• Rules of Estrangement

  • Why Adult Children Cut Ties and How to Heal the Conflict
  • By: Joshua Coleman
  • Narrated by: Fred Sanders
  • Length: 9 hrs and 41 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (182 ratings)

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Rules of Estrangement

By: Joshua Coleman
Narrated by: Fred Sanders
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Publisher's Summary

A guide for parents whose adult children have cut off contact that reveals the hidden logic of estrangement, explores its cultural causes, and offers practical advice for parents trying to reestablish contact with their adult children.

“Finally, here’s a hopeful, comprehensive, and compassionate guide to navigating one of the most painful experiences for parents and their adult children alike.” (Lori Gottlieb, psychotherapist and New York Times best-selling author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone)

Labeled a silent epidemic by a growing number of therapists and researchers, estrangement is one of the most disorienting and painful experiences of a parent's life. Popular opinion typically tells a one-sided story of parents who got what they deserved or overly entitled adult children who wrongly blame their parents. However, the reasons for estrangement are far more complex and varied. As a result of rising rates of individualism, an increasing cultural emphasis on happiness, growing economic insecurity, and a historically recent perception that parents are obstacles to personal growth, many parents find themselves forever shut out of the lives of their adult children and grandchildren. 

As a trusted psychologist whose own daughter cut off contact for several years and eventually reconciled, Dr. Joshua Coleman is uniquely qualified to guide parents in navigating these fraught interactions. He helps to alleviate the ongoing feelings of shame, hurt, guilt, and sorrow that commonly attend these dynamics. By placing estrangement into a cultural context, Dr. Coleman helps parents better understand the mindset of their adult children and teaches them how to implement the strategies for reconciliation and healing that he has seen work in his 40 years of practice. Rules of Estrangement gives parents the language and the emotional tools to engage in meaningful conversation with their child, the framework to cultivate a healthy relationship moving forward, and the ability to move on if reconciliation is no longer possible.

While estrangement is a complex and tender topic, Dr. Coleman's insightful approach is based on empathy and understanding for both the parent and the adult child.

©2020 Joshua Coleman (P)2020 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“Finally, here’s a hopeful, comprehensive, and compassionate guide to navigating one of the most painful experiences for parents and their adult children alike. Rules of Estrangement candidly addresses parental estrangement from every conceivable angle, steering readers away from shame and blame to a place of newfound understanding and empowerment. I’ve seen many parents and adult children grappling with these issues, and this is exactly the book they have all been waiting for. I will be recommending it widely.” (Lori Gottlieb, psychotherapist and New York Times best-selling author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone)

“A very thoughtful book filled with great wisdom and care. Over Dr. Coleman’s years of practice, as well as his own personal journey, he has developed a deep appreciation for how to help parents see their relationship with their children through the child’s eyes. It is through that process of compassionate perspective taking [WJ1] that a healing conversation can begin.” (Amy J. L. Baker, PhD, author of Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome)

“Coleman addresses what historians see as a strange paradox: Even as more adult children view their parents as friends rather than mere obligations, psychologists report seeing a wave of parents who have been rejected by their adult children. Coleman explores the socioeconomic and cultural changes that inflate both our expectations and our disappointments in family life, offering calming advice on ways that estranged families can recover or move on.” (Stephanie Coontz, author of The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap)

What listeners say about Rules of Estrangement

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  • Overall
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Excellent book for the parent's perspective

The book gives great insight into the phenomenon of parental estrangement, and is an excellent guide for parents whose adult children have estranged them. The author empathizes deeply with such parents.

That being said, the book misses out on showing the adult child's perspective and how parental choices or other incidents can affect them far into adulthood. The book could also have used a chapter on things you can do while your kids are still young to have a better relationship with them in adulthood.

17 people found this helpful

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Helped me with my estranged son

Our adult son was estranged from my husband and me for over two years. Then, we got back together. But then, our relationship fell apart again. I listened to the audiobook "Rules of Estrangement" and listened to it--I listened to it three times. It made so much sense to me that I wanted to apply what I was learning correctly. Then, I did the steps that Joshua Coleman suggests. It worked! And now our son is back in good communication with us.

I've recommended this book to friends who are experiencing estrangements with their adult children. I recommend it to anyone in this situation. It's easy reading and enjoyable reading. Thank you, Dr. Coleman, this book is a gift.

10 people found this helpful

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life-saving or at least relationship saving

This is an exceptionally well-considered and well-presented book. Coleman, as he says in the afterward, speaks with two voices, one in each of his ears. He can hear the perspective of a parent or grandparent, longing to be reconnected with their child. And in the other ear he can hear with such clarity and empathy the voice of the child who feels a need to be separate.
Anybody who's going to look at this book probably does so because they've suffered the pain of estrangement. And I suspect, from my own experience and hearing Dr Coleman speak of others' experiences, that you've spent hours anguishing, wondering, reading, etc. This book brought me more clarity than hundreds of hours of that thinking, including useful conversations with really well meaning and thoughtful people.
The only thing better than reading the book, I imagine, would be spending time in family therapy with Joshua Coleman.

8 people found this helpful

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This will heal your heart

Best book ever!!!! Helped me heal and understand my own children’s estrangement better than 2 years of therapy did!! Read it! Life changing for sure!!!.

6 people found this helpful

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So many questions answered!

This is the book parents of estranged children have been waiting for. Dr. Coleman explains so simply how parents of today have ended up with children who blame them for all their troubles and how our country culture is overly concerned with individual happiness. He points out that parents in past generations had less to worry about in terms of adequate wages , less working hours, health care and pensions provided by ones job. Americans had the security and knowledge that we were all in this together. When that all changed we made our children the center of parents concerns resulting in them putting their happiness above caring about their flawed parents. if a relationship doesn't make you happy, you just end it and that goes for parents. Dr. Coleman shows great compassion and wisdom in this book and I highly recommend it.

4 people found this helpful

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Helpful, informed, compassionate

An excellent overview of how shifting parenting norms and expectations have caused a surge in parent-child estrangement. The author, who was estranged from his daughter for a time, gives specific instructions for writing an abjectly apologetic amends letter. But mostly he counsels radical acceptance since many children will never reconcile. He wants parents to know they deserve to be happy with or without their child.

4 people found this helpful

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helpful

I'm new to this (1 month) and am reaping with hurt and anger. This book was very helpful. I'm not willing to bend the knee to my children though. Some of the advice is to be careful and go slow. Well, my 25 yr old didn't give me the same courtesy. Like I said, I'm new to this estrangement stuff so maybe later I will look at that point. This book especially the last part was very helpful.

3 people found this helpful

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A wealth of clarity.

A wealth of clear perspectives, real life examples and advice for many situations. Excellent book.

3 people found this helpful

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Recommended for everyone

Luckily I have an excellent relationship with my adult son and his love. That doesn’t mean that I cannot run afoul somewhere down the line. As a young child my son was victimized by his dad in a horrendous divorce. I experienced parental alienation for 8 years but thankfully my son never fully rejected me. I know someone going through estrangement with one of her adult children and it’s immensely painful to witness and gut-wrenching for her to experience. I have always had ‘check in’ conversations with my son and he knows he is ‘safe’ being honest with me. He now lives with his GF and that adds many layers of where I could screw things up and one reason why I chose to read this book. The narration was excellent which is primary me.

2 people found this helpful

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Have a big heaping of salt for your wounds

Delivered in a monotone voice, this book was unlistenable after a short time. Here’s a quick summary: your kid doesn’t want to talk to you because you suck and forced your poor son/daughter to cut you off in self defense. It’s your fault and if you will suck less, they may come back when they’ve gotten over all the pain you inflicted with your irrational love.

Want to feel worse than you do right now? This book is for you.

2 people found this helpful