Frequently our relationship with our parents, especially the lack of mature boundaries, has a negative impact on our relationship with our partner. This is especially true if you have not yet become an adult in your parents’ eyes. If you have not taken this stand with your parents, it is extremely likely that you feel as if you are still a child in your parents’ home. You find yourself feeling and behaving like a child in the presence of your parents. From this position of feeling like a child, it is almost impossible to defend your partner from the behavior of your parents. Instead you may end up asking your partner to accept that Mom is just like that, or that’s just the way Dad is, expecting your partner to suck it up and not make waves. Taking this stance will tend to build resentment in your partner and erode your relationship. If you find yourself making excuses for your parent’s behavior, rather than setting mature boundaries, it is probably time to take the necessary steps to become an adult in your parents’ eyes.
There are some steps that move you toward a more equal relationship with your parents:
- Accept that your parents were and are imperfect and that is okay.
- Forgive your parents. Not because they deserve to be forgiven, but because you deserve to be free from the resentment and bitterness.
- Let the guilt drop on the floor. If your parents attempt to offer you guilt because you are setting boundaries and moving into an adult role; do not take it in and carry it around with you, simply let it drop on the floor.
- Recognize that you are responsible for your thoughts, feeling, words and behavior. Your parents are not to blame for making you feel like a child. That is something that you are choosing when you cave, run away, rebel or hide, feel small or behave like a victim. When you were a child, you had little to no power in the relationship. That is no longer true, unless you continue to behave as if it is true.
- Take responsibility for your life. Accept your accomplishments and own up to your mistakes. Adopt the attitude of ‘there is no failure, only feedback’ and consider ‘how might I do this differently in the future’.
- Be open to influence. Behaving like a child in your parents’ eyes can take two forms (and a range in between) being obedient and trying to please your parents or being rebellious and refusing to hear them no matter what. As you become an adult in your parents’ eyes you will find yourself able to hear your parents’ thoughts and suggestions and then choose for yourself which suggestions work for you. Know that it can be a sign of maturity to ask for your parents’ advice.
- Find the gratitude. No matter how awful your parents were or are, there are very likely some gifts (of character, experience, example) that you received from them. Even if these gifts were simply examples of what not to do. You are who you are today because of the choices and decision that you made as you lived with or without your parents. Find ways that you can feel grateful for the gifts you received from your parents.
- Set boundaries. Expect to be treated respectfully and to have your partner be treated respectfully. Remember for boundaries to be effective there must be consequences. If your boundaries are not respected, lovingly remove yourself from the situation. For example, if your boundary is that you are unwilling to listen to a litany of complaints from Dad, when Dad starts in on his list of complaints say, “have to run, love you, talk to you soon,” and then hang up the phone or walk out the door.
- Recognize and respect your limits. For many there is a limit to the amount of time they can spend with their parents and maintain their sense of equilibrium. You may find that as you form a new and more equal relationship with your parents that your tolerance increases, but it is important to be aware of and respect your limits.
This is a simple, but challenging process. In some ways becoming an adult in your parents’ eyes may be one of the most difficult things you do in your life. As you grow and mature in this way, you may notice a positive ripple effect in your relationship.