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Emotional abuse

My dad was emotionally abusive. He was manipulative and borderline neglectful but worst of all he never took responsibility for his actions. He and my mum divorced 8 years ago and I was living with both of them 50/50. It took me a long time to finally leave him and live with mum full time.I stayed in contact with him for a while, we saw each other at Christmas and birthdays. Mum always pushed me to stay in contact with him and maintain my relationship with him because "at the end of the day he's still your dad". 


I felt tense and anxious every time I even thought about him. Talking to him always ended up with me getting hurt. I finally snapped last year when he refused to spend Christmas with me and my siblings and instead spent it on holidays with his step kids. That was the breaking point for me. I was tired of always getting hurt and decided to cut contact with him altogether. 


I now realise how messed up it was that mum kept pushing me to see my dad. He was emotionally abusive after all. I don't understand why people think that emotional abuse is any different to physical abuse. It leaves scars just as deep, only invisible. But if my dad had hit me it would be a completely different story. Mum would have taken me away and never let him come near me again. But because it is emotional I am expected to fix it an fix my relationship with him.


Am I being crazy or is it completely messed up that nearly everyone in my life, including my mum who was the person I trusted the most in the world, still pushed me to stay in contact with dad?

Re: Emotional abuse

Hi @Mintie, welcome to the forums!


I'm glad to hear that you've been able to cut ties with your dad, it sounds like it was a really good step, and you deserve to be treated with respect.


When I was younger, my brother abused me both physically and emotionally.

I went to my parents for help, and they did nothing, even when the thought of coming home became terrifying.

I'm still afraid around him, and he makes fun of me for it.

My parents still refuse to acknowledge that it was abuse...


I agree, it is completely messed up that only some kinds of abuse are taken seriously.

I wish that more people understood this, and understood how much abuse can affect people...  Smiley Frustrated


You mentioned the emotional affects the abuse has had on you, do you have any supports to help you cope with these scars?

Re: Emotional abuse

Hey @Mintie 


Welcome to ReachOut forums and thanks for sharing how you feel with us Heart  It sounds like you've been through a lot with your dad. I can also sense that you've got some confusion around your mum encouraging you to continue contact with your dad. Have you spoken with her about that before? 


It might feel good for you to get how you feel off your chest and maybe get an understanding of your mums actions. Have you ever spoken to a support service about your experiences with dad?


Re: Emotional abuse

Hi @Mintie ,


I'm hearing that you feel it's messed up that your mum has tried to encourage you to stay in contact with your dad, despite his emotionally abusive behaviour towards you. I think I would feel the same way if I were in your shoes. 


Emotional abuse can be difficult because it is more subtle and difficult to spot compared to physical abuse, but it can still hurt us just as much. Often the people around us don't recognise (or don't want to recognise) these abusive behaviours. 


I think it's great that you seem to have put up some boundaries that you feel comfortable with surrounding your dad and his behaviour. No-one deserves to be emotionally abused, neglected or manipulated. If you recognised that being around your dad was hurting you then it sounds like you did the right thing for you, even if it upsets other people like your mum. 


Correct me if I'm wrong here, but I'm hearing that you feel your mum has broken your trust by encouraging you to continue your relationship with your dad despite his abusive behaviour towards you? I'm wondering how this makes you feel?



“Your now is not your forever."
― John Green, Turtles All the Way Down

Re: Emotional abuse

Hi @Mintie! Welcome to the forums!

I'm sorry you have an abusive father. Emotional abuse is still abuse, and nobody deserve any form of abuse. Smiley Sad I've dealt with similar things with my family members. These things are so difficult and it can be hard for other people to understand what you're going through if they've never experienced it themselves, so you can feel as though you are on your own. I just wanted to tell you that you're not alone and your feelings are totally valid. There are plenty of people who have gone through similar experiences. They're just hard to find. There is a subreddit called Raised by Narcissists and just reading the posts helped me a lot to realise that I wasn't going crazy and that my feelings were real. This is just an example of course. There are plenty of other forums and self-help books about dealing with emotionally abusive family members too.

I think that it's completely okay to distance yourself from your dad, especially if it's affecting your mental health, even if other people tell you otherwise. It is his behaviour that needs to change, not yours. I have distanced myself from some of my family members due to the drama and stress they were creating in my life. You can choose whether to have low contact with him, none at all, or see him sometimes and whether this is going to be a short term or long term thing. It's your choice. You could weigh up the pros and cons of each option to help you decide. There are also some questions you can ask yourself to decide how much contact you want to have with him and how to approach these issues. For example, has he always been like this or did his behaviour get worse over time?

One technique that I sometimes use with my family members if I have to talk to them is called the grey rock method.  I try not to talk about my personal life, how well I am doing, or ask them questions. It could be an idea if you still have to communicate with him.

Re: Emotional abuse

@Mintie it sounds like you've already received quite a few thoughtful replies Smiley Happy

It's nice to hear you're doing what's best for you, rather than what others may think is best for you emotionally. After all, you know yourself better than anyone of course Smiley Happy

Re: Emotional abuse

@Tiny_leaf  Thank you so much for the validation. I tried talking to mum about it and started seeing a psychologist but he basically told me I had made the wrong decision in cutting ties with dad and should try to get in contact with him again. It made me so angry that the person who was supposed to help me feel better was trying to send me back to the hurt.

Re: Emotional abuse

Mum pushed me to keep in contact with dad because she believed it was important for me to have relationship with him. I do understand where she's coming from but she doesn't understand me. I have seen a psychologist but he encouraged me to get back in contact with dad.

Re: Emotional abuse

@MisoBear  You are completely right. I feel like mum has broken my trust because she was aware of the abuse and acknowledged it but still pushed me so hard to remain in contact with dad. It makes me angry and upset and I don't know what I can do to change that.

Re: Emotional abuse

@Mintie, I can see why you would feel angry and upset about what your mum, dad and psychologist have done. Recognising how you're feeling and why are really important steps along the road to changing how we feel and behave in the future. It sounds like you already have a lot of insight into your situation, which is amazing and I hope you're proud of yourself for that. 


Do you think making an appointment with another support person (another psychologist or mental health professional) might help you right now? What has helped you in the past when you've felt angry and upset about a situation?

“Your now is not your forever."
― John Green, Turtles All the Way Down