#41 Sever ties only with abusive father / Abusive mother enables father's abuse

Dear Ann Landers: My father and I have never had a good relationship. He was abusive to me as a child but I forgave him. I thought he had changed and we were finally on our way to trusting each other. I was even beginning to like him.

I adopted a son last year, and my parents offered to baby-sit while I work. My son was fond of his grandparents, and it was a lot cheaper than day-care, so I agreed. This worked well for several months, but last week there was a problem. Dad and I had a disagreement, he grabbed me by the throat and pushed me into the wall. I was shocked and surprised by his behavior.

I have no intention of giving my father another chance. Unfortunately my parents are a package deal. If I cut off contact with my father, my mother will also be out of my life, which would hurt me beyond measure. Also, I do not want to deprive Mom of the pleasure of her only grandchild.


Dear Ohio: There is no reason why you have to cut off both parents to keep your father from harming you or your son. Tell your mother she is welcome to visit in your home anytime, without Dad, but you no longer feel comfortable going to her house. She may not like it, but maybe she will understand. Your father has some serious anger management problems and could benefit from some counseling. If he values his relationship with you, he will follow through. Encourage it. —Ann  

Gabby's Response:

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Gabby’s Response:

Hi Ohio: Although you say you have forgiven your father it's clear that the first and subsequent incidents of childhood abuse are not complete. There's a whole bunch of conversations that need to take place; specifically, you need to hear from him, "Son, I get that I was abusive to you when I . . ., and when I . . ., and when I . . ."

Notice that you're telling the throat-grabbing incident from blame. Related responsibly it would go something like, [I started an argument with my father and goaded him into a fight so that I could continue making him wrong.]

Your story is covert abusive badmouthing. Who taught you to blame others for the fights you now get yourself into as an adult? I'd be extremely concerned if I were your spouse or son.

What needs to be addressed is the far more subtle abuse taking place in your family. Whenever you see two people fighting always look for the third party pretending to be an ally who benefits from the friction. Part of what's incomplete with your childhood abuse is that you have yet to fully realize that your mother is the enabler. Abuse could not have taken place, or persisted, except that she attracted, married, and rewarded an abuser. Notice how she comes out smelling like a rose yet she is the one who still refuses to insist that he get therapy. It's not only that she made her survival more important than your safety she has somehow or other, very cleverly, caused you to like/love her more than him. This is manipulation at its worst. Once your mother gets therapy she will discover that she has been equally as abusive as your father and that she has been conning you all these years into thinking he was the more abusive. She'll acknowledge to you that she co-conspired in his abuse of you, pretending all the while to be the good understanding consoling parent (some refer to it as the "Good German" phenomenon).

Now, here's the kicker. You have picked up the addiction to abusing and being abused from your parents and you will pass it on to your son unless you get therapy, alone, by yourself. And, that's not the kicker I'm referring to; the kicker is, I can predict with considerable certainty that your arrogance is such that will not get counseling. The truth is, you were not in communication with your father (you were doing your imitation of communication). Your integrity was-is so out (so many unacknowledged perpetrations clouding your mind) that you could not sense his mounting collection of upsets which grew and manifested into physical anger. This suggests that you will do the same with your spouse and your son. You need to learn how to detect and acknowledge (get) another's non-verbal communications before you are the space for causing more angry outbursts.

For example: "Dad, I get you're having an upset, would you like to talk about it?"

I say, "mounting" because what you believe the argument was about was just the trigger and not at all the source of the upset. With coaching you could locate the very first incomplete (the breakdown in communication) between you and your father.

Without your father in your life to feed your addiction to abusing and being abused, giving you anger-fixes from time to time, you'll be needing another source to blame for your upsets. Without a doubt you will soon be lashing out at your wife. It begins with verbal abuses (condescensions) which will increase in frequency to the point where you will eventually stop feeling badly, worse, you'll "forget" to acknowledge (clean up each abuse) through to lovey-dovey before going to sleep. You'll find yourself blaming her for your upsets.

I would not trust my child with either of your parents until both have completed six-months of weekly therapy/counseling sessions, unless of course you want them to train your son to communicate abusively as they do. (see Responsible Estrangement)

I also predict, with considerable certainty, that you will once again submit yourself and your son to interactions with your parents without issuing them a therapy ultimatum, such is your addiction.

Your wife needs an equal amount of counseling because she also unconsciously attracted, married, and now rewards, someone dragging around unresolved childhood anger. She is as unconscious as you and your mother. She cannot see that she also is addicted to abusing to being abused, that she also enabled your abuse with your father—extremely powerful. It could be said that she unconsciously set you up to be given a humility lesson by your father for the arrogant condescending (abuse) you inflict upon her (remember, she's also addicted to blame). At some level she cannot respect you for relating the babysitting incident to her from badmouthing blame. You managed to turn her even more against your father.

In truth it was unethical of you to bring her into your abusive family without you having insisted that both parents complete x hrs. of therapy, or, estranged yourself from them for life/until they got therapy. Your engagement was not a gift of love. It was abusive of you to dump this abuse in her space. It does however reveal that she has the same stuff going on within her family else she would not have attracted you. An actualized woman would have sensed in a nano-second the unresolved anger in your family and stayed away from you without even meeting them. Your incomplete with them is an aura thing that emanates from you.

It's a never-ending story, passed on from generation to generation. You alone have the power to stop this inheritance. "Abuse is an addiction as debilitating as any drug." —Dr. Drew.

BTW: It's irresponsible to forgive someone for something you manipulated them (however unconscious you may have been at the time) into doing. Just because you don't know how you produced a result doesn't mean you didn't produce it. Also, I'm doubting if your father acknowledged his abuse of you to you or his wife. There are specific communication processes (The Clearing House) that facilitate couples in cleaning up relationships, specifically, perpetrations. Any fence mending that includes forgiveness or apologies will definitely cause more of the same.  For you to be complete with your parents you've got to stop telling the story from victim and be willing to see that it has been your karma (your leadership-communication skills) that have created this relationship—a most challenging task, a point of view that is essential for you to acknowledge on your path en route to enlightenment. Gabby

PS: Do show this to all concerned.

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Check back occasionally for minor edits (last edited 3/10/14)

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