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Avoiding Her Parents

Question:

After the most recent visit with my parents, my husband and I decided to distance ourselves from them due to their (especially my father’s) obvious mental health problems. They are in denial and would never dream of seeking therapy (while they do buy self-help books), and they think that the problems lie with everyone else. From what I’ve been able to learn about different disorders, it seems my father probably has narcissistic, paranoid, and/or obsessive-compulsive disorder(s). I can’t figure out my mother, but her problems don’t seem as serious; I’d say my father’s behavior is probably her biggest problem.

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p>Growing up in that environment was tough and has had lasting effects. After trying my best for years to have happy visits, with only limited success, I believe that to have a healthy adult life and marriage we must stay away from my parents. Does this seem like the right thing to do? And what about their rights as grandparents if we do have children? (Though we do live fairly far away geographically.) It also may help to know that I have ADHD which was never diagnosed (I was a high-achiever in school). Thank you for any advice you can offer.

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Answer:

I can think of many situations where it is not healthy for an adult child to maintain an active relationship with her parent(s). Most of them have to do with situations where the child is continually abused/put down/criticized/made to feel badly in some way by the parent(s). Not being in or near your situation, I can’t advise you on whether to stay or to go (you’ve already made that determination anyway). My only advice would be that you think carefully about the situation before you act. Distancing yourself from your parents is not the type of thing you want to do on a whim or transient fit of anger/depression, etc. If you’ve thought carefully and have concluded that this is the right thing to do to protect yourself and your family from abuse, then by all means do it.

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p>Regarding the grandchildren situation, well I would think that some level of contact between grandparents and grandchildren is in order, but it doesn’t have to be much. You’ll have to set a level you can live with.

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