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What Makes Adult Children Pick the Road of Estrangement?

By Marie Morin January 14, 2023 Family

Estrangement, the widespread and stigmatized condition describing cutting off one family member from one or more family members, is becoming increasingly common. Estrangement can mean cutting ties completely with no contact or little contact with emotional distancing.

When an adult child cuts ties from one or both parents, they choose to disconnect from a relationship they believe is unmanageable. Estrangement is painful and usually talked about behind closed doors. But in recent decades, there are many resources for the adult child to recognize unhealthy patterns and choose to separate.

Parents confronted with losing the relationship status with their adult child go through grieving and finding a way to reconcile.

Estrangement is a grueling matter, complicated and ambiguous. The arrangement hurts all involved parties. Research studies have yet to catch up to the demand for information to illuminate and make sense of this harsh condition.

Types of Estranged Relationships

We know there is a great divide in perspectives between the estranged and their parents. Some estranged family members’ struggles involve addictions, mental illness, abuse, and toxic behaviors. Unraveling generational dysfunction and its impact on individuals requires professional support. Parents and adult children sometimes must remain estranged to preserve their well-being. 

On the other hand, some families have intense histories, including numerous contributors, and can move forward. Parents and willing adult children find their way to reconciliation, often with the help of a professional.

Then there are those parents and adult children who remain emotionally or physically distanced for years.

Within this range are parents and adult children who, regardless of the relationship status, come to acceptance and learn to live again. These individuals processed the emotions of grieving, invested in their well-being, exercised their empathy muscles, and intentionally stepped forward. They embraced alternative perspectives, including those of their kids.

When parents gain insight into the context in which their adult child cuts ties, it opens the door for parents to move forward. For parents, this means they move into the spectrum of acceptance, acknowledge their role in the estrangement, and grow their empathy muscle. 

Estrangement Contributors

Intrapersonal Issues

We define intrapersonal issues as those where the adult child severs ties with their parents because of crucial personality factors. For example, if the parent struggles with mental illness, it might cause unwanted strife in the relationship, finally pushing the adult child away so far as to become estranged.

A mentally ill parent might not notice how their behavior affects their relationships, but that might not be enough to keep the adult child in the connection. Personality traits that may push adult children away also include self-centeredness, narcissism, and immaturity.

If the parent is unsupportive and unaccepting of the adult child’s feelings, the latter will likely internalize the relationship as low value and choose to estrange.

A widespread intrapersonal issue is personality differences. Adult children who do not feel accepted in their sexuality, gender identity, and religious ideals are more likely to separate from parental relationships.

Interfamily Issues

Interfamily issues refer to forces outside the family – for example, objectionable relationships imposed upon the adult child by a divorced parent. The adult child can choose not to be a part of that new family dynamic if they wish.

Other reasons may include influence from a third party, such as a controlling or abusive spouse. The adult child’s spouse pressuring behaviors work to dismantle the family relationship, which may result in estrangement to keep the peace within the marriage. Alternatively, the adult child’s parents may not like the choice of spouse and therefore create distance and conflict.

Intrafamily Issues

Negative behavior, abuse during childhood, and sustained rigid or distant parenting styles can eventually cause the child to cut ties. Someone who has suffered mental, physical, sexual, or emotional abuse as a child can choose to separate from their parents in adulthood for self-preservation.

Other examples include:

  • Family conflict and rivalries.
  • Drug or alcohol abuse.
  • Alienation from one parent caused by the other inadvertently damages the child’s perception.
  • Parental favoritism of other siblings.

It is not unusual for an adult child to recognize these behavioral patterns as detrimental to their well-being and choose to cut ties in their adult life.

So Why Is Adult Child Estrangement More Common Now?

With the newfound loss of stigma surrounding therapy and mental health, adult children are becoming keen on their circumstances and how their environment has contributed to their lives. If the relationship stops benefiting them or never has, they can choose whether or not to stay.

They are not responsible for their parents’ happiness and decide to put themselves first. The bare minimum isn’t enough anymore. Some agree that family is not a permanent state; it can grow and expand as family members age or come to a complete halt if so chosen.

Parent and adult children relationships tend to thrive when there are no expectations. The adult child can feel loved with no conditions and supported without fear of judgment. Unfortunately, adult children report feeling disrespected by parents who disregard their agency and adulthood.

Dr. Joshua Coleman, in his book Rules of Estrangement, discusses the shift away from the obligation to parents towards honoring one’s needs to be happy. Adult children who find their parents difficult and disrespectful can distance themselves or cut ties entirely.

What intrapersonal, interfamily, and intrafamily contributors discussed in the Carr et al., 2015 study 

elaborates on the complicated nature of estrangement. Also, understanding that an adult child’s perspective can be highly different yet valid. Parents who hope to reconcile are willing to step away from their versions of the estrangement story and empathize with their adult child.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Do you think it is important to empathize with your adult child’s perspective? What resources have you found to be the most supportive? What do you do regularly that helps you nurture your wellbeing?

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Barbara

Well done! Lots to chew.

Liz

Why is estrangement always blamed on the parent? I recently read an item by a professed professional who told an adult child her feelings are “more important” than her mother’s feelings. To me this advice is toxic. No wonder estrangement is becoming so common.

Susan

My reaction to this article as well. Parents need to detach from their toxic child who has mental illness and chooses not to get help. It’s not always the parents fault.

Barbara

AMEN!!

sasha

It is funny how much classic DARVO all these perfectly innocent “victims of estrangement” end up getting and how very little self awareness seems to even be possible in the spaces narcissistic/estranged parents tend to be.

(Not that all estrangement includes npd or any mental illness. But most of the ones that involve parents feeling victimized by estrangement or even “judged” because “omg what does everyone think or even know? Theyll know or at least think I’m a terrible parent! How could they do this ungrateful child to me???”, absolutely they out themselves every time. Kinda ditto with the “grandparents rights” brigade).

Last edited 17 days ago by sasha
Erica C.

You noticed that, too? They’re all completely innocent victims of “ungrateful” children who don’t appreciate them. It’s like they’re all reading from the same script lol.

Rettij

Agree! Unfortunately anyone that seeks counseling … the standard of practice is to blame the parents.
God forbid they recognize the child may suffer from mental illness.

Beth

What about helping each other to save families?

Jane

Some times the adult child suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder and nothing you can say will change anything!

lynne

I totally agree and thought about this throughout the article!

Susan Goodman

I think the article is geared towards parents being in the wrong. I have a daughter-in-law who doesn’t treat me with respect and constantly criticizes me. It is now decided to have nothing to do with me, although my son still expresses his love and brings the children to see me, I’ve tried many times to be her friend. Apparently everything I’m doing is wrong. I would’ve liked the article better if it had been fair to both children and parents.

Gwen Jones

Same for me Susan with my daughter in law, but continue to enjoy your son and grandchildren. Not ideal for sure. I know you did nothing to deserve this either

Beth

Agreed and how to compromise

Lesley

Your son is good person

Gillian Iszard

Same for me. I have a controlling DIL. I am banned from seeing my grandchild. My son supports her to keep the peace. She has been for counselling for depression and other issues so I believe she has some mental health issues as well. So sad – its the grandchild who loses out. She has alienated her own family as well.

Kristen

Identical situation in my family. This could have been written by my own mother. It’s so very sad. Their little girl is my parents’ only grandchild.

Just me

Be thankful you at least get to see your son and GC. My daughter in law was so jealous of my close relationship with my son. Caused such chaos but I was blamed and shunned. Haven’t spoken to or seen my son or GC in 7 years. The pain never goes away. It’s grieving the loss of ppl that are still alive

Sarah Pearson

I have a daughter in law that has not even tried to have any sort of relationship with me. I have tried but realized she just doesn’t care or want one. I used to hear from my son who is in the army on Sundays. Don’t hear from him at all anymore and have not seen him in over a year. This article is geared more towards the parents’ creating problems. All people parents and adult children need to take responsibility for their actions. Stop playing the blame game.

Caroline

I personally feel that the adult children feel entitled. Also many therapist promote this garbage. Not just with parents but anybody they are involved with. Whatever happened to respect and kindness? That is a foreign concept to these adult children. I am not talking about sexual or physical abuse. But because there are different personalities in any family. You need to respect the differences but now days your therapist promotes separation and abandonment. What happened to adult children taking responsibility for themselves. Caring on about something my mother or father said to me when I was 10 years old. Come on now. Do they have to love their own lives of course.
I think the cruelest thing they do is taking away the grandchildren. They are not only getting even with their parents but hurting their child.

Lesley

It does not make for a bright future regarding Family Life.
How about Focus on the Family.
Doesn’t that give therapists inspiration to succeed moreso.

Mimi

I’ve been estranged from my parent who abandoned me as a child. The parent hurt my children in the same manner that they hurt me. I won’t allow it again, nor am I getting even with my parent. I have to protect my children and myself from further harm, abuse, and neglect. I assure you I’m not entitled. I had to survive my upbringing due to my parent’s decisions to abandon their kids. And you know what, if you say crappy things to your kid, guess what – it has an impact. Listening, acknowledging, and validating a child on an emotional level helps to repair the relationship. Dismissing what they’ve experienced is destructive.

Charlene

Yes! Some adult children endured horrible upbringings. My mother was an alcoholic and my father was abusive. They are both deceased, but they left me wanting nothing to do with family life. I am childless by choice. For those who are so critical of their daughters-in-law, you might try to find out what her family life was like. She might have valid reasons for needing distance, which have nothing to do with you.

Susan

The therapists treat those who seek the help. If its the adult child seeking help the therapist will treat per that persons perspective. If it is the parent that seeks help the therapist will treat per her perspective. Respect and kindness is a two way street. Issues occur when one or the other refuse to take responsibility for their actions/words or lack there of. Or refuse to see or admit the hurt they caused the other. Nothing can be fixed if one party won’t even acknowledge the hurt of the other. I AM ENTITLED….entitled to feel hurt ..those are MY feelings and if I tell you I am hurt repeatedly and you dismiss it why do you think I should remain in your life?And why should my child have to endure the hurt that I have had to deal with before walking out of your life? This particular instance has nothing to do with drugs/alcohol abuse or any diagnosed mental illness. Adult children don’t walk out of their parents lives for no reason at all. Parents need to wake up and acknowledge their part in the pain they caused their child for them to walk away. I also think its pretty easy for a MIL to blame the DIL for issues they have with their sons. The DIL is the sacraficial lamb brought to slaughter again bc they are unwilling to acknowledge the hurt that they caused their son and its easier for them to place blame on someone else than to admit out loud the pain they caused to their son that caused him to shut them out. Not allowing them to see the grandchild is not about “getting even” it’s about no longer allowing them to continue the hurt that their not willing to acknowledge and if they are willing to hurt their child in that way without recognizing it they would do the same to the grandchild. I personally as a parent refused to allow that to happen.

Suzi

You are wrong about adult children walking out of their parents lives for no reason! Our son walked out of our lives because he made up reasons that were invalid after his divorce.
We bent over backwards to be compassionate and accepting even of his new girlfriend but just not on his unreasonable terms ie, bringing the new girlfriend to a family birthday gathering for our other DIL only 3 months after her separation for us to meet her for the first time. I told him that night was about his SIL and offered to meet gf another time but was cut off completely.
We try to reach out to our son and we tell him how much he is loved and missed. We would be willing to go to counseling or listen to any problem he has with us but he will not respond.
There was a time that I thought the same as you. I hope you don’t have to learn I’m right the same way I have because it’s crushing!

Deanna

I understand your perspective on that Caroline, but sometimes it’s the only option left. I’m estranged from my adopted family because of the sheer disrespect I received even though I did everything they wanted. I told them numerous times to stop breaking into my apartment and to call me when they want to come over. There would be times I come home to it trashed for simply not having it clean to their specifications. It would be something as small as a dish in the sink.

Murf

Bad association spoils useful habits.
Our first associate is our parents. If they make mistakes, own them. It gains respect. But a cover up may make the child view their parents as a person they can rely on in somethings but not all.

Our personalities develop as a child. Were open books. A parent that destroys a child’s confidence at a early age one purpose or by mistake still needs to fess up and own it. If they dont, they are STILL VEIWED AS SOMEONE THAT CAN BE RELIED ON IN SOMETHINGS but not all. The habit of the parent has not changed.

It’s not just what was said at the age of 10, it’s the owning it and willingness to take a child’s feelings into consideration over there own that produces that gold standard were all looking for. How important is a child to there parent?

If a parent is willing to bend over backwards and say sorry and really work on the relationship, the association has changed and it’s now on the child to reciprocate. If the child doesnt fess up to his or her own mess they may have made…..we know where the problem lays.

But it all starts with the parents. They began the relationship as a adult guidance counselor and example setter.

Gayle Carr

My son has been estranged from me since 2004 I thought this was not possible but it happened. I have learned to live with it. But have tried to fix it. to no avail. I will always be open for reconciliation and won’t be complete until it’s done.

Michele

It is the most cruelest and painful to prevent the grandchildren to have relationship with.💔💔💔

Sharon

And usually done on purpose, to create additional pain.

dianne

Michele – agree. My daughter and son in law wrote that they want nothing to do with me or my husband and we will not be allowed to see our grand daughters. Reeling from the pain, in therapy, reading books on estrangement, journaling and so much self reflection. I wrote a heartfelt letter to my daughter apologizing for anything and everything I had ever done to hurt her – the letter was self deprecatory and quite pathetic, in hindsight.
My daughter and I were best friends – I think this was very threatening to my son in law. I was present and silly and engaging with my daughters in law and I now know that this too was threatening to my son in law.
I don’t know anymore.
All of this was just so unimaginable

CARIE

I agree. Sometimes it is solely the adult offspring who decides to ignore a loving parent. Because of their own mental health or problems that have nothing to do with the parent. Sometimes the parent is at fault, sometimes the parent has done everything possible to be a loving parent, and yet the adult child develops negstively, for whatever reason, and blames the parent. They are now adults, with their own minds and make their own decisions, sometimes v bad decisions. And sometimes they have been groomed and brainwashed by the other revengeful parent, or someone else, for whatever reason, influences them.

sasha

Adult children, especially if narcissistic parents, codependent dynamics, self centered parents, addicted parents, or otherwise unhealthy dynamics absolutely do need to learn that they need to value their own feelings above that of others. Especially demanding parents that are unlikely to give reciprocity in that way.

And that’s a common dynamic a lot of young adults (especially oldest daughters) have to learn for a healthy life and adulthood.

Also because parents are the ones ~20+ years older. The ones who made the rules, set the standards, and a lot of times acted abusively, neglectfully, hyper controlling, unsupportive, or otherwise setting they’re children up for failure. They’re the ones who had the autonomy, and thus the sole responsibility for the earl foundations of the parental relationship.

Largely unintentionally, but it compounds a lot harder when it’s ignored, excused away, dismissed, or even expressing feelings associated with it is met with backlash, defensiveness, or even punishment (including guilt trips).

Children don’t get mental health or even addiction issues out of nowhere. It’s pretty much always a split between genetics and the environment they grew up in/spend too much time in. The kids are not the reason they were never taught how to socialize, stand up for themselves, resolve conflict, set appropriate boundaries, or any number of practical or social life skills they’re parents should have taught them.

And when those children realize how severe their issues are, how much hard work they’ll need to spend years or even decades to really heal from it and become truly healthy, how unapologetic or even victim blamey their parents get about it, when they are attacked by their own parents for having the difficulties, mental ilnesses, set backs, etc those same parents imposed on them. The strong emotions can start and could result in either lashing out or engaging in avoidance, at least until their emotions are sorted out and they figure out if it can be a healthy relationship in adulthood despite the childhood.

Once they see their parents never really cared about them as actual individual people but about how well they can fullfil their idealized “child role”. Once they start having healthier relationships and no longer find comfort in the emotional landmine their family of origin provides. Once they see how nastily or disrespectfullh they treat the estrangement.

It becomes pretty clear the need to leave entirely

Especially as it relates to generational trauma and the divide between people that want to heal and fix it and do better and those who want to cling to it because “well that’s how I was raised and i turned out fine”. Those who prioritize ending the cycle definitely wouldn’t want their own children exposed to a toxic environment and complete dismissiveness to the impact on the child and the adult replicating their own toxic childhood experiences. and often their children and how those grandparents act or may act towards them are the main inspiration for cutting contact.

For parents it’s a lot harder to justify. You chose to have kids and then didn’t like what you got? The health, the gender, the support needs level, the struggles, the interests, the sexuality, neurology? Then you really shouldn’t have been a parent. And rather than blaming the child you chose to have for being who they are, for how difficult you findbeing a parent, for them having the needs they have, and making choices they think are best for their own lives,

you really should reflect on your own failures and stop trying to childishly yell “but what about her, she started it. No fair I’m always getting blamed.”

Last edited 17 days ago by sasha
Kelly A Bergeron

That was a one-sided pile of garbage. Huff and puff, dear Lord! No reality there at all!

Erica C.

Your attitude towards a perfect stranger is “garbage.”

I can only imagine how badly you treated your child to make them want to leave you.

Lisa2

What a well written reply. I have been surprised by the comments that I’ve read thus far. Yours has been the only one that makes me believe that you have an understanding or experience about why children sometimes choose to alienate/break with family members. I’ve witnessed this in my family and had much rather that the person protect their mental health. While it has been painful to be estranged from them, I have to respect their reasoning.
Counseling could be a good idea to either with an estrangement and perhaps lead to a path to reconciliation. If either of my children decided to cut me out of their lives, I’d definitely be doing what I could to try to reconcile, including figuring out my possible contribution to the situation; there’s a reason someone chooses to do this. It may be a mental health issue on their part but maybe it’s something hurtful/damaging that can be resolved.

I wish everyone who is estranged the best. Life is short.

Louisa Maris

If you spent too much time listening to your peers, then blame the environment.

Carol Peacock

Oh bla bla bla! Parents love their children and do the best they can. We are wired that way! There are very few parents that really are willfully bad and they will have to answer for that. My belief is that children are responsible for honoring their mother and father. There is no qualifier – like you should only honor your parent if they were good according to your judgement. Parents have been “messing up” their kids since the beginning of time! Sure, I had to put some distance between my mother and I for a few years in my adult life. Yes, I felt like my kids lost out from not having grandparents around for a few year. Even so, I felt it was my responsibility to figure out a way to honor them and treat them with kindness and respect because – duh, they were my parents! I’m here to say that you can do it, and you children can do it! It may take a year, it may take decades. Parents – you did a good job! Yes, be willing to admit your mistakes – and to your children too – if you want. But, know that you loved them and raised them the best you could. And you know who loves them even more than you do? – God. He’s in their hands wether you have a relationship with them or not. (at lest this is what I believe)

Erica C.

I don’t trust anyone whose OWN children don’t like them. Most smart people don’t, either.

Cathy

Well, that is just sad… all I did was try to protect my granddaughter whom my daughter was beating her. May the lord show you the way.

Erica C.

No, it’s not sad. No one knows you better than your children.

So if they believe you’re so problematic that a relationship is impossible, why should anyone else assume one will work with you?

Shelley

Sorry but how on earth would you know?

Suzi

How do you decide IF it’s one child who estranges himself and the other remains close? Maybe you need to rethink your all or nothing decision.

Murf

If a parent closes their ears to their kids, God closes His ears to the parents (proverbs 21:13 / james 2:13).

If a parent says bla bla bla to their child or their feelings, James 2:13 will sum up the parents life until they do listen.

It’s not a game.

Just because you tried to get to work on time doesnt mean you shouldn’t worry about getting fired. Not having that conversation as to why you were late to work doesnt have to happen if your not worried about keeping the job. Same with our kids.

My 2 cents

Lisa

Omg yes I agree. Why is it always the adult child’s feelings that matter more than the parent who has loved and provided them a healthy childhood. I am seeing more it is the immature adult children not valuing important things in life like family due to social media and other factors. Why else would this be more common now except for social media and the decline in actually talking face to face and resolving conflict. It’s easier for these young adults to block and not deal with anything.

Jacqueline

I agree, social media plays a large part in this garbage. For most of us, all the basic needs we provided including the unconditional love is now somehow toxic behavior. God help us.

pillowss

No, it was my mother in this case who did not deal with anything. “My way or the highway”.

Anonymous

I think there is an element of truth to all that is said. However, I grew up in a horrible environment as a child. A severely alcoholic mom and virtually no father in my life. I never had children. However, my sister followed the path of my mom when her children were young. I was there for all of them equally. Since two of the four have become adults, two turned on me. Those two out of the four are very similar in personality. Neither accept any responsibility for their actions and one in particular blames everything in his life for his shortcomings. He has poor me syndrome. I learned based on my upbringing being horrible, I had a choice as an adult. I could remain a victim and stay stuck or find a path forward realizing I was responsible for my actions. I do think as a society we have gotten lax. I never disowned my mom. I learned you can hate the behavior and still love the person. Today, we have kids murdering one another and their parents. More now than ever. Respect seems to be a thing of the past. Kids are detached from their emotions more now than ever. Violent video games desenize. Interactions are through a screen. Emoji’s in place of emotions. Bullying is on the rise etc. Is there familial responsibility to some of this, yes. To solely blame parents is not fare. Society as a hole is to blame as well. Society that encourages estrangement rather then striving to help find a path forward. Brainwashing and teaching kids it is ok to disrespect parents. Society’s demands requiring both parents to work just to stay ahead. This promotes less time at home with kids. Everyone has a part is my point. We can blame one another or look at the situation as a whole. There is enough blame to go around. Kids need not be left off the hook for personal responsibility as adults because of a crappy childhood. I do believe in boundaries. Realistic ones.

Connie

Thank you. I agree

Erica Denise Cole

Because in most cases, it is the parents fault. And your response is proof positive why (lack of accountability and instant combative blame game tactics).

Children tend to love their parents unconditionally, no matter how dysfunctional. So when a child chooses to cut contact, it’s usually for a good reason. Whether that parent wants to come to terms with that or not.

Diane

Totally agree. I tried to gain my mother’s approval while in my whole life she never said she loved me while my sister could do no wrong. As I got counseling (because I married a narcissist) I realized my mother was probably narcissist. She and Dad beat me and made me the black sheep. It allowed them to blame me as the dysfunction. Figuring it out now. She passed and I took care of her in her dementia but now am finally healing. Limited contact with siblings and father. No one protected me. There was not any love to make the family safe. Everyone suffered in different ways. Mom and Dad were not accountable because they were in denial and wanted it that way. She used to threaten me with therapy but never took me. She didn’t want anyone to hear me.

Last edited 17 days ago by Diane
Sharon

My mom told me at my daughter’s wedding that she always hated me because “I was my dad’s favorite”. Her problem, now I understand why I was treated so bad. Therapist said do I really need her in my life, my response was no. So no more, I haven’t seen her in over 8 years.

Charlene

So sorry you had to go through that. I relate so much to being the scapegoat child.

Kelly A Bergeron

Here again, LACK OF REALITY! Are you out there counting all of these cases, may I ask? Where do you get your “in most cases” statistics?

Erica C.

Unless you are tarnishing the character of your child by implying they are psychotic, why else would someone choose to end a relationship with you?

No child would cut contact with someone who they otherwise have a good relationship with for no reason at all. Only a truly mentally disturbed person would do that.

So are you willing to defame your kids to save your own reputation? Your hostile response tells me yes you would.

Last edited 15 days ago by Erica C.
Suzi

How would you explain a son who goes from vacationing with the family (expenses paid by parents) all birthdays and holidays celebrated together, and even offering his Dad a part of his liver to going no contact after he leaves his wife?
I had plenty of reason to cut my mother out of my life but chose to create healthy distance without completely cutting her out. And when things were too stressful, I asked for counseling.
It’s too easy to blame the parents when you don’t know the entire story. We infested our lives into our children and grandchildren and are left with no explanation or chance of reconciliation after the most productive years of our lives.

Beth

This is exactly how my daughters counselor has guided her. She even said if I need you I’ll call otherwise I’m to busy to deal with you. And was told not to bother sending gifts for Christmas if they needed to watch for them cuz they don’t have time.
I feel professional s who teach the your more important scenarios are tearing down family systems. Just like they take Christianity out of families too.

Cheryl

My daughter and I have been estranged for 4 years. Howrver, she never forget my birthday or Christmas presents sent to me. I spoiled her and tried to get her everything she needed. I take responsibility for drinking more than Ii should have. I was devestated! It took 2 years to stop crying. My grandaughter, her daughter now 14, texts me. I uusually initiate them. I love her with my whole heart. I love my daughter too but I have had to accept that I might not see her again.

Charlene

I respect you for taking responsibility for excess drinking. My alcoholic mother never admitted she drank. I hope you and your daughter can repair your relationship. I see hope for that.

Jane

Some times the estranged adult child has Borderline Personality Disorder and nothing you can say will change their thinking!!!

Amy

My second born (a son) estranged himself from me two years’ ago, without a single explanation. I truly have absolutely no idea why he has cut ties with me and why he has retained ties with everyone else in the family. I don’t believe anyone knows why he has pulled away from me, nor do I want to involve any other family members in this situation. It remains a mystery to me. — My son moved out of state, and I have not seen my grandson (his little boy) for over two years. I am quite sure that by now, my little grandson doesn’t know me and has forgotten who I am. — That said, I choose to go forward in peace, allowing my son the distance he has chosen to have from me, while also having my own integrity and not allowing myself to chase or beg him for contact with me or an answer as to why he has chosen this path. — Even if my son were to approach me and want me in his life, again, I will never again be able to trust him with my heart.

Unknown

Trust is the ability to trust yourself. Please be grateful and accept what is. Have no expectations, just honor what is. Be grateful for having a son- those memories are priceless! Dr. Laura Schlesinger said “congratulations- you have done your job. Now it’s his turn to grow into a man. They don’t need a mommy. They need to connect with their father to grow. Establish their careers and family. They have a woman who is their number one priority! It’s a new chapter for us. Be grateful for everything.

Maryboczko

I’m in the same situation. It hurts me so much.

Pam

I’m sorry.. but “Unknown” Is way off base with their comments. What an ungrateful son! How selfish and self-centered…not to mention cruel.. can a son get!
How can a woman who has been completely abandoned by her son.. taking her grandson away too.. be grateful?
That is NOT the normal sequence of how are lives are supposed to be once we’ve raised our children!
If her son owes his mother nothing more..he owes her an explanation!

Carol Peacock

Unknown, I loved the above comment.

lynne

You will be surprised what a mother’s heart will do. Pray for him to connect with you again and you will welcome him back into your heart with no reservations.

Gwen Jones

Agree with all of you. I am moving toward acceptance of estrangement with my daughter and daughter in law but will always be open should they change their minds. Thankfully still in touch with my son and grandchildren. They don’t see how they make it difficult on the kids. Yes becoming very common and breaks up the family. So sad people cannot accept each other with flaws. I have several friends who have no idea what they have done to deserve this harsh treatment.

Wendy

I am having a similar problem with my daughter, though she is not married nor has children. I am nearly 70 and live alone having been divorced from her father for 30years, he re married and has another daughter of 18.
It is heartbreaking as I genuinely have no idea why it has happened, but like you if she does decide to suddenly re connect with me, I don’t know if I would be able too. I haven’t seen her for 3 years, her choice, then last year she rang at Christmas but by new year didn’t even wish me a happy new year and has not responded to my letters cards etc. She is alive as my son is in contact with her!
She told him it was better for her mental health to have no contact with me and didn’t wish to cause me hurt!
He has no idea why she has done this either.

Erica C.

The fact that you don’t want to continue being a mother if reconciliation was on the table just to punish her tells me she made the right decision in regards to cutting contact with you.

That’s an extremely childish mentality for a 70 yr old woman.

Just live the rest of your years out (however many you have left) with bitterness and anger. Let your daughter be happy for once.

Wisteria

Oh wow Erica that is harsh and a very rude thing to say to Wendy who is hurting deeply. Where is your evidence for saying this? Once trust is broken in a relationship some people feel that that can’t ever be mended. Surely everyone has the right to express how they feel in their personal relationships going forward.

Louisa Maris

She didn’t say she didn’t want to after 3 years, just that she didn’t know if she could. If you’ve been there, you know exactly what she’s talking about. There’s a good chance it’ll happen again over a few years, and the mom will be going through this all over again. It almost killed some of us the first time – and with NO explanation whatsoever. Why should she want to set herself up for repeat behavior from her grown child? Healing doesn’t mean you let yourself be continuously hoovered back in by the alienator.

Tina

That’s the worst part… not knowing why this happened..

Catherine Vance

I respect your choice. It would personally make me crazy not to know what his reason was.
Example: My husband and I learned (after a period of estrangement) that my husband’s children (they were adopted) were told by their mother, “Your father always said he could never love an adopted child as much as a biological child.” Well, he and I had a biological
child together, and these young adult kids fed into what their mother had told them!!! What if we hadn’t asked, “Hey, what the heck is going on here???”

You don’t have to “chase or beg” to write a letter and say, “I am trying not to be crushed
by our separation, and I am asking you to, “Please, please tell me what happened or what I did or said that brought this about. If it is possible to remedy this, please let us try.”

sasha

I can see why. You don’t even try to ask or figure anything out. You have non interest in him or his well being beyond how well he plays the role you expect of him and allow you to do the same (likely seeing him and his child as little more than just the vague concept of the role in which they occupy defined entirely by their relationship with you).

You’ve expressed zero concern about possible alienation, mental illness, social stresses, or even his perspective on what it was like growing up and how good or safe you or any of his family of origin really is for his child.

It’s not the kind of relationship I’d try to maintain either, even if i didn’t think there were all that many major issues when i first created thinking/feeling distance. Especially if you’ve communicated these sentiments directly to him before, or indirectly via complaining to other family members or other mutuals about it.

Erica C.

Because she already knows the reason why her son doesn’t want to have a relationship.

But they feign ignorance to fulfill that “helpless victim” role. They act clueless to portray their child as the villain in the story.

Only a psychotic person would end a perfectly good relationship for no reason. So unless their child has been diagnosed with a psychological disorder, I’m not buying it.

sasha

Your child has their own life, their own needs, and their own feelings. You aren’t actually entitled to anything. Let alone a relationship you fail to properly maintain (not just in frequency of contact but also quality. How negative, judgemental, self centered, or invalidating parents are is a top reason why adult children pull away and eventually cut contact)

If they feel you don’t really care about them or their feelings, that you blame them for your own shortcomings and all the issues they have with you/your parenting, or that you have a persistently negative impact on them and their family, disrespect or invalidate them, might be a physical or psychological danger to their children… Why should anyone ever expect them to maintain that relationship?

Your son left and eventually rekindled relationships with everyone except you. But it’s a *him* problem? While you go on and on about how conditional your love actually is and how your heart no longer has a space for him? Implying that for the crime of living his own life and hurting your feelings in the process that he has to try to “earn” the right to any future relationship because of course you’re just inherently a victim of any situation that makes you unhappy or breaks from the perfect little image you think everyone’s life and family should look like?

I think you don’t ask why because you already know why. Most narcissistic parents do to some degree or another.

Last edited 17 days ago by sasha
Just me

My heart hurts for you. It’s been 7 years for me. I was close to my granddaughter who was 6 the last time I saw her She’s 13 now. They’ve also had another child that I’ve no relationship with. He is 6 .. I wet through a long mourning period and still have moments where I completely breakdown but you learn to go on,,,yes, you have a hole in your heart but you go on

Tina

This is my problem also. Hardly any contact with my daughter (age 38) since I dropped her off freshman year at college. That was 20 years ago! I have absolutely no idea why she wants nothing to do with me. She was the middle child between 2 rather needy ones, so I made sure to give her extra attention, go on trips with her alone, etc. Tired of crying myself to sleep… so I am learning to let go. Hurtful, frustrating, sad….

Nina Johnson

Interesting topic. I’d like to see a discussion of when the parent decides to cut ties. Still a taboo.

Nancy Jenkins

I have a son and daughter. Myself, my son and friends of both of theirs have had to cut ties with her. She doesn’t like anyone in her family or her husband’s and has treated us all unkind and ripped families apart. She has destroyed the relationship with her husband and his family. It took years but I couldn’t take it anymore. . I so wanted a daughter and when I’m around my friends and they talk about the things they do with theirs , it greatly saddens me. I use to blame myself but no longer do because I’ve seen what she has done with others. My life is less stressful. But still sad at times. Could never be the same though. I text occasionally and she will answer but that’s it.

sasha

That’s usually called disowning. It usually happens due to teen pregnancy or being some shade of queer or another. (My grandma was disowned for teen pregnancy and I’ve got the generational trauma to prove it)

Still other cases are more like child abandonment (not those who initially chose to not be a parent and sign over rights. More like my best friends mom who randomly left to go be with another guy in another state. For a few years it was mostly like any other divorced situation. Until the stepdad sexually abused her and the mom chose to maintain her relationship with him instead of her daughter).

It’s pretty taboo because there are very few justifiable reasons for a parent to abandon their child entirely. Even when extended family adopts a child due to mental illness or poverty making that family member a more suitable primary caregiver, even when the parents are perfectly safe to and want to visit.

Our messed up adoption system for example basically demands zero contact regardless of circumstance. Even those who seek out open adoption can easily be betrayed because there is no real protection against the adoptive parents moving and deciding to close it up and randomly deny contact.

And then there’s issues where a toxic codependent family system demands that someone step out of it and it happens to be the parent sometimes.

But overall not a lot of good reasons

Caz

I’m curious Sasha – how many kids do you have?

Wisteria

It’s obvious Sasha has zero children as she has no idea what being a parent feels like and consequently has no right to be criticising people who have been parents long enough to be grandparents.

Martha

I am a parent and an adult daughter who has had to cut off my own mother.

My son is a success despite me being his mother. As much as it pains me to admit it.

My son has cut me off going on 8 years and I do not blame him.

I am filled with regret, wishing I could turn back time, but none of will change things.

While there are a number of factors that have contributed to this outcome in my life, at the end of the day I realize that it was and is my choices that have brought me here.

When people ask me about my son, I am honest and tell them he cut me off and because of good reason.

I take full responsibility and while I would like to have another chance, I do not bother him and respect his wishes for nor further contact.

It is a life lesson I will take to my grave. The everyday shame and humiliation I feel, when people ask about my son and when they tell me about their sons and daughters is unbearable.

It is a never ending torture that I am powerless to change. Some moments I feel ok and then another wave of shame and sorrow. How it looks to other people to be the one parent that had been cut off by their adult son.

Society looks down on people who have been cut off by their offspring. I look at my friends and wonder what do they have that I dont to where their kids choose to stay in their lives.

It makes me go back and forth between self loathing, to envy and resentment, to feeling superior to feeling inferior to anger and rage and back to self loathing to start the cycle all over again. I am trapped in this viscious inner cycle of hell and turmoil with no way out.

Tbis is karma.

Robin

Interesting article. I didn’t realize this was a “thing”. My adult son, just did this to me (his Mom). Still trying to figure out how to navigate this.

Riley W.

I didn’t realize it was a thing either until it happened to us. We were gobsmacked. So very painful

Cherie

Yes, I agree! This seems to be a trend. I worry about the grandchildren that are suddenly taken away from their grandparents with no explanation and no chance for their grandparents to explain that they were not lying when they told them that they would always be there for them. This is not what they wanted but what their parents wanted. So very sad and so very immature. This generation is just too intitled and selfish to think about what they are doing to their children and their parents. With that being said….maybe it is high time for them to make it on their own. Their choice now maybe they can see what they really had once it is gone!

Erica C.

You are demanding a relationship with your child despite being extremely difficult and unlikeable just because. But you don’t see that as entitlement?

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The Author

Marie Morin is a therapist and wellness coach at Morin Holistic Therapy. She helps women develop a daily self-care routine, so they overcome perfectionism and limiting beliefs and be their most confident selves. Marie is a grateful blogger and YouTuber. Find out more at morinholistictherapy.com and contact her at morinholistictherapy@gmail.com.

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