While we’ve previously explored on our blog how to set limits with parents and even, end a relationship with an unsafe family member, how do you know if your relationship with your parent or parents is toxic? Refinery29 recently spoke to our NYC therapy practice to discuss what a toxic relationship is and what children, including adult children, can do if their relationship with their parent(s) is toxic.
Talking with our director Matt in “What It Means To Have A Toxic Relationship With Your Parent,” Refinery29’s Sara Coughlin quotes Matt’s definition of toxic relationships as “relationships where abuse (verbal, emotional, physical, sexual) happens frequently and goes on unchecked. It’s important to note that there are some relationships that are toxic in two directions, which means both people bring out bad qualities in each other and both people have created a type of unhealthy equilibrium. However, it’s more common that one party in the relationship is abusive.
Parent-child relationships are not immune to toxicity and in our NYC therapy practice, Matt sees toxic parent-child relationships that often center around narcissism. As he explains to Refinery29, this can look like “a parent who doesn’t have the emotional capacity to see a child’s needs (including an adult child’s needs) as important. This can play out as blaming, competitiveness, [or] being withholding.”
Often fairly overt abuse can occur, including, as Matt articulates, “parents stealing from their adult children in the form of taking on debt in their names, creating financially disruptive situations that their adult children need to ‘rescue’ them from or failing to repay loans.” So what can you do if you are in a toxic relationship with a parent? As Matt says in the article, “The solution is less about appealing to their sense of reason and asking them to change, and more about heavy duty limit-setting.”