As of late, the topic of how to have healthy boundaries with parents has come up a lot. There seems to be some old familial junk surfacing for people right now. Maybe necessary healing as we close out the 2018 year. I’m hearing things like: my mom seems to be getting crazier as she gets older, and I don’t know how to have a relationship with her; my dad makes no effort to ask how I’m doing or see what’s going on in my life; one of my parents failed me as I was growing up, and I’m still hurting. This is a topic I am intimately familiar with. For the most part, we’ve all had our struggles with our parents. Whether you’re in your teens or in your 50’s, there’s probably something there. My relationship with both of my parents- who have been divorced since I was 2- has been volatile for most of my life.
I think what’s at the bottom of all of this is the deep, honest desire to feel loved and connected to our parents. In certain cases, cutting yourself off from your family is absolutely necessary. I’d argue that in most cases though, we just don’t know how to relate, how to communicate openly and honestly, and/or how to see our parent as a human being just as flawed & unsure as we are.
So what do we do? Do we continue on the same way, believing that things just won’t change? Do we speak up and risk an all out war, or worse, being shut out completely? This is such a sticky situation, as each person has his or her own valid reasons for shoving issues under the rug and carrying on as usual. As awful as it is, I invite you to fast-forward to a time when your parent is no longer around. If you do nothing, will you have any regrets? Will you wish your relationship could’ve been different if you had only addressed what needed to be addressed? Or will you be OK with how it all went down? Get quiet & get honest. If you decide the answer is no, you won’t have regrets, then your move is to let go of resentments. Accept the situation as it is and figure out a way to take care of your side of the street, knowing it’s unlikely that things will change. If your answer is yes, you will wish you would’ve done things differently, I have some advice for you that has helped me & tons of other people open up and create healthy boundaries.
Here is your mission, should you choose to accept it…
Set aside some time where you won’t be disturbed, set a timer if you wish, and take out pen & paper. Knowing that no one will ever read what you’re about to write, let it allllll out. Don’t hold back. “Dear Mom, I’m so angry with you because…” Let it pour out. All the shit that’s pissed you off or hurt you. Whatever comes up, let it flow without censoring. You’ll see how therapeutic just this exercise is. You might feel 5 years younger and 10 pounds lighter. When you’ve finished your letter, let yourself feel all your feelings. Be in it. Feel the anger, sadness, disappointment, and confusion. Feel it fully, ride it like a wave, and then let it go. Be skillful about this. Know when you’re dwelling and make the choice to move on. Go for a walk or move your body in a way that feels good. Take as long as you need to process what came up for you. Should you choose that some action is necessary, here is your next step…
Sit down and write a second (or even third) letter. When you’ve arrived at a place where you can share your concerns in a healthy way (not from a place of anger), write the letter you intend to send to your parent or parents. Tell them what concerns you have, without getting into every little detail. Let them know what will no longer be acceptable. Set healthy boundaries. “This is what I expect and if you can’t respect my wishes then we might not have the relationship we both want.” It doesn’t matter if it’s your parent or not, you are in charge of taking care of you. You are in charge of what you allow into your life and what you’ll no longer tolerate. In a kind & respectful way, lay this out for your parent as directly as you can. It’s nice to end your letter by showing gratitude for what they’ve done for you and for how they’ve shown up for you in positive ways.
The last step is to send your letter. Holy moly! As scary as it is, that’s your only chance of having the relationship you desire. What you’ve shared might upset them. It might crush them. But ultimately, it’s for the best. This is for you so you can feel better. Ensure that you send your letter with no expectations. You don’t want to set yourself up for disappointment if you don’t get the response you’re hoping for. Do it for you and leave the rest up to God (if the word “God” doesn’t sit well with you, substitute it for whatever resonates with you- “Universe”/”Source”).
Be brave. Ask for what you want. You deserve nourishing relationships. You deserve to feel whole & supported. You deserve all the love in the world. Don’t feel like you have to settle because you don’t want to be uncomfortable. Sometimes life is messy. Sometimes you have to do the hard thing instead of quietly slipping away. It’s your choice what kind of life you want to lead, and I hope you choose a life full of joy and harmony and success and flow. It’s up to you though! If you have a relationship that’s not satisfying, whether it’s with a parent or someone else, are you willing to get uncomfortable?
Lots of Love,