Carolyn Hax

Carolyn Hax: Parents are a negative, stressful force

 
 
Hax
Hax

Dear Carolyn: Two years ago my brother and his now-wife were preparing to get married and felt so much pressure, judgment and negativity from my parents leading up to the wedding that they almost uninvited them.

My parents are now applying the screws to my relationship, my life and all of my decisions. They disapprove. Have resorted to screaming and yelling, angry 2 a.m. emails, and making it blatantly clear my significant other is unwelcome at holidays. I’ve explained boundaries to them: that if this relationship DOES work, they’re making it really stressful, and if it doesn’t, I will distance myself super far away from them to avoid this type of intervention in the future.

I’m a happy, successful person in my early 30s and their attitude is a major negative force in my life. How do I make it go away without cutting them out?

Concerned

I appreciate the idea of a boundary, but what you set down is not a boundary, it’s a pair of consequences. Consequences need to be immediate, concrete and directed at the people whose invasiveness you’re trying to thwart.

One of your consequences is so deep into the future as to be nearly abstract: If your relationship doesn’t work out -- in however many months or years you give it to play out -- then you’ll move away?Tell them: "I will no longer discuss my relationship or my decisions with you — not until you’re ready to trust that you raised me well enough to handle my own life."

Consequence: If they keep up the hysterics, you respond calmly and decisively by ... hanging up the phone/leaving the room/deleting the email/opting out of the family holiday.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com.

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