|09-10-2007, 10:02 PM||#1 (permalink)|
Join Date: Mar 2007
Enforcing Parental Boundaries
Last night I followed a link and read one of Steveís archived articles (Dealing with Difficult Relatives) which helped alleviate some guilt Iíve felt setting boundaries with two family members (my parents.)
However the article brought up a question for me, especially the last line that advised to move to another city if all else fails.
In my case, Iíve already moved away--but since imposing boundaries several years ago (in particular, limiting phone interactions, holiday visits, etc.) they suddenly started vacationing in the city where I live. Previously, they never visited here at all.
They give little prior notice as to when theyíre coming, however, Iím expected to meet up with them, etc. Iíve told them how I feel about it, but nothing changes.
Iíve gone along with it for the past three years, mostly out of guilt, however, Iím wondering if this year (just found out theyíll be here next month) I should simply say, ďSorry, Iím busy that week.Ē
Iím wondering if anyone else has had a similar experience, has suggestions about dealing with this, or other ideas for enforcing parental boundaries.
|09-14-2007, 03:31 PM||#2 (permalink)|
Join Date: May 2007
Location: Washington State
Though I haven't had exactly the same experience, I did go through a time period when I needed to enforce boundaries with my parents. Here are a few thoughts:
1 Ė Clearly know in your own mind what you want and what you don't want. Write it down and be specific; you want them to give you at least 6 weeks notice and ask you if there's a time block during their vacation when you can be together, for instance. You don't want them to call to say they're arriving tomorrow and plan to crash at your house.
2 Ė Plan ahead what you will do and how you will respond. One time when I visited my parents, as soon as I arrived at Mom's, I said to her, "Please don't talk about Dad and don't talk about the divorce." A few hours later when I arrived at Dad's, I said, "Please don't talk about Mom and don't talk about the divorce." Dad respected my request, and when he approached the subject of how the divorce affected him, he asked if it was okay to discuss it. Mom did not. She wanted to analyze everything he and she had done wrong. As planned, I said, "I love you, and I love Dad, so when you say mean things about him, it hurts me. That's why I don't want to talk about it."
3 Ė If they don't respect your boundaries at first, reinforce your position, be gentle and firm, but donít back down. (This is why being clear about what you want is important. If you have a shred of doubt or guilt, they can use it against you.) Mom continued to talk about the divorce. I suggested that she visit a counselor our family knows and trusts. She claimed she couldn't afford it and went back to bashing Dad. I suggested she try daily free-writing (as described in The Artist's Way), since it has helped me so much. She said she was too busy and returned to the divorce. I suggested she find a divorce support group, and she exclaimed, "I don't want to listen to someone else complain about their divorce woes!" I countered with, "I can't listen to you talk about Dad and the divorce because I love you, and hearing about it hurts me!" and left.
4 Ė Understand that it might be hard, and you will probably make them angry. They might accuse you of mean and nasty things. They might try to use guilt to get you to return to the unacceptable status quo. Recognize that it's their need to control you that's talking, and don't take it personally. On the other hand, there's always a possibility that if you're clear, it will go easily. Dad respected my boundaries as soon as I laid them down, and we've gotten along well from the beginning.
5 Ė Understand that it takes time. For about a year after saying, "I can't listen to this because I love you," Mom and I hardly talked. Since I had a wedding in that time period, we did interact, and in those interactions, I maintained the boundaries I had set up. (Talking about the divorce was only a symptom of the larger issue.) After about 15 months, we were able to have pleasant phone calls, and over the next 2-3 years, we began to enjoy the time we spend together.
6 Ė If youíre motivated by love for them and love for yourself, and if you believe that by setting clear boundaries, youíll eventually have a better relationship than you do now, you probably will. Somewhere in the process, you might want to say something like this: ďWhen you visit on short notice and expect us to spend time together, I resent you and feel that youíre not respecting my time. I love you, and I donít want to resent you. Iíd like to have a better relationship than that. If you want to visit me, call me farther ahead of time, ask if thereís a time in the next 2-3 months that would be good for a visit. I might be busy. Maybe itíll be better for me if you visit next month or in 4 months, but if you ask for my input, Iíll enjoy our time together more, and probably, so will you.Ē
As I said before, you might get hell form them first, and you might need to be firm and consistent about the new boundaries for a long time before they adjust their behavior, but in time, it will work.
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