258 Family Advice, Part 1: Dealing with Abusive Parents

This week, we answer the first (two) of a series of questions about family. Shit gets real, dark, and real dark, girl. We work our way through these related questions by bringing in our own experiences with emotional abuse. It’s a heavy but important conversation, with loads of dark humor along the way. Plus, a very long tangent about true-crime TV. Plus a takedown of our latest favorite terrible holiday romantic video. Discussion about a Twitter thread around emotional labor. Content warning for descriptions of actions by deeply emotionally abusive parents.

In This Episode

Intro topics

TikTok Video Conversation from Twitter around Emotional Labor:

  • Gay Boyfriend’s Twitter Thread
  • Emotional Labor Definition and Origin (Wikipedia): the process of managing feelings and expressions to fulfill the emotional requirements of a job. More specifically, workers are expected to regulate their emotions during interactions with customers, co-workers and superiors. This includes analysis and decision making in terms of the expression of emotion, whether actually felt or not, as well as its opposite: the suppression of emotions that are felt but not expressed.
    Term defined by sociologist Arlie Hochschild.

The hol-rom movie we watched this week was “Married by Christmas” on Hulu. So bad.


I only have one qualification to be a parent…Thanks, Dmitry!

Main Topic

(Sorry this is late, I (Nichole) thought I’d be cute and try to activate my new modem and router last night and ended up losing internet access in my house which persists as I write this, even after spending three hours with Cox support. Pray to the internet gods for me!)

We initially intended (as you will hear) to answer three/four questions this week that are all family-themed as we are in the midst of the holidays and probably steeped in family foolishness, however, the first two-part question ended up inspiring a long, serious conversation about emotional abuse, domestic violence, gaslighting, and other dark themes. It was a great but heavy talk, so content warning for all of that plus racism and assimilation tactics, in case you’re not in the mood. There is a lot of dark humor along the way but the content is very serious so decide if that is ok for you.

As a reminder, we recommend researching the following topics and see what resonates for you: emotionally immature parents, toxic people, narcissistic parents, being a child of an alcoholic/addict, loving those with borderline personality disorder, safely leaving a domestic violence situation and/or resources for safely leaving relationships with emotionally abusive people.

NOTE: As stated in the episode, we want to reiterate that we do not advocate diagnosing people over the internet and we do not advocate assigning bad behavior to mental illness. BUT when you have been severely emotionally abused in the kind of inexplicable and utterly fucked up ways that the letter writer’s husband has, it’s extremely unlikely that mental illness isn’t playing a role and even if it somehow is not, these resources can be enormously helpful to start to unpack what the fuck has happened to you, protect yourself, put healthy coping mechanisms in place, safely set boundaries and start doing the work of realizing it’s not your fault and that the other person(s) can and will not change so you have to look at what it is today and make a decision about that person(s) role in your life based on that information. This is tricky territory and we tried to navigate it the best we could in order to not stigmatize or appropriate mental illness while also being really fucking real about the situation.

Summarized Original Question(s)

Submitted by Anonymous (she/her)

First submission summary: We live in the Midwest, I’m white and my husband is Korean. He was adopted by white parents who, his whole life and to this day, deny his race and his experience of racism in the world, by burying it under Catholic rhetoric, telling him he needs to pray and find love and forgiveness for others.

We want to move but can’t financially for a while. Additionally, his parents help us financially and are VERY generous in many ways. What should we do? How would you handle this?

First submission summary: (Summary of issues from first letter, with additional details) His parents told him he was white when he was little, and told him how to dress and talk. His mom cries whenever she feels criticized, shutting down any conversation. She has called the police on him for a “wellness check” and will call 20 times in a row if he doesn’t pick up immediately.

We sent them a letter addressing a lot of things and requesting that we go to a family therapist. We haven’t heard back yet – are we being unreasonable?

Referenced in this Episode

Lorena on Amazon Prime – heartwrenching but so validating, the true story of Lorena Bobbitt’s case. Highly highly recommend but serious content warnings for detailed descriptions of physical and sexual assault.

The Act on Hulu – omg this is so dark but for those who have been gaslit or severely emotionally abused, somehow cathartic. Content warnings for severe Munchhausen by Proxy, emotional abuse, isolation, murder.

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