How to Reconcile With a Rehabilitated Abusive Parent

You've just found out that your parent has been rehabilitated. Sadly, the aforementioned parent was abusive to you when you were younger. How do you reconcile with them? Is it even possible? That will depend upon you.


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    Meet with your parent(s). Let's say one parent treated you badly, while the other passively allowed the abuse. You have spent years being angry and hurt when you get a call asking for reconciliation. You must now critically assess whether or not your parent has reformed enough to suit you. Arrange to meet with them, preferably in a neutral location such as a park or a restaurant.
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    Go with realistic expectations. It's probably unrealistic to assume your parent will want to grovel on his or her belly and beg your forgiveness, but talking is the first step. If your parent does grovel, it's harder to be objective, but you must.
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    Remember that you cannot change anything about your parent - you can only be responsible for your own attitudes and behaviors. If you feel the meeting reveals dis-ingenuousness on the part of one or both parents, say so and leave. If you have any doubt about the sincerity of what is said, it is on your shoulders to gather your dignity (now that you've earned some by being your own person) and tell your parents that you will be glad to try again at whatever point they are serious about reforming.
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    Forgive them. If you have listened to your parent(s) and come to the conclusion that enough rehabilitation has taken place that you are now willing to resume a relationship with them, then allow yourself to forgive. Yes, your parent may have abused you. However, that is no excuse not to forgive them and accept that whilst they may have hurt you, you shouldn't hurt them. Remember that this is about restoring your family relationship and requiring your parents to treat you with the respect you deserve as an adult. Demonstrating maturity by forgiving your parent's past behavior is a big step in that direction, as well as in freeing yourself from the shackles of past pain.
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    Ask for forgiveness if appropriate. If you were partly to blame, ask for forgiveness. But - don't apologize if you did nothing you are sorry for. Accept any apology you are sincerely offered, but don't feel a need to reciprocate with an apology of your own unless it is actually warranted. This article is simply encouraging you to purge yourself of all negative aspects of the relationship's past.
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    Continue at the pace you are comfortable with. Any attempts to pressure you should be met with your firm resistance. Your folks may want to take an attitude of "okay, it's all in the past - let's let bygones be bygones," which basically requires you to pretend that nothing ever happened. Or they may push or take exception to any boundaries you put in place. Don't allow it. You were the injured party, and rehabilitation does not erase the past, it only repairs it to some degree. Forgiveness does not require you to forget all that happens, nor should it be thought of as passive acquittal. If your parents want to come spend a week with you, suggest a nearby hotel, and let them know that you may not be available every day of their visit. If they want you to come and stay, obviously, do not stay at their house; that would reinforce old, negative feelings. Keep a little distance, at least for awhile, until you are completely comfortable, in your own time.
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    Insist upon consistency from this point on. Do not accept any recidivism or falling back into old patterns. If it starts to happen, remind your parent that you will no longer tolerate being spoken to or treated in that manner, and they must stop. If the behavior continues, walk away. If it happens at a second meeting, warn your parents that falling back into your old relationship will cause you to leave permanently. If after you have warned your folks in this way, it still happens, you may have to consider the possibility that any reconciliation will have to be from a distance.
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    Live free. Assuming your parent was sincere, and rehabilitation worked and lasts, you can breathe free air and rejoice in your repaired relationship. Don't revisit the past if arguments occur - let the past remain buried. Bringing up old hurts at the first disagreement or conflict will undermine the progress you have made. You will need to establish many years' worth of memories in your new roles as adult and parents, rather than falling back into the role of victim and abusers before these memories and feelings outweigh the old. Try hard to avoid situations that may provoke problems - in other words, don't push when you know you're pushing a potential button. Keep things cool.


  • By the same token, however, don't feel obligated to meet just because your parent calls the meeting. You are an adult, this person treated you badly and caused you untold pain. Reconciliation should be on your terms, and your parent needs to simply accept that.
  • You are a person and responsible for your actions and the way you live your life. Reconciliation and restoration are powerful if they are based on authentic healing. Be sure, no matter how it all turns out, to maintain your dignity and insist upon being treated with the respect all human beings deserve.
  • Don't rush things. Take your time and make sure you feel comfortable before you commit to anything, including future meetings.
  • Remember that the best way to reconcile is for both parties to agree that the past is left behind, and to keep moving forward.
  • Your life is your own. Rise up and live it. (That's a quote from a book called "Faith of the Fallen" by Terry Goodkind. It certainly applies here)


  • Some things never change. If you find your parent reverting to abusive behaviors, don't feel like you need to continue a charade. Your parents are people. If they are destructive and toxic to your life, you should not feel obligated to subject yourself to them - just because they are your parents does not mean they should be a daily or even monthly part of your life. Some things can't be fixed. If that's the case, cut out your visits, and just use email, cards, or phone calls to stay in touch if you wish to even go that far.
  • Your life is your own. Allowing anyone - even your parents - to co-opt and destroy it should not be an option.

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Categories: Family Life