Detaching "WITH LOVE"?

Stress Bunny

Active Member
This post is about the "with love" part of detaching. I am grasping the detachment part, but having a hard time balancing that with love, to be honest. How does the "with love" part come into play when it is so trying to even be in the presence of difficult child?

JT is not just struggling with substance abuse. He is a downright difficult person with potentially sociopathic behaviors. The following is the short list:
  • Extreme Narcissism - Brags about himself endlessly; believes he is especially talented and superior to others; truly believes everything he says; has not changed, despite his obvious failings in life; "big head" fails to begin to capture the magnitude of difficult child's self love.
  • Grandiosity - Has inflated ideas; delusional about his capabilities.
  • Self-Centered Behavior - Displays 100% concern for self and 0% for others.
  • Lack of Conscience - Has no empathy for others or the impact his behaviors have on them.
  • Irresponsibility - Does not keep commitments or pay bills; does not acknowledge mistakes or hurting others.
  • Impulsivity - Fails to achieve goals due to constant impulsive decisions that sabotage his future; little ability to self-regulate or implement self-discipline; ADHD/ODD.
  • Promiscuity - Behaves in sexually promiscuous ways; many, many very short-lived relationships; STDs, and porn watching; claimed he was getting married numerous times over the past six months to different people, but has not been able to maintain a serious committed relationship.
  • Taking Advantage of Others - Uses others to get what he wants, i.e. girlfriends who let him use their vehicles, wash his clothes, clean up his apartment; a moocher; very entitled attitude and behavior.
  • Condescending - Puts down others every chance he gets; insults our lifestyle, religion, skills, employment, and even our vehicles.
  • Lying - Lies non-stop about everything; cannot be trusted; pretends and wears social masks in order to manipulate and get what he wants.
  • Legal Issues - Has underage drinking violations and arrests.
  • Swearing - Uses foul and slang language that is repulsive and disrespectful.
  • Disrespect - Refuses to behave in respectful ways in situations where it is expected, i.e. does not wear clean clothing or shave or wash his face; rude.
  • Drug Use - Uses alcohol, prescription drugs, and cigarettes, and possibly others as well.
  • Ingratitude - Does not show thankfulness for the things he has or what people give him.
  • Mean Behavior - Purposefully says and does things to upset his parents, i.e. insults and sarcasm and guilt and drama through text messages and phone calls, especially; takes pleasure in causing trouble and drama.
  • Gun-Toting Red-Neck Behavior - Feels proud of his red-neck image, complete with dirty camo clothing, attitude, and gun.
You get the idea. Anyway, maybe some of you have difficult children that are abusing alcohol and drugs but are still likable in some way, but this is not the case for us. Our JT is extremely challenging to even tolerate for any length of time these days. He has caused us unspeakable grief over the past two years, and yet, he has offered zero acknowledgement of this. In fact, if anything, he seems to feel more entitled than ever. For example, he recently texted me an insult about going to church and also in the middle of the night that he was drunk and still expected that I would want to visit his new girlfriend a couple of days later. I just didn't feel like seeing him. He told us after his arrest a couple of months ago that he was turning his life around, blah, blah, blah! Yeah, right!

I think husband and I are doing well with detaching, but because of JT's difficult attitudes and behaviors, we rarely have contact with him any more. We don't call or text him, except in response to his texts or calls (if respectful). Things have really deteriorated. Even his grandparents and their friends cannot stand him right now. They feel used. Unbelievably, JT continues to expect to use their garage for his projects and boast about himself to the high heavens all the while. No one can stand his egotistical, self-centered, ridiculous, delusional world any more.

Honestly, we don't like JT the least bit these days. How do we detach "with love"?

I don't feel loving at all. I feel hateful, even, to be honest. And, I don't like that I feel this way. I am judging myself for it. I would like to have a clear conscience, but I don't.

I would like to keep the "with love" part intact, even in detachment, but I am struggling with it. I should love JT no matter what, right? I want to see him, in theory, but then, when I do see him, it is very upsetting and takes me days to recover, emotionally. husband wants pretty much no visits or contact unless and until JT turns his life around. We also have Bubby, our 13yo boy, to think about.


Well-Known Member
Stress....that is quite a list and I can certainly understand how he is not loveable right now. I don't think for now you have to have the "with love" as part of the detachment process. He is mentally ill, it is difficult to love someone when they go out of their way to hurt everyone in their path, especially those closest to them. There was a time when I did not like, respect or have any good feelings towards my difficult child. I hate to admit this but I even had some very negative feelings towards her. My emotions were so close to the surface that I couldn't hide them. It took time and distance to put the love in there. Think about people whose loved ones commit crimes. They often somehow still love them and hope they change. And that's the best we can do at times.

I adopted my daughter also so I understand some of the hidden character traits that are working here. There was a time when I thought my difficult child was a sociopath because she had no conscience and did everything she could to prove she hated us. She just turned 23 and yesterday she wrote in her dad's Father's Day card that she would spend the rest of her life trying to repay him for the support he's given her. There is hope.


one day at a time
Stress Bunny, I agree it is very hard to love someone who is never nice and in fact, is the opposite of nice all the time.

As parents, I think early on we differentiate between "Love" and "Like." We love them but we don't like the things they do or say.
When it goes on and on with the negative, and no positive to counterbalance, it's hard.

I find my heart and mind are much less hard, more compassionate, more forgiving when I have very little contact with difficult child.

And my difficult child is sweet most of the time when I do interact with him. So there's that.

I think your feelings are your feelings, Stress Bunny. But as we are taught in Al-Anon, they may not be facts.

You don't have to act on your feelings. Just feel and acknowledge them, let them flow through you, be kind to yourself when they are very strong and they will pass. You don't have to do anything more or less because you do or do not feel love for difficult child.

In fact, you don't even have to decide if you love him or not.

I would keep moving forward with your very healthy behavior, and let time take its time. Do what you need to do, and don't try to draw "final conclusions" about this or that.

We just don't have to. Life is crazy and erratic and there are many miracles, down points, sadnesses and joys. We can't know the future, and there is always hope.

In the meantime, trust what you see. Like you already do. You're doing great! You are a voice of reason.

Hugs to you today!

Calamity Jane

Well-Known Member
Hi Stressbunny,

Here's what worked/works for me - if you think it may be helpful, you can try it:

There was a time when I really despised my son - that's not an easy sentence to write, and remembering a few years ago, when I felt that way all the time, is really painful.

I found that journaling my feelings, writing it all out in a notebook I kept between my mattress & box spring (God forbid anyone read it!) was so cathartic. I poured out all my bile, my - can I say it - hatred - for him on those pages, and I even cried and cried. My husband is not a talker about emotions, so I poured my heart out to the pages. I've read the journal recently, and it's raw and honest. How is this about love? By doing this, I was able to keep a civil tongue in my mouth when I had to speak with him. I didn't feel like I had to give a verbal dump during our conversations to prove anything. I exhausted all my arguments in my journal, and had nothing left when we spoke. This may seem hypocritical, but it was helpful, because we've repaired our relationship somewhat, and he's come a long way. If I had said those things to him instead of writing them privately, it would've permanently destroyed our relationship. If I'd kept all those feelings inside, it would've sickened me for sure.

Another thing that worked for me, was praying for him. Not initially - I was too hurt, and too mad to pray! But as time went on, I prayed that he would remember love, accept it, and return it. That he would have moments of clarity, and that he would heal. I prayed that I would have a sharp mind as well as a forgiving heart. I never wanted to return to my old ways of being stupid and gullible and "nice"; just that I would have the strength to get through each day!

Sometimes also, the best you can do "with love" is to keep your distance. It's true. If seeing him and interacting with him is going to cause more angst, the best all around thing is to let it go, and let God. It doesn't mean you give up, but you have to have some distance for your sanity. Detaching with love can also mean loving yourself, too! If your relationship with your son always veers to the dysfunctional, you'll always be frustrated. There may come a day when you can interact in a healthy way, but until then, you have to respect and love yourself, as well.


Well-Known Member
I agree with COM. You can love somebody but not like them. I also however have had times when I could barely tolerate 36, but the love always returns. However, I know that if he were not my child, I would certainly not want to know And I don't feel guilty about that.


one day at a time
Calamity Jane, I love what you wrote, and I think it is stellar.

I poured out all my bile, my - can I say it - hatred - for him on those pages, and I even cried and cried.

This is so cathartic and healing. Our thoughts and our feelings can overwhelm us and can dictate how we act and behave. That doesn't they are true or actionable. Writing it all down is a huge relief, and getting it all out frees up space for something new to come in.

Otherwise, we just go around and around and around with the same obsessive thoughts, fears and anger, raising our own blood pressure, creating more cortisol and basically harming ourselves. We are what we think. We are what we feel. But if we can arrest the cycle---stop it somehow---we can do better and in time, we will feel better and act better.

Writing is a key tool, and one of my top five (thus how much I write on this board---so much of it is for ME).

Another thing that worked for me, was praying for him.

I so get this today. I remember way back when, in the middle of my divorce, which was not pretty, someone suggested I pray for my ex-husband. Well, I can tell you, at that time, he is the LAST person I wanted to pray for. But over time, I started doing that, even though I sure didn't feel it, and it changed me. It really did. Today, even though we have said some very harsh things to each other in the last years of our marriage, I have genuine warmth and compassion for him today. I believe praying for him was a big part of that.

I pray continuously for difficult child. I pray for God's will in his life, most of all. I have learned the hard way that I don't know what is best for someone else. I don't know what their path or their life journey is to be or should be, so I try hard not to pray for specific things to happen. What do I know? Very little. It's all I can do to manage my own life.

If seeing him and interacting with him is going to cause more angst, the best all around thing is to let it go, and let God.

Distance is another key tool for me. Keeping my distance from people who aren't good for me. difficult child and others. At first when we go through all of this horror with our difficult children, most of us do a lot of isolating. I see it as a severely wounded animal crawling over to a dark place to hide and lick his wounds. That has been me, a lot.

When I do that I am also isolating from people who aren't bad for me, but for a time, that is all I am capable of doing. Some of those good people don't understand the distance, and I know my distance has hurt them.

I am sorry about that, and I have tried to make amends for that, when I am stronger. And through this all, I have found that friendships have died, acquaintances have become more distant, and some of my professional relationships have been lost. That is what living in a smaller city with a known drug addict for a son can do, among many other things. A lot of people don't understand addiction, and I get that. I didn't either. Today, I have so much more compassion for people who are addicted and for people who love addicts. I see it all so differently today.

We have a right to create and maintain distance from people, good and bad. These are boundaries. I had few boundaries in my earlier life, before my ex-husband's battle with alcoholism and my son's drug addiction. I needed to learn about boundaries, and I have learned so much about them, and through that, am a much happier and more respectful person today.

Great wisdom you share, Calamity Jane. Thank you.

Stress Bunny

Active Member
Nancy, thank you. I am glad that your adopted daughter has come around. That is hopeful. I confess I haven't been feeling much hope at all lately. The traits I listed in the original post have been consistent JT's entire life. And he continues with them. I always thought love would be enough, but it's not. The genetics at work here are so much to overcome.

COM - Feeling vs facts - that is something to keep in mind. I don't think I have been properly differentiating between the two. I will work on that, as I am sure it will be helpful. Also, no final conclusions. I am definitely spending a lot of time predicting the future in a negative way. I am having trouble staying in the present.

Calamity Jane - Journaling, praying, and keeping distance are excellent pieces of advice. I am keeping my distance, for sure, but not journaling or praying. It's so hard. Detaching and keeping distance sometimes feel like hopelessness and giving up. I know intellectually that is not true; that this will give me the opportunity to take care of me for once. But, my heart is broken.

MWM - You are an inspiration to me. I have read many of your posts, and you have absolutely taken the high ground with your difficult child. You are so strong and smart. I hope I can have half the resolve and courage you display every day.

pasajes4 - I agree 100%. My husband says that regularly. If JT were not our son, we'd surely want nothing to do with him whatsoever. This is heartbreaking to me.


Well-Known Member
"The genetics at work here are so much to overcome." So true stressed. My difficult child will always struggle in life due to her genetics. I was not very hopeful at all for many years because we too dealt with things from the very beginning that caused me great concern.

I always thought love was enough too, that and a stable supportive homelife. NOT. Both husband and myself said many times that we did not like our difficult child. There truly are some people who should never have children.

Whatever else you do make sure your relationship with your husband is strong because this is the stuff that tears families apart. I hope somehow, someway things get better for you.

Stress Bunny

Active Member
Nancy, thank you! I know there are many adoptive parents out there in similar situations. I truly would not believe the impact of heredity if I hadn't witnessed it myself. I am stunned, actually. For example, JT has some of the same mannerisms, even, as his birth family, though he only knew them before the age of 2.

I have strong intuitions about things, and my intuition tells me that JT will continue down this path of destruction. I sense that he is ruled by his neurology. He has zero desire to change because he does not perceive a problem, and honestly, choosing the lifestyle he has makes it easier on him to just live like a jerk. It's too much effort to be responsible and honorable as a person, so adopting the jerk personality makes it seem like he doesn't really even want to be responsible and honorable in the first place. It saves him face, because he simply won't put in the effort to manage himself in better ways.

I often dream about getting away from here; someplace tropical and warm with a sprawling beach. I would park myself in a comfy chair with a beach umbrella, drink, and a good book, and I would just relax listening to the waves. No worries or cares and no jerks either.


Well-Known Member
My son never knew his father. There are times when the things he says along with the body language and facial expressions are identical. Spooky


Well-Known Member
Stressbunny, the list you posted of your son's behaviour reads like a check list for personality disorders.
MWM has a thread on this site which links to a help site for families of those with personality disorders. I have been reading the information and advice for coping (because of my mother, not my son for once!). Have you had a look at that thread and the PD site? It's very insightful and helpful.


Well-Known Member
Stress Bunny, you are too kind. I have been at this longer than most. Remember, my son is 36 and was never "right." I learned a lot along the way...that it is his path. Right now he is in a relationship that I feel could be toxic and she lives with him, but it's none of my business. I just listen and say "Hmmmmmm" and "ok." I learned not to give my two cents. He doesn't really want it.

As for heredity and, it's powerful. I am fascinated by personality disorders, due to my dysfunctional family, I have read any book I can get my hands on about PDs. They are starting to find that heredity is part of PDs. It's heading in that direction. I believe it. I know our family is FULL of them and that 36 has some strong traits. My adopted kids are probably a lot like their families of origin. I personally believe nature trumps nurture.


Well-Known Member
Well I can relate to all of this discussion. Your list is similar for my son. I am also convinced of the genetic component....and have felt since my son was little that a lot is the way he is wired. I recently had someone comment to me about how wonderful my easy child daughter is that I am a great parent...I kept my mouth shut but what I thought was I cant take credit for her because then I have to take credit for him! My kids are both adopted so although they share an upbringing they don't share genetics.

As far as detachment with love....I agree with others that you can love your child but not like them very much! I would never stay in a relationship with anyone else who treats me the way my son has at times treated me!

So for me detachment has been partly learning not to take his actions or behavior personally...they are about who he is, not about who I am as a person or as a mother. And thinking about my responses in terms of what feels right to trying to not just be manipulated but to think about what feels ok or good to me to do. So in general my take is to help him when he is doing the right thing and to step back when he is not.

Detachment to me is setting boundaries and making sure I take care of myself so that I can enjoy my life no matter what he is doing.

And it's a process....with my sons latest screw up I am in the process of detaching further... I feel used by him and taken advantage of by him and that needs to stop. First step is no money for the canteen this time in jail....and reminding myself that jail must not be so bad since he keeps going back ( thanks COM for that) and so I can stop feeling sorry for him when he is in jail.

He is very good at playing on my sympathy and I have the hardest time with detachment when I feel sad for him. I like anger better.


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one day at a time
My son is my biological son. He was a "hard" baby and child from the very beginning. It began with colic and formula intolerance and then extreme shyness and anxiety to acting out to laziness and attitude to all that has happened in the past 5+ years.

His father is a recovering alcoholic, his grandfather on my exhusbands side was a raging alcoholic and a true sociopath I believe and his aunt on my exhusbands side has had multiple breakdowns. Plus my brother is an unrecovered alcoholic and my maternal grandmother abused prescription drugs and tried to commit suicide.

My difficult children inherited mental health history is not good.

It can happen bio or not.

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Well-Known Member
MWM I have often said nature trumps nurture every time so I smiled when I read that.

Stressed my difficult child has never met her bm however she is exactly like her, has followed in her footsteps almost exactly even down to getting tatoos and the phrases she uses. It's really so intersting. My husband and I often felt that nothign we did even mattered because her destiny was set in stone. I know that's not true but I think you can relate.


Well-Known Member
I have disagree with nature trumping nurture. Of course genes give some outlines for us, but environmental factors are monumental. For example early care physically changes brains. Socio-economic group inherits strongly despite child being adopted or biological. Peer group has huge influence and so on.

People can also change, they can make some choices. If it would be all about nature, that would be totally impossible, because nothing would effect us. And that is not true.

And let's face it, we are talking about addictions and mental health issues. Both have some genetic components but both tend to inherit much stronger through nurture. Even the most genetic mental illnesses like schizophrenia can be only explained by half by genetics (if identical twin has it, his/her twin also has it only 50 % of the cases. If parent has it, but child doesn't grow up in the same household, risk for the child to get it dives steeply.) Everything else is even less hereditary. Of course many inherit socially. If the family has substance abuse background even adopted child is almost as likely to have them as biological child.

Of course environmental factors are not something as simple as if someone has a good family or not or if their personality clicked with their parents and if their parents were good at raising this particular type of child or not (child temperament makes huge difference to which kind of parenting is good and which is harmful.) It is about so much more from diet, to neighbourhood, to pure luck about which kind of peers kid has in their kindergarten class and how the dynamics work there and so much more.

And then there are of course those choices. People of course have much less of free will and possibilities to make choices than they think themselves, but we do have some choices we can make and for example it is not totally predetermined who will end up in jail because of continuous criminal activity and who will become a decent tax payer, though some babys of course are against the huge obstacles to not end up in jail because of some genetic and even more so environmental factors while others are almost destined for smooth sailing.


Well-Known Member
All you have to do is adopt a child to see the nature/nurture. Even the easy child adoptees resemble the ways and problems and pluses of biology. This is well known amongst those with adopted children. Even a great kid like Jumper had a very thoughtful, logical, kind bmother who reminds me so much of Jumper. Her athletic talent came from her biol dad and thankfully she did not inherit his criminality. In fact, he would probably be shocked and not happy that she is going to go into law enforcement.

Many adoptive parents talk about how, upon meeting their child's birthmother for the first time, their child, who has never seen his/her family walks, talks and even has gestures of the bio. family. That does not mean all kids will pick up the bad genes in a family. Jumper honestly got only the good, unless you consider her learning disabilities bad, which I don't. She has overcome that hump. I always felt that Sonic's birthmother or birthfather, although both rabid drug addicts, had lots of good in them behind the drug usage for Sonic to be such a nice kid. I mean, this is a young man everyne comments about to me...about how much they love him. Jumper gets a lot of that too, but Sonic even more. From Day One both Sonic and Jumper were told not to use drugs and that even drinking was a risk tot hem due to their family genetics and so far neither does either.

At any rate, I think my brother dodged the personality disordered gene, however he has many problems due to our upbringing and his chronic illness and has been in therapy longer than I have. I don't know why. Depression, low stress tolerance, impulsivity, etc. are all shown to be inherited. So can we blame ourselves for our genes?

Of course not. Every individual can still make life choices. Now somebody, say, who is born without a conscience will not care about others, and some of us are dealing with some of that. They lack the ability to care about others and don't normally feel unhappy with who they are. Interestingly enough, narcissists do go for help and sometimes want to change.

Antisocial pesonality disorder is a lack of conscience.

Narciccists do have a conscience. They just don't have empathy.

It is a slippery slope why we have difficult children, but for the most part our difficult children do resemble others in our DNA collection. Although I said that I've just read "In Sheeps Clothing" that was the wrong I read "The Psychopath Next Door" by Martha Stout, PhD. Fantastic read if you want to know about antisocial personality disorder, what it is, why you get it, and about the brain of a person who has it. I do think my difficult child son has traits of it.

No place in the book or in any research I've ever read does it put the blame on Dad and Mom, although attachment disorder is mentioned in this book as a form of early Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) in children.

There is litltle reason to blame ourselves for our adult children's decisions and many of them are just predisposed to getting into trouble. There are early signs of later trouble in kids (I've also researched this) and impulsisvity, risk taking, and a host of other traits that I would have to look up can denote trouble later on.

There is a predisposition in some to abuse drugs/alcohol, but your adult child, knowing this, does not have to make the decision to do either.

Warrior Moms, in no way should you ever blame yourselves for so many unknown factors. He could have inherited some traits that make his life hard from a great great grandfather you don't even know. I always think it's best to focus on the problem and not try to drive ourselves nuts trying to figure out what we did wrong.Chances are...nothing.


Well-Known Member
I don't think anyone is saying nurture is not an important factor....I realized a while ago that my son probably would have done a lot worse if he had grown up with different parents or had been in the foster care system. We may very well have saved him for a while.

But I think the myth that is out there that we as parents often buy into is that love conquers all...that if you just love your child enough then nature doesnt matter....and that is just plain baloney as many of us have experienced.

Many studies are showing more and more that a lot of who we are is how we are wired and are born with. That doesn't mean environment doesnt matter but nature is a whole lot more important than people used to think.


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