"I have no idea what I’ve done wrong!"
This is the way it always starts. Then it’s often followed by assertions they did everything for their children. As they try to desperately convince me they are the victim, I can’t help but feel who they are really trying to convince is themselves.
As an estranged child, it’s hard for me to have these conversations. These parents are saying many of the things my parents say. I’m sure my mother and father are out there somewhere, insisting they have no idea what they’ve done wrong.
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But the truth is, many of these parents do know what they did wrong. Firstly, because they were there. They know very well what they have done because they were the ones doing it. And secondly, we tell them as adults in a desperate bid to make them see the error of their ways so we can save the relationship.
I told my mother many times how she had affected me. Each time, I naively hoped she would listen to me and say sorry. All I wanted was for her to acknowledge the years of psychological abuse and admit it was her fault so I could stop blaming myself. But she refused to take responsibility. So one day I cut ties, and she had the audacity to act as if it came out of nowhere.
I begged my father many times to believe me over my mother. He didn’t. After what felt like the one-hundredth time, I cut ties for the sake of my mental health. He insists he has no idea why I don’t talk to him.
Both of my parents know the truth. But they don’t want to face it. Telling stories to other people where they paint themselves as the victims is more comforting. And those people lap it up and feel sorry for them.
I understand parents and children fall out sometimes. And I know not all situations are like mine. I’ve also had conversations with parents who were victims of abusive children. But I can’t help but feel sceptical of parents who complain about their children cutting them out as if they are ungrateful brats, rather than trying to understand their children’s pain.
With this particular sort of parent, there is never any evidence they are taking responsibility for how they may have contributed to their children’s estrangement. And this makes me uncomfortable.
It’s very difficult to separate from your parents. Although my mother was abusive and my father an enabler, this didn’t make it any easier to leave. It took over 20 years to finally cut them out because we had a trauma bond.
The environment necessary to create a trauma bond involves intensity, complexity, inconsistency, and a promise.
Victims stay because they are holding on to that elusive "promise" or hope. There is always manipulation involved.
Victims are prey to the manipulation because they are willing to tolerate anything for the payoff, which is that elusive promise and ever present hope for fulfillment of some deeply personal need within the victim.
Although it has been over four years since I cut my parents out of my life, the trauma bond remains. Every day I have to resist the urge to reconcile with them. So when parents of estranged children insist their kids "cut me out for no reason just like that!", in a way that makes it clear they are making sure people believe they are the victim in case their children tell their side of the story, it makes my skin crawl.