Caregiving and Emotional Abuse

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    Katherine Mayfield

    Over the seven-year period that I was the primary caregiver for my elderly parents, it seemed that they could do nothing but criticize me, no matter how hard I tried to please them. I experienced emotional abuse at their hands for most of my life, but I hoped that when they came near to the end of their lives, all the care I was giving them would be appreciated.

    They were wonderful people to everyone else, but very critical and negative with me (and I think, only me). Has anyone else who is caregiving experienced this?


    I’ve experienced it Katherine, but not from my parents, but from my previous relationship that ended about 6 months ago. Helping her get through college and a DUI and some other emotional issues. She treated all her friends with loyalty and praise, but gave me very little praise and often downplayed everything I did for her and us over almost 3 years together. Even after she left me to “find herself” she never apologized for her treatment of me or thanked me for anything I did.

    I’m not sure if you’re like me, I’m having a real hard to letting go and forgiving.

    Maybe this comes from a lack of respect and how they potentially see us as doormats. It could be an issue with boundaries (we put up with it, so they don’t respect us) or that they desire a certain amount of drama in their lives and the easiest victim is a person who loves them unconditionally. Since we feel as the caregiver that if tolerate the treatment, eventually they’ll see their wrongdoings and we’ll get the praise and respect we deserve. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen very often.

    • This reply was modified 11 years, 1 month ago by Phil.
    Katherine Mayfield

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Phil.  Yes, I do have a hard time letting go and forgiving.  I’m trying to see it as a process, doing a small step as often as I can.  Letting go of the anger and resentment is easier than forgiving, but I think it’s an important part of the process.

    I think you’re right that it’s an issue with boundaries.  The difficulty I had was that from day one, my parents would not let me set boundaries.  They were very rigid and controlling, and needed everything to be done their way.  So when I grew up, even when I learned how to set boundaries, they just were not having any.  I would have had to throw a tantrum or be violent in order to maintain a boundary, and I wasn’t willing to do that.  I chose instead to talk my therapist’s ear off, and she was infinitely supportive, helping me make it through the rough spots.

    I suppose it built character; at the very least, it helped me learn a heck of a lot about dysfunctional families so that I could write about them.  : )

    I’m glad you’re no longer in that relationship, and I hope you’re in a much better place now.  I wish you all the best — you deserve it!


    Hi Katherine,

    I have experienced something similar to Phil in my relationship with my ex boyfriend. He took me for granted for 8 years and used me for all that he wanted and mistreated me with no regrets. As Phil mentioned, its because we fail to draw a line in our relationships with others. It took me a while to realize that what he was doing to me was emotional abuse. As you said, he was so friendly and cheerful with everybody in the world except me. He would call me names, control me all the time, excessively possessive, liar, manipulative, hurt me and make me cry every single day and lot more. But after all this experience I have realized that I should make myself clear and draw boundaries and not let people take me for granted. I guess sometimes we go through such experiences to learn something. It’s hard for me to forgive him and all the things he has said and done. But I am trying my best to let go not for his sake but my sake. I read somewhere that when you forgive others, your life becomes much easier and peaceful. So, try to forgive all that they did even though its not easy and be grateful that you got learn a great lesson in life about setting boundaries and not letting people take you for granted. I am so sorry that you had to go through all that but I am sure you are a stronger woman now 🙂

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