“When people show you who they are, believe them”….Maya Angelou

An abusive birth-relative is most often a parent, but can also be a sibling, grandparent, cousin, aunt or uncle. When we refer to abusive, controlling, or abandoning “birth-families”, we mean the family who raised you, and who was supposed to love, protect, and cherish you. This includes adoptive, step-, and foster families.

There are a number of behaviors that can be considered abusive, but we often don’t think of them in that way simply because we have been raised experiencing these behaviors from a relative that we have known all of our lives, and we think of his behavior as normal, because it is all we have ever known from him.

Because we love this person, we tend to overlook his behavior. We have also been trained since childhood to ignore or make excuses for the abuse by other relatives who are in denial or who protect the abuser (see The Silent Partner). A family member’s bad childhood, background, war experiences, alcoholism, personality disorders, psychological problems, etc., may help us to understand him, but should never be used as an excuse to justify his mistreatment or abuse of others. Whether he chooses to get help for his issues or not, he does not have the right to inflict them on anyone else.

We sometimes don’t understand that we are really being abused until we compare our family relationships with someone else whose family does not behave in an abusive or controlling manner.

Any behavior which attempts to control you is abuse, simply because adults do not control other adults. When any given behavior causes you stress on a regular basis or begins to undermine your self-esteem, it has crossed the line into abuse.

Here are some examples of abusive behavior. Please e-mail us any others you can think of so we can add them to our list.

Criticism Manipulation Humiliation Betrayal Insults

Undermining self-confidence Guilt-Trips Name-calling

Disrespecting Intruding Unreasonable expectations

Treating you like a child Telling you what to do Unloving

Demeaning Not respecting your privacy Lying Stealing

Judgmentalism Raising voice at you Trying to bribe you

Threatening Disowning Making demands Sabotage

Expecting ‘obedience’ from you even though you are now an adult

Pressuring Snide comments Abandoning Giving orders

Inappropriate anger Frequent rudeness

Expecting you to take care of them or solve their problems

Expecting you to sacrifice for them while ignoring your needs (one-way relationship)

Instigating trouble between family members Selfishness

Prying Pressuring you to lie, cover up, or keep family secrets

Picking fights Screaming Belittling Sarcasm Using you

Complaining about you to others Denial Taking advantage

Whining or using tears to get own way The Silent Treatment

Making scenes in public or in front of your children

Pressuring you to take sides with them against other relatives

Blaming you for whatever they’re unhappy about

Blaming you or others for whatever they do wrong

Insensitivity Inconsideration Hurtfullness Uncaring

Minimizing your feelings Nastiness Belligerence Cruelty

Making you doubt your perceptions Pouting Gossiping

Negative remarks about your weight, appearance, etc.

Transferring their abuse to your spouse when you get married, rejecting your spouse

Competing with your spouse

Trying to make an ally of your spouse, smothering your spouse with love to make you look crazy and turn him against you later on!

For more examples of abusive behavior, check out these lists:

bullyeq- Strange Psycho Behaviour

bullyeq- Abuse You May Not Realise

For more on birth-family abuse of adult daughters, please see the Sections on Happier Holidays, The Abuser’s Reaction to Rebuke, The Silent Partner, Why They Abuse, Abandon or Betray You, The Effects of Abuse, A Little About Us, Repenting & Apologies, Reprobates & Cutting Ties, Adult Child Abuse-The Only Abuse Still Accepted, Claiming the Victory, and Setting & Enforcing Limits & Boundaries, as well as the books reviewed in Reading Spotlight (especially Toxic Parents and Children of the Self-Absorbed ). God bless you, dear Sister, in your search for peace.