Lots of things can factor into estranged relationships with parents. Anything from blatant rudeness, neglect, or harm can send people over the edge and make them not want a relationship with their parents/family any longer. People share what made them finally decide to cut communication off with their families. Content has been edited for clarity.
“The only parent I’ve completely cut off contact with is my biological father.
Because he will, in the end, disappoint me.
I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way. He is, theoretically, a penitent man who is trying to make up for messing up when my sister and I were children. But in practice, he kept doing the same stupid stuff he’s always done.
There are a few events that will always make me remember to not forgive him, despite how much he’s tried to make up for it.
When my sister and I were young, (I was eight, she was four) he was supposed to take us out for an outing. It was just to the beach near our house, nothing extravagant or expensive. Just a day together because he and our mother had been separated for two years by then. The first mess-up was being two hours late because he was out partying the night before. The second mess-up was stopping by the bank, leaving us both in the car on a hot day with the car off. The third was falling asleep on the beach while my sister (who was a toddler) nearly drowned because I was too young to properly look out for her. It was months before my mother even allowed him to see us.
I was ten. Both my sister and I were supposed to hang out at his house for a few hours while my mother went to work. Our grandmother had a doctor’s appointment to see how her new medication was affecting her. He never showed up, my grandmother never got to go to her appointment and that missed appointment led to serious health issues because the medication was causing some weird side effects that should have been caught early on.
I was fourteen, a freshman in high school. My father had signed away custody of both of us because the child support payments were taking away his meager check (because he wouldn’t get anything other than part-time jobs). When he found out our mother wanted to take us to mainland America, he went to a friend he drank regularly with, who then talked to their uncle who was a judge, and had them issue a court order forbidding my mother from taking my sister and me with her.
So we had to be left behind with our grandparents, who had trouble enough with their medical issues because our father couldn’t legally or financially care for us. We also didn’t see him more than once a month, if at all. Not because of any restraining orders or anything, but because he was always off acting like a twenty-something instead of his thirty-something age.
Another time, my sister got a nasty cut at a bowling alley he took us to. It ended up badly scarring her leg because he couldn’t be arsed to drive us to the clinic. The clinic was a five-minute drive and would have cost him twenty dollars to have her leg checked. He instead drove us home, which was half our drive, and didn’t even tell our grandparents how she got hurt.
I was in elementary school, fourth grade. He was supposed to pick me up after school because of a family get-together he wanted to take me to. He never showed up and my mother, who was working across town, had to leave work and get me home two hours afterward.
I sprained my wrist during one of our outings and he didn’t even take me to the hospital or clinic. He just gave me an ice pack. They dropped me off at my grandparents, in blinding pain.
There are a ton of other stupid things he’s done over the years that would have gotten him charged with child-harming if I had even understood things back then. But now that I’m twenty-seven and a country away, he suddenly wants to try to make up for everything.
My sister, who is twenty-three and mother to my favorite niece, still speaks to him. She also totally takes advantage of his remorse to squeeze every cent he’s stupid enough to part with. More power to her, but I can’t even hear his voice without wanting to smash his face in with a steel bat.”
“My parents never got along and it was just a fling. My mother was still legally married to her first husband and father of my older half-siblings although long since estranged when I was born. There were paternity proceedings to correct my birth certificate and my father had to sue my mother to have himself named my father and give me his last name. I officially have a hyphenated surname as a result.
The result was that a judge legally assigned me to my mother and primary caregiver for 20 days per month and awarded my father 10 days of overnight access as well as legal decision-making rights. This meant that I had my primary residence and lived with my mother all week and my father had the right to overnight visitation every single weekend as well as during a weekday every fortnight.
The reality, though, was that I lived with my mother. She took care of me while my father showed very little interest in actual child-rearing and didn’t take full advantage of his hard win access rights. My mother canceled plans and jumped through hoops to have me and my packed bag at the sheriff’s office by four in the afternoon; which was the only place my parents would meet for custody exchanges whenever he decided to be a part of my life.
It always took at least 45 minutes to an hour to exchange me because I didn’t want anything to do with my father, my mother would have to console, coddle, coax, and cajole me before I’d let her leave and my father would stay in front of the police until I finally shut up and agreed to leave with him. He always carried my bag, he didn’t even try to touch me as long as I stopped crying and screaming, so the parent-child relationship was always very poor.
Shortly before my eighth birthday, my father took full advantage of a court-approved vacation to south Asia to run off to Taiwan with me and I remained with Asia living in Taiwan and Korea for eight years while my father couldn’t return to the USA or even travel internationally due to the Interpol ‘red notice’ against him for felony custodial interference and international parental child abduction.
He didn’t treat me well though at all to say the very least while given the chance to raise and be my sole caregiver for a change and although he successfully prevented my mother from taking me back to the USA after the abduction, around my 16th birthday he contacted my mother, and negotiated my amicable return to the USA in exchange for her dropping the abduction complaint.
So I left my father’s home at age 16 never to see or speak to him again till the day he died some eight or nine years later and left my mother’s home just two years later again never to return or look back.
I just couldn’t do it anymore. My sanity depleted. Nobody truly cared about me and I grew tired of them treating me like a possession rather than a person. It was so much drama. My parents added no value whatsoever to my life.”
“I began doing work on myself with my therapist to understand why I choose the men I choose (narcissists). She had me write out all the bad things that happened to me from my first memory to the current day.
In doing so, I finally processed how unwanted I was and how scapegoated I was by my family. I knew they never wanted me. I was very different from my family, so I thought I they adopted me. My therapist had me do some work to process and release all of that.
I started to see my family for the first time.
This year, a situation happened in which I was able to real-time witness how classic my narcissist parent and golden child sibling gaslighted and scapegoated me. My sister tried to blame her actions (and my parents’ actions) on me. I told her she was trying to blame me for her actions and I would not accept it. My parents sided with my sister and stood up for her even though what she did was her doing (and theirs) and wrong. It was clearly (to a normal human) not my fault and rather hurtful to me.
What did I do? They did not include me in my parent’s pre-written obituary that she wrote and they both approved. The three of them neglected to see that the youngest of four adult children was not included in the obituary. Somehow that was my fault? I didn’t yell or argue. I avoided them.
For the first time in my life, I was eyes wide open to them.
After seeing how they treated me and realizing it had been happening for decades, I didn’t want to talk to any of them. I took time out from my family. I blocked them on social media, I blocked them on my phone until Mother’s Day.
Currently, I am low contact. If they reached out to me, I may or may not respond. I took my time and decided how and if I wanted to respond. Also, I didn’t live near them so that made it easier.
So I wouldn’t confront them about how they have treated me because they are too old to change and they are narcissists so they can’t change without deep psychotherapy that they won’t even think to engage in.
For me, no/low contact is about me being healthy and not about anger toward them. I’m not angry at them.
I have a full, beautiful life. I continue to do work on making myself the emotionally healthiest, best self I can be. So I just want to go on living my best life with people who value me as a person and love me. My family has shown that they are not those people.”
Good Sister, Bad Parents
“It took me a long time to not talk to my parents anymore. I’ve always felt sorry for them since I was a child I was very close with my father my mother was always working. I used to think they weren’t toxic parents as adults I realized they are and always will be.
When I was six years old, my parents would leave me home alone with my sister. She was two at the time. My mother wanted me to be my sister’s mother to take care of her and be there for her.
She gaslighted me my whole childhood saying, ‘You should know better you are older than your sister.’
She stole money from me that I earned selling my drawings when I was nine years old, and told me I did not need that money since I was a child. My parents would always fight. My mom was verbally abusive to my father and got me involved in their marital problems. I hid my sister from the fights so she doesn’t remember much of their aggressive arguments.
I always took my dad’s side because I always loved and believed in him. When I was 13, doctors diagnosed him with a mental illness; the hardest thing I had to go through. I felt I lost my heart. They hospitalized him for a year, and my mother became more aggressive and verbally abusive. My mother also had a ‘medicine’ problem. She became addicted and even offered me some of her ‘medicine’ when I was 13. I felt alone and I just wanted to protect my sister from everything.
When my father came back from the hospital, he was never the same again. I was angry all the time and sad. My mother went from therapist to therapist when I was nine years old. She made me feel like there was always something wrong with me. Then at 16, I became a mother to a beautiful wonderful boy. I can forgive all this and accept my parents for who they are.
I accepted that when I talk to my mother she gives me anxiety and puts me down at times or she just wants to talk about her problems. Or my father who just asked me for things like food or money. But what was the last and final straw was this. My father…took advantage of my sister at four years old. She has been through a lot it took her 26 years to tell me. The fact that she wants to be there for holidays and birthdays I cannot understand. I love my sister but not my parents.”
Don’t You Remember?
“Growing up, my father had a partying problem and he was a major control freak who was able to take advantage of my mentally challenged mother because my mother and all her siblings were mentally challenged and their mother didn’t want anything to do with them.
My mother has the mental capacity of a 12-year-old so my father has always had complete dominance over her. Well, during his time of going out and partying, he would have his best friend’s kids babysit. There were two teenage boys and a girl. Well, the two boys liked to do inappropriate things to seven-year-old me and convinced me to never say anything.
At one point, we were homeless and had to live with these people. My parents were gone every single night, and the inappropriate behavior happened all the time. When I was 12, we had finally gained stable residency and didn’t see those people anymore. I was having nightmares and flashbacks and finally told my parents what had happened. My dad stayed silent and never said anything to me and I’m not sure my mom understood that they did anything wrong.
Flash ahead to a year ago. My dad called me all excited about his new neighbor and proceeded to tell me I would remember him because he used to babysit me when I was little.
I had a complete meltdown and said to my father, ‘Do you not remember what I told you about him and his brother?’
I told him in detail exactly what happened to me again. My father acted angrily and even said he was going over there to beat him up.
I found out through other family members that my parents befriended this man, support him by buying his artwork, and feel sorry for him because he’s been diagnosed with an illness while trying to keep their relationship with him a secret from me. That was it. The last straw. I always knew my parents didn’t care about me. But choosing to befriend the man who did inappropriate things to their child was just too much for me. I cut them out of my life.”
“My parents were emotionally and physically abusive to me. They would threaten to hurt my animals while I was at school. Then they would hurt me with wires, hangers, switches, and other objects. They gave food, presents, and clothes to my brothers and sister but not me.
My mom got with my boyfriend when I was a teen, and my father hurt me for it. That is just the tip of the iceberg. But to make a long story short, I grew up and said enough is enough. When I had children, I looked back and realized how ridiculous it was to hurt a little kid like that. I remember my father hitting me in the face so hard that I instantly slammed to the floor by the force. I was about 11 when this happened. The last straw was when I told my dad he was horrible for beating me when I was a kid.
He said, ‘Oh, I gave you a tap because you were getting sassy to your mom.’
His ‘little tap’ was a thick rubber pipe. I couldn’t walk for a couple of days after. The sassy was speaking poorly of my mom when she was with my boyfriend. I just thought, wow, they never take any responsibility for what they did and they never will.
The more I thought about it, the easier it was to erase my family one by one. I don’t accept toxic people in my life anymore and I’m not going to keep toxic people around my kids even if they are my family. It’s unfortunate as I had two brothers and two sisters. My siblings don’t even understand why I’m mad, mainly because they received everything they wanted and not hurt by our parents. It just ate away at our relationships as well, I felt supported by no one, and no one cared.
Now I have my own family with so much love, support, and compassion I never experienced. I saw what a family could be and quickly realized there was no point in keeping my old horrible family.”
“I Won’t Do It Anymore”
“Our childhood home was very horrible.
There was no official announcement of ‘cutting ties’ only that we all stopped succumbing to hoovering tactics. My sister and brothers had already withdrawn. I was the last one trying to build some kind of relationship. So I declined one request for a lunch meetup and declined an offer of money for a medical procedure I did not want. I finally said no without guilt. Then I got a letter, complete with misappropriated words and phrases, claiming they didn’t know what they had done to deserve such treatment. It surprised me. If they wanted to act as if I cut them off, I just decided to go with it. Life had never been better.
Sometimes I wonder what story has been told about me. I know it paints me as mentally ill and unforgiving. I know all the tactics. I’ve seen what he has done to his members with his ‘counseling methods.’ It makes me heartsick to think of it. My mother still tries to visit and asks me why I can’t ‘just pretend’ with my father. She knows he won’t change so she thinks I should try to please him. She seems surprised I won’t do it anymore.”
Can’t Take That Risk
“She became overbearing when I had my oldest son. She would demand ‘help’ but flake when I asked for help, and stuck her nose in where it didn’t belong. Then she said she was going to make up for subpar parenting by being a good grandmother.
I drastically reduced contact with her for my sanity. She assumed my husband was being controlled. One day, she came over unannounced and demanded to know what his problem was. He was calm and said he didn’t want to argue with her. She escalated and kept pushing the issue. She finally said that my father took advantage of me when I was a child because she was not getting her way.
My husband calmly asked her to leave our house. She pushed him and called him a piece of trash in front of our two-year-old and six-month-old.
I have not had a relationship with her since. I do not know what to believe. Then I couldn’t decide which was worse; that she would make up allegations like that or how she would allow it to happen, stay with him until I was nearly 13, allow my sister and me overnight visitation with him, allow him to work at a school as a coach, and to wait until I was 35 to say anything.
I will never know for sure and I will never forgive her for that. I can’t even imagine other things she might allege if she isn’t getting her way and I can’t take that risk.”
Cutting Them Off
“I had an emotional breakdown a few months back that resulted in mental health issues. It turned out I had a ton of unresolved issues with my mother. Particularly, her narcissistic tendencies and volatile mood swings.
I am not going into details but I will say that I decided after having an epiphany about my adolescence that I absolutely could no longer ignore. She made my life about her struggles all the time. She made terrible life choices, married horrible men, and invested in awful business ventures so impulsively that she destroyed my and my sister’s childhoods. Everything she has ever done has been in her self-interest.
I started to see the same behavior toward my young sisters and how shy and ‘off’ they both seemed after years of my mother neglecting them; just like she neglected me and my older sister.
I cut off my parents when I realized that they weren’t parents and they only loved what I can do for them.”
Just Not Nice
“I did so very simply because they are not nice. Just because someone gives birth to you, it is not guaranteed that they will ‘like or love’ you as a person. Parents do not always give their children, what they need. Needs such as comfort, compassion, guidance, support, or basic love.
Sometimes it is better to just cut toxic people, who do nothing but belittle you, out of your life. It hurts a lot less to mourn the loss of a parent (when they are still living) than to continue being emotionally degraded. I will never understand how a parent could feel so little for their child.
But I do know that it’s a long hard road to get to the realization that it’s not your fault. I guess people are people and we just don’t like some people. Very heartbreaking when it’s your mother.”