All through your childhood, this toxicity may have gone unnoticed. A chance remark or conversation must have woken you up to the fact that your parents are not exactly who you believed them to be. They are indeed toxic. You have been living with toxic parents.
As a child, you must have wondered why your parents are different from your friends’. And, why the relationship you share is not normal. Now you understand them to be harmful parents, toxic family, and dysfunctional relationships.
This makes you wonder how you could have been so blind. The signs were always there right in front of your eyes – as a child and as an adult. Before the great revelation, you thought this is how parents behaved and this is how a healthy parent-child relationship should be. You mistook their controlling and toxic behavior for love and care.
When they behaved badly or cruelly with you, you ignored their toxic behavior as a one-off episode. Maybe they are going through some personal problems. You hoped that things would change for the better.
Even in healthy relationships, there will be periods of turmoil and conflict. So, how to recognize that you have a toxic parent, especially if you have grown up? Living with toxic parents is not hard if you know how to spot the signs of toxic parents in adulthood.
This article explores the toxic parent-child relationship. Here you will find listed signs of toxic parents in adulthood. Once you recognize that your parents are indeed toxic, you can take steps to deal with them. With the right ones, you may be able to salvage your relationship.
5 signs of toxic parents in adulthood
As an adult, you should have the freedom to make decisions in your life. If your parents are resisting letting you go and holding on to you, it is a clear sign of toxicity.
If you look back to your childhood, the toxic relationship was always there. You just failed to recognize the signs. Better late than never. Let’s check out the signs of a toxic relationship with parents in detail.
1. They are manipulative
Most children grow up looking up to their parents and craving their love, care, and approval. A toxic family tends to exploit this need for acceptance and validation in their children for their personal gains.
Even if you are capable of making your own decisions and managing your life well without their help or support, such abusive parents may make you think otherwise if the decisions you make do not agree with their own ideals or are harmful to them. They may urge you to change your decision and toe their line. If you disagree with them or refuse to do their bidding, they may deny you their love and care. Their actions are bound to create strain in the parent-child relationship.
If you continue to not relent or decline to please them, they will keep up the pressure tactics on you. You can expect more threats and other consequences for taking a firm stand.
If you were a child, your parents would have various methods for punishing you. Such as, denying you things you like or grounding. Now that you are a grownup and can do whatever you want, a toxic family relies more on emotional blackmail than physical punishment. Such as estrangement in connection, silent treatment, or cutting off your inheritance.
Living with toxic parents in adulthood can be hard on your mental health.
2. They trivialize your emotions
When you gather enough courage to speak about how disappointed and hurt you are by your parent’s words or actions, they are quick to brush it off as being hypersensitive. They will accuse you of being delicate and fussy and quibbling over trivial matters.
One of the most common methods used by a toxic family to keep you confused and questioning your own sanity is gaslighting. This makes you doubt your perception of reality and even your sanity. They manipulate you in such a way that you will begin to question your beliefs, memories, and self-image.
Your perceptions about yourself, others, and the world, in general, are invalidated in one go without being given a chance to explain your stand. You’re made to feel incompetent and worthless, not capable of handling your life. Either it is “You should learn to let it go” or “You should develop thicker skin”. Whoever you are is never good enough for them. This will fill your mind with confusion and shame.
3. They equate your disagreement with disrespect
The attitude of toxic parents toward their children can best be described as “My way, or the highway”. There is no chance for healthy discussions, respectful disagreements, or compromises. If you don’t agree with them, you are out of favor with them. They won’t give value or weight to your suggestions and opinions, even if you’re an adult.
Toxic parents who are fixated on dominating you and your life are hard to manage. They have been used to the authoritarian way of functioning and follow the same style in their parenting as well. Any murmur of protest on your part will draw blood. They will not tolerate disagreements and consider them as disobedience, even if you are a grownup now.
While dealing with a toxic family, you are left with only one option to continue the relationship – complete surrender and compliance. Or else you can walk away from them. There is no middle path open to you.
4. They continue their incessant criticism
A toxic family is critical of every single aspect of you, your behavior, and your life. They don’t even spare your abilities or character. They often poke their heads into your affairs and offer unsolicited advice. Even if the advice is good and well-intentioned, it can only end up harming you in the long run.
As an adult, you will have trouble thinking on your own and making your own decisions. Since you doubt your own capabilities, you will be too afraid to manage situations that may come up in your daily life. Even if you find these comments and advice frustrating, you find yourself helpless to disregard them or to raise a protest.
This happens because of the absence of boundaries in the parent-child relationship. Toxic parents may not limit their criticism of your words and actions but also may encroach on your character. There is nothing more demoralizing for an adult than being attacked with an unending stream of disapproval, advice, and criticism.
5. They accuse you of causing them misery
They will make you feel as if you are responsible for their happiness and contentment. If you do anything against their wish or willfully disobey their commands, you are directly contributing to their unhappiness. Their stress, anxieties, and depression are all on you.
Toxic parents are so focused on their own lives that they fail to see yours. All they want is peace and happiness in their lives and force you to make it possible for them. In the process, if you are unhappy or get hurt, it is not their concern. As far as they are concerned, it doesn’t matter.
If anything goes wrong in the relationship, it is always you to blame for it. Toxic parents will never admit their own mistakes, take responsibility for their wrongdoings, or apologize. They are never at fault and it’s always on you.
Final thoughts on living with toxic parents in adulthood
Living with toxic parents in adulthood and coping with them is never easy, be it as a child or as an adult. But you need to begin somewhere and get back your life. You better start this process as soon as you become aware of the toxic relationship you share. Before you go ahead with this plan, you need to be aware that to bring about a change in the relationship, don’t try to reform your parents because that never works. The one person you can change is yourself.
You can make the relationship with your toxic family healthier by setting boundaries and limiting your contact with them. Take your parent’s word with a pinch of salt and refrain from self-blaming.
With patience and perseverance, most such toxic relationships can be salvaged. If you can’t, don’t hesitate to walk away for the sake of your mental health and well-being.