Washington Post article about cutting off all contact with toxic family members....what is the morality of this?


Thanks again for the responses…I have a follow on question…it is about a term regularly thrown around…

the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication.

My problem is when you try to distance yourself from somebody whether it is a business relationship, personal relationship, or even a family relationship I’ve felt I’ve tried to explain myself. However, it is always feels like a losing battle. It invites endless arguments, manipulations, and backstabbing.

So morally, in the context of a situation similar to the one described in this article, how much explanation is needed to justify your actions.


You don’t need to provide any explanation or justification, especially if the people you are trying to withdraw from will use it to manipulate you or force their will on you.


I tend to feel, to quote a secular advice columnist, “reasons are for reasonable people.”. Some people you can give reasons until you’re blue in the face and they’ll still complain that they have no idea. Can’t hear it for them! People who only want your reasons so they can tell you how wrong you are don’t need to actually get your reasons.


It really depends on the situation. In some situations, the parent is so toxic or so manipulative that trying to provide any explanation would simply open a door for more abuse or manipulation.

If possible, it’s good to give people a one- or two-sentence explanation of why you’re cutting them off, e.g. “I’ve told you repeatedly that I can’t be around you or have my children be around you if you continue to use illegal drugs around them/ say abusive things to me and them / etc. and you have continued to do this. Last night was the last straw, so we will not be in touch with you any more. Goodbye.” The problem is, many people will respond to this by arguing, yelling, acting out, blaming it on you, trying to get you to change your mind and it starts the abuse cycle over again. Ghosting is often the only way.

I agree with DarkLight that you seem to be coming at this from some perspective of two reasonable people having a difference of opinion. These situations are often so far out in left field, reasonable tactics do not work and it’s a matter of self-preservation.


We need to avoid confusing “love” with “like”.

We also need to do some deep examination of ourselves when there are problems in relationships. That is not to say we are always at fault, but it is far easier to point one finger at another than to realize there are three pointing back at us.


Can you explain this part more please…?


You might always love your brother or your mom, but it gets a bit hard to like them when they are having a meltdown in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner and ruining the evening for everyone, or stealing your child’s piggy bank money to go buy heroin with.


Been there. Done that. Not fun, I’ll tell you.


I might be careful with this. Many times the narcissistic types are very good at manipulation and making themselves the victim. This goes many more times over for parents, who have had years to train their children to never stand up to them. I know that was my hardest struggle with my mother. She sets things out so she’d love to work things out if you just agree to this tiny reasonable condition. Only somehow you’ll never be able to do it just right - but if you can’t even “be polite” or whatever, isn’t it just so selfish to be blaming her?


Like should be self explanatory.

Love tends to be confused with emtion; it is not “being in love” with a family member.

Loving someone means wanting the best for them and doing what one can to achieve it. To tryuly love someone is to look past warts and all, and see Christ in them.

If one has an alcoholic parent/spouse, that is a challenge, and may be a major challenge. Loving them does not mean bring codependent.

If one has an alcoholic wife and has children, it could mean divorcing the wife and getting custody of the children. It may mean intervention, often a hotly debated topic.

There are all sorts of scenarios of family and friend troubles. There are times where separation is best, as presence only serves to exacerbate the problem. It may mean seeking counseling to find an effective way to relate to the individual. It may mean tolerating some bad behavior in favor of the better good to all others.


No, it is not selfish. Sometimes just looking at them and very quietly and politely saying “You are manipulating me” is what is needed; that may result in an explosion; and remaining calm is hard to do; but after the explosion, saying “I love you, but this is a game, and I am not a player. It is your choice.”


See, I wouldn’t get an explosion of anger. I’d get tears and talk of how much she sacrificed for me and she doesn’t understand why I feel the need to treat her so badly. And I’m not perfect either and I’m projecting my manipulate tactics onto her when she just loves me so much and wants to help.

It took me as long as it did to protect myself because I was stuck in examining myself - but examining myself using standards that she taught me. And a lot of times when I reached out to others I got the “no one’s perfect” or “look at your part in this” feedback. So I’m somewhat cautious about asking people to examine their role, just because for most people who grew up with that sort of parent, we’re trained to thinl everything is our fault anyway.


In many forums I’m on (secular ones), we say don’t JADE - Justify, Argue, Defend, Explain. This just makes people believe they can explain away your reasons or offer counterarguments to get what they want. “That doesn’t work for me” is a good response. (It’s not a lie. It DOESN’T work for you. It doesn’t work for you because the person is toxic.) Also, “No” is a complete sentence.


I think your discovery that that you pattern after her (if I am understanding you correctly) is what I was getting at. Perhaps I should have added a corollary: when dealing with constantly difficult people it may be extremely helpful to identify our own actions and reactions. and this usually seems to be focused on family members and others with whom we are constantly in some form of conflict. “physician, heal thyself” doesn’t work in a multiple of scenarios.

I have had very difficult family members to deal with, and I have employed a counselor for a period of time (one shots are not going to work), and it has made my living with those people far less difficult; but it took both an analysis of what they were doing, and of my reactions to that, to come to this point.


So is one I learned from watching my mother: “oh.”

It is amazing how well that one works.


See, I’m not saying I was patterned after her, but that I was trained to work in response to her. So for example, because she didn’t like being criticized, I was taught that bringing problems up to people was mean and selfish. Or I was taught that being too sensitive was a major problem and if I felt hurt then it was probably because I was really feeling guilty about something I did, and it wasn’t fair of me to “make my feelings someone else’s problem.” There was also a lot of if you didn’t do this, I wouldn’t have to do that. Basically constantly being told I provoked her by being such a bad person. Even if I was really doing pretty normal things.

Basically, it means I had years of being taught that, unless you met an impossible standard, setting any boundaries at all on the other person meant you were worse than they were. So of course when I examined my relationship I felt I was responsible - because I’d been taught in a way that encouraged me to see myself as guilty for not being the perfect victim. Not because I was actually causing the problem, but because I’d been put in a position where taking responsibility for other people’s emotions and reactions was normal and natural and not doing so was selfish and hateful.

It is useful to look at how you react. I’m just cautioning that it is extremely common for those who are used to toxic people - especially those raised by them - to think they are responsible for far more than is realistic, and to think they’re equally guilty as an abuser for not being perfect. Definitely smart to involve a counselor though, or at least some outside viewpoint.


I hate to say this, but the way Catholic teaching is often presented and taught to us actually conditions us to put up with abuse. People are often made to feel ashamed that they are not carrying their cross or offering it up or not turning the other cheek or don’t respect the value of redemptive suffering, or are outright shamed by others who say words to the effect “Jesus hung on the cross for 3 hours, your sufferings are insignificant compared to His”.


Another term would be cruelty since the person doing that isn’t considering their impact on the other party and thus isn’t taking responsibility for the consequences of their own actions. This could only be justified in extreme cases in terms of charity. Explaining yourself is very christian because trust is built on truth that follows honesty, otherwise you’re falsifying human relations. However, not all will be charitable and honest themselves to deserve being told the truth, and others simply don’t have the maturity or wisdom to exercise their responsibility regarding good truthfulness of another. Truth is also subordinate to justified necessity when conditions call into question truth as a principle.


Yeah, we just had a whole thread on this a few weeks ago with someone thinking that maybe a person should voluntarily stay in a bad or abusive situation in order to suffer more for the Lord. And someone else last year complained about my even bringing up redemptive suffering (I was thinking in terms of a suffering one can’t get rid of, like cancer) because it supposedly encourages women to stay in abuse situations.

My mother dispensed with this whole idea pretty easily by simply saying that God didn’t expect us to be anyone’s doormat.


I noticed the article too, and was relieved to read it. The implicit obligation to always maintain “reasonable” relationships with relatives no matter how utterly horrible they are or have been, is tyrannical. As the author of the article writes, phone calls or messages from her mother would trigger anxiety attacks and panic. When you’re at that stage–and you really can be–it’s time to make a definitive break and not look back anymore. (Only trouble is that this may involve making a break with all your family on that person’s side, what with families tending to stick together. But even that may be worth it.)

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