Toxic relationship with family/dealing

Seeking advice.

I am mid to late 40s, youngest, parents still married in their mid 70s. No grandkids, sister is married. We all live within a 2hr radius of each other.

My father abused me (beatings and verbal/emotional/rage outlet/punching bag) my whole life but it got 10x worse when my sister left for college and I hit puberty. I have a rebellious streak and a smart mouth but I was a generally good kid. Good grades, As and Bs, no trouble at school, no police interactions, no breaking curfew even. I did chores every week, a whole list, and I did a good job. I talked back, wore a lot of black clothes and skull jewelry, and hung out with boys with long hair. My mother and my sister received a fraction of the abuse I got from him, I was the target, and they did not defend me. They blamed me as well, that I was bad, I needed to apologize, I needed to change my behavior, I made him angry, I pushed him too far. He, with their help, groomed me for being the victim of male abusers. The message was sometimes men who love you are going to abuse you because you deserve it. After a lot of poor experiences with men, I am committed single now, last 8 years. The common theme throughout my life is they brand me as extra sensitive and I feel things stronger then normal. I overheard my sister say I was the posted child for untreated mental illness. I should mention all 3 of them are taking Rx for depression/anxiety etc etc. I’m pretty introverted and I’m ok with that, I really like being alone, but the other view of that is withdrawn and antisocial. I tolerate a lot of bad behavior towards myself because I lack the necessary judgement to determine what appropriate boundaries are. And once we are way past that I suffer from bouts of rage that seem to come out of no where/overreacting etc because I am so tired and angry. I was just a KID, it was wrong and I wish I fought back, back then.

I spent a lot of time away from them as soon as I graduated HS, years, really didn’t reconnect until my mid-30s. I guess I thought surely now I was successful enough to come back and be accepted. I apologized profusely for all the trouble I caused them by being a family pariah. Father called me the prodigal child. I dropped out of college so I’m a failure there too. Mother has never stopped dispensing back to school and career change advice. I have supported myself since I was 19 years old. I started my own biz in 2002 and it’s been my sole income source since 2003. I’m not rich but I have no debt other then the mortgage which is 19 years in good standing. I have never asked them or anyone else for money. I’m an upstanding, contributing member of my community, with excellent references and I am established in my line of business. It’s very disorienting to me to go back “home” and be treated the way they treat me. Like I am an idiot that knows nothing. Everything I say is met with suspicion or denial, even answers to direct questions, even when my profession becomes the subject of discussion.

Father has addressed his abuse to me only once. When I was lamenting a current adolescent dog’s challenging behavior problem, he suggested I knock him around a little bit. I, aghast, said you don’t ever beat a dog. He said it worked with you. I said well maybe that’s why I’m such a mess. He laughed.

At family gatherings since COVID (we had blessed time apart) father has lambasted me out of the blue for my “behavior” in front of god and everybody. It’s like I have been time warped back to 1980-whatever at the kitchen table and all hell is about to rain down in my world.

Recently sister told me privately following an abusive outburst from Father directed at me at a family gathering that he had no right to treat me like that and took some actual responsibility for never coming to my defense. That was uplifting. I was very surprised when she told me that. But the behavior has repeated and she remains sitting there silently. She also stopped texting me later about it. The message is I am causing it. Just that once was unfair.

It takes me DAYS to recover my mental health and self esteem back to normal levels after seeing them for any length of time anymore. I am filled with self loathing, confusion, anger, my appearance in the mirror changes-I find myself incredibly ugly, like shamefully so, I have vague suicidal thoughts, for days. Last time I said for ef sake, out loud, and walked out. Long story short, I actually ended up articulating to mom that she never defended me against him and to him that he treats me like garbage. He wanted to hug it away and when I said no thanks he said well that may be how you see it but that’s not how I see it, sniff, and walked out. So I guess that’s that. Took me 46 years to get the courage to say, stop, the way you treat me is wrong, and with the wave of his hand the matter is dismissed. Next visit he demanded to know what is wrong with me. That I was obviously angry at them (them) and what have they done that is so horrible. And would not let it go. Mom got so angry at me for denying (pathetically and with no conviction) that I was angry at them and walked out. I apologized to her later and she said her heart aches for me. I don’t know what that means.

Bottom line is there are 2 sides to every story and I may be a completely toxic person and exceptionally good at hiding that from the rest of the world but my family who REALLY know me know the secret, that I am beyond reproach.

The real problem: Family will not take no visiting for an answer. If I dodge or decline their invites they will come to me. They decide they are going to visit and I can only put them off so long. My dog is miserable while they are here and vacillates between huddled in my lap and hiding upstairs. This from a generally pretty aloof dog that doesn’t even follow me into the bathroom (never has). They will not restrain their dog “he’s just playing!” who constantly pesters, jumps on his face, and frantically humps my dog who looks like he wants to die. I feel like even if I don’t stand up for myself and say I need distance, at least I should stand up for my dog. Why should he have to feel that way for any length of time? Of course I’m thinking no one protected me or stood up for me, I need to break the cycle and I am tiger mom for my dog. This is a very recent development as their dog is about 18mo old. The problem was apparent the last 2 visits and I won’t allow it again.

I want to have a loving relationship with my family. They never say I love you, none of them. I have love for all of them and I want so badly to have the kind of family I see other people have that is nurturing and encouraging and safe solace and I try to paint them as that and pretended for some years but it’s not working anymore and I’m just bitter and angry and so tired of feeling so terrible about myself when they rear their ugly heads into my peaceful, functional world.

What would you do? Therapy of course but it is prohibitively expensive and I have no kind of time. I just need someone to talk it out with.

First I would cut off contact for an indefinite period. You can’t have a loving relationship with people that don’t love you, or who see love as being deeply entangled and taking out their pain on others close to them. You need to go cold turkey on them for a while and not answer the door if they turn up.

Second you need some counselling. Find it somehow. You need help in dealing with this. Not in becoming a better person etc but in how to disentangle yourself from your family. They are still making you think you are the problem. Abuse from parents is never the fault of the child. It is always the fault of the parents.

Your Goth phase was not you being bad. It was you trying to establish a sense of self and autonomy in a family that wanted to extinguish that, and wasn’t going to allow you any positive autonomy. Your Goth rebellion saved your life. Cherish it, don’t apologize.

Your #1 problem now is not figuring out how to reconcile with your family and make them love you. Your #1 problem now is how to get to a place where you don’t care about fixing your family because you are not going to change them. Once you don’t care, then you can re establish some kind of contact.

Very often adult children from abusive or dysfunctional homes think it’s their task to save their parents from themselves. It’s not. You can’t.

Look at your friends with teen or adult children. Who has the power? What parent is going to accept an attempt by children to change their basic way of being?

Your task in life is to become whole and unentangled and outward looking. Your family is what it is. You don’t get to choose your family and you landed in a bad situation. You did not create it and you can’t fix the past. You have to let it go.

That’s where counseling helps. In getting your inner permission to let go.


First off big hugs. Second therapy. It’s not so ridiculously expensive as it used to be. Especially on line therapy. Having an outside person listen to your story and all your history is cleansing. Especially when the people around you have your entire life barfed their dysfunction back on you. The weird thing about life long family dysfunction is that sadly people gravitate towards what is familiar… what was normalized. It’s like the chaos is recognizable so it must be normal ! Also it is so common for one family member, one child… to be the whipping post. You seriously have to stop eating your family’s history because it’s hurting you. You protect your dog like they should have protected you. Now you need to protect yourself.


Aw man. I’m sorry you have had to go through all this. I agree with everything Scribbler said. I would like to think that if I was self supportive from a young age and wasn’t relying on toxic family for a damn thing, I would be complete no contact in your situation. I understand people get guilted because “it’s family” but you need to do what’s best for you. Your family sounds incredibly awful and you deserve to be around people who treat you nicely and with respect, and/or to enjoy your own peace and quiet.

Therapy will definitely help!! I am a huge proponent and have had a lot of success with with it personally.

If they would come to you after so long, lock the doors and make sure they don’t have keys. You can always call the police if they refuse to leave your property.


Sound like learning to put all that away would be best, therapy with a good, solid family counselor the way to go, ask your doctor for one.

Hard to get over wanting to please and get approval from abusers, but there is a time for that and is more than time, given your history as told.

Our mother was mean like that, a horrible, common baggage some that went thru the wars and jails and concentration camps carried.
She was now an outright mean person, thankfully to all of us, kids and our father, so we didn’t feel singled out.
Myself and younger brother got out of it, were always unfailingly polite, but as distant as possible and set firm boundaries.
Father and older brother kept being dependent of her and just endured.
We felt sorry for them, but was their choice, so stayed out of it.

I am always amazed about how normal, functional families manage without tearing each other apart or ganging on each other, but many seem to do ok.

The main lesson the four of us learned is to absolutely, at any cost, to avoid conflict, find ways to get along or leave the scene.

Sounds like you valiantly tried to assert yourself, but could not “out-mean” a mean person in battle, most of us won’t go there.
We just are not mean enough, and get stuck in a toxic dependency.

You have your life, they are not part of it or deserve to be, learn that and to, when they want to come, say “not a good time now, maybe another day” and stick with it, no excuses, no exceptions, if they come send them to a hotel and finding entertainment on their own time, you are not available, don’t go out with them, not “this once”, until they get it.

Don’t fight them, you can’t ever win, were groomed for that, so don’t even try, just shut them out. Learn to change your expectations of how they should relate to you now you have proven yourself, they are not into that, the weakling and their drive to tear you down is all you are to them.

Try a good counselor, they have seen it all and know all ways to help you think thru this and ways to protect yourself, sounds like some professional advice could help you, once you started to look for a way to handle them and what is now their problem, reaping what they have been sowing.
There is no excuse for them to have abused you because you didn’t fit their expectations.
There are other, more sensible ways to work that out than making you a scapegoat of their frustrations, ugh!


Thank you for replying and being kind and supportive. It was therapeutic just to write it down and read your replies.

Professional therapy is almost certainly where I am going with this sooner or later. I haven’t been in years but it’s helped me multiple times in the past. I know it’s the answer. Am looking for temp bandaids at current.


The bandaid is to accept that they will never, ever,ever ever change.

While my story doesn’t include physical abuse, we three kids took a lot of emotional abuse from dad and my codependent mom just made sure we were all at least 49% to blame as well.

I wish I didn’t want their love and respect and concern and consideration, I have learned to not expect it, but yeah…it would be nice to have. But they don’t have that stuff in themselves. They just don’t. So, I keep them at a safe enough distance. If I never saw or spoke to my dad again that would be ideal. I’ve given up, I’m 51 years old. He will not get better, he’ll just tell more falsehoods as he’s working on fooling Jesus and getting into heaven. Mom, well, I like to make her laugh but I expect nothing substantial or meaningful in talking to her. I am also getting back into counseling as he still trips my triggers and I’m tired of how I respond.

It’s hard. Please hug yourself and accept yourself and be kind to yourself.


You need to physically get these people out of your life. I’m reading your sentence about the mortgage as you’ve been in the same house for all those years, is that right? If you are ambivalent or dislike the house I would literally sell up, move, and not provide them with the new address. I’m guessing you like where you live though. You can stop them from coming, that is within your power. You don’t have to let them in the front door. If anyone of them has a spare key, change the locks now. This is going to be tough, but if they show up, with prior warning that they are not welcome, call law enforcement and have them removed, they are trespassing. I’m not in the US, but I would look in to what is needed to obtain an injunction against them in case you need to go down that road.

You have all ready saved yourself so many times in the past, you are so capable of living without them. I think you need to mourn the loss of the family that you deserved to have and accept that these people aren’t capable of being the loving and nurturing support that you should have had in the past and won’t be any different in the future.


Put in distance and stop wanting to please.

It can help to look at children and teens. Even ones that are acting out. Notice how small young and vulnerable they are. How totally unfair it would be to abuse them. Look at photos of yourself and see how young you were.

Parents that abuse emotionally or physically do it to meet their own needs. It’s so clear to see when you watch people blow up at cowering dogs or panicked horses. Nothing the child or animal did warrants that reaction.

Parents absolutely will brand one child the troublemaker and one the collaborator and good child. Sometimes it’s as simple as one child is just more emotionally sensitive and the parents can’t tolerate that. Finding out that you are “still brooding over what happened 25 years ago” just plays into that narrative that you’re unreasonable.

Abusive parents rarely change their basic orientation unless they go on their own psychological journey like AA etc because they cannot change on their own and you as child cannot change them.

Anything you say is just more proof that you are ungrateful and hysterical and a problem.

When you didn’t get your needs met as a child it’s really tempting to think that you can alter the reality to get your needs met now, by being better or pleasing them.

But it does not work that way.

If for instance you had graduated from college it would be the wrong degree or the wrong school or or would have given you hoity toity airs and suspect politics. The actual topic of the abuse is irrelevant. The point is they need to abuse you for the dynamics of this particular family to function. That is your role in this family. You can’t change it and you will never be nurtured here. So walk away.

Aging people may mellow but they also get disinhibited and say mean things. They also stop caring what you think about them.


You have to be able to maintain your safe bubble in order to get some peace in your head; you need to have that control as an adult to protect yourself and as you realize, the part of you that you see in what your dog suffers. This is a boundary you have to establish. I don’t know if they warn you they’re coming or just pop in but I’d put some thought into how to build your moat. Locked doors that you don’t answer, weekends away with the dog if they seem to be showing up, do what it takes to enforce your “no”. Maybe visits are a lunch or weekend at a neutral location that you can leave if you need to go. Maybe you combine a visit to them with your own hotel room and car so you can go when needed. Maybe you have a friend that is picking you up at a set time and that’s the boundary line, visit ends . Just spit balling ideas. If you always feel like the next attack is pending without any control you’re not going to feel safe enough in your head to work on this. To me, I agree that you need to go back to no contact for your own sake. (see locked doors, above) This is too much to deal with, you’re just in the lion’s den when you’re with them and no way to defend yourself. It’s ok to let them go and focus on yourself until/IF you decide to try to rebuild something.

It sounds like things have been stirred up lately; things are being said that weren’t before. That can be a moment of growth or dear ol dad could dig in his heels and be worse than ever b/c he doesn’t have a clue or motivation to make things better now and that’s going to make him mad and off he goes. You don’t need to control that, just speak your truth to them when you want to do that and release it, don’t engage, don’t have expectations of their responses, just let them sit with whatever you say if you even want to say anything. Be mama bear for yourself and your pup.

There is a ton of information just in articles online that you might find with valuable nuggets until you can find some counseling. Emotional neglect, adult children of abusers, cutting ties with toxic families, stages of grief, google any of those things and you’ll start to kick up books, articles and pages that will help you find support. You sound like you’re going through the stages of grief now; if you can bolster and protect yourself emotionally you hopefully can reach acceptance that they are who they are and you have no obligation to them, only yourself and your sweet pup.

I relate to some of this and please know this isn’t your fault, you’re not the problem, you’re not a mess, you can find a way to support yourself emotionally, it’s ok to block them by any means necessary, and you don’t deserve any of this. Hug your dog, say the things to him that you wish had been said to you and be proud of yourself that you recognize that you can make things better for both of you.


Yes I agree that there will be grief involved, that’s a great point. You need to mourn your childhood and also any hope you had that you could come back and fix it.

No aging parent is willing to. hear the truth of how horrible they were to their kids. They will make any psychological contortions possible to evade that recognition. The best you can do is defend yourself in the present.

But grief is real at this stage. The upside though is that once you come out the order side you will not be looking for parenting in your life at all, which will. Help with all relationships in your adult life.


I don’t think you realize your strength. Is it OK to ask if you are self medicating to cope? I ask because 30 yrs ago I went into therapy over emotionally unavailable parents and step-family dysfunction leaving me feeling awful for days too after being with them. But NOTHING like you describe. No physical abuse. I used to get high (pot) every day to cope and block and in therapy learned I had to stop getting high in order to work through my pain. And I did. And I learned to be attracted to a healthy, loving mate. And yes, I too was in plenty of awful relationships early on with men who treated me poorly- cheating, lying, disrespecting.

My parents did both try to help too and each came to one therapy session. My therapist told me I had my work cut out for me because of how unavailable my parents were and would always be. They had scars from their childhoods that would always block them. Like you said, we all do want love from our family. It’s just often not able to happen.

There are very very few functional loving family systems out there. So there’s that. I feel strongly like others you should not have contact with your family. It’s possible with professional help they could come around and ask for forgiveness and treat you how you deserve (with love) but I’m doubtful it can really happen.

And it won’t happen for them if you continue to allow them to abuse you. And see you.
They want to see you because they need to abuse you. My step mother and that side of the family were like that to me.

NO way in any way would I allow myself to be with them. Here’s a great memory from my therapy. It was suggested I have my young little self in the car with me – sitting in the passenger seat. I would tell her I was going to protect her and be there for her. And I meant it. Can you picture that? Doing that for yourself? I got pictures out of myself young so I could really look in her eyes and remember that pain of parents who were not available. It wasn’t her fault. And it’s not yours either.

This thread isn’t about me and my dysfunctional family and my refusal to participate thus basically no contact. But that’s what I did and oh is life better. Life is short. Be with people (even if it’s just a handful) who support you and help you celebrate the gift of dreams and goals and making the most of each day.

There HAS to be a way to find help. Even online - youtube videos, TED talks with people who have endured what you have and found a way. You are very strong and we are here for you.

Most of us come from dysfunctional families. I hope that helps. Just that you are not alone.
And that we’re here for you.


I wish I could give you a big hug, and certain other people a big ole kick in their fanny.

Stop trying to get people to love you who never will. They don’t even love themselves, and have no love to give.

If they call, tell them to leave you alone, and then block all of them. If they show up on your doorstep, don’t open the door, yell through the door for them to leave or you’ll call the police, and then call and have them trespassed off the property. If you have nice neighbors, give them your work number, and tell them if any of those people are around your house, that they’re intruders and call you immediately. Press charges. Stop going to their house, it’s just another chance for them to kick you in the teeth. Don’t be fooled about mother or sister saying what happened is wrong, they are enablers, and will be prefectly happy to sit there and watch you be abused, because it’s not their turn to be a target.
They have no right to be on your property. If they pull the stunt of calling in a welfare check with police, or demanding that they have to be in your home, tell the police that they are not welcome to bother you, and to make a note with dispatch not to bother you because they called police about you.

You will never get love, care or anything else from them. You aren’t missing them, you’re missing the life you should have had, and the love they should have shown for you.

I’m guessing that if something happened, and they needed full time care, or money, you’d be the first one called, because ‘family’. Abusers expect their victims to put up with them forever.

My parents only cared about my younger brothers, and only because they sucked up. I had moved away, I only called them, but my parents only called me one time in 10 years. Nothing I did was ever good enough for them. So, I finally got a clue, and when I moved on years ago, I didn’t even tell them. My life is better without them.


OK, so you’ve ruled out therapy with a real therapist. Here’s an amateur’s version:

You have grown and changed. You have made your way in life. You have stumbled, fallen, picked yourself up, adjusted, and gone at it again. YOU have grown and CHANGED.

THEY have not. They are running the same tapes they ran when you were 12.

You are successful with your business: Not in their eyes.
You are successful in your private life: Not in their eyes.
You are the boss of yourself: Not in their eyes.

Why do you keep looking at your life thru their eyes?

Why do you WANT to keep these toxic people in your life?

They are not your family, they are your tormenters. Shed them.

If your business can be moved, MOVE. Then you don’t have to do the internal homework of some of the other stuff, you’ll just be too far away to be tormented anymore.

If your business can’t be moved easily, then buy a new house and move there. Don’t tell them the address.

If they come to your business, exit via the back door, have the staff clarify that you are on vacation and let them wander home disconsolate that they couldn’t unload their crap on you anymore.

Deal with them only over the phone, and only then on your terms.

THEY are not going to change. We teach people how to treat us, but you haven’t yet figured out how to teach them how to treat you, and I think without counseling, you probably won’t manage that. So avoidance becomes your major tactic.

But first you have to stop wanting something from them that they will not – EVER – give.


Yes you have to stop wanting it to change, accept that it won’t, and let go of them.

I read your post over agsin and the visits are doing way too much damage to you. They are making you think their bad behavior is a reasonable reaction to who you really are. It is not.

Being hurt and angry is a totally normal reaction to being treated likesht by your family. That doesn’t make you a bad person.


You are worthy. You have value. Your life has meaning. Cut those effers loose. They are sick and they will never change. Find a good therapist to help you sort through the rubble and fill your life with people who LOVE you!


No where is it written that you have to spend time with anyone or put up with their crap just because they are related to you.
Been there done that. My father, too was a total ass, and I cut off all contact with him at 18. The bastard had the good grace to die about 10 years ago when I was in my early 40s.
I had so much more peace in my life and was healthier for not having him in it.
There is no need to subject yourself to all of that just because you are related to these people.
Assholes be as assholes do.
Find people who appreciate you and what you have to give .


What is this “they won’t take not visiting for an answer”?
It’s not up to them. It’s your life.they will have no choice when you stop visiting.

I agree start with a new phone number and don’t give it to them and work up to moving.


Order the book Co-Dependent No More.

Read it.

If you are anything like me, checking the boxes on the list will be eye-opening and you can chose to use some of the tool suggested or, having tried all those, cut ties permanently. I read the book and it resulted in a divorce and cutting my toxic mother from my life. Not recommended for everyone, but there ya have it.


Toxic Parents was very helpful for me. Hate to tell ya’, but even when they are dead and gone they can still haunt you.

Please be kind to yourself. You’ve done nothing wrong.