Limited Contact: A state of partial interaction, that one partakes in for certain occasions, with abusive or toxic family members, whereby one is able to remain in contact and on their own terms with those that they would otherwise have no contact with.
When communication with one’s family consists of personal attacks, criticism, manipulation, triggers, pain, anxiety, loss of self-esteem and lacks – love, support, respect and caring, it is necessary to stop contact for one’s healing and well-being.
Not everyone belongs in your life regardless of their title or position in your family. No one should ever get a free pass at hurting you or tearing you down.
But no contact is not easy. Most people do not understand the notion of not speaking to one’s parents or siblings. We often hear things like, “You only have one mother,” or “Your father’s not going to be around forever,” by well-meaning acquaintances, who try to lay the blame at your feet for not being sympathetic, or forgiving enough.
We use no contact with family members when interaction with them affects you or your loved ones in an extremely negative way, when there is a total lack of respect for you and your boundaries or when there is simply no joy in it.
We use limited contact when:
You’re not ready to let go – You know they are toxic but feel that you will be missing out and don’t want to be alone for the holidays, you still hope they will change or you aren’t in a place where you feel you can cut them out.
You are in a place of healing where their words and actions bounce off of you and have no effect – If you are able to look at your family and understand the dysfunction and you have healed to the point where their words and actions have no impact on you, low contact might be an option. I have clients that make a game out of how many times they get insulted and how many digs their family takes at them and they use it as a drinking game. I’m certainly not advocating that, but if you can laugh off their behavior and not take it to heart – you’re on your way to a much better place.
You have conditioned them to respect your boundaries – If they are making an effort to abide by your wishes and trying to curb their behavior, you might allow them limited contact with you and your family. The important aspect here is that there is an understanding of boundary and consequence. Make sure they understand the rules and if they make the choice to ignore them then you must serve up the consequence. Otherwise its just an empty threat and the toxic behavior will continue.
Being dependent on an abusive parent financially is paramount to what I think hell would look like. It creates a power dynamic where they feel entitled to dish out any abuse they wish and you feel like you have no other option but to put up with it. If you find yourself in this situation read material on self-esteem, see a therapist if you’re able and make a plan to get yourself out from under their thumb. If you allow them to continue supporting you, the abuse will continue and your healing will be stalled or slow at best.
Other guidelines to follow:
Don’t host the event. You don’t want to be stuck in a place where you can’t leave if you have to. I always advocate having your own transportation – if you agree to attend make sure you have an escape route. Don’t depend on aunt Alice for your ride, or at least have the Uber app downloaded to your phone so that relief is just one swipe away.
Dysfunctional parents will often use their grandchildren as pawns. Make sure that your rules for engagement are firmly set. Discuss this ahead of time so that they know what you expect. If respecting your wishes are too much for them then don’t go. Emotional Manipulators will always find a way to make themselves the victim, so don’t back down and follow through with the consequence of you leaving, if you have to.
Some abusive parents are better grandparents than they were parents, but that’s more the acceptation than the rule. Don’t allow yourself to be guilted into depriving your children of their grandparents, or their gifts, especially if that interaction won’t be a healthy experience for them. Remember, your job as a parent is to keep them from harm and that supersedes any guilt trip that might be heaved upon you.
Remember your presence is not a requirement during the holidays and you are not obliged to interact with people who chose not to value, support or care about you.
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