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


Yes, there are cases where you’ve worked on yourself, your skills, and you just need to stay apart.

But that’s not what I read in the article. The author experienced severe distress over comments that could be redirected or ignored. She seemed focused on rationalizing her action.


It takes two to make the relationship work.

What if the other person is convinced that it is you that is always at fault and is deaf and blind to reason?

How do you try to fix this relationship?


I once read a little saying that I’ve always loved :’trust in God but lock your car’. This is close to home. my MIL got sent to prison for stealing close to 20000 USD from her sister’s business, whilst working as her book keeper. Spent it all on holidays and good times. Do I trust her? No. Never will. Will I be polite and smile if she visits us. Yes. There will always be an arms length here but I will pray for her and not stop her having contact with future children etc


I never meant to imply that by working on yourself you can ‘fix the relationship’.

But you can mitigate the harm or the number of conversations that end in severe emotional distress. That can be a big win in and of itself.

The author comments made it clear that she was in severe distress for an extended period after hearing conversational criticism by her mother. She could definitely learn not to let it bother her to such an extent, which might have allowed her to maintain some level of a relationship with her bio mother.


Sometimes what I ask myself is “what is this relationship?” Is there actually something to it, or is it just one person harassing or berating another? It makes me think some relationships might not really be worth the effort unless there’s a radical change in the other party. I don’t necessarily see any benefit in keeping a relationship if what you’re keeping is primarily the ability for one party to abuse or mistreat the other. All you’re doing then is both having one (or often both) sides get hurt and enabling the other to continue in their sin.

For all people talk about the pain of estrangement, I don’t think that parents like mine are really happy with the relationship either. My own experience is me simply living my life as an adult is going to cause my mother to feel that I am continually attacking and rejecting her. I’m not sure that’s really an improvement.


In the cases you speak of, maybe it just best to go on hiatus from the relationship. It need not be permanent but a little break can help you.


Right. My point is, a lot of times, “No contact until you can show evidence that you’re willing to respect boundaries” may be the right move. That not infrequently ends up being no contact at all, if the other party is particularly resistant.


It’s very easy from the outside to be critical and say “well, you could x, y, z.” We don’t know the details and history of this relationship; and even if we did, we aren’t in it.


You are being very defensive, we know quite a bit from the article.
I feel you haven’t bothered to read my prior posts. I speak from my experience working with teens in abusive relationships with their parents.

Also, the very nature of discussing any topic in such a forum will always be done with imperfect information.


You can’t possibly know everything from the article. You’re criticizing someone you know very little about. If calling you out for that is being “defensive,” hey, whatever makes you feel better.
I speak, as do other posters, from my own experience with a toxic, emotionally abusive family member. Which is a bit different from seeing it from outside.


Why are you even bothering to even comment here, you clearly feel the article provided no useful information to discuss the topic it raises.




I’m estranged from my family…There are a million reasons why, but I’ll give you the biggest reason for me right now to keep the distance and spare you all a 10,000 word post.

When I was 6 my dad shot my beloved dog in front of me because it bit him when he beat it for running into the road. When I was 16 he strangled my pet parrot because it was “too loud” and it nipped him because he used to flick it repeatedly in the head for squawking. When I was 28 he beat a puppy I just got and brought to his house to see him because it was whining when I put it in “time out” for resource guarding. I now have a 1 year old son he hasn’t met…and I don’t intend on ever letting them meet. I hope my reasons are obvious. :wink:

You can imagine what he did to me and my brother. You can also imagine how severely emotionally screwed up and addicted to drugs my mother is that she is still with him. Not to mention the many times she’s beat me, my brother, and cut herself in front of us because we were such “terrible children”.

Protection of vulnerable family members has to come in at some point. I love him and I always will. I love my mom and I always will. There were good times, and they have good qualities. I know they are so messed up because they were raised by just as messed up people…but they refuse to get help or change. I am putting my foot down and saying enough is ENOUGH and I won’t let them hurt my son. Going No Contact hurts more than I can really say…but not more than the thought of my son being hurt because I couldn’t do all I could to keep him safe from known patterns of behavior.


My extended family raises animals for food. I carried the younger members of my family on my arm before they could walk to partake in the traditional slaughter from which we prepare the festive first meal that is prepared from each animal.

So you realize people raised in non-modern environments have lots of animals and treating the animals humanly is taken as the norm, since you have to care for them and feed them everyday.

You description indicates lack of patience and wrath (that is very common with substance abuse, habitual drinking, nervous problems, and sleeping disturbances.) Cruelty is, I should say, also common -even among those without any obvious problems- although it doesn’t usually manifest publicly in crude forms.


We raised animals for food too. We raised and slaughtered our own poultry (turkey, rabbits, chickens, ducks) beef, and goat. There was a higher difference between the humane slaughter of food and the rage-induced cruelty to these pets. I don’t remember specifically every animal that was killed for food, but I remember these acts. It’s weird.


I think when we forgive, we are obliged to do so while extending a gesture of reconciliation. If we don’t, forgiveness is just a self-serving gesture to make ourselves feel better, but is incomplete

23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

(Matthew 5:23-24)

But, if that gesture is refused, we are not obliged to be the nail to someone else’s hammer.

Of course if we are in a sacramental marriage, we need to offer up a lot of pain as conflict is inevitable, and we must forgive 70 times 7. Nowhere is that truer than in marriage. Note I’m not talking physical abuse here, obviously one’s safety is paramount. We all have difficult sides to our personalities.


I was actually wondering what the laws in the US are for a person raising their own poultry (I didn’t know the word poultry.)

The problem with this thread is approximately:

When you have a family relationship psychology and personality are dominant (culture and point the person is at are also heavy factors).

An accurate description requires A LOT of methodology. The person acting as analyst needs to be able of self-analyses, analyze the other, and synthesize the dynamic between the parties (and a better part of this will not be entirely rational.) Sometimes it’s emotional states, other times it’s just incompatibilities of personality, plus lots and lots of idiosyncrasies entirely peculiar to the person.

Sociology can also be very important because the dominant factor in play could be a form of social convention.

So, the word “toxic” masks traumatic, offensive, unsettling, stressful, confusing, upsetting, worrying, unjust, disorienting, etc…

If you noticed the better part of the posts here are doomed to being inconclusive since it wouldn’t make much sense to layout such a complex analyses. Most the folks I knew that became “estranged” from their families didn’t have much of a valid reason and their relationships eventually returned to some form of being livable - fact being, had they any clear notion of doctrine and morals they would have had the tools to save each other tons of pain and upsetting…


Blessed are the peacemakers. I’m glad you said it @OraLabora since apparently this was going to be the thread where no one mentioned that beatitude when it was most needed.


To counter misinformation/unwarranted criticism spread by some posters. I don’t believe I need your permission to do so. Nor, indeed, to post on any thread on CAF.


I think the WoPo article is very bad. The author basically said they didn’t visit their family member on their deathbed - that is extreme. The author also mentioned choking and having panic attacks -that much shows the author hasn’t addressed their own psychological trauma. From there the author proceeds to inferring a “blanket carte blanche” legitimization of “estrangement” - I think that much is necessarily a misapplication.

Yes. I have met persons and had friendships that were senseless because the other person was of extreme instability and the relationship bound to bring neither any good. Still, if they were family -especially in the first degree- I’d be bound to offer a livable peace even if forced to keep distance.

We are also called to seek mastery over our emotions and psyche, that much is also a part of the faith. I don’t think the author of the WoPo serves as an example at that.

-And I should say there are potentially far more dangerous acquaintances in society at large than a family member that causes us psychological grief.- There are, indeed, instances were nothing can be done for the person - because the person doesn’t want or is unable to. Then we are called to be a sign of mercy, not of condemnation or judgement.

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