Dr. Brewer: How do they discipline them and have you told your parents that their behavior is objectionable to you?
michaelangelo37: Yes! I have expressed this to them many times and have limited their interaction with them. My mother has hit the youngest for wanting a snack and forced him to eat her mashed potatoes.
Dr. Brewer: How did she force him? What did she do?
michaelangelo37 At the time, my oldest reported that she forced the spoon of potatoes into his mouth.
Dr. Brewer: Were your parents abusive towards you as a child?
michaelangelo37: Yes! Most definitely.
Dr. Brewer: What you are describing is abusive behavior. It must be very painful to know that your parents are harming your children. So, are your parents doing to your children what they did to you?
michaelangelo37: Yes, it is very painful and I will not let the generational pattern continue. However, my parents now feel abandoned by me.
Dr. Brewer: Have you considered working with a clinical professional? This is such a painful and difficult experience. It sounds like you know that you have to protect your children from your parents, which means your children come first. You should feel very proud of yourself that you have been able to identify the abuse and are working to protect your children from the abuse.
Michaelangelo37, please do what you can to help yourself as you and your family work to stop the abuse and good luck to you.
SierraDawn: How about a relationship where one partner is giving what she feels is suggestions, and the other partner is seeing it as "criticism"?
Dr. Brewer: It may depend on how the "suggestions" are being offered. If they are being offered as suggestions and the other has the option to agree or disagree, then the issue may be with the person who is perceiving criticism. Which partner are you?
SierraDawn:I am the one that gives the suggestions.
Dr. Brewer: What might be useful, is communications skills counseling for both of you. You can start with some self-help books, but working with a counselor really might be the most useful thing for you both! Good luck.
David: And this pattern of behavior happens in many different types of relationships. Sometimes the "suggester" is really trying to control the other person by telling them "this is the right, the only way, (whatever it is) can be done." Am I right about that, Dr. Brewer?
Dr. Brewer: Yes, you are right. That's why communications skills training can be so useful. In part, such work really helps both to learn to speak for themselves; expressing their own thoughts and needs versus telling or interpreting for their partner.
babygirl62:R eligion plays a big part in why I stay in my toxic marriage. Even our pastor told us it was toxic before we ever got married. How can I get to the point of "not going against God" and filing for divorce before it is too late for me and my kids? I am scared to "violate" the commandments. He has not committed any "thou shall not's," that would be o.k. to get a divorce. I cannot bring myself to go against what the Bible says.
Dr. Brewer: In a situation like yours, it might be useful to go outside of your church, but to still work with a counselor who has a stated understanding of your particular religious views. What makes your relationship a toxic one for you?
babygirl62: I have been in counseling, both Christian and secular, and all say to get out! However, I don't. He has been verbally and physically abusive, mostly to me but also to my kids.
Dr. Brewer: You are clearly in a difficult place. Consider that staying in a relationship in which you and your children are being harmed, may not be what was intended for you and your children. Does your partner agree with you that the relationship is toxic?
babygirl62: I love him, but also hate him at the same time. I raised one daughter by myself and don't want to see our son go through what she went through without her father being around. I understand and I agree, but I can't seem to "go against" God. And yes, he agrees.
Dr. Brewer: Some of what you will need to consider, I believe, is the harm and the "aloneness" that can come from being in an abusive household, both for you and your children. If your partner agrees that the relationship is in trouble, perhaps you both can go into a counseling environment, in which, you are jointly and actively engaged in making a change. Please consider all the ramifications in subjecting you and your children to the pain you currently endure.
Let me say to everyone, that the most difficult and most essential part of "dealing with" a toxic relationship is recognizing it and understanding that you do not deserve to be in a relationship that hurts, and that you have options. No one deserves to be harmed in any way. Furthermore, when there is abuse in a relationship, it doesn't just go away without a lot of very hard work.
David: Dr. Brewer, in each of these instances, it seems the questioner has difficulty standing up for him/herself. Do you have any suggestions for dealing with that?
Dr. Brewer: Reaching out for help can be an important part. Therapy can help, a support group (most are free) can help. Once you are in a toxic relationship, you are "taught" by your partner that it's really all your fault. If you buy into that philosophy, it can be very difficult to walk away from or set limits. However, limits must be set in order to live.