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Your relationship with your parents changes throughout life. It’s never static. When we marry, our center of gravity changes as we leave our fathers and mothers and become One with our spouse. Sometimes, that means you and your spouse must place limits around parents.

These boundaries could be how often visits will happen, or negotiating with whom you will spend the holidays. Many issues need negotiating to keep relationships peaceful. It's stressful and overwhelming to broach these discussions--setting limits with others is challenging enough, but setting limits around parents can feel overwhelming. Why is this so hard?

  • Our parents have been the ones in charge of us, so it is difficult to turn the tables and set limits around them. It is awkward to set boundaries around those who used to set your boundaries. It doesn't feel right to be taking charge. How often do you see grown adults reduced to children in the presence of their parents? In some ways we are always children in the eyes of our parents. We do want to be respectful of the role that parents have played in our lives and whenever possible to establish boundaries together.
  • We don't like to make waves or to be the initiator of tensions within our families. We want to have peace within the family instead of living with tension and conflict. But there’s is a difference between being a peacemaker and a doormat. We want to promote peace through establishing good boundaries.
  • Standing up for ourselves and our families takes a lot of courage. Establishing healthy boundaries is not a job for sissies! It takes a lot of assertiveness to decide what boundaries will be the healthiest for your family and to address those concerns with those involved.
  • Be united as a couple in your boundary setting. The direct child of the parents should likely do the talking and boundary setting. Affirm their love and care as parents, but be clear about your new expectations. 
  • Even after clarifying expectations, it can be difficult to stick to the boundaries you have chosen. It’s easier to fall back into patterns that have been the norm over the years. Patterns we grew up with are ingrained in us, so it takes real effort to change them to keep our new relationships healthy.
  • It is normal to seek the affirmation of our parents. We want to please our parents and we hate to disappoint them. We want to be their source of pride, not a source of frustration. But there are some who will never be pleased no matter what we do, which says more about them than you. Set the boundaries you need to be healthy.

Although parents may not appreciate this initially, in the long run they should value your honesty and your desire to protect your family. Relationships will grow best where there is honest communication and healthy boundaries. You may well be surprised how resetting expectations can make the whole family healthier. It is difficult to draw boundaries with parents, but it is also very worth the effort!

 

 

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