilty with your need for independence, remember that:
- you are not your parents, and you are not responsible for their traumas and unworked emotions,
- you cannot change your parents, no matter how hard you try,
- your parents don’t have to change for you to feel good about yourself,
- hidden resentments and anger will resurface and make it difficult for you to be happy,
- you don’t have to like meeting and talking to your parents to continue to love and be attached to them,
- if you don’t work to reduce the number of situations that are frustrating to you, it will be much harder to achieve emotional balance in all areas of your life,
- if you stay in a toxic emotional relationship, you will not be able to get out of the pattern that your grandparents passed on to your parents, and consequently you may hurt your offspring in the same way.
Time to “divorce” your parents
In some cases, the only right option is to cut off contact with your parents altogether. This is especially true in situations where developing emotional boundaries hasn’t worked or there is mental or physical violence in the relationship. It is often associated with parents who are abusive or prone to addiction. Unfortunately, breaking contact will not be easy and may involve feelings of intense sadness and a disturbed sense of security. Remember that even in your moments of greatest brokenness, you are not alone. The problem of a toxic relationship with your family affects a huge number of people, and you can find descriptions of similar situations on specialized forums on this topic. If you can, let a friend or partner know that you may be going through a difficult time and that you need support. Don’t be afraid to see a psychotherapist who can help you understand all the emotions that are swirling around inside you.
Remember that cutting off from your parents doesn’t always have to mean cutting off contact with them completely. Most often, it helps to develop an awareness that their behavior doesn’t have to have any impact on you at all. Try to emotionally distance yourself from the words you hear from your loved ones, always rationalize them and think carefully before you take them to heart. Don’t forget that the negative emotions that your parents direct towards you stem from their problems, not yours. Learn to set limits on the amount of visits and phone calls. Try being assertive if you don’t feel like having a conversation or it goes in a direction you don’t like. Cutting off the umbilical cord is a tedious and lengthy process, but it is necessary if you want to strive to maintain only healthy relationships in your life.
Will cutting off your parents make them unhappy?
How your parents react to you putting up boundaries depends mostly on their character, but usually coming to terms with this turn of events doesn’t come too easily. In the early stages, toxic behavior may be even more common: your parents will try to force you to maintain contact on their terms, using methods they are familiar with and have used before. Often, however, having your child cut the umbilical cord encourages them to have a deeper internal dialogue and see their mistakes, which gives them room to work on their character.
Remember that even if trying to “divorce” your parents will be very painful and disappointing for them, it shouldn’t make you doubt the plan. If you choose to be stuck in a toxic and frustrating relationship with others, it will be much harder for you to find the space to work on yourself and create emotional balance. Your parents’ reaction is solely their business, and in no way should you blame yourself for it.
How can you tell if your relationship with your parents is toxic?
The term “toxic relationship” has no rigid framework or patterns. It is primarily about whether you feel comfortable confronting your family members. Do conversations and encounters with your relatives bring you positive associations, or do they give you more of a headache? How can you tell if your parents are energy vampires? Pay attention to these characteristic behaviors:
- dramatizing and making a scene,
- using emotional blackmail,
- harsh criticism and comparison with others,
- blaming you for situations and failures in their lives,
- being overly controlling and nosy in your life,
- ignoring your needs and emotions,
- inducing guilt and “playing the victim”,
- being offended and “punished with silence”.
- inability to admit a mistake and say the word sorry,
- making excessive and unrealistic demands of you,
- violating your emotional and physical boundaries.
If you have ticked at least a few points from the list above, the relationship you have with your parents may be worse for your mental balance than you think. If you feel that you are unable to cut the emotional umbilical cord despite the advice we have given you, consider seeing a qualified psychotherapist. A professional will know how (step by step), to guide you towards ending this toxic relationship.
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