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Some Adult Children Divorce Their Toxic Parents

You can choose your friends, but you can't choose your family. This fact of life means that many of us put up with people we might not otherwise get along with.

Yesterday's New York Times examined what happens when certain family members, namely parents, cross the line from imperfect to completely intolerable. Critical, demanding, non-accepting, or verbally abusive parents sometimes prove too toxic to tolerate, leading adults to "divorce" the people who brought them into the world.

While many mental health professionals typically emphasize salvaging relationships, Dr. Richard A. Friedman wrote in the Times column that in certain circumstances, it might be healthier to end the relationship altogether. Dr. Friedman compares cutting off contact with a parent to cutting off a limb in order to save the adult child's life. Painful, but sometimes necessary.

What is the best way to handle toxic parents? Would you avoid them, cut them out completely, or try your best to deal with them?

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Join The Conversation
dika dika 7 years
i have had a very toxic relationship with my mother too. When I was ab 11 and my brother 17, she started having an affair with a man 10 years younger than her. She became pregnant but father loved her too much and accepted the baby as if he were his own son We became an atypical family. The marriage was a total hell and I have suffered enormously for my father who was a very kind man and treated disdainfully by mother. My relationship with her became very tense, although I loved her very much, I could not forgive her for what she did to my father and to us. She continued being very cold ,and unavailable and selfish and hated my father . At present she only lives for my step brother, the baby she had with her lover, and she treats me so distantly. We cannot possibly have a natural mother-daughter relationship, she is never interested in my life, and many times i had the feeling she wanted to get rid of me .So, if there is anyone here witha similar situation, who managed to divorce a toxic parent,please contact me.
missyd missyd 7 years
My mother is the BEST mother anyone could ever ask for. HANDS down. My father, well....i will speak not ill of the deceased. But, he had some issues. Big issues. And lucky for me, i inherited them all.
ali321 ali321 7 years
I can relate to HIding55. I guess this is something I struggle with from time to time. I swear my father has borderline personality disorder. He can be the best dad in the world, spend time and money on everyone he knows and then at the drop of a hat completely lose it. He'll blame you for everything, disown you, tell you that you hate him and want him dead. And then just like that he's over it and acts as though it never happened. It's really unstable. I guess I get caught up in it when things are good because I love family and I love being close. But there have been soo many times that I've said "I can't deal with this and I don't deserve this anymore." I'm trying to get things together for myself and not depend on him so much. I feel that will help me keep my distance if I need it and lessen his control. I've thought about disowning him, but I guess it's just so hard to let go of the hope that things will work out. As I get a bit older I'm starting to realize how much things have effected me. I really hate how stressed I get when he calls. I shouldn't have to feel that way about answering a call from my dad.
Choco-cat Choco-cat 7 years
I have known a number of people who have toxic parent(s) - and cutting those toxic family members out of their lives always ends up being beneficial in the long run.
totygoliguez totygoliguez 7 years
I sometimes think that my mom should stop having contact with my grand mother. My grand mother was a horrible mother to her. She would constantly abuse her, yet my aunts and uncles forcer her to maintain contact with her, it was for economical reasons, she works for them. The good thing is that she has never been too close to her and she always keeps her distance. I'm grateful that she didn't repeat that story with us, she was a great mother to me and my brother. Our relationship is what any mother and daughter can only dream of. But I can definitely understand the need to maintain certain family members out of your life, I think it would be helpful to my mother if she did not had to deal with my grand mother.
Kimpossible Kimpossible 7 years
While my parents certainly have their issues, they are not toxic, however if they were I would definitely sever all ties and divorce them.
sweetpeabrina sweetpeabrina 7 years
I'm like Glowing Moon. My mother is completely narcissistic. I've dreamed about divorcing them but for now just keep my distance.
medenginer medenginer 7 years
I relate to the toxic parents. My biological father has never been in the picture because of physical abuse to my mother. When I was 16 my alcoholic mother married an abusive alcoholic. They're still married but don't live together. My mother is now sober so she gets a relationship with her grandchildren and we get along fairly well. I went about 7 years with very limited contact. My child hood was so screwed up I could be on a therapist couch for years.
Chrstne Chrstne 7 years
I had a very toxic family. An abusive father, who was only abusive to my mother and I (not my siblings), and a mother who wanted so badly the title of being married that she stuck up for my father and his sick behavior and even treated me badly too, sometimes. Later, when I was a young teenager, she came to me nightly, talking to me about her marital problems. I was too young to shoulder that kind of issue. I come from a very affluent family. Many members of our family own very large fashion companies and various other businesses in NYC. My whole family is one elaborate business deal. Even my name is on houses these people own as to keep it all in the family. Everyone in my family is controlled by money. While my parents are well off, and always were, especially my dad, I thought it was funny how he never had money to pay his bills (but could buy various cars, boats, toys). My dad stole money from me on more than one occasion, and once drained 10,000 dollars in one day out of my checking account when I was 17. I moved out when I was 17, but I had a job since I was a young age. I worked two jobs while I was in high school to pay my way. I put myself through college and graduated summa cum laude when I was 20 with my degrees. Long story short, did I divorce my parents? Yes. I have minimal contact with my mom, but I love her. She however needs to fix herself because she has issues. I no longer speak to my dad. I would think in my case, I have every right in the world to never want to see his face again. I want a family, I miss my family, but they are toxic...and truly, they do not deserve me.
TidalWave TidalWave 7 years
Family loyalty is the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with (and that's on top of the emotional abuse I received from a parent). It is unbelievably difficult to realize that your mom is not protecting you, that your mother doesn't care about you, that your mother doesn't love you. The one person you are supposed to unconditionally trust in your life, is not looking out for your best interests. I still feel guilty sometimes for cutting my mother off seven years ago. My life has definitely improved (I was told that if I went to college, I would get knocked up and drop out -- well, I graduated from college, not pregnant, am now doing very well for myself) and I know that I had to give up on the relationship. But it still makes me sad to see my friends go shopping with their mothers and talk to them on a daily basis. I feel like I'm missing out on something. The comments here make me realize that I'm not alone! I know that sounds silly, but I don't know anyone else who has a "toxic" relationship with their parents the way I have.
starbucks2 starbucks2 7 years
I don't think that question can be answered. You have to know that for yourself. Luckily I have an awesome relationship with my mom and got along with my dad okay. I had one friend where I thought it would be best if she cut her mom out of her life for at least some time. She wasn't horrible (nothing like some members here are talking about) but I just felt she should get away from that woman because she was destroying what little confidence she had. She moved to the other side of the country a few years ago and they get along now.
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