Sharon says a lot of really helpful things in the article below, but one that really struck a chord with me and my experience was in this paragraph:
There is no right way to deal with a toxic family member. Only you can decide how much contact is right for you. And you will know if and when you need to walk away in order to save yourself. Just know that it’s okay to end a toxic relationship – even with a family member.
I do still, all these many years later, vividly remember the day my therapist and I talked about “Honoring your mother and father”. I was involved in a church at the time, and having grown up in the Irish Catholic tradition as well, I still struggled with the idea that I owed it to my parents to take their advice and do what they told me to. I remember her asking me to simplify the rule, breakout just the words that are in the Commandment, and notice that it didn’t say anything more than to honor them. Respect them because they gave birth to you, and kept you alive. But as far as what your relationship is with them as an adult, you get to decide what honoring them means. Find a way to honor them if you want, but find a way to also live your own life.
I never truly cut ties with my parents, though there were at some very serious times a lack of communication that went on for over a year or so. That was my decision. Right or wrong, it was what I needed to do to figure out my life on my own terms, and how I wanted my family to be a part of it.
It would be easy, maybe even expected, to write that I regret that now that my parents have passed on, but it wouldn’t be true. I’m not glad that it happened, I’m sad that the trauma that I dealt with from childhood created the relationship, or lack thereof, that I had with my parents, but I don’t regret taking that time away, and having boundaries around my relationships with them.
We were never that close. i can mourn that. I can be saddened by that. But, even before they died, I wouldn’t necessarily change it. Being close to my parents would have required me to not have those same boundaries, and to engage in less than healthy interactions frequently. I didn’t have the strength for that. I had to limit it for my own protection.
I’m not the perfect son, but I’m still here and in the end, with my history of abuse and mental health difficulties, whatever brought that about, was a good thing.
So, however you figure out your relationships with your family, and however much going into the holidays is a struggle because those Hallmark movies don’t look like your family at all, just know that I see you. I see that you are still here. I see you finding the correct boundaries to make sure you stay that way, and I applaud you for doing that.