One of the hardest positions you may find yourself in is when having to decide whether to cut off all contact with your parent or parents. It seems unnatural to live your life as if your parents are already dead. (In truth, what is unnatural is how N parents treat their children.) Society tends to disapprove of adult children walking out of a parent's life. Other family members will shame you for it. People seem to dismiss reason in this realm refusing to believe there must be an egregious crime or, more accurately a series of crimes, somewhere for an adult child to make such a drastic step. The very unnaturalness of cutting off from ones parents should be a giant red flag to others that something very wrong has been going on out of sight. The willingness of people to judge what they have not been witness to is a natural human fault. If you've tried to cut off contact from family you've already run into this reality. You're going to have to be very sure of your decision if you're going to be able to deal with this inevitable judgment.
Are you obligated to a relationship simply because of shared genetics? Are those who share your genetics exempt from the law of natural consequences?
That's what I want to talk about today. The concept that there are consequences for bad behaviors.
When I was forcefully confronted with the realization that neither of my parents would accept me on anything but their own terms was when I had to start to conceptualize living my life without them in it. I made a monumental effort to reason with them, to explain my moral framework and how they had no right to try to force me to violate my conscience or sacrifice my family in order to make them happy. When they were confronted with what were now my immovable boundaries, they ratcheted up the emotional pressure, obfuscation and manipulation. What I knew beyond all doubt was my determination to live as an autonomous adult would be like holding up the sign of the cross to a demon. The friction between me and my parents would be continual and unrelenting unless I was the one who capitulated. Considering the difficulties dealing with them when I was actually trying to please them, I had a pretty good idea of the level of misery for them (not to mention myself) when pleasing them would not be the focus of my energy and attention.
When living my life on my own terms, and no longer being willing to tolerate bad behavior on the part of my Nmom or my enabling father began, my Nmom and dad reacted by withdrawal. This has been a useful tactic of theirs. They think they are so wonderful and important that family members feel keen pain when they withdraw their royal presence. So they will withdraw for a time and then sound you out at some future date to see if you are now willing to comply to their demands. Withdrawal would also employed when my Nmom would behave like an ass but was refusing to acknowledge that fact. She pulls away for a period of time hoping that some months down the road when she calls and acts like nothing ever happened that you'll play along. Voila! No accountability. No need to apologize. Clean slate for the narcissist.
Both stages of withdrawal were experienced by me (inverse order) in the wake of my Nmother's sneak attack on my daughter during the Thanksgiving visit of 2002 that I have minimally described in another post. First, she withdrew because she knew she behaved badly and was hoping time would save her from accountability. I didn't hear from her for six months. She was brave enough to make a tentative contact after she received a Mother's Day gift and card from me. She sent me a card with a thank you and a very vague apology. No specificity at all. But I took that as an opening. In June of 2003 I sent her a twelve page letter explaining my reaction to her recent behavior toward my daughter and myself and telling her what a real apology would look like.
To make a long story less long ... I waited six months for a reply. What arrived was a carefully crafted response that was so full of holes as to be ridiculous, but on its face it was a valiant attempt to look like she was sorry while she excused and justified herself every way she could. I may post it here someday as grand example of a non-apology apology. I replied with another, less long, letter. Followed by interminable silence. She had no way to respond. I had her completely boxed in the corner. She saw I could not be bamboozled by her mind games. I wasn't buying her crap anymore. She could only hope I would just relent and make nice at some point.
Meanwhile, her machinations were ongoing. She had been on a continual slander campaign since Thanksgiving 2002 to anyone who would listen to her. Stuff was getting back to me. While pretending to apologize to me, she never stopped justifying herself and painting me and my family as the bad guys to her captive audiences. My father was the most affected by her negative campaigning. Even though he was a witness to the event in question, he surrendered what he saw with his own eyes and heard with his own ears to her rewrite of history. He threw me over. He expressed to his own brother that he was done with me. That he would cut me off now but he was being forced by his wife to give it a bit more time. He said he would give me a year to make right with my mother and then he'd be done with me.
A little over a year after my last letter to her (and about a year after my dad's threat to cut me off), Nmom clearly demonstrated she had no intention of retracting her slander and lies to extended family. An ex-sister-in-law reentered her sphere. My mother did not resist in any way beginning a new slander campaign against me. She made all her false accusations against me behind my back yet again even upping the ante as she was now accusing me of being to blame for her health problems. She stated that I was killing her. This newest accusation told me my father was believing I was now responsible for her health problems because she would have convinced him of it. The idea that dad was now seeing me as guilty of attempted murder was a scary thought. My father has a volatile temper. If he believes me responsible for her death (when she finally kicks off) I can see him coming after me. I still dream about him killing me.
All this story is to try to illustrate a hopefully simple point. My parents are the ones who are responsible for the decision to have me out of their lives. By not being willing to negotiate with me, by the continuing slander while faking an apology to me, by withdrawal as a means of showing their disapproval of my perceived recalcitrance, by their refusal to admit to wrong-doing, the reality is that THEY made the decision to not have me in their lives. Because of the law of natural consequences, their ongoing behaviors were guaranteeing that I would be shut off from them.
There are consequences for bad behavior. Or, at least, there should be consequences. The God of heaven relies on this natural law to teach sinners to turn from their destructive behavior. By feeling the results of consequences, reprobates may have a chance of being turned from their evil. We do a grand disservice to the cause of good and right when we interfere in this natural law. If we do not allow bad behavior to culminate in their natural results, we confirm the bad behavior. Any decent parent knows this truth from raising children.
I am hoping you can see where I am going with this. The answer to the questions stated earlier, Are you obligated to a relationship simply because of shared genetics? Are those who share your genetics exempt from the law of natural consequences? is no and no. To remain in a relationship where the bad actors are refusing to change, and when you have determined that their behavior is more than annoying and definitely in the realm of evil and destructive, then you must remove yourself from the relationship if you are going to avoid being an accomplice to their evil. Let the natural law of consequences have its opportunity to work.
Most important to your peace of mind, be willing to know that they made the choice to not have you in their lives because of their persistence in clinging to their evil. Natural consequences is likely the last thing that has any chance of turning the narcissist from their evil ways. The chance is slim to none, but that isn't your problem. If they do happen to change and you don't ever believe those changes to be real, or you are so far removed that you never hear of these changes, then settle your mind by realizing that this, too, is the result of the law of natural consequences. If a person consistently mistreats the people in his or her life then the natural consequence may be that they end up alone. Again, that is not your problem. You are guilty of nothing. They are bearing the consequences of their own guilt. You removing yourself from their life will not condemn them in the eyes of God should they ever choose to make things right with the universe. You don't have the power to stand between them and God should they decide to make things right. Which brings me to an important truth: you don't have responsibility where you don't have power. You don't have the power to change the narcissist, so you don't have the responsibility either. Please let that soak in. Some of us stay way too long in relationships with narcissists because somewhere in our minds we feel responsible for changing them. Give up that thought. Recognize the little bit of grandiosity in your opinion of yourself that allows you to believe you can be so wonderful, wise, loving or compassionate that you can change the narcissist. It is a heavy burden to be a savior...and an effort in futility. Step out of the way and let the law of consequences have a chance. You are without blame. They chose this outcome.
"Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." Galatians 6:7