I watched my wife endure abusive, toxic behavior from her mother the first seven years of our relationship, behavior that would have certainly justified cutting her off. The tipping point happened in 2011-2012. My MIL smokes “medicinal marijuana” (not legal in our state). After years of her guilting us about us not wanting her to smoke it or talk about it around our children, we caved to her pressure, explained to our then 13 year old son it was “medicine”, but this seemed to be the green light for her to talk about it all the time and glorify it in front of him. We overheard her telling him “when you’re older, I want to smoke it with you” (completely undermining the message that it’s “medicine” that shouldn’t be used recreationally), and gently and kindly asked her not to do that. Initially her response was “ok, good reality check”, but the next morning, she woke up and started raging against us for having talked to her about that. It was a long, ugly event, where at one point she came close to striking me, even though I remained very calm (I think it was my remaining calm, which she knew made her look even worse, that really angered her). Even that we forgave, but then almost a month later, her husband let us know that she felt we had “battered her”, and she sent my wife an email telling her she was “severing” the relationship. For over a year we did not hear from her, and it was wonderful. But of course MIL thought by making the dramatic gesture of “severing” her relationship with my wife, my wife would come crawling back to her, tell her we were wrong for asking her not to encourage illegal drug use in our 13 year old son. When that didn’t happen, she missed having my wife as a punching bag, and started trying to work her way back into our lives. The emotionally abusive behavior, the passive-aggressive comments, the guilting, the gaslighting, are all still there, and so we’ve maintained a low contact relationship with her. She did insist on visiting and staying with us a few days last summer, which showed how nothing has changed, so we won’'t be making that mistake again.
It is sad that there is still such judgement and stigma around cutting a parent out of one’s life, as several of the comments below the WaPo article demonstrated. No one would think of judging someone for being estranged from a physically or sexually abusive parent, so why do so many people think someone should continue to put up with emotional abuse?