Often, they are victim-shamed and chided by otherwise well-meaning friends or acquaintances who don’t seem to understand abuse and dysfunction. For the victim’s well-being, they should be ‘allowed’ to escape their abusers. If the person harming them was a stranger off the street, these same friends and acquaintances would support the victim’s choice not to forgive or forget, to have no contact. But we’re told time and time again, the onus is on us (the victim) to suck it up because they’re family. The fact that they are family and continue to be toxic, even when made more than aware of it, is unhealthy. Telling someone to normalize the dysfunction for the greater good of ‘family’ is absolutely unhealthy.

For example. My mother is a narcissist. Just saying that people are concerned I’m overreacting when I say I have absolutely nothing to do with her and she is most certainly toxic. “But that’s your mom.” Yup. She is my biological birth giver. Other than that, she doesn’t fit the socially programmed mold of a mother. She’s not your mother (well-intentioned stranger). I doubt your mother is morally-ill. I’m gonna guess your mother doesn’t lie about illnesses in order to get attention and scam money from people. I’m going to guess she doesn’t use manipulation, gaslighting, and guilt trips, or blatant favoritism of your siblings (golden child), or blames you for everything that goes wrong (scapegoat). She’s likely not telling people behind your back a slew of made-up slights (smear campaigns) and creating flying monkeys (people who just believe these stories without question) to further embarrass and abuse you. Mothers are supposed to build their children up, NOT tear them down and use them like living wallets. Narcissists do not feel shame, or guilt, or empathy. I spent decades trying to understand the why behind her increasingly awful treatment. Somehow, the nicer and more hardworking and giving I was, the uglier and more entitled she became. Finally, I had to accept she was never going to be a mother to me. So when people suggest I forgive and forget, I try to put it into perspective and remind them my negligent, abusive mother is NOT your mother. I’m sure your mother was wonderful and loving. Mine hurt me. And no, I didn’t do anything to deserve it (for those who are short-sided and think victims must have done something to earn the abuse they were subjected to).

I fully support anyone who wishes to distance themselves from toxic relatives. Stop enabling them with statements like, “Oh, well, that’s just how he/she is” after they say or do something horrible to another loved one. It is not ok. And if you have a sister or brother who you know has a different, seeming difficult relationship with your parents, perhaps you might consider he/she is treated differently than you and not dismiss their valid feelings about it just because you are the favorite (for now). This is very common, for example, in narcissistic family dynamics. One child will be treated like a god (Golden Child) while others will be treated like scapegoats (blamed for the ills of the family) or passive observers (lost children) or the surrogate parent (the one placed in charge of the well-being of other siblings because the narcissistic parent is done caring for them — heaped with extraordinary responsibilities at a young age). These roles can shift over time, so you might not always be the gold child.

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Technophobe Who Codes | UX Generalist | Freelance Writer | Egalitarian-Feminist | True-Crime/Forensics Enthusiast

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