Hello, I'm having troubles with my parents that I would like to finally resolve to have a happy and healthy relationship with them. It's quite a complicated matter that's been going on for over 20 years now and the things are getting worse.

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Inka on Aug 07, 2015 • 4 answers
Ever since I moved from home to go to the university when I was 18 and then move abroad and went on to live my own life, find a husband, get a good job, buy a house and start my own family, the relationship with my parents have been declining due to an increase number of conflicts and arguments initiated by my parents. It seems that everything that I decide to do in my life is in the eyes of my parents wrong. And even though I try to explain my choices they will always find arguments trying to prove me wrong. They always give me their negative feedback which in the end always turns into accusations of my lack of respect for them as my parents. Their main understanding is that me as their daughter will always have a duty to respect them as my parents and to obey them. They want me to visit them more often and spend more time with them. They want me to call their home my home even though me and my husband have now a family and we live in our own home which I call my home now, and despite several attempts to explain that my own family is my home now, they don't agree. They are also against me living abroad and so are slandering the country and my home here. And so over the last few years my visits are becoming fewer as I don't want to face conflicts with them and now I even fear my next visit mainly due to my unhappy, negative and worrying memories of their previous behavior when on the last visits they always ended up shouted at me blaming me for my lack of commitment and respect for them, for everything that I have ever done wrong (in their eyes) and for their poor health. They also always remind me that they conceived me, gave me life and brought me up and that I should be thankful and grateful, which is my duty as their daughter. It has been very hard to find topics to communicate with them (even over the phone) to avoid arguments, which is very upsetting and I would like to change that but I do not know how. Where do I go from here?

Answers

It's a tough one. You can't change anyone else, just how you react to others actions. I have found (with age) that at some point we become our parents parent. I decided to be to my own parents, the way I would like them be to me as a parent. Kind of lead the way by example. I found this created a depth in our relationship. But no two people are the same. The only thing you need to do is take care of yourself. That might mean not trying so hard for their approval. Wishing you all the best, Becky xx

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Becky Walsh on Aug 07, 2015

Hi Inka.
Thanks for your question, and for being so open and honest. I agree with Becky Walsh, the only person you can change is yourself. This is a hard thing to acknowledge and even harder thing to do, but once you start to accept this, and work on changing the way you think and relate to your parents, you will start to see the relationship change in ways you previously thought were impossible.

This is not to say that you are in the wrong at all; far from it. But by holding on to anger, resentment and a picture of what your parents should be, rather than accepting what they are, you keep yourself stuck in this painful place. And you deserve to be free from these chains and find the happiness within.

With warm wishes, Zoe

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Zoe Flint on Aug 07, 2015

Hello Inka, Your parents are very fortunate to have such a caring, successful, tolerant and respectful daughter!
Many would have walked away from such an unpleasant relationship a long time ago. I hear your desire to reconnect on an emotional level and rebuild your relationship with them...but it takes all parties pulling together to make that happen. I doubt that your parents see their part in what is going wrong, and you may have to accept that you can't change that in spite of your preference and desire.
Even allowing for any cultural norms around the parent-child relationship it seems that your parents are having a hard time accepting you as a adult in your own right - a grown woman with her own identity and choices to make.
I have a feeling that their inflexibility and need to control and constrain you comes from their fear. Fear of losing you, fear of being lonely and alone, fear of their own declining power and influence.
Any healthy relationship is built upon mutual respect - and they need to show you that they do respect you as an individual - and let you know how proud they are of you.
There is always a reason for every behaviour - but they may not be consciously aware of theirs. Nevertheless the way they treat you in unacceptable - they wouldn't treat a friend like this so surely not their own daughter.
I think it's time for you to set a clear boundary with them.
Let them know that you love them and your relationship with them means a lot to you. You respect their point of view even though you don't agree with it - and you ask the same from them ... to show you respect in return.
Let them know that the bad feeling in the past has become a barrier to you seeing them more often and you don't want this barrier to remain. You want to create a different and better relationship with them still parent and child...but parent and adult child!
Tell them about how you and your husband see a parents role, and share how this works well for you and your children - by offering flexibility, respect honesty, patience, tolerance, love and compassion.
I don't know if you have any brothers or sisters who have similar experiences to yours - if so this might make it easier.
You can only take responsibility for your half of this relationship - and they must deal with their half. Then the two can come together in peace and happiness.
Otherwise you may have to make the decision to 'detach' from them for however long feels right for you. It may mean that you have to accept that you did your best but it you couldn't do it all by yourself and focus upon your new family and share love and happy times with them.
I wish you well - whatever the outcome. Maxine

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Maxine Harley on Aug 07, 2015

Hi Inka, loving all the advice that's been given here and I noticed I had a question as I read your note. "What do you want?" "What's important about this for you?" It sounds like such a simple question but here's why I think it really matters for you.

In my experience a big part of my journey has been to claim my inner sage woman. Let me explain, I was wired to please and be the good girl. I wanted to make everyone including my parents happy. That of course created some interesting dynamics with my relationship with my husband and kids. I got caught in this reactive cycle where my parents would have strong opinions and I'd react to them. What I've learnt is that it's not about right and wrongs. It is about letting go and taking charge of who I am and what I believe and what I want so that I don't react in the same ways. That gave me empathy for their perspective. I could see that their beliefs weren't mine. I could let it go and I learnt to be clear in my boundaries and have different conversations.

I love the Rumi quote, "Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and righting there is a field. I'll meet you there."

You asked "Where do I go from here?" My top tip is inside. It's an invitation. You get to set your life up. You get to take hold of it all and I believe it begins with asking the question, "How do I want to meet this?" As everyone's said, you can change the pattern not by changing them but by shifting you.

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Vanessa Anstee on Sep 11, 2015