They Do Exist.

Setting Boundaries With Parents: Psychological & Emotional Abuse

Editor’s Note: Emotional and psychological abuse are real. Their damage is valid. Their pain is pain. If you have or are experiencing (or aren’t sure) emotional or psychological abuse, I beg of you to do a little research and confide in someone safe. Because of it’s nature in damaging a healthy self that would leave in pursuit of protection, we often remain in the harmful situation, handicapped. Or, when life moves along, we remain in a state of denying it’s occurrence. Leaving a psychologically abusive home was the hardest decision I’ve ever made in my life, but it bulldozed down the forest and made way for my heart and my future. Today, Candice Noble bravely shares some of her story. – Lauren

I grew up with an abusive and manipulative father. It wasn’t exactly hidden from me as a child; I heard the arguments and had some sense (in a child like way) that dad was hurting mom. I even witnessed a disturbing scene where my mother had to literally fight for her life when my dad went into an uncontrollable and irrational rage against her. My mom left my father when I was six years old.

My dad’s selfish and abusive personality wasn’t limited to my mother,  but I didn’t realize I was a victim until I turned twenty. One night, he verbally attacked me over the phone and accused me of all the damage in our relationship. He was responsible for it, but in one call, he shifted all the blame to me. Fourteen years of his neglect, his instability, his hurtful selfishness, his manipulation somehow became my fault.

After that event I began reviewing, in objective honesty, all the things he had said and done to me over my life. Because of that blatant attack, I could finally see the other assaults that I chose to brush off and ignore before. That single undisguised act of aggression tore the veil from my eyes and I could see his past and present behavior for what it truly was: his emotional and psychological abuse. His manipulation.

Psychological and emotional abuse is a tricky little beast. It can easily be dismissed or covered up so well that the victim has a difficult time identifying it as abuse. Generally speaking, if it feels like abuse and fits a certain set of standards then it is abuse, and it needs to be addressed. I put up with years of “this doesn’t feel right” before I finally could identify it as abuse.

Photo by Alyssa Valleta / / Design by Lauren Dubinsky

Once I began to identify abusive behaviors, I had to let go of the “healthy” father/daughter charade that tore me up from the inside out. I had to set a boundary line of protection in order to pursue safety. In my case, that meant stopping all communication with him.

I hate to admit it, but I feel a sense of relief after letting go of the relationship I clung to for so long with my father. It feels as if I’ve been on the brink of suffocation for years and now I’m finally allowed to breathe.

When we become a Christian (or are raised Christian), we can lose sight of the need for boundaries. To some of us, being “a good Christian” has meant that we have to endure someone’s abuse for any number of misguided pious reasons: It’s an act of forgiveness, it shows love, they’re an authority figure, or it’s to further a witnessing ministry. These are all ignorant assumptions created by playing fast and loose with the interpretation of scripture (be it ourselves or others doing the interpreting).

Yes, we are suppose to forgive others if we wish to be forgiven by the Father. But forgiveness means letting go of any hatred or bitterness in your heart towards the offending person and not seeking revenge on them. It does not mean you have to allow a habitual abuser into a space that leaves you vulnerable to their attacks.

Yes, you are to still love the person but that doesn’t give them the right to exploit that love to manipulate you and you don’t have to stand for that manipulation.

Yes, in the structure of the family, they may be classified as the “authority” figure but that authority becomes illegitimate once the abuser uses that authority in an inappropriate manner. God does not turn his eyes from hurting children, caring only that they submit to authority – whatever that authority be.

Yes, you are to be a living and speaking witness but you are not asked to suffer for anything other than the Gospel. Are they abusing you strictly because you’re a bold follower of Christ, or because they’re abusive and need someone to horde an illusion of power over? In other words you are to endure persecution for the Gospel but you shouldn’t feel obligated to endure personal attacks that are unrelated to your belief in Christ.

Furthermore, Christ Himself said that once you have spoken your piece concerning Him to others and they reject it, you are allowed to take that gospel elsewhere to those who will receive it (Luke 9:4-6). Once you’ve exhausted all your ministering resources on an abusive person then do not, I repeat, do not feel an ounce of guilt about taking yourself and your ministry elsewhere to those who will hear it (one of Christ’s favored phrases “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” Matthew 11:15).

It is not your job to change this person. Only God Himself can do so. Remaining with an abusive person for the sake of changing them through your positive influence is a misguided perspective,  nearly certain to fail – and it places you in suffering that is not required or expected of you.

In the end, the excuses used to continue a hurtful relationship fall short of one very clear truth: If Christ, God in flesh sinless and holy, saw you of enough worth to willingly suffer and die for then that means you retain an incalculable value. Things that are of high value deserve protection. Please, do not tolerate a person who doesn’t see that value and treats you in a way that suggests you are common trash, because you are not common trash. You are inherently valuable because you bear the image of God.

Your situation may not require that you cut off communication from the person harming you, but  if you’re being systemically hurt (mentally or physically) you still need an established line of defense and safety. This can be as simple as speaking up against a hurtful word or action.

Maybe they will listen, repent, reform their ways, and this will lead to a healthy and beneficial relationship. If they won’t stop, or it is consistently harmful, it is time to let go of that relationship and that person. It will hurt or feel foreign to you at first. You may be criticized for the action you take. But, it’s better than the slow and painful death of your spirit (or your body if it has crossed the line to physical abuse).

If you can’t “let go” of the relationship because it involves a family member and you’re still dependent on them, please seek the safety of someone you trust. Find another family member or a trusted friend if for nothing else but a temporary shelter.

You have a right and a responsibility to protect yourself physically and mentally and communicate your value by telling others you will not tolerate their abuse. Trust me I know it’s scary and there are a number of reasons why you don’t want to oppose them and cause conflicts. I’ve been there and done that. Though it is frightening, it is crucial to your future. You have no need to feel guilt, shame, or fear as a result of upholding your value and maintaining your health to someone who doesn’t see the importance of either.

If you have experienced emotional or psychological abuse and have resources that you recommend to other readers, please feel free to leave them in the comments. We realize that this is frequently under-addressed in our community, and we are striving provide more love, support and encouragement for you as you pursue safety for your heart. Thank you, beautiful women.


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51 Responses

  1. Wow thank you so much for this post. I seriously had the almost exact experience as you. My father is exactly how you described. My parents divorced when i was 15. He was emotionally abusive and very controlling. There were rare occasions when he was physically abusive including the time when my mom was leaving him. We actually had to go spend the night with someone else because we were afraid of what he would do. Since I was the oldest, I had a choice of whether or not I chose to go the every other weekends at his house. For the most part I chose not to go. Over the past years since the divorce my father has gotten worse and worse, he is mentally unstable and I really believe not in his right mind. He believes God talks to him every day in an audible voice and that the government is seriously trying to get him. He thinks they tap his phones and everything. I am in counseling right now for everything I went through growing up and it has been a huge help to me. I have not spoken with him in over a year and half, but you said exactly what I believe, I can forgive him through the grace of God and move on, but that does not mean I have to let him be apart of my life or my family's life. He has never met his only grandson (my son), but until he gets some serious help we believe it is better this way. Thank you for being so honest and putting it in a way others can understand. A lot of my Christian friends and even some family believe we are doing the wrong thing in stepping away from him and not speaking to him. But I know in my right we are doing the right thing. Thanks for writing this!

    April 20, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    • If he is that mentally unstable AND claiming to hear the voice of God he truly is a danger to your family and you are making the right decision by staying away from him. I'm sorry that some of your friends and family don't fully understand and are choosing to judge you poorly because of their ignorance.

      May 1, 2012 at 11:42 am

  2. Blinded by The Light

    I really cannot believe I saw this pop up on my facebook feed. I seriously almost felt out of my chair! I am going through this NOW!!! 26 years of feeling like something was completely wrong with, feeling that I was never enough, acting out in order to subconsciously give him a reason not to love me, all came to a head over the last two weeks. His love has always been conditional. He had me convinced, even as a woman now in leadership in ministry, that I'll "never change". He typed me a letter this week that read "I'm sick of your sorry's…Youll never change…I just need space." While part of me was devastated that all 26 years of what I had felt…he was now verbally confirming…but while reading the words "I'm sick of your sorry's" I felt sorry that Ive always felt the need to apologize. Everything became illuminated. In my constant strive to be accepted by him I let him force feed me the lie I could never be enough. Instantly I thought "You need space?" No! I'm calling the shots now. I will never allow you to be a tool of destruction in my heart and soul again. While I know this will be a healthy boundary…it is still painful dealing with the death of a 'relationship'. It's sad. And I am right there sister. Thank you for your affirmations!

    April 20, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    • You have no idea how happy it makes me to hear you ended it with that letter. I sustained the relationship with my father for a year after the phone call before I finally let it go. He only became worse after that and I should've said "enough" a year earlier. You did the right thing by cutting him off after he decided to reveal his true self to you.

      You're right, it sucks the relationship had to end. It hurts but there's a relief that outweighs the pain.

      May 1, 2012 at 11:37 am

  3. flygirljc

    HERE IS ANOTHER WONDERFUL MIRACULOUS SPIN ON WHAT YOU SAY ABOVE (WHICH IS VERY TRUE) – "BUT"… I SUFFERED UNDER THE CONTROL OF AN ALCOHOLIC ABUSIVE CONTROLLING EARTHLY FATHER ALL MY GROWING UP LIFE & INTO MY EARLY THIRTIES UNTIL I HAD MY FIRST & ONLY SON. I MARRIED RIGHT OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL TO GET OUT OF THE HOUSE/THAT SITUATION IN ORDER TO PRESERVE MY LIFE & HAD NO INTENTIONS OF STAYING MARRIED IN THE FUTURE – MAINLY BECAUSE MY FUTURE HUSBAND DRANK WAY TO MUCH ALSO, BUT I USED HIM TO ESCAPE.

    THAT ABUSE & CONTROL HAS SCARRED ME FOR LIFE IN WAYS I STILL DEAL WITH "BUT" GOD DID A MIRACLE IN MY DAD'S LIFE IN HIS LATER YEARS. AFTER I MARRIED THE SECOND TIME WHEN I WAS THIRTY – MY MOTHER & I HAD PRAYED FOR "7" LONG YEARS FOR MY DAD'S SALVATION & DELIVERANCE FROM ALCOHOL. THE LAST TWO YEARS OF PRAYER WAS HEAVY DUTY SPIRITUAL WARFARE & I THANK GOD FOR TEACHING MY MOTHER & I HOW TO BATTLE THE ENEMY FOR THE SALVATION & DELIVERANCE OF MY FATHER FROM HIS ADDICTION (WHICH WORKED AT DESTROYING MY LIFE & FAMILY). GOD ANSWERED OUR PRAYERS THROUGH MANY SUPERNATURAL HAPPENINGS & MY FATHER SURRENDERED HIS LIFE TO CHRIST & GAVE UP ALCOHOL COLD TURKEY.

    MY MOTHER & FATHER FINALLY HAD A NORMAL & HEALTHY MARRIAGE COMPARED TO WHAT THEY HAD BEFORE & MY DAD WAS NO LONGER ABUSIVE (PHYSICALLY, MENTALLY, EMOTIONALLY – I DON'T EVER REMEMBER ANY SEXUAL ABUSE) & NEVER DRANK AGAIN BUT LOST HIS LIFE AT THE YOUNG AGE OF 62 YEARS AFTER HEART SURGERY AT 60 YEARS OLD. I WOULD HAVE NEVER THOUGHT THINGS WOULD HAVE TURNED OUT THE WAY THEY DID – THAT MY DAD WOULD DEPART AT SUCH A YOUNG AGE & BE PRESENT WITH THE LORD JESUS BECAUSE IT WAS ALWAYS SO BLEAK HOW I GREW UP IN ALL THAT ABUSE.

    AND IN REGARD TO FORGIVENESS – WHEN I REDEDICATED MY LIFE TO CHRIST IN 1976 – I FELT & WORKED AT FORGIVING MY FATHER FOR ALL THE HURT & WOUNDS HE HAD INFLICTED ON ME, MY MOTHER & YOUNGER SISTER & NOT UNTIL HE ALMOST LOST HIS LIFE AFTER THE HEART SURGERY DID I FULLY UNDERSTAND FORGIVENESS – WHEN YOU BEG & PLEAD FOR GOD TO SPARE YOUR FATHER'S LIFE – ALL THAT ABUSE JUST SEEMED TO MELT AWAY IN THE LIGHT OF HIM DYING & THAT IS WHEN GOD SPARED HIM FOR 2 MORE YEARS OF LIVING.

    SO WHAT I AM TRYING TO SAY – DON'T EVER GIVE UP – YOU MAY STEP AWAY BUT WHILE YOU ARE AWAY KEEP PRAYING & BELIEVING & LOVING THE ABUSIVE PERSON BECAUSE GOD IS A GOD OF MIRACLES & CHANGE – WHICH I AM SO THANKFUL FOR – THE GREATEST JOY IN MY LIFE WAS KNOWING WHEN MY FATHER DIED THAT HE WAS PRESENT WITH THE LORD BUT LOOKING BACK IT WAS NOT SOMETHING THAT I EVER THOUGHT WOULD HAPPEN & YET FOR THE GRACE/EMPOWERMENT OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST – IT WOULDN'T HAVE & I GIVE HIM GLORY ALL MY LIFE FOR ALL THE MIRACLES HE HAS DONE & CONTINUES TO DO IN MY LIFE & THE LIVES OF MY FAMILY. WHEN I WAS A CHILD I NEVER THOUGHT IT POSSIBLE BUT WITH GOD ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE… ♥ SO THE "BUTS" IN LIFE ARE IMPORTANT… ♥

    April 20, 2012 at 8:20 pm

  4. Rebecca

    Wow. I went through pretty much the exact same thing. Thank-you for being bold and sharing! The book "Boundaries" is really good for this kind of stuff. I also sought the council of a wise friend; it helped me a lot. It sucks when it's a parent or family member, but if it needs to be done, it needs to be done.

    April 20, 2012 at 8:24 pm

  5. Stephanie

    I have experienced very similar from my mother. My husband and I have, together, made the decision to remove ourselves from the situation. My Beaver Cleaver husband had no idea what was going on. I had never told him of the names I was called, the times I was beaten, the blame that was placed on me for my mother's loss of her relationship with my father… I didn't tell him about how she laughed at me when I wrote my first song and that's why I don't write anymore. I didn't tell him that my fear of her judgement was why I didn't lead worship "like me" in the church where we all attended. He didn't understand why I would stress about what I was going to wear to a cookout at their house. He didn't know that she'd disallowed my stepfather from being in the same room with me unless we were all together and even then, she'd watch him like a hawk to make sure he didn't glance my way. And then she'd ream me out for dressing like a slut. My husband had no idea the pressure I felt from my mother. Because I never told him. He just knew it somehow affected our marriage and something was off.

    And then a blow up happened in front of his face and I couldn't hide my mother's Hyde from him. At first, we tried to lay out boundaries, say we were sorry, attend counseling together and then she contacted our pastor (our boss) to tell him what kind of worship leaders he had leading his church in worship (two years later, we'd moved to a different church position). It rocked our professional reputation for this kind of phone call to be coming to our boss. I was "sat down" while the pastor tried to make sense of the whole thing because we hadn't told him this was going on in our lives. We don't blame him. He had that mess dumped on him. And in the end, he thought I was pretty well-rounded in spite of all that mess.

    But, all of these things made me realize the kind of mother she wasn't. Everything I ever believed about my childhood, my parents' relationship, my family and extended family, my belief system … I was rocked to my core. At 30, I was realizing the truth and the lies, the manipulation … the abuse.

    So, after that phone call, we cut ties. Ever since, our home has been so full of peace! Our marriage is ridiculously happy, loving, and even easy most of the time! Our kids are a rest in our home; in THEIR home. We've been careful to tell very few people about the situation because we don't want anyone to think ill of my mother. She does, after all, have a really great side to her and I will not be the one to expose her bad side to the world.

    The hardest part that I've recently dealt with is the judgement from those who do know. I'm told that I absolutely should never "excommunicate" my mother and that God hates all kinds of divorce and He loves reconciliation. I finally told our pastor that, had this been a friend or even a husband who was addictive and abusive, I'd have been applauded for my courage, but because no one sees my wounds, I am labelled as "running away" from my problems instead of trusting God to fix them.

    In the end, all I can do is continue to pray for her. My husband and my children need for me to be my absolute best for them. And that means I can no longer be her enabler, fixer, strength, administrator, punching bag, cheerleader, pride, disappointment … nothing. I have found my healing (PRIASE GOD!), but she must find hers apart from me.

    April 21, 2012 at 12:36 am

    • Kesha

      Stephanie, I really appreciated reading about your experience. It helps to find other women who have also had to cut off communication with their mother.

      I know the pain you've felt when your mother treated you like trash and ground your heart into the dirt. We have both done the best thing for ourselves to heal to be all we were created to be, though. It hurts me to think that my mother may not ever change, that I can't have a relationship with her, that she will probably never experience the joy of knowing her grandchildren, and I think of her every week, wondering if I should re-enter her life now (or if I ever can). It is so deeply painful when those around you pressure you to maintain the relationship and judge you because you have chosen not to. I'm so glad to hear that your husband is so wonderfully supportive of you.

      Take heart, dear sister. You and I are extremely beautiful and valuable. And you're spot-on–our mothers must find their healing apart from us. We must rest in the goodness of a God who wants to heal all of our brokenness and trust that He will never fail to love us or our mothers.

      April 22, 2012 at 3:18 am

    • Julie

      Wow. I can completely relate to your experience… except for the excommunication. I wish I could do that. My guilt is holding me back. My mom has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and my kids are 2 and 4. She is not (yet) emotionally abusive toward them and actually treats them very well. I feel like my children should know their grandparents – as long as it's the good side. Every time I am around my mom I am tense and defensive. I have never been good enough in her eyes… and yet she tells all her friends how proud she is of me. I constantly feel like I need validation for how I'm feeling… even though I realize that I'm feeling this way for a reason. She hides the abuse from friends but in front of my brother, or when we're alone, she rakes me over the coals so to speak. Her friends and boyfriend think that she's the most wonderful, spiritual, grounded person… and yet the mom I have seen for many years is selfish, degrading, critical, hurtful, resentful, angry, and fake.

      September 30, 2012 at 8:56 am

    • Shannon

      Several years ago me and my husband went through a similar situation but it was with both of my parents. We were 20 when we got pregnant with my son and 21 when we married. I thought my parents and the things that were going on growing up were normal.but after my second child was born in 2006 things I used to consider normal weren't any longer I was starting to be embarrassed by the things they were saying to me and me and my husband would fight all the time about everything that I let them say to me in front of my children.i was referred to a Christian counselor and originally it was for me and my parents to work things out…. The counselor told me to go buy the boundaries book and I couldn't believe the things I was going through someone else was also going through.it has not been easy to wake up from this sort of abuse and through the grace of god one year after the next

      October 17, 2012 at 12:38 am

      • Shannon

        I have become stronger because of it.i no longer have contact with my father. I have limited contact with my mother. But I grow every day closer to god and I show my kids the love I was never shown.

        October 17, 2012 at 12:41 am

    • ALS

      Thank you SO much for posting this. You have no idea how it feels to know there is someone out there to whom I can relate. Thank you…

      January 10, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    • Brooke

      Wow!!! Your story is identical to mine!!! Every word you wrote describes my relationship with my mom…thank you:) it really helps me not feel guilty for not communicating with my mother. I’ve decided that I need to honor her from afar.

      June 14, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    • Laurie

      Your post has strengthened me. Thanks for sharing. I continue to communicate with her but have very limited discussions. I too do not wish to be her enabler, fixer, strength, administrator, punching bag, cheerleader, pride, disappointment, disappointment, disappointment, etc. I continue to seek my Lord's peace through this process. The blessing through all of this is that it is taught me how to be a mom to my own beautiful children. To encourage, love, and support them. To teach them about Jesus! It has also taught me how to show mercy and walk humbly. Thanks be to my Savior. I do continue to fail, slip and fall, but time is helping me grow.

      June 28, 2013 at 3:54 pm

  6. A.m.

    Yup, i pretty much had a heart attack when this popped up, too. I've been realizing over the last couple weeks how emotionally abusive my parents are. Thankfully, I've been figuring it out through counseling, but as a college student, I'm having to make decisions about when and how often to go home on breaks. I can't put myself in that situation any more than absolutely necessary. This abuse has led me to addictions for over 9 years, which is literally half my life. I'm so ready to put this all behind me and find complete healing.

    April 21, 2012 at 11:09 am

  7. caitmorgan

    Thank you for your honesty, but more importantly the pieces concerning the misuse of scripture as an excuse, or in fact, way to imprison and paralyze someone into a place of guilt shame and abuse. So important for me as well as other Christians to remember what our use of scripture can do to others. I endured an abusive relationship involving family for years, and scripture was often used to guilt me into accepting it. It took me so long to understand, and some days I forget, this is not the heart of God! Thank you for that clear and beautifully written reminder.

    April 21, 2012 at 11:31 am

    • "…other Christians to remember what our use of scripture can do to others." You, my friend, are right on the money with this one. While scripture was never used on me to make me sustain the relationship with my dad there was an incident in my church involving a leader that misused scripture (he didn't stay a leader long once authorities higher up heard about the problem). He used it to explain away his odd behavior and implement practices on his subordinates that were oppressive and ridiculously unnecessary.

      It really can be a problem and a dangerous one at that. I'm glad you saw through the misuse.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:02 pm

  8. ET.

    wow. i am 26 years and I didn't realize that I grew up in an emotionally abusive home. thank you for sharing boundaries. thank You, Jesus.

    April 21, 2012 at 11:53 am

  9. I wish I had read this four years ago.

    Thank you; this was really powerful & I have no doubt it's going to have a strong impact on many lives.

    I'd just like to add that this doesn't apply only to family relationships. It gets talked about a lot in the context of romantic relationships too, but it is likewise very damaging and difficult to overcome in friendships. I wish someone had given me the perspective you offer hear, because while I now see the good in things going how they did, it would've been really nice to get this supportive perspective too. Thank you.

    April 22, 2012 at 4:42 am

  10. christina

    I had a very similar situation happen to me while I was growing up, but I knew it from the time I was very young. I had two older sisters that would try to care for me and reassure me that I wasn't all of the things that I was called by my father. Nothing was ever good enough for him. If he had a bad day he would come home screaming at me for something silly like not putting the box of cereal where it goes, losing HIS keys, etc. When I was about 12 years old he told me that he thought about having my mom abort me when they found out she was pregnant. About a year ago I finally had had enough. I began seeing a counselor within my church and she helped me to forgive my father and finally to get out from under him. Moving out was the best thing that I have ever done for myself. I have truly been able to grow and have finally been able to forgive my dad. I agree that no one should allow themselves to be put in a situation where they are constantly being hurt. My dad and I have the best relationship that we've ever had now and I honestly believe that its because he no longer has control over me. It has also helped me to forgive him. Not being around him 24/7 and being able to see that he does have a good side to him has helped me tremendously.

    April 24, 2012 at 10:51 pm

  11. FaithChaser

    The most challenging roadblock to healing from this type of abuse is the inability of people in positions of "authority" (i.e., teachers, counselors, pastors, etc.) to accept it as abuse. I can't tell you how many times I have been told that my mother was simply doing the best she could. I am sure that is true – but that doesn't make it right and it certainly doesn't mean that I have to continue to live with it.

    Even when emotional, mental, psychological or spiritual abuse is accepted as being abuse, it is often subjected to the "leveling" game. We are encouraged to gain perspective, after all, this type of abuse isn't "as bad" as physical or sexual abuse. We are just supposed to "get over it."

    Therapy often teaches us that we have to get out of the past – stop rewinding the videos from before. I think that this would be much easier if the abuser didn't continue to add footage to the end of that video. What you've done with your father is a valid way to keep that from happening. Thank you for having the courage to talk about it. I know that your family thanks you for having the courage to act on it.

    I'm still working up that courage – still put myself in the path of abuse fairly consistently; although that is changing. I used to call all the time – until one day, a friend asked if I'd had my RDA for the day. RDA, I asked? Yes, she replied – your "Required Daily Abuse". That was a wake-up call for me…other people were seeing the toxic effects of this relationship whether or not I could recognize and act.

    As Christians, we find this break particularly tough because, as someone else mentioned, when others find out, we are immediately inundated with rhetoric regarding why we can't break up the parental relationship. In my experience, most of that rhetoric is led by the Fourth Commandment. I would submit that it IS possible for me to honor my parents AND maintain distance – including a complete break from a relationship with them. Indeed, it is my contention that what is between an abusive parent and their offspring isn't a relationship at all, rather the child is simply the outlet for the parental angst – and I have no doubt this was not God's plan.

    Thank you for writing this post and shining a light onto what has been an often over-looked topic. We are all meant to be healthy – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. If it didn't start in childhood, then it can begin now.

    April 27, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    • I can understand the "they're trying the best they can" excuse, people just want to give parents the benefit of the doubt. At the end of the day, however, it's just an excuse and it doesn't justify behavior that is clearly wrong and damaging to others. You're right it is a roadblock to healing simply because it allows a pathway to acceptance and tolerance of the abuse.

      As far as building up the courage to stop abuse goes, it took me a full year to finally let go of my dad and I still struggle. I'm friends with my dad on Facebook and I've been seriously considering deleting him. He messaged me last month and implied, once again, I'm the problem in the relationship. Trust me, by no means do I have it all worked out, I'm just trying my best like everyone else. We'll get there eventually.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:22 pm

  12. Sarah

    I have been touched so deeply by this artical. My Father was the same. I have a 24 page letter from him spewing venoumous anger toward me about how I was the one responcible for all his problems. I cut off our relationhip after that. That was about 8 years ago. Sometimes I feel a little guilty. I realized I am doing the right thing.
    Now I have to do it in my own emotinaly abusive relationship. Its harder to see sometimes whats right in front of you.

    June 25, 2012 at 9:36 pm

  13. Stellar

    Thank you for this post. God just keeps opening my eyes and letting me see the truth, and it gets more shocking each and every time. After spending a lifetime wondering what was wrong with me, it is not until recently after being in an abusive friendship (yes, even friendships) that God let me saw the drama I was putting up with. It was like he ripped off the scales off my eyes. He opened my eyes to the emotional abuse my father had poured onto me, the disrespect I was putting up with and the emotional abuse I kept tolerating. God let me see it all and He changed my heart in a miraculous way. He keeps teling me He loves me and keeps pouring His love not onto my heart and into my soul where I really need healing. It was like I was in ER and Jesus appeared so he could heal me. I felt crippled for so long that I didn't even know I could even be healed.

    August 7, 2012 at 4:50 am

  14. Hurting Adult

    That really helped me, thanks for giving me the courage to let go of my abusive "father". I always thought you should honor your father and your mother, but enough is enough. God will not turn his eyes away from a hurting child, thank you.

    August 16, 2012 at 4:26 pm

  15. Kelly

    Thank you so much for this post. It's exactly what I needed to read at this moment in time and it helps me to realise that I'm not the only woman who has experienced this type of Emotional and Psychological abuse from her Parents. In my case it's my "Father" who I now call him Mr ………..(My surname) because I think it's more appropriate. This type of abuse can be a silent killer simply because it is not talked about enough. Thank you again for sharing your experiences with us. I woke up this morning really tearful and I couldn't understand why I felt that way. Eventually when I started to peel back the layers, I was lead to your website for which I Thank God for.

    September 15, 2012 at 10:42 am

  16. Adriane

    Thank you for this. I wanted to also speak for the daughters of fathers who are emotionally abusive in more subtle ways. I was lucky to not have a father who beat me or screamed at me. But my father does create an emotional dynamic with me where he is always busy with his new wife and his new job, and I am always in the background. I often find myself clamoring after him for just the littlest bit of acknowledgment. When I do bring up the fact that I feel overlooked he calls me stuck-up, spoiled, self-centered, and un-generous; says that I need more from him than I deserve to get.

    I feel sad — rejected, abandoned — and in seeking happiness, rather than put myself in the line of the relationship with him, I have to step away. Not speak to him or when I visit, get a hotel room or a motel. When I do these boundary-creating things, though, I am called dramatic and over-emotional. I really don't see a way to have a relationship with him where I don't feel pushed aside. And I wanted to share my story so that other young women don't feel alone with what they're going through.

    November 12, 2012 at 1:17 am

  17. I am just crazy

    But there is no help if you been emotionally abused all your life. If both your parents are sociapaths they turn the world upside down. The gaslight and create an image of you that they plaster everywhere. They make everybody believe that you are the one who his crazy. They track you around the country and horas you. And get everybody in authority to believe that you are crazy. If I call the police to stop my parents and all my parents friends and relatives from trying to get in my appartment ect. they tell the police they are just worried about me. Implying again that I am crazy and something poor case to worry about..
    It is hell with no ending, because everybody believes in a sociopath. And nobody believes in an ego that has been abused her whole life, cause there allmost is no ego. It wont stop til the they have reached there goal witch is to kill me,

    November 20, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    • Virginia

      You are not alone. I'm praying for you!

      January 23, 2013 at 5:15 am

  18. Tiffany

    Wow! I have seen this many times in the comment section but honestly this is what I needed to hear! My dad left my mom after 31 years of marriage. For the last 5 years (that is how long it has been since my dad left) my sister's and I have been continually attacked by my dad. It wasn't until about a year ago that I finally realized what he was doing. In speaking to my mom I have found out the way my dad treats me is exactly how he treated her when they were married. This isn't to say that she wasn't at fault for some of the things that happened in their marriage but that is between them.
    My dad blames my mom because my sister's and I don't have a relationship with him. He blames me for things that happened when we were teenagers – things that I didn't even know happened but somehow it is MY fault. He is a bully, manipulative, demeaning, and just plain mean.
    I am finally to the point where I am ready to cut off ties from him but I don't know how. I feel I need to write him a note telling him that at this point I can't take any more abuse but so far I haven't found anything on how to do that. Does anyone have a suggestion?

    December 9, 2012 at 5:30 pm

  19. Sarah

    Hello. I am a divorced – single mom. My daughter has had problems with her relationship with her father for several years now. Tonight, after I picked her up from his house she said to me, "I don't know which is worse. My brother hitting me or the emotional abuse from my dad!" Until tonight, I never considered it emotional abuse but now I want to find as much info as I can. My daughter is almost 11, and does NOT want to continue going to her dad's. If I am correct, our state law says a child has to be 12 before choosing something like that. I HAVE to do something to help my daughter. She is about to start going to therapy soon, and I am praying that will help.

    I would appreciate all info/suggestions/advice/help I can get.

    Thank you

    February 14, 2013 at 11:05 pm

    • I'm glad your daughter made that difficult conclusion at such a young age, trust me when I say it will greatly benefit her in the years to come. I'd recommend either looking for your State's family law information from a reliable source or if it's possible taking your ex to family court and telling the judge what your daughter said. It may or may not work, judges can use discretion and ignore such age laws in certain circumstances.

      I will warn you, at the moment the law does not recognize psychological and verbal abuse as harmful they'll only intervene if psychical contact happens so I'm uncertain how successful you'll be if you do take the case to court while your daughter is underage to make the decision to stop visiting her dad. I hope all goes well with you.

      February 19, 2013 at 2:12 pm

  20. ebenner2

    My story is a little different. I am 35 and am struggling in a huge way with the relationship with my parents. Myself and my 14 year old daughter moved in with them a year ago when I lost my teaching job. Hopefully within the next 6 months we will move out but until then I'm miserable!!! My father was very controlling and nothing was good enough. If I had an opinion different than his I was not allowed to share it and if I did I would get grounded/punished. I ran cross-country and if i didnt finish as well as he wanted me to he would be nasty, critisize me and take things from me. He shut the hot water tank off if I didnt want to run on a sunday and I showered instead. He had a horrible temper. I recieved numerous excessive spakings and then as a teen got many bloody lips from back hands. My mother is the most negative, worrysome, controlling person I know. I think she has complimented me ten times at the most in my last 35 years. I honestly feel as though she hates me.

    February 16, 2013 at 1:17 am

  21. ebenner2

    Everything she says is in the nastiest tone of voice. Everything is a question and she wants to know every second of everydays detail of my life and thinks i'm lying or being sneaky if i try to set boundaries and tell her its my own personal buisness. I had a problem with perscription medication in the past, but have been sober for a long time. I think she is unable to let go of the past. I guess I remember her being miserable since i was a little child. They bicker with eachother constantly and in my opinion are extremely unhappy with themselves and their relationship with eachother. They are obsessed with me and my daughter and every moment and detail of our lives. I'm in desperate need of help. I know things will be way better when we are able to move out, but I am a single mother who recieves no child support and am a teacher but only can find part time work substitute teaching please help! I don't want my daughter to go through what I did for all these years. How can I set boundaries with them and make this situation tolerable for the next 6 months to a year?

    February 16, 2013 at 1:18 am

  22. Lilly

    I am 59 and just now able to put into words the "gut" instinct that I have always had about my father. He is mean, manipulative, and totally controlling. I have always known there was a massive problem because I cannot remember very much of my childhood. I do know my dad left me with scars that still influence my thinking. When a therapist told me that she believed that I had been molested as a child by my father thus creating an alternate place in the brain to store memories, my three older sisters, my mother and of course my dad all came against me with a fury. I still don't know if that is true and maybe I should be grateful that I don't. I do know that it left me with a warped since of love. I married a man just to get away from my father only to have this man do further damage as well as leave me with a set of twins and a 10 month old. I didn't know where he was until my kids were teenagers. My dad told my sisters that God was punishing me for marrying a "sinner" and that they should not have anything to do with me so I was alone with three babies. My father only thought of getting even with me and not about three innocent lives that needed family instead of strangers in their lives. They paid dearly for something they had nothing to do with. The second man I married also let me know how worthless women were as well as raped my 6 year old twins and 4 year old son. I then married the man I'm with now. He continues the abuse by letting me know how worthless I am. I have been with him for 28 years and at this stage in my life I have resigned to the fact that these type of men are all I know. I have been to therapy endless times and have been told of the damage my mother and father have done to me but I have not been offered a solution to change my way of thinking that formed in early childhood. I know I have a warped view of men but I don't even realize when my perceptions are askew. My life is over anyway. I have screwed up my whole life and I think that if I was to do anything good I would have already done it. Only one thing happened to give me a little validation. About three years ago my sisters found out that my father married another man (Robert) and bought him to live in the same house as my mother. They also found out that Robert raped my nephews but they still label ME as the crazy one and have yet to admit they were wrong.

    April 25, 2013 at 9:36 am

  23. shasha

    even i am absued emotionally by my parents from childhood but it didnt affects me that much,but now am married that too arranged marriage..now i am absued so much that i could not tolerate bcoz my hus also affected bcoz of this..the main reason i am absued is bcoz of my hus they dont like my hus but thats their choice i wont bother in that..the thing is they wants to make me realise that he is not good he is not affectionate with u r with my kid(3 yrs)..he is fully affectionate with his family..but i am the person lives with him i know verywell abt him how he actually loves me and my son..if i say anything to them that he is not such a person they used abuse like jus 4 yrs have gone after marriage hw u r supporting him..do u know how we struggled to brought u up bla bla …i really respect them and realise their sacrifices but bcoz of that how can leave my hus..they insist me not to mingle with my in laws how is possible…they also made some mistakes initially for dowrys but my hus made them to realise abt it and now they r alright they never used to interfere in our things…my parents expect that for each and every step we do we need ti inform before marriage i used to inform thats different but i cant make them realise that they should not interfere in our things..they used kill me like anything in words..but if i tell them it hurts me they used to tell this is common in all the family..even i know that its a common thing but the words they used to absue cant be expressed in words…before one month i fought with them and now a days i reduced a lot speaking with them but still they told so many things that i am a selfish i forgot thier sacrifices and so many things just pricks me..actually they r selfish they dislike my hus hence they need me also to behave like that..each and every day they used tell one r the other abt my hus but i know very well that its all thier imagination..they didnt deserve me and my hus affection…how to get rid of them internally..pls some one help..

    July 30, 2013 at 1:40 am

  24. Jayne

    Omg, I thought I was the only one who had been emotionally abused by my father, many experiences come to mind, when watching a sad film he commented what a hard cow I was because I didn't cry in front of him, he said he had spoiled me, far from this, he had shown me absolutely no affection what so ever in my life, he never sat down and asked me how I was, what was going on in my life, we never spoke of anything emotional. Just before I got married, my mother stood between us when he tried to hit me, I ran and locked myself in the toilet, and wasn't hit, but I feel only because I got out of the way. I married a wonderful man who loves me unconditionally, I have even felt at times I am not worthy of his love, I have had such a bad lack of self esteem, for years I was overweight, I realised that I was eating my emotions if this makes any sense. I was give a bit of really interesting observation, my friend said that I was wasting so much energy on trying to gain approvals from my dad, and that I would never get this! from that point on I almost say I saw the light, I was able to lose 4.5 stone, as I seemed to have gained the missing piece of the jigsaw, I was dragging round emotional baggage too, that was helping me further destroy my self worth. I cannot tell you how good I felt, losing the weight, I finally felt good a out myself! My mother died 10 years ago, and since then my Dad has done nothing but tell me how disappointed he is with me at every juncture, we all went out together for a meal, seemed good then when we got back, he again rang to reel me just how disappointed he was, he had been naged behind the s ends, and any little thing was picked on, I can honestly say I can't tell you how many times, I am disappointed has been used since he has been with this lady, not once has she tried to heal the obvious rift between us, but she has done all she can to hammer the wedge in further. He has sort of adopted her family, saying how wonderful they all are, photos of them around his home in prominent places, I have even accepted a torrent of abuse from his lady, each time I visited them I didn't know what I was going to encounter. She has laun ed and verbally abused my husband, and both of my boys, with my father sitting and watching this, never stopping her tirade, I have had to go round a times protecting myself, by putting a crystal in my bra, as for me this was my protection, the atmosphere I walked into was so terribly negative, almost allconsumingly so! So I began to go round less and less, and was emotionally abused for not going, but I have now decided that for my own sanity, I need to distance myself from both of them, as they are both very alike, and total control freaks. I must say it is hard to walk away, but since walking away, intact it almost feels that such relief, I have finally put an end to the emotional abuse. the very last thing that happened as sometimes we will have to meet, was yesterday, when we went to the funeral of a friend who was a dear friend for so many years, I caught his eye when entering the wake, and he turned away, I realise now that we have no relationship, I need to relinquish the quilt and let go, I have removed both her and his phone number from my phone last night, and that too felt like a relief! I worry about life without a father, but I really haven't had one for years, so must let this all go. thank you for the opportunity to unburden myself, and to realise, that it happens to many others, and that none of this is my fault! I just had the unfortunate luck to have a difunctional father daughter relationship, and at the age of 52, I must indeed let go and enjoy the rest of my life, however long this may be x

    September 18, 2013 at 7:22 am

  25. In time comes healing as not all of us started out with the picture perfect family. I hope you well in life and one day you will be a parent, you could provide the child with what not your father has given.

    October 15, 2013 at 7:56 pm

  26. looedsa

    You are allowed to take that gospel elsewhere to those who will receive it (Luke 9:4-6). Once you’ve exhausted all your ministering resources on an abusive person then do not, I repeat, do not feel an ounce of guilt about taking yourself and your ministry elsewhere to those who will hear it.
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    November 18, 2013 at 10:12 am

  27. Gillian

    that is amazing and it has helped me with my situation! its awesome to see that you can share your story to help others! thank you heaps x

    February 10, 2014 at 9:49 pm

  28. no name please

    I am dealing with all these same things with my dad right now. I am in counseling because of his neglect and abuse. He i assumed my counselor talking to him might help. Big mistake!!! He attempted making himself the “victim” and acted out when confronted about his issue with my husband. Because of financial difficulties i am stuck under my parent’s roof @ the moment. And my dad is making hay with this. He is a evil, abusive person and will stop @ nothing in his attempts @ destroying any and all relationships i have with anyone (especially family) . And he claims to be a christian and tries to use scripture to back up his manipulative,abusive behavior. He has fooled himself into beleiving no one else sees his abusive behavior. And attempts to cut off anyone who tries to help me by playing the victim and acting like i am a horrible person. I feel helpless because of the situation and he is using this as another weapon. Where can i turn for help and support?!

    March 19, 2014 at 6:28 am

  29. Victoria

    I am very pleased to come across this article. Its comforting to know that am not alone in this.

    Unfortunately, ave only come to realize and accept that my relationship with my parents are unhealthy after almost 39yrs.
    I have always felt wrong, not pretty enough, trying to hard everywhere I go.
    My parents are Christians, so it was very difficult to ever think anything was wrong, they would always quote scriptures Ephesians 6:1 and say that no one can love you better than them. I always had to guess If they were happy or not and they would say it is the duty of a child to ensure that they are in their parents good books and are well thought of by the parents because this will ensure success in life, So am constantly in fear of failing and attributing set backs to my relationships with them. Once my mum said to me a fool at 40 is a fool forever though she apologized it has stuck with me, because am still trying hard to get my life together and living with them at 39 is like hell. Currently they are away for a long while (and secretly i wish they never come back, i feel so much peace and guilt for feeling this ).

    Many things have happened that It would not be nice to share but I knew somethings were wrong. I started having dreams which I ignored because it was revealing things, I felt the dreams were from God because after the revelation of certain things which shocked me i had a dream and saw my friend talking to me in a foreign language (real life she works for amnesty) eventually she wrote the word in a piece of paper and the word i saw was "reconciliation" it seemed God is aware of whats happening and showed it to me so that I can understand my inner turmoil and then almost like him saying now you know forgive and seek peace.

    Am not there yet, but God will grant me grace and others also going through this pain in relationships that are meant to be loving, secure and safe. Still dont wish to see them or talk to them though I love them, I need my time (they keep sending me messages that I cant understand or asking(forcing me really) me to do things for them like trying to engage me emotionally so they dont loose me while they are away.

    April 23, 2014 at 5:09 pm

  30. Jac

    Abuse of children is absolutely wrong and must bot be permitted unde any circumstance. But, i familial relationships can be abused in many directions. I have a grown, married daughter who sets unfair boundaries (in my eyes). I live alone, except for the constant and loyal companionship of my dog. That dog is small and intelligent. She is well-trained, does not shed, does not bark unreasonably, and is considered "hypoallergenic". My daughter will not let the dog into her house and gives no reason for this refusal despite my asking why. Her husband once told me the dog might tear out the eyes of their youngest child, now approaching two! I appealed that decision on my reluctance to leave her alone and my personal need to have her companionship. I've consulted vets and other dog owners, all of whom are befuddled. The only reason my daughter gives is that she is allowed to set "boundaries" without explaining them. Of couse, subjectively speaking, I have been an "average/expectable" mother and a devoted grandmother (the children and the dog mutually adore each other). I have given financial and emotional support to each one of the family. No doubt I have made mistakes but unless I know what I've done wrong, i cannot properly make amends. Does anybody have any reaction or advice to give me?

    April 28, 2014 at 4:12 am

  31. Jim

    I just wish there was a way to forward this link to my abusive parents

    May 1, 2014 at 12:14 pm

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    May 4, 2014 at 5:52 am

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  37. AllieG1461

    I am being abused and I want to leave but I have younger siblings who I love and I don't want them to hate me. They are not abused. I am the only one who is. If they were…believe me. I would have called children services myself by now. Is there any chance that I will still be able to have a relationship with my younger siblings?

    October 3, 2014 at 1:02 pm

  38. Cole Geiger

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I have an emotionally abusive mother and though I have left home, I have been letting the abuse continue when I visit her home or when she calls on the phone. Reading this article has given me the courage and confirmation that I need to enforce healthy boundaries and necessarily discontinue contact with her. I feel relieved already.

    October 10, 2014 at 2:59 am

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