We all need to learn to recognize when someone is manipulating or trying to control us for their own agendas, but it is especially a challenge to realize when this is happening with a family member. We must learn to effectively set boundaries with a parent, sibling, spouse or one of our children.
I plan to do several articles on this topic due to the frequency of letters I get from clients or RuledByFear.com members.
So, Ted was relating a story to me about how proud he is if his two teenage kids, a boy and girl, with whom he has built a very enjoyable and respectful relationship. However, he is having an ongoing conflict with his spouse, who is actually jealous of the relationship he has with their teens.
Now Ted is a Caregiving type personality, and tries to do what is right and ethical. He is bright and has a good sense for business and has his own Company that has been very successful. He can provide well for his family. However, Ted has had a hard time setting boundaries on a personal level because he wants to avoid emotional conflict. Avoidance is the KEY ISSUE behind many of our ANXIETY symptoms.
His wife Joy is an emotionally complex, self-sabotaging personality who feels the world has screwed her over, whereas, she has sabotaged any opportunity to build self-esteem, because she gives up at the slightest sign of rejection or failure. She drinks often to escape her own negative thoughts and emotional pain that keep her from ever finding a real purpose in her life.
By their teen years, the kids have all but turned off towards her and go to their father for any real support and understanding. Joy recognizes the distance that exists now between she and the kids, but always blames Ted for spoiling them.
It was inevitable that as the kids grew older and had witnessed their mother’s emotional escape tactics, that it would all come to a head. So, it is no surprise when the kids started dating, they would not bring their special friends home as they were embarrassed by the mother’s behavior, slurring words and stumbling when she got up. So when Ted asked to meet the special friends they would make excuses, until he pressed the issue and they responded with the obvious explanation. Ted could no longer avoid their issues, and her drinking. He had to stop avoiding and set boundaries. He could arrange to meet his kid’s dates or special friends at their Beach House, etc., but then what ? He had to deal with what he had been avoiding for years.
Ted had to face the issue with his wife, or when the kids eventually moved away, he might not see them very often and be a part of their lives. That made him angry. So he, with all the strength he could muster, talked to his wife and gave her an ultimatum. Get treatment for her alcoholism or they would have to divorce so he could be free to have a continuing relationship with his soon to be adult children. She tried to play the martyr again as she usually did, but this time he stood his ground. He said he still loved her but he no longer would be responsible for her behavior, or the liability of harming someone in a car accident because she was drinking. If she was in treatment, he would stay until he saw she was fully engaged and taking control of her life. He increased his liability insurance significantly so he could protect their finances in case she was sued, but he set limits and boundaries so he could protect himself and the kids.
This took strength to no longer avoid issues.
Gene Benedetto, Psychologist/Emeritus, Life Coach