Family feuds and even estrangement are not new concepts. People have cutting off contact with their families for as long as there have been families. The difference now is that there’s been such an increase in going no-contact with family members that academic researchers in Canada and Australia are saying they are witnessing a silent epidemic of family breakups. On social media, people are talking about it and receiving support for leaving their families like never before. Let’s talk about why this is the case and why it may be heralding a better future all around.
Reasons why people go no-contact with parents
The increase in public awareness of and valuing of mental health is one of the key factors linked to the rise. People are more aware of what constitutes toxic behaviour and abuse, and they are less likely to make excuses for it or put up with it. Although research is limited, what exists shows that most break-ups between adult children and parents tend to be initiated by the child.
- Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse: childhood abuse is one of the most common reasons adult children go no-contact with their parents.
- Toxic behaviour: such as lack of empathy, outright disrespect, refusal to respect boundaries, and being highly critical or malicious.
- Differences in values: such as political differences, same-sex attraction, religious differences, racism, sexism, or lack of acceptance of alternative lifestyles
- Mental health factor: mental health is highly valued to the extent that it’s more acceptable to cut off ties with people who negatively impact your mental health
- Rise of individualism: there’s a marked societal shift towards a more individualistic mindset than in previous generations where society and family mattered more than individual well-being and happiness. The fact that most people can support themselves financially frees them from the pressure to put up with everything just because that is what is socially expected.
- Changing times: times have changed especially as pertains to what people expect from relationships with a majority of the changes being in parental and romantic relationships. These changes can be difficult to accept, especially for older generations who are set in their ways and prefer things as they were.
Why it may be good
Anyone choosing to be a parent today knows their child is under no obligation to keep them in their lives. Now parents know that as soon as they are able to children can go no contact with them. Whereas before estrangement was a thing of shame, now leaving an unhealthy relationship is empowering and widely supported. People are openly speaking up about it complete with advice about how best to go about it for yourself. If you want your children in your life, you’re going to have to bring more to the table than, “I’m your parent.” That’s no longer enough. Now what kind of parent you are matters. Parents are going to have to do better and that’s a net win for everyone.
Recognition of abuse
The fact that people are better able to recognize abusive and unhealthy relationships is a net win. Whereas before abuse was viewed through the narrow lens of physical abuse from a romantic or sexual partner, now people are more aware of all that constitutes an unhealthy relationship. People are more empowered to leave these relationships regardless of who they’re with from parents to lovers and everyone in between. This is good for society at large. People recognizing abuse and leaving abusers is good for everyone.
Often as a society, we’re more concerned with the optics of presenting a united front than in actual unity. That has to change. That’s changing. Going no-contact is heartbreaking and the people who do it don’t take that decision lightly. Cutting off contact with the only family you know is tragic. Then they are forced to deal with the resultant complex feelings and cultural stigma. The least we can do is support them and make sure we do better in our relationships, especially those who choose to be parents.
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