Family Estrangement: Going No Contact

CPTSD Foundation
6 min readJan 30, 2023

People with complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) or living in other distress usually come from dysfunctional homes. These survivors have endured many traumas perpetrated by their family members, and after reaching adulthood, many of these grown children choose to have little to no contact with their family of origin.

This piece will introduce a new series ongoing no contact with its pros and cons, plus its consequences.

What is Meant by Going No Contact?

Going no contact means severing relations with your family members to end the emotional, psychological, and physical suffering the survivor has endured. For most, going no contact means having no communication or interaction with the toxic family.

Sometimes adult survivors choose to cut off only part of their family, meaning they might choose to go no contact with a parent but not with their siblings.

Other survivors who have gone no contact choose to do so until an ultimatum is met. Still, others choose to permanently sever their relations with their family with the intent of never looking back or even dreaming of reuniting because of the freedom they find in doing so.

There are many reasons survivors with or without CPTSD choose to go no contact with their family of origin.

  • Lifelong abuse or neglect
  • Continued dysfunction
  • Betrayal
  • Lack of respect
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Religious differences
  • Political differences
  • Criminal behavior
  • Narcissistic behavior
  • Refusal to apologize
  • Disagreements on morality
  • Overbearing and undermining behavior
  • Playing favorites with adult siblings
  • Ignoring your boundaries
  • Financial disputes
  • Criticizing, belittling, or ridiculing behaviors

Realistically, there are as many reasons for going no contact as people who choose to do it.

Going No Contact Because of Crossed Boundaries

Boundaries are essential constructs that define what we want and tell others how far they can go. Boundaries may include simple things like “don’t open my mail” to complex “don’t touch my body.”

Healthy boundaries determine what is appropriate in our relationships and keep both parties from harming the other. Also, setting healthy boundaries is critical for good self-care and positive experiences in a relationship.

The problem with weak or non-existent boundaries is that we don’t know where someone else ends, and we begin. Setting healthy boundaries involves one beginning to assert their needs and priorities.

Without appropriate boundaries, you can never hope to overcome the differences in your family of origin. However, what happens if you have set strong boundaries and your family keeps crossing and ignoring them?

Going no contact might be your only option.

The Pros and Cons of Going No Contact

There are many benefits to going no contact such as peace of mind and less stress, but there are also cons, such as feeling lonely or guilty. You must be ready to face both the pros and cons, understanding that both are life-altering. It is advantageous for you to research the pros and cons, so you will understand what you are about to do.

The benefit of ending a toxic relationship is that it is refreshing, and you may feel exhilarated. You can begin over again to rebuild your life based on what you want from life. Going no contact can be the best thing you have ever done.

The pros may also include the following:

  • Peacefulness
  • Feeling free
  • You can finally heal
  • You respect yourself more
  • Your self-confidence increases
  • You feel a sense of self-control and self-reliance

When speaking about the cons of going no-contact, it is vital to keep in mind that 76% of adult survivors claim that being no contact adversely affects their overall well-being.

Also, According to the Bowen Theory, people who use going no contact to escape or cope with their toxic family often subconsciously end up replicating their former relationships with their family to fill the hole left in their life. In other words, after going no contact, many survivors choose to get involved with people who remind them of their family of origin’s dynamics, thus going from the frying pan into the fire 1.

Still, some survivors decide to end their no contact and make amends with their families, bringing enormous stress upon themselves and high dissatisfaction.

Going no contact may have the following effects:

It is vital to be aware of these effects of going no contact.

You Might Be Criticized and Vilified

Perhaps the biggest problem is that when you go no-contact, you will often receive criticism from those who do not understand your situation. Even your friends may abandon you for “being so cold.”

Being abandoned or shunned by other family and friends when you are most vulnerable is lonely and a form of abuse. You receive hateful looks and gestures and withdraw because you feel hurt and lonely.

Of course, your family of origin will spread rumors of how awful you are for stopping talking to them. They may tell others that you are ungrateful and that they love you despite how “cruel” you have been to them.

Remember that you have nothing to feel guilty about because these people were traumatizing you every day you were with them. Lean into your newfound freedom and try not to allow how your family and friends speak of you to impact your healing.

That is harder than it sounds.

What You Need to Understand When Going No contact

There are some essential things to remember when you go no contact. For one, going no contact is not a cure for all your woes. If you decide to go no contact with your family, you must be prepared for all the ramifications.

Many years passed for you during the emotional abuse that caused enormous damage, and it may take years to heal from it entirely. No contact is not a quick fix, even though you will feel enormous relief because of your new empowerment and freedom.

However, the grieving process will begin once you face the reality of the situation. You will grieve for the childhood and relationship you never received from your family. It is painful to realize that your parents and perhaps other family members did not love you.

You must also remember that you will doubt your decision and question yourself every day. Going no contact creates inner conflict because going no contact is life-changing forever.

The bottom line, going no contact is painful, but you will eventually heal.

Ending Our Time Together

This article is the first in a four-part series of ongoing no-contact from your family of origin. It is meant to guide those considering leaving their family and those who have already done so.

Going no contact is not a decision one takes lightly; doing so requires thoughtful consideration, hopefully without your emotions guiding you. This may be a tall order since your family of origin has driven you to this decision.

If you do decide to go no contact, reach out to people who will not judge you but offer you support instead. Keep your chin up and remember you made this decision knowing the consequences, especially after reading this series.

“Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.”-Oscar Wilde

“Seek respect. Not attention. It lasts longer.” — Ziad K. Abdelnour.

References

  1. Titelman, P. (2014). Emotional cutoff: Bowen family systems theory perspectives. Routledge.

Originally published at https://cptsdfoundation.org.

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CPTSD Foundation

Successfully equipping complex trauma survivors and practitioners with compassionate support, skills, and trauma-informed education since 2014.