A college student seeks relief from abusive parents

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Hi, Carolyn:

I’m a teenager living with parents who I would hesitate to describe as abusive, but they are difficult, often angry, and they can be really mean.

I swear I try not to be a brat. I am going to the college they told me to. I am majoring in the major they told me to. I am going into the career they told me to. A lot of my life is spent trying not to upset them and trying not to show that I am upset. They don’t like my expressing negative emotions.

I have one thing I want that requires their assistance.

It is a hobby. They don’t like to say no, but they like to indicate in other ways that this is a burden and I am burdensome for wanting it. At this point, it’s the only thing I am doing that isn’t specifically a thing they told me to do.

I try just to ask them, but they say yes and then sigh and mutter and eye-roll me into retracting my request because I feel guilty.

I disagree with this whole martyr routine designed to trick me into feeling bad because if they don’t want to do it, all they have to do is say no. But I still feel guilty, and I don’t want to.

I mean, yes, they gave up their lives for me, but I’m giving up my life for them in return. I just want this one thing. Is there any way I can not feel bad?

I’m really not trying to be a brat. Thanks.

— Parental-Guilt Tripped

Oh my goodness. Does your college have a counseling service? I can see why you “hesitate to describe (them) as abusive,” but what you describe is an extreme level of control over a nearly adult child, achieved through intense emotional manipulation.

That’s abuse.

And: “They gave up their lives for me”? This just shocks and saddens me, both as a parent myself and as my parents’ child.

I see my kids as part of my life, a rich, funny, exhilarating, sometimes exhausting/painful/frustrating, always loving and lovable part.

My parents, too, had full lives that included us; their lives didn’t stop when we were born. Yeah, we were needy little things and ate their food and spent their money and kept them up at night when we got sick or came home late. But they chose to have us and they accepted these sacrifices as part of the experience of being parents.

In return, when we were old enough to stop being so needy, we did what we could to give back to our parents — much of that in the form of investing in our own lives and families, because that’s what they wanted for and from us.

And my parents didn’t tell us what we had to do or study or become any more than I’m telling my kids.

A way to “not feel bad” is to get professional help. Please. Give yourself the gift of outside perspective and guidance.

It will take courage to go, and be scary and disorienting at the beginning, but trust that there’s relief in it for you.

Soon, I hope. Take care.

— Washington Post Writers Group

Talk to us

More in Life

The Black Tones are one of three headliners of this year's Fisherman's Village Music Festival broadcast on YouTube and at www.thefishermansvillage.com. Catch the band's performance on Oct. 31. (Kendall Lawren Rock)
Fisherman’s Village festival returns as streaming video series

Long delayed by the pandemic, the spotlight for local music is being broadcast in four episodes this week.

The five telltale signs of a ‘hortaholic’

It may be an addiction, but it’s the good kind that enriches your life.

This silver-plated serving piece is called a box but it doesn't look like one. It held English biscuits, but if the sides opened, the cookies inside would fall down. Each of the shell-shaped bowls had a hinged, pierced flap that kept the heat and the biscuits in place when the sides were opened and became flat bowls to serve the cookies. The flaps are often missing when the biscuit box is sold.-
These British ‘biscuit boxes’ are cookie jars by any other name

And fancy silver ones can sell for as much as $256 at antiques auctions.

Pandemic psychology and fear of contagion or psychological fears of disease or virus infections with 3D illustration elements.
Pandemic pains: Sleepless nights, hair loss and cracked teeth

Chronic stress from the months-long COVID-19 pandemic is a common thread among many of these conditions.

An expert’s top 3 tips to effectively train for virtual races

When COVID-19 struck, many races were canceled to limit crowds. Virtual races are becoming a popular alternative.

Vitis vinifera ‘Purpurea’
PURPLE-LEAF GRAPE VINE
Great Plant Pick: Vitis vinifera “Purpurea”

It’s a common wine grape, but in the Puget Sound region, it’s grown for its beauty — the fruit won’t ripen in our climate.

Beer-brined BBQ chicken with mustard and miso mayonnaise sauce. (Sam Folan)
Feel like a chef in your own kitchen with ‘Home Cookery Year’

The cookbook is divided by seasons and includes midweek suppers, recipes on a budget and payday cooking.

Curried beef stew is a warm, hearty dish when the weather turns cool. (Gretchen McKay/Post-Gazette/TNS)
Chase away the chill with this Dutch oven curried beef stew

It gets an Asian kick from curry powder and fresh ginger, and umami from a few splashes of fish and soy sauces.

Eric Tingstad and Nancy Rumbel, who won a Grammy Award for Best New Age Album in 2003, will perform Christmas carols Nov. 28 at Tim Noah Thumbnail Theater in Snohomish. (Tingstad and Rumbel)
All about music: Schedule of concerts around Snohomish County

The listings include Historic Everett Theatre, Edmonds Center for the Arts and Thumbnail Theater shows.

Most Read