Living With... A Toxic Parent - The M Word

Living With… A Toxic Parent

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I think one of the most adorable things on the planet is grandparents and grandchildren spending time together. My mind immediately takes me to picturesque bonding experiences and loads of laughter between the youngest and oldest generations. When I was a child I envied friends whose grandparents went to school plays, attended matches and took them on holiday. I knew when I had children of my own I would prioritise my parents being involved in their lives.

This ideal relationship that I had hoped and planned for was swiftly shattered by my toxic parent. Toxic parents are draining not only for their adult children, as they often bring a lorry load of this negativity into the relationships with their grandchildren.

Life with my toxic parent is soul crushing. Things were just about bearable until my parents divorced two years ago and my dad ‘went off the deep end, as I say. His behaviour had been noticeably changing over the months leading up to the divorce and I never quite knew how he was going to act. My parents live in another country so I heard news of their separation prior to the divorce and the consistent fallout from afar. I visited them only months before the divorce was finalised and it was glaringly clear that my father had become someone I no longer knew. He had become vindictive, manipulative and self-absorbed. I witnessed what many people mean when they say ‘divorce brings out the worst in people.

My father did everything he could to build himself up, portray himself as a victim while demonising my mother. He started spinning grand lies and broke incredible boundaries while discussing his marital breakdown in front of my children and I regularly.

The toxicity of my father’s behaviour created so much anxiety and stress in my life. Things really came to a head when he started aggressive arguments with my mum in front of my kids, three times! This is when the little respect I had left for him shattered into bread crumbs.

It’s been two years and my father is still bitter and vindictive. He often tries to seek attention out of desperation- every issue is inflated times ten with the hopes that he will be flooded with concern. An example of this is when my father told everyone he had a serious illness, which he didn’t actually have. When I confronted him with this behaviour and some irrational demands he was asking of me, things became even more aggressive.

I could no longer tolerate this unstable behaviour and I had to set STRICT boundaries in order to protect myself and my children.

It was really difficult for me to accept that I could no longer trust or have a meaningful relationship with my dad. My own mental health took a hit as I grieved this loss and the relationship my children would no longer have with him. Today I allow minimal contact in the way of letters but no phone calls or visits.

This is not the way I envisioned things would go but I am thankful I can protect my family from someone who showed us all of the awful things they can bring into our lives. The small amount of contact we have is enough and my children have three other grandparents they continue to make wonderful memories with. Another tale of ‘life doesn’t always give us what we want but we make the best of it.’