Dear Zanny,Hi, this is Annie from California. I have a very abusive relationship with my father. We usually don’t see middle ground on many things, but the worst thing is that whenever I disagree and provoke his temper, he explodes and abuses me either verbally and/or physically. My dad has called me hopeless, futile, pathetic, fat, dumb and numerous other put downs that I consider unacceptable for a father to say to his daughter. He’s kicked, slapped, and even spit on me on occasions.After a huge blowout, my father would come back to his rational senses and try to apologize, telling me how much he loves me. As a daughter, I forgave him time after time.
However, this last time, I’ve decided I had enough. I’ve been abused way too much to let this happen to me again. I now hardly speak to my dad, and try to avoid being in the same room with him at all times.
Since I am a college student, it is impossible for me to loose all ties with my father, since he is financially responsible for my tuition and my lifestyle. My mom has a hard time with all of this, but she often sides with my father asking if I can forgive my dad again because she hates to see the family so broken up. I love my mom, but I can’t let myself be so vulnerable and abused again. What should I do? I’ve talked to friends and a counselor about this, but nothing has changed. Please help me!
1) Your father is an abusive bully who has anger management issues which result in poor impulse control
2) I’m so glad to hear you say that his behavior is unacceptable – that is a healthy response
3) Most children repeatedly will forgive parental abuse, that’s normal because children always want their parents’ approval
4) I am going to challenge you on your thinking. It is NOT impossible for you to cut ties due to his financial help. It’s more difficult to do-it-yourself, and thousands of college students do it every year. Financial aid is available. Go to your college’s financial aide department and begin to explore your options.
5) Regarding your mom: It is her choice to stay with your father, she is an adult and responsible for her own choices. I wonder what she gets from staying? People continue in behavioral patterns in which there is a payoff – what’s hers?
6) YOU are NOT breaking up the family if you do not allow your father to hit, slap, or spit on you. Hold your boundaries. This is a classic blame-the-victim stance. It’s your father’s abuse and your mother’s condoning it, that will impact the family – NOT YOU.
7) You are the emotionally healthy one in this scenario. I applaud you for your emotional fortitude to recognize the kookiness of this situation.
1) Decide right now that you will never tolerate either verbal or physical abuse from your father again. Period.
2) Call your parents and tell them, very firmly, that until they can ensure/guarantee your physical safety, you cannot be around them. Do this via phone so your father is not within physical proximity to you.
3) Tell your mother that her stance in protecting your father is also not acceptable to you. She certainly has the prerogative to side with him – but you do not. Say something like: “Mom, I don’t understand why you put the burden on me of keeping the family together. You know dad is both verbally and physically abusive. I will no longer tolerate his behavior. If he ever hits me again, I will call the police and file charges. For my own mental and physical welfare, I cannot be around him unless he can guarantee my safety.”
4) Regarding your father’s financial support. If he attempts to use financial control by threatening to stop assistance you may say something like: “Dad, that’s your choice to use your money however you want. I will be disappointed if you discontinue helping me with my college endeavors. However, I will not continue to put myself at risk – emotionally or physically – to ensure financial aid.”
5) Annie, you have the right to protect yourself. Your email suggests you already know this, you just need validation; so here it is: STOP! Do not allow your father to verbally or physically abuse you. He needs help. He has huge impulse control and anger issues. You’re an adult now and safe. You do not have to tolerate him or anyone ever hurting you again.