Family Matters

When to cut out a parent?

I've posted on here before about my dad.  He lives w/my pap, doesn't pay any bills and lives life carefree. My mom divorced him 10+ years ago and I haven't seen/talked to her since.  It's a long, messy mess.  The only thing my entire life that I feel my dad & I have had in common is my mom leaving our family, although, I don't feel that he was/has "been there" for me in any way.  I feel that he leans on both me & my older brother for his support & doesn't give any back.  He has no plans for retirement, no savings and lives the lifestyle of a teenager only caring about himself.  I wouldn't go as far as to call him an alcoholic, but he is definitely a problem drinker.  He is a pathological liar and I don't trust him.

There is a long history of anger that I have with him...and I just don't know how & if I can ever get past that.  He has done a lot to hurt me.  There is not 1 conversation in which him & I can speak w/o fighting.  He doesn't ask about me or DH or our lives, only talks about himself and doesn't listen when I do tell him things.  He doesn't respect my requests and/or boundaries and just does/acts how he wants.  He has no consideration for others.  It's just so hard because essentially, he's the only "parent" that I have left...eventhough I wouldn't really qualify him as one. 

I know for my own mental health, that I need distance from him.  I don't know why I feel this loyalty & obligation to him...I can't break away...but I think I need to.  Any advice on how to do this?  With my mother is was not really my choice, therefore, I can't follow similar tactics.  I realize this will be more difficult with my dad because he would not want this...but, I also know he will never change.  I still love him as my dad, but I don't like him as a person.

He tries to act like things are fine & always wants to tell stories (that are pointless & that everyone has heard a million times) and make jokes.  He can never just be "real" & discuss real life topics.  When things get too heavy, he leaves/hangs up the phone.  Whenever I try to tell him how I feel, he just writes it off as saying "I'm in a bad mood" or he tells me how I am feeling...rather than listening to me.  He really believes his own lies too...I don't know if he's delusional or has lost it or what. 

::sigh::  any advice welcome...

Re: When to cut out a parent?

  • get some counseling, work out your feelings and then decide if you want to cut him out.
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  • image alithebride:
    get some counseling, work out your feelings and then decide if you want to cut him out.

    This. I think that you have a lot that you still need to deal, and honestly I have no idea if down right cutting this man out is the best for you or not. Talk through things with a professional and then figure this one out. 

  • image LilBlkdrss:

    image alithebride:
    get some counseling, work out your feelings and then decide if you want to cut him out.

    This. I think that you have a lot that you still need to deal, and honestly I have no idea if down right cutting this man out is the best for you or not. Talk through things with a professional and then figure this one out. 

    Thank you for the advice.

    I was in therapy pretty much my whole adolescence to deal w/my parent's marriage.  I went to a therapist again after my parent's divorced.  Although, I feel they may be able to shed some light on the situation, I also don't want to become a perpetual patient.  I want to move on w/my life & stop worrying/being reminded of my parent's mistakes.  I know it sounds slightly unrealistic, but some things are easier to cope with when they are "out of sight, out of mind".

  • I'd revisit therapy.  While I agree with you not wanting to be like Woody Allen (therapy for life), you are an adult now, and you have different chioces and coping mechanisms.  A therapist can't realistically advise an adolecent on how to cut their parent out of their life (with the exception of extreme cases).  However, now that you are an adult, a therapist can help you with either setting boundries with your dad so you aren't svcked into his hot mess of a life, or cutting your dad out of your life (and how to deal with how that will effect your relationship with your pap).

    Also, therapy will help you decide under what circumstances (if any) you would re-admit your dad into your life, and how to deal with the drama that would follow if you make that choice.

  • image SueBear:

    I'd revisit therapy.  While I agree with you not wanting to be like Woody Allen (therapy for life), you are an adult now, and you have different chioces and coping mechanisms.  A therapist can't realistically advise an adolecent on how to cut their parent out of their life (with the exception of extreme cases).  However, now that you are an adult, a therapist can help you with either setting boundries with your dad so you aren't svcked into his hot mess of a life, or cutting your dad out of your life (and how to deal with how that will effect your relationship with your pap).

    Also, therapy will help you decide under what circumstances (if any) you would re-admit your dad into your life, and how to deal with the drama that would follow if you make that choice.

    Thank you, SueBear.

    My pap & I don't have a very stable relationship...& even if we did, I don't think it would be greatly effected by the demise of mine & my dad's.  However, you bring up a good point that leads to a reason I probably have done nothing thus far.  My family is very close with my dad's side of the family.  My Aunt (dad's sister) is like a 2nd mother to me and my cousins, like siblings.  We see them every holiday & every birthday.  How would holidays work if I wasn't speaking/seeing my dad intentionally? 

    Does anyone else experience this?  I assume awkward would be an understatement.  These are my issues with my dad and I don't want to make them anyone else's. 

  • I think there are all kinds of relationships.  If you are not sure or not ready to cut dad out of your life, you can start just by distancing yourself from him.  Try just seeing him on holidays and birthdays with the rest of the family, but not visiting other times or communicating via phone or e-mail.  Its kind of like the saying that a lot of people say about in-laws.  You don't have to be friends with them, all you have to do it be polite when you see them.  
  • You can also go to therapy in order to deal with a particular issue - most therapists will want a little bit of history, but once that's done, you can say that you really want to focus on issue X (your dad and your relationship with him) and that everything else is fine or off-topic.

    You might have to shop around to find a therapist who will be wiling to be issue-focused like this, but it's doable and might help. Talking about your emotional experiences with a trained professional might help you get a different perspective on the matter that you can't really reach on your own.

  • If he was just some random person - and not your dad - it doesn't sound like you'd have much in common with him or want to spend any time with him at all. You love him, but you don't like him. That's okay. The first step is normalizing that. It's FINE to not "jive" with your dad. You're not obligated to spend gobs of time talking to him, listening to his inane stories or whatever.

    In your mind's eye, what would be a "do-able" relationship with him? How often would you talk to him? What would the relationship "look like" for you and for him? My advice would be to figure out what YOU'D like out of a relationship with him, and start taking steps in that direction, slowing things down and pacing it out to a dynamic that is more manageable for you.

    You obviously know who he is...and that's not going to change. I wouldn't necessarily recommend cutting him out of your life entirely (b/c you might end up regretting that) but you can definitely slow things down/distance yourself.

  • If he is that bad, it would probably be best if you ended contact with him. And before you do, tell him why.

    Sorry for your troubles.
  • image BonnieBlue:

    If he was just some random person - and not your dad - it doesn't sound like you'd have much in common with him or want to spend any time with him at all. You love him, but you don't like him. That's okay. The first step is normalizing that. It's FINE to not "jive" with your dad. You're not obligated to spend gobs of time talking to him, listening to his inane stories or whatever.

    In your mind's eye, what would be a "do-able" relationship with him? How often would you talk to him? What would the relationship "look like" for you and for him? My advice would be to figure out what YOU'D like out of a relationship with him, and start taking steps in that direction, slowing things down and pacing it out to a dynamic that is more manageable for you.

    You obviously know who he is...and that's not going to change. I wouldn't necessarily recommend cutting him out of your life entirely (b/c you might end up regretting that) but you can definitely slow things down/distance yourself.

    Thank you, Bonnie Blue.  This is tremendous advice - I really appreciate it.  Thank you to all the other PP's as well...it has helped.  I have called and scheduled an appointment with a therapist.  I want SO badly to work through this anger & frustration that I hold.  I am hoping that a professional can offer some clarity on the situation and give me tactics to help cope.

    Bonnie Blue, I think you're right to say that I have to figure out what I *want* out of the relationship and take steps in that direction....I need to focus on that.   I just want to stop using my DH as a soundboard (although he is a GREAT listener & exceptional supporter of my feelings - I know it HAS to drive him nuts! ha) & also want to make sure that I am not misplacing any of these feelings into our marriage & also most importantly, onto our future children.

  • DH stopped speaking with his dad, stepmom, and sister. 

    For a while, he would run circles around family events - going early to a wake if he knew that (other)sister was bringing his dad later, skipping events when his dad would be there, etc.  One time he literally left a party when FIL showed up, and came back when he left.

    Later, he decided not to give his estranged family that much power over his/our schedule.  It was stupid of him to miss parties, graduations, etc. just because FIL/SIL/StepMIL would be there.  Now we attend family parties, and are cordial but not warm to those people.  We've been lucky - no sit-down dinners were we shared a seat with the ILS, but if those days arrive we will just deal with it as it comes. 

    I don't count "attending the same parties" as "a relationship."  In the meantime, we don't call, write, send holiday cards, visit, etc.

    image "Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self esteem, first make sure you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes.
  • I would do counseling for myself, and would not consider anything even close to estrangement until after seeking joint counseling with my father.  (If there were other things part of this story, I would change my mind, but just based on the above, it sounds as if estrangement would be over dramatic and not as healthy for you in the long run as some other options).  I'd also consider pushing him towards seeking counseling for himself.  It sounds as if there is a long standing low grade depression.
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  • I'm in a similar situation as you.  My parents also have personality and behavioral issues similar to what you are describing.  Both my parents are on a 4-month "time out", where i told them in clear terms in a letter that i won't have any contact with them until the baby is born, and even then, only in limiting situations.  After 4 years of therapy, 3 years of Al-Anon and countless fights with my parents, i realized that i could no longer pretend that my parents were capable of having a respectful adult relationship with me or with each other.  After a particularly heated week of attacks and arguing (while i was supposed to be on medically advised bedrest for preterm contractions at 21 weeks), I finally came to my senses and realized that i couldn't bring my child into this family dynamic.  I set a verbal boundary with my parents, stuck with it, and when i told them i just needed a few days and some space to rest, they barged into my house unannounced using a key to unlock my front door and proceeded to question my right to stand up for myself.  I ended up kicking them out of my house immediately after that attack, and tried to stay as calm and collected as i could while doing it.  I literally had to push my parents out the front door.  After that, they called me several times a day for 3 weeks, leaving verbally abusive messages on my cell phone, home phone and DH's phone.  I finally wrote a 2 page letter explaining to them why i needed to establish boundaries with them and requesting that they get professional counseling before i would allow them back into my life or my child's life.  A few days letter, i got a letter of apology from my parents, and they stated they were getting professional help for their problems.  I'm still not convinced that my parents will ever be able to be the people i want and need them to be, but i'm giving them the benefit of the doubt while accepting that things may never change with them.  Yes, it is difficult to cut out a parent and you will have tons of guilt and anger and maybe years of built up resentment and pain to deal with, but its worth it to start living your life for yourself and building up your own self worth regardless of how messed up your parents are.  I waited too long to do it, and its only been 2 months since i separated from my parents, but i already feel lighter inside and live a fuller, more balanced and harmonious life without all the drama and madness that my parents forced upon me.  Along with continued counseling, I would also recommend "Healing the Child Within" by Charles L Whitfield, MD, and the companion workbook "A Gift to Myself" by the same author.  Depending on how far you are in therapy, it may take years for you to come to terms with your parents shortcomings and learn to deal with the separation that is necessary for your own mental health.  But it is possible.  I know for me this will be a lifelong recovery process, but my commitment is that I will not force my child to endure the same dysfunction that I grew up with.  Best wishes to you and I hope you find the strength and peace you are looking for.
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