Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Saying goodbye to unhealthy relationships


Like many cliches, my relationship with my mom has always been a difficult one. She was an emotionally unavailable person while I was growing up and then, at one point, the roles were reversed. I became the parent.

She is young (only 56), pretty, and healthy. However, she seems to always be unhappy with her life and circumstances. And I? I always feel guilty.

It is true that many of us have unhealthy relationships with loved ones. And it took me a long while to realize that my relationship with my mother was a co-dependant one. She has a problem, I jump in to fix it.

The hardest thing I had to do, have to do, in order to change this relationship (since I cannot just dump my mom. I still love her) is to change how I behave towards her. It would be, I have to say, much easier if she was just happy and stopped bitching about everything every time I call her. But truth is, I have no  control over her happiness and I am not responsible for it either.

I do have control over how I behave though and I have stopped to jump in every time she has a problem to solve it. I find a reason to hang up if she starts complaining or just don't pay much attention. I still feel guilty, but the first step to a healthy emotional relationship is setting boundaries. Respecting my own limits... I owe myself that much.

40 comments:

Kalei's Best Friend said...

YOUR mom is 56? omg, I am a bit older than she is... Your maturity made me feel that you and I were somewhat the same age?? now I feel stupid... I am glad tho that you stand up for yourself.. Before my mother died, I would bite my tongue because of some of the things she would say.. Indirectly or direct... Kudos to you!. :-)

Kalei's Best Friend said...

36???? OMG. u are 5 years older than my oldest!!! shame on you!!! LOL

Kalei's Best Friend said...

I figured it out! U are an old soul...

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Good for you! I wish you strength and success in modifying the dynamics of your relationship.

gigihawaii said...

You are right to avoid unhealthy relationships. I have and don't regret it.

Magic Love Crow said...

Good for you! I am proud of you and I wish you all the best! It's going to be hard, but you can do it!
(Just to let you know, the shower is still in the bathroom. There is no tub now.)

Lois said...

My mother was 56 when I was... 13! I was the youngest of 5. I often felt much older than my mother, how sad is that??? I have been distancing myself from unhealthy relationships for some time now, and sometimes it is lonely. But then I remember why, and it seems well worth it. Be Well! Lois, from Ontario.

turquoisemoon said...

I sat up a special ring tone on my phone for all my "unhealthy relationship people". When it rings, I take a second to get my mind set... Good for you, be kind (which I'm sure you are) but maintain your boundaries.

Sofia said...

Hi Ana! This issue makes me think... How to be better with my own daughter.. To have healthy relationships and be more mature..

Meggs said...

This is my dad: more negative than not. I find his complaining and they're-out-to-get-me attitude tiring sometimes, but I've found being non-reactive helps to not fuel the flames. I've even gone so far as to try bringing up the power of positive thinking, subtly, when I can...the other day he told me about how he was telling my sister to think positively when she was having a tough go...so perhaps it's sinking in now.

M.

Jacquelineand.... said...

Good for you Ana, and I wish you all the best! Your mother sounds very like mine, albeit a good deal younger, and I had to make a similar decision many years ago.

It made me VERY determined not to do the same thing to my own daughter.

froebelsternchen Susi said...

you are right to do this... I made this many years ago with my parents..
I love them still and respect them, but I let them loose.
My parents were also very young, as the got me and so I had more the feeling to be their mother..
I know this problem!

Make your way!

xxx Susi

Sulky Kitten said...

It can be very difficult to try and extricate yourself from this kind of emotional hold. Having the strength to stand back and assess the relationship for what it is, rather than what you'd like it to be, is a positive step to take.

Plowing Through Life (Martha) said...

I'm sorry to hear that your relationship with your mom can be difficult at times, Ana. But I think you are handling it very maturely and wisely. The people we love come with their own habits and unique personalities. Sometimes something as simple as modifying a relationship and setting boundaries makes a world a difference. It's not easy to cut people out of our lives, particularly people we love, so changing the interaction to lessen the stress and frustration helps us to maintain these relationships and give us peace of mind at the same time.

alteredstatesstudio said...

that can be so hard...glad that you recognized it and are able to set boundaries- because you are right- boundaries need to be set. i think that children of parents such as these, it is important for us to realize that our destiny is not the same as their- WE can change our path. it is good that you have taken that responsibility- good for you. hang in there!

Christine Altmiller said...

It is so hard to keep boundaries in any relationship, let alone family ones. It can take some of us a long time to say "Enough!" and put those boundaries into place. And when we make that change, the other person often asks "What is wrong with you? What is going on with you?" (if they are not too narcissistic to notice) It is hard to flat out tell them that your problem is them. I could go on forever here. So I will stop now. Stay strong in your conviction to keep loving your Mom but not seeing yourself as the one to fix her unhappiness. We can do exactly what unhappy people ask of us and it still won't make them happy. Ever.

Jeanne said...

Bravo! Boundaries are a must. It took me years to understand & implement boundaries with certain relatives. When I did, I was labeled as selfish but I was much happier for the boundaries.
Wishing you a 'peaceful' transition.

Sherri B. said...

You are smart to set boundaries and not let your Mom's behavior affect your inner peace. Her unhappiness is her own to bear - she still has lots of living left, so I hope she'll figure it out. Meanwhile, you're a wise and loving daughter to handle it as you do! Sending you good thoughts, Ana. Love your art, as always!!

Optimistic Existentialist said...

Sometimes severing an unhealthy relationship is a difficult thing but it's an essential step in reaching out truest level of happiness...

Arkansas Patti said...

What incredible insight you have. Most get into such relationships and just can't get out. Keep yourself strong. Caving to her helps neither of you. I hope she is able to find happiness. Such a sad way to live.

Gloria in CA said...

You do what is right for you and that is what is important. Happy days to you.

BamaTrav said...

I always used to tell them that I just didn't want to hear it, referring to them bitching about something or someone. They eventually learned not to bring up crap around me.

pauline said...

Ana, this makes total sense to me.
I think setting boundaries with those in our lives who take up too much of our space is a healthy thing to do. Your mother's issues are hers, not yours. You have a right to choose your own happiness over hers. You ARE worth it. I'm glad you're doing this for yourself. xox

Jess said...

It took me a whole lot longer than you to change the way I reacted to my difficult mother. I always wanted a 'normal' mum but it's never going to happen so I accept what is. I still sometimes get upset by the things she says but I now put up a sort of barrier and laugh about it, the only way to deal with it I suppose. I tell myself that the most important thing is not to become the same as her. :)
Don't feel guilty, she might be feeling just as guilty as you, you never know. :)xx

Fundy Blue said...

Another thought-provoking post, Ana! I admire your courage as you work through all this. Good for you, and best wishes for your success!

Francie M said...

For me the mother/daughter relationship was difficult. I have many unresolved issues because by the time I realized what was going on and how I could help myself she had started the long slide into dementia. I'm glad that you've been given this chance to get your ship on an even keel.

Jeanie said...

You are a wise woman, Ana, to recognize what you can and can't control and do find a way to work with your relationship that still involves having one. It's not easy, but the commitment is the first step. I applaud you wisdom, maturity and clarity and wish you good fortune as you Move to the next step.

Kathy, PaperPumpkin said...

You have figured out, already, what has taken me years and years to do, Ana. It's important, necessary, to respect your own healthy boundaries, not just everybody else's. Hey, we Capricorns must remember to be as kind to ourselves as we try to be for others!

Zoe said...

What you say is so true. You can only change how you react. My mom is much like yours at 84 it hasnt gotten better on her end but mine has changed dramatically since Ive decided to honor boundaries. BTW I have a more active blog than the doggie one...I just didnt know if you knew...feel free to go to either its just the dogs dont get action since skip became ill. so the other site is http://rewritten-redo.blogspot.com

Riot Kitty said...

Limits are very important! Well said.

Elena said...

You are so very wise!

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

I know it's hard. I have had to step back and put some distance between myself and some of my family members. It's not easy but it's better for everyone. Sending you LOTS of hugs tonight!

Anthony said...

Well spoken...I hope that you and your mom are able to create a new, healthy, and vibrant relationship.

Ileana said...

You are a wise one, Ana, and self respect is something we cannot live without. You inspire me with your posts and I love how expressive you are. I'm not surprised at how artistic you are. Your artwork is always amazing.

Maybe your mother will start to come around and realize that negativity will pull people away and learn to control her emotions a bit better. She is young and she can still learn this, which will help her in other areas, too. Wish she could be happy but as you say, there is nothing you or anyone can do to control her feelings. It's all in her hands. Tough situation y te compadezco.

Buttons said...

Ana you are very wise.HUG B

Cristiane Marino said...

Oi Ana, seus trabalhos estão lindos!
Sabe, não fique se sentindo culpada por estabelecer limites no relacionamento com sua mãe.

Esquecemos às vezes, que nossos pais vivem de acordo com as escolhas que fazem em suas vidas e que nem sempre são as melhores, e terão que arcar com isso como qualquer outra pessoa.

Não somos os responsáveis por isso. E não temos que carregar um fardo que não nos pertence.

A pessoa só pode ser ajudada se realmente quiser ajuda e quiser mudar, caso contrário é um desperdício de energia.

Cuide-se bem. Seja amorosa com você mesma.
Abraço

Red Shoes said...

I think I had healthy relationships with my parents, but what the Hell do I know.

I know that I don't have healthy relationships with my brothers and sisters. One brother, I haven't had any contact with since the day we buried Dad. My brothers and sister that live here in the same town, I seldom see.

So, having come from a rather large family, I have a small circle.

I have relationships with some friends and former girl friends who wanted to remain friends that just aren't healthy. I'm letting them go as well.

It's a process. I don't deserve to be treated the way they treat me.

Most importantly, I am at Peace with all that I have to do.

~shoes~

Caffeine Girl said...

First, thanks for your honesty. I really appreciate it -- especially because my relationship with mother has many parallels with yours. I am 53 and only a few years ago began to set real boundaries. You are so doing the right thing!

Kyra Wilson said...

My mother just turned 60, and she complains all the time as well. Granted, she isn't healthy (she has MS) and whatnot. Still, I struggle with things often enough on my own to know I can make this life with a silver lining or blot everything out and be miserable. I wish she realized she could be happier by making the choice on her own as well. I just watch my boundaries with her, that's the best I can do. I still love her to pieces. :)

Palomasea said...

This must be such a painful situation, but you are a wise soul for beginning to set these boundaries. And you are doing it with love...
Your relationship reminds me of the one we have with my MIL...so very difficult.
Blessings,
- Irina