1. Distancing yourself from the situation allows you to see the situation clearly.
With distance and time, you can see past events and circumstances clearer. Toxic parents can be manipulating and often try to rewrite history and facts to achieve their own agendas within a family. They might not even acknowledge the things they do (or have done wrong ever) or see how their behavior has affected you and other family members. They might not even acknowledge your hurt feelings. Because of this lack of insight, attempting to change their behavior with direct confrontation is a futile endeavor. After seeing things clearly and removing yourself from the situation, the next step I recommend is establishing boundaries.
2. Distancing allows you to create boundaries with your toxic parent.
Now that you’re an adult, you have the power to choose when, where, and how much you want to engage them. You will have to renegotiate and assert your boundaries as an adult. When they repeat old toxic behaviors such as screaming, yelling, threatening or intimidating, you can end any engagement. You can modify your social media settings to limit your interaction with them. In real life, you can set safe boundaries with visitation by not getting in their car but driving and meeting them, limiting the time you stay, or keeping visits to a public place for events to keep your home life private. In some situations, the toxic parent doesn’t learn new positive behaviors because they have little tolerance for criticism, lack of insight or lack of will. So these boundaries must stay in place for years until you see noticeable improvement. This protects you and your life from hostility and negativity. It allows you to be well.
3. Distancing is healthy for you. It allows you to recover and reconcile with the past.
The first thing you’ll see change after distancing yourself is your mood. Your life will become a lot more peaceful. Because this person is your parent, meant to be a source of love and support, the wound is deep. So you’ll now have time to recover. With this time, you can put your needs first and your life first. The issues are no longer at the forefront of your mind and every day is not a crisis. You can now focus on yourself and begin to resolve your issues. Though you might never understand your toxic parent, if you take time to distance and recover, you’ll likely be able to reflect and forgive. Forgiveness doesn’t mean they have to be in your life, it just means that you have come to terms with the past and who they are in the present. You might have new opportunities to express your honest feelings about the situation through therapy and friends. This act will allow you to let go of the feelings you’ve been carrying around with you and not only have compassion on yourself but on your parent too. You are far enough removed from the situation where they can’t hurt you, so you’re safe. If you let time pass, you’ll grow and become stronger, you’ll move on and you will come to terms with your parent and their vices.
4. Distancing makes room for you to create a new circle of support and have quality relationships.
After your toxic parent leaves your life and you have spent time recovering and reconciling the past, you can build a positive support network of people that do care for you and want to support you. There’s more room for new and healthier relationships and friendships to form easier. You can also find a place in healthy communities through your church, school work or hobbies.
You can’t choose your family and you can’t change the past. But you can do something about the future and work on making your life a healthy, drama free, peaceful life by distancing yourself from toxicity, recovering and reconciling, and choosing a new support system to help you move on.
My name is Danielle. I am a millennial caught in the soul searching, money gathering, life-figuring-out time that happens after receiving an undergraduate degree in Liberal Arts. I spend most of my time writing thought pieces or revealing my favorite music, art and poetry through my blog page, The Blackbird Print: Theblackbirdprint.com. I’m addicted to Twitter, I love film and music. When I’m not putting my passions to work, I’m making plans for grad school entry, taking care of business, trying to get to the gym or to work on time. I live a simple life right now, but I’ve faced incredible adversity and have great hopes for the future.