When is it justified to cut off a parent? Need advice.

Unfortunately considering this right now. First year EB banker (yes this is totally relevant and not just a flex) who just graduated. Been putting this decision off for a while. Here's the background.

When I was 9, a family tragedy occurred that messed up my family. Dad, a middle class professional, became an alcoholic, cheater, and a not-very-nice human being. He completely ruined and abuse me mentally, and probably my mom as well. I can confidently say that every major negative trait that I have as a person comes to me from him, and this is not an exaggeration. It was extreme levels of verbal and mental abuse which left me with no self-esteem, happiness, hobbies, confidence, or friends, entering HS. To this day, I have never received an apology from him for ANYTHING at all. I don't know if he is too clueless to realize what he did and said to me or he is too ashamed to apologize, I assume it is a little bit of both. He hasn't really changed either. It is just that I used to be a captive in a household with him so I experienced more abuse. Now, we interact rarely so it is a bit better, but he is still a terrible, toxic individual. I don't want to get into what he did specifically so I'm asking you guys to take my word on the abuse that actually occurred. All of this says that I should cut him off though, right?

Well, here's the dilemma. I still have reason to be grateful to him. For one, I immigrated to the U.S. with him when I was a toddler. His pursuits were the reason for this and if it hadn't happened, I would still be stuck in a 3rd world shithole (as he reminds me constantly). He also emphasized, mostly in a very toxic manner, some of the things about life that are important. Working hard, studying for school, etc. He is relatively generous financially. He paid 15k/year for 4 years of school at a top 10 school (I am an only child). However, money was never the issue for me. It is clear regardless that he doesn't give a shit about me. I think him paying for college was more in the narcissistic hopes of "I paid for college. I must be a good father. Now that I'm a good father I don't need to interact with my child at all!" which is a good summary of what all his financial treatment of me has felt like. It was never about the money to me. It was more about are you willing to engage with me, show even a modicum of interest in my hobbies; friends; life, spend time with me, be a nice person to me, and the answer to all those questions is a resounding NO. Furthermore, I grew up without grandparents on his side as he cut off his own family and father as well so I saw what that was like. He was justified in doing so but I'm sure there is some sort of psychological explanation for the chain of father-son abuse.

Now that I'm out of college and not being financially supported by him, would it be fair to cut him off? A portion of this is about my contributing to him financially when he retires. I know roughly how much he is worth. I don't think he will have enough to retire. I will 100% unconditionally financially support my divorced mother who has had a very difficult life, mostly because of him. But quite frankly I don't think he deserves it. I wish I could say otherwise. I am not greedy about money. I WANT to financially support him and have an actual relationship with him. But I can't reward bad behavior. Not after all the pain he has caused me. On the other hand, I feel guilty about cutting someone off after having them pay for your college, but I would have gladly traded $60k for an actual fucking father figure. Maybe that just shows my privilege.

Am I justified in cutting him off? Is it bad to do so after having them pay a little bit for college? Personally I operate under the belief that your kid is your number 1 responsibility, ahead of your partner, spouse, job, and family. Part of that is supporting your kid (especially an only child) with education to the best of your abilities. But he has just disappointed, neglecting me at every turn. I've given him so many chances and he continues to disappoint me at every turn. Frankly, I just keep getting hurt over and over. What do I do.

Also, yes, I am planning on finding a therapist soon.

Comments (25)

Aug 6, 2022 - 1:51pm
Zyn_God98, what's your opinion? Comment below:

First of all major props to you for taking all that shit on the chin your entire life and using it to fuel you into where you are now, you're a badass mf and clearly have never made excuses for your shit childhood. It sounds like you know exactly not only what you want to do, but what you need to do. You are 1000% justified in cutting the fucker out of your life completely and never looking back. The fact that you're struggling so hard with this goes to show how much of a better person you are than him, clearly he isn't going to contribute in any way to your life in a positive manner, you don't owe him shit. You've gotten yourself this far, continue trusting your gut and take good care of your mom. 

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Aug 6, 2022 - 1:51pm
Stonks1990, what's your opinion? Comment below:

First off, I am sorry that you had this horrific experience. The last sentence of your entire point is the most important thing in my opinion - yes, find a therapist. Don't cheap out on one either. Find one that you can see yourself building a long-term professional and personal rapport with, as I believe that therapy is only truly beneficial in those cases. Take your time in picking options - I see mine once every other week, and the first time I met him it was just a 'gut feeling'. Gut hasn't let me down on that one yet. 

To continue on, your post addresses this from multiple angles. One thing that I've picked up on is the transactional side of things. You touch upon his financial gifts to you via tuition payments, and then you also touch on your hypothetical that he will not have enough liquidity to properly retire. While I know it's not limited to this, I would recommend shifting away from a transactional point of view on this. 

Tomorrow, I am getting married. My fiance's maternal grandfather will not be there. He was also an alcoholic, but it didn't begin with his own children. When my partner was young and her parents allowed their parents to watch her, they had no implication of the physical, mental, and emotional abuse that would be rained down on their own daughter by her grandfather. Once the truth came out, I can't imagine the pain, anger, and everything that followed. He was immediately cut off via restraining orders, was screamed at for multiple hours by his ex-wife (my partner's maternal grandmother), and was disavowed from the family. He died two years ago. We felt nothing. 

I only bring this up not to compare it to your story, but to provide some context in the perspective that I've dealt with this a little bit before - obviously not to your magnitude, so don't think I'm trying to insert my own problems into yours. I do want to touch on a couple of things, however:

1. You mentioned that you saw his grandparents treat him perhaps in a similar fashion to the experience you went through. I empathize with his upbringing. I do not sympathize with his response. He should have learned to be better, and by bringing you into this world he signed that non-tangible contract to do so. While generational disinformation and abuse are rampant, it's never a fucking excuse. 

2. 98% of the time I see the word 'gaslighting' mentioned, I write it off as an overreaction by someone who just found a thesaurus, but what he was and is currently doing to you fits the definition. You didn't ask to have your tuition paid for. You didn't sign up for the tradeoff between getting financial support and emotional decay. It's not on you in that capacity. 

3. Lastly, I want to stress that this is a decision that should be made by you. This website, other forums, and your therapist can provide insight and assistance, as I'm attempting to do now. But this is your decision, and whatever you choose to do will be the right one. You don't owe him anything. You don't have to cut him 100% off, or you can tell him to go fuck himself and never talk to him again. Either way, there isn't a logical and linear path for this. It's an emotional connection, and emotions don't follow logic in the same way. There's no set level of 'expectations' that warrant a cutoff. It's subjective. 

Do what you feel is best, but don't do it in a rash way. Take some time. Talk to people, talk to your therapist, and maybe try to talk to him if you're up for it. But just know that you're not the only person in the world going through this, and whatever decision you make will be justified for yourself. As long as you can promise your future children that you will not repeat the mistakes of your father and grandfather, then you will have done the right thing in my opinion. 

This stuff isn't easy to talk about, so props to you for getting it out there. Good luck to you brother, and Godspeed.

Aug 6, 2022 - 2:15pm
K-Peezy, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Stonks1990's post

^^ Exactly this.

Going to pile on to the list of children who had to the  "cut their fathers out of their lives train" and say from experience that you're better off if you do.

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Aug 6, 2022 - 7:08pm
financeabc, what's your opinion? Comment below:

You have to do what is best for you.  It is a tough decision to cut off a parent but it sounds like you should let him go.  I have never had this issue with a parent but I can relate to your situation because my father in law is a complete unapologetic narcissist.  I do not have much tolerance for this type of behavior.  My coping strategy is avoidance.  

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Aug 6, 2022 - 10:30pm
Pescepescetarian, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Only way is forward. 

I had a similar experience. Alcoholic father who was (albeit briefly) physically abusive when I was little. Then in high school I had an upper classman (I was in a boarding school so there was no escape) who was verbally & emotionally abusive to me for 3 years until he graduated. While he took out whatever demon he had in him to everyone I his social circle, I was the youngest one and the most powerless so I became the target. I thought that was how normal life was supposed to be...

None of these 2 ever apologized. But the thing is it doesn't matter. You dwell on it and you lose. Or You move on and you triumph. Forget about them. Focus on your life and what matters in your life - your ambitions, your friends, whoever you chose to be your loved ones. 

Now my dad's pretty much a harmless drunk who's too frail and timid. This upperclassman destroyed himself & his family at a young age. Idk what he does now but I'm sure he's superficially successful and miserable inside just like he was in high school.

I've moved on and took multiple steps forward. Sometimes it gets you but you gotta pull yourself out of it. It'll be difficult and lonely but you gotta do it. DON'T LET ANYTHING GET IN THE WAY OF YOUR SUCCESS AND HAPPINESS.

Aug 7, 2022 - 12:37am
curiousgeorge79, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Check out Tim Fletcher on YouTube. He has a good series on Complex PTSD. Pete Walker has a good book called Surviving to Thriving as well.
 

Outside of that, I don't really have any answers in part because I am struggling with something similar though much more benign. God bless.

Aug 7, 2022 - 2:29pm
Miracle1111, what's your opinion? Comment below:

That's not a bad way to handle it. I have lent money to people to get rid of them. I know damn well they're not gonna pay me back, but I also know they're going to avoid me and never ask me for money again. Write them a small check and watch them fade away.

Aug 7, 2022 - 2:44pm
Miracle1111, what's your opinion? Comment below:

The old me would have told you to cut that fool off without a second thought, but now I'm hesitant to give that type of advice to a stranger on a forum. That's a big decision that shouldn't be taken lightly. I'll say that that debt you feel toward him for paying your college isn't necessary, though. You were the child that didn't ask to be brought into this world. You don't owe a parent anything for taking care of you. You were their responsibility, and it was their duty to give you the best life that they could provide. However, it's not their responsibility or duty to abuse you. He did not provide you with the best life that he could.

With that said, if you decide to support him, I would give him the bare minimum just to keep him off the streets. Not because you owe him anything, but because you're a better man than he is. Cutting him off isn't going to heal your trauma or make you feel any better. You don't owe him anything. All the good he did for you, he "owed" you for bringing you into this world. A child should not be responsible for their parents. In a perfect world, a full-grown adult goes through life and makes competent enough decisions to where they don't need to rely on their children to support them, barring unforeseen circumstances.  However, it's not a perfect world, and many people's retirement plan is for their children to care for them. It isn't fair to their children.

The best advice I would give, and take it as just another random guy on the internet talking, is to continue to seek therapy to heal your trauma. Find a way to make peace with the fact that you'll probably never get the acknowledgment and apologies you deserve from him. You'll also never have the father/son relationship you always wanted. People like that take their abuse to the grave; as I said before, consider giving him the bare minimum to keep him off the streets because you're a good man, not because you owe him a thing.

Aug 7, 2022 - 3:36pm
2rigged2fail, what's your opinion? Comment below:

yeah I cut my dad off years ago. but that meant his side of the family as well. 

Aug 7, 2022 - 9:33pm
Kevin25, what's your opinion? Comment below:

sounds like a decent dad. brought you to US, showed you importance of education and hard work, didn't beat you, didn't molest you.

alcoholic, cheater

that's men for you, honey

completely ruined and abuse me mentally

have to toughen up buddy, world can be a rough place. if you can't take words, it's on you. if he regularly beat you up physically for nothing, that would be a different discussion, but "mental abuse" is some gay shit.

and probably my mom as well

probably? huh? a lot of people, me included, saw their dads beating up their mom on the regular. and yours haven't even "mentally" done anything wrong openly in front of you.

Aug 8, 2022 - 12:11am
banananizer, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Went through something very similar in terms of abuse and immigration, except mother was no better. Currently out of college and trying to figure out the degree of distance that I'll try to impose moving forward. Definitely never easy seeing as they did propel us to be successful but never in healthy ways.

Aug 8, 2022 - 12:17am
Ironuts, what's your opinion? Comment below:

The fact that he helped pay for colleague seems to have quite a hold over you… WTF do I know, but it seems like it might be a good idea to pay him back what he gave you so you no longer feel you're beholden to him.

You'd then perhaps be able to make a more objective decision on what to do. Additionally, if you do ultimately decide to cut him off, you'll also be able to do so in a "clean" way and not have the fact that "you owe him" financially weighing on your mind afterwards. Conversely, you may end up deciding not to cut him off as I suspect that the decision to repay him would leave you feeling like you're in a position of power which has the potential to change the dynamic of the relationship. But as before, WTF do I know?

Aug 8, 2022 - 5:28am
British Banker, what's your opinion? Comment below:

If you feel guilty about the money, either send it in one lump sum or send it to him in instalments. If he's an alcoholic he'll most likely drink it away either way. Though with lump some the money is there any more likely to be spent quickly.

Cut him off, and go talk to a therapist if you feel like you need to.

Use this as a driving force, even if it doesn't feel like it, it's made you a stronger person.

Best of luck in your recovery and future going forward. Congratulations getting your job.

Aug 8, 2022 - 8:56am
GeorgeSorosFinanceMaster, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Don't send him the money, send the money to your mother who from what you wrote actually needs it.  A scumbag like that doesn't deserve to get more than the median yearly salary as a gift.  Besides, if he isn't helping his old family out he's probably managed to pocket more than 60k.

Aug 8, 2022 - 1:48pm
trustmeimanengineer, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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