Saturday, April 1, 2023
HomeRelationship AdviceIf you had controlling/overprotective parents, how did you set your boundaries with...

If you had controlling/overprotective parents, how did you set your boundaries with them after becoming an independent adult? Trying to find a way to do that with mine.

I am open to hearing different stories and not necessarily advice just for my situation although also appreciated.

I’m (23f) and my mom+dad are close to 60. I now have a job and live on my own in a different country but they did help pay for my university and my initial move abroad for better opportunity so I feel indebted to a certain extent. I was never close emotionally (from my point of view) but as an only child they were specially overprotective/controlling. As an adult now I will admit I feel bad whenever I set boundaries because a) as I said I do feel indebted b) they hit me with the “so you don’t care about us at all”/”we miss you so much” + crying so I end up feeling like the villain. Also, culturally family has always been defined as integral so I’m scared of losing all of my family if I push too much as backlash.

Any specific advice on how to deal with it? If you had a similar situation what did you do?


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  1. First of all, deal with the guilty feeling. Think of them as children who do drama when all you want is set something healthy for both. Do not allow yourself to fall for the guilt trip. Keep in mind that you do care about them, you do things for them and you love them.

    Also, remember that they might had given you an easier time, but you must had to put in a lot of effort to get where you are. They aren’t the sole responsible for your victories.

    Make a list of the limitations you want to set. Be clear, consistent and firm. If you start setting boundaries then quit over guilty, it’ll be even harder for everyone to set it again. Make room for being with them/talking with them at more or less specific times/days and FOLLOW IT. It’s important to be extremely firm – but polite – principally in the begining (no exceptions!).

  2. I have an overbearing mother, and I’ve been isolated from all of my family due to moving states away from them so she could live closer to her own parents. She was controlling and overprotective, and that compounded hard with the loss of my eldest sister. I flew the nest when I was 21, and every boundary I set was some slight against her. I had to stop all contact for a full year for her to actually realize I was an adult at last and able to take care of myself. Even then, she stalked me, although I was unaware at the time. That year apart was hard for both of us but it forced her to let go.

    Your parents need to see you as an adult, in your own right, with your own life. Their tears and anger at you trying to find independence is manipulation and desperation to hold onto you, while they justify it to themselves as having your best interests in mind. Set boundaries you’re comfortable with and stick to them. When they cross them, give your parents time outs and stick to it. Every time they cross a boundary more than once, lengthen the punishment period. They’ll begin to take you seriously once they see you are serious. Giving in rewards their behavior and they’ll continue it for as long as you allow them to.

  3. The trick is to set boundaries without them realising boundaries have been set. Stop telling them things about your life. Mention small things like a deal you got at a grocery store and a meal you made that tasted good, but don’t tell them anything meaningful about your life. This way they feel like they know everything without knowing anything at all.

    When they want you to visit, go. But again, grey rock them on issues like partners, job promotions or whatever it is you don’t want their hands in.

    Let them get used to ideas instead of pushing confrontation. If you can, make them feel as though it is their idea in the first place. I don’t know how much control they’re exerting over you, but just time makes them ease up.

  4. It can be incredibly challenging. I can feel guilty for my reasonable boundaries. Hold firm to protect your own happiness. The better you are about maintaining consistent boundaries, the easier it gets.

  5. Going low contact to NO contact. They still shat on my boundaries, because that’s what they always do. So I enforced the boundaries, left, and they cannot reach me now.

    Then the work begins. I had to start working on myself so I wouldn’t be a people pleaser, I could still enforce my boundaries, and so that their negative comments would not get to me.

    Good luck.

  6. I was in your situation. You don t have to feel bad because they raised you. It was their job, to raise you and give you what you need. Think this way: if you are going to have children, you want them to take care of you when you are old, or to have their own life. I will choose second option.

    I was raised by my grandma and everyday she is saying i left her alone. I don t feel guilt, because I know I had done my part. I m 25, and I have my own life. Also she is not alone. She is called by friend, her brothers and sisters. I mean, she gets more phonecalls in one day than me in one week :))) no joking.

    So don t feel bad. Or like a villan. You are an adult, and also parents have to know when to let their childrens go. It s toxic to make your child guilty for having his own life.

  7. Stop feeling guilty, what they did for you was great but it’s not transactional! You didn’t sign a loan agreement owing them all your attention! What they need is more of a life for themselves. They need hobbies, a social life or they can get a pet.

  8. I had what upon reflection were abusive parents, mostly emotionally. I went low contact for many years and only visited for a few days every year.

    As I was under 26, I was still on their health insurance. It should be noted, I have an older sister who has chronic health issues so we ALWAYS hit the out of pocket deductible very early on in the year. All this to say when this incident happened, it didn’t cost my parents a single penny.

    I developed an illness that required medication, which turns out I’m super allergic to. Like hives and throat closing allergic. My roommate’s mom who used to work in the medical field was visiting and told me I needed to go to the hospital like now. So I did, gave them the insurance, did everything right. Texted my parents to let them know, and they just said keep them updated.

    Once they got me settled, I was able to breath again with treatment. I was released and went home at like 3am. My parents called me soon after to yell at me because it WOULD HAVE (not that it did, would have. Insurance covered everything) cost 3000 dollars at the end of the day. I ended up sticking up for myself for the first time in my life, and told them that I was literally dying and my throat was closing, and they cared about the non existent 3000 bill than my life? And after that I went essentially no contact for several years, though I left the door open a crack, so it was more like low low low contact.

    A couple of years ago when I was about 22, my mom (the one I have the biggest issues with) called me crying and asked for a do over. She promised to treat me like an adult and stop trying to parent me, and we completely took politics off the discussion table. I asked what made her do this, and she said it was something I said a few years ago and refused to tell me what it was. However, I suspect it was my youngest sibling moving out, and my mom facing the face that she would be an empty nester with most of her children on low or no contact. While it isn’t perfect, she really is trying and I genuinely enjoy talking to her and visiting them now. I am one of two of my siblings with a good relationship with them. (My little sister still requires parenting due to special needs, even though she lives alone, and my older sister is no contact with them). This phone call did not happen for my older sister, and I am convinced that it is because I left the door open a crack so my mom felt like she could call and ask to start over, while my sister firmly slammed, locked, and barricaded the door. My advice would to be keep laying down and enforcing the boundaries, and hopefully there will one day be a moment of introspection for your parents when they realize they need to do better. But don’t put your mental health at risk because of guilt. It’s not worth it.

  9. Be intentional about when you want to visit. This will help remove your guilty feelings while also showing them you do care. Make it something that balances well with your life.

    Understand that they want the best for you and if you think you need to set healthy boundaries then although it may not seem it, this is also in their interest.

    Be assertive when you create a boundary – this may cause them to react badly but there’s little you can do about that. The best you can do is show empathy for them and be understanding while also not backing down on the boundary or your values.

    I myself haven’t spoken to my step dad in 7 months because he didn’t want me to get the Covid vaccine. I made it very clear that it’s my life and I will do what I think it best. I also made it very clear that I still want the relationship with him if he chooses to respect my right to decide what to do with my life. It’s an open door if he chooses to respect my boundaries. This way I have zero guilt.

  10. Sell them the idea of enjoying their empty nest to go travel and enjoy themselves. Have dates and enjoy each other like teenagers with the money of an adult. That way they’ll focus on their life and pleasures more than you.

  11. I see a lot of great advice regarding introspection on your part so that you stop feeling guilty. Rhetorically, however, you gotta call them out on their manipulative bullshit. For example, when you set a boundary and they say, “oh! I guess you hate us now!” You have to dismantle that. If you’re feeling charitable, I guess you could say something like, “you know that’s not true. You’re my parents, and I love you, but I need you to respect this boundary because…” make sure you make it about YOU. Any sort of emotional response needs to be treated like a child’s temper tantrum, just wait it out. EMPHASIZE that this is about you, not them.

  12. Same as you would any intrusive, abusive narcissistic asshole that you know won’t stop. Move half the planet between yourself and them and go #NoContact

  13. This sounds like an Asian background culture. If that’s the case never. Lol. They love you and they just wants what is best for you. You don’t have a kid yet but trust me, you will be protective too. But you can learn from this and be less protective. It is what it is, we are their children regardless of culture and we should take what they say and learn or modify it and learn from that. All you can do is just tell them and hope they listen. They love you. Just think in 50 years when they aren’t around. Trust me, you’ll miss times like these when they are all up in your business, even if you feel annoyed.

  14. Setting boundaries seems strange at your age. When they’ve literally helped every aspect of your current progression become successful

    I think at 23 you’re young and thinking you know the world and you’re ready to conquer it and make it yours, on your own to prove to everyone that you’re an adult now and you can do it.
    Nobody doubts you can.

    At 30 you’ll look at your early 20s as a we all do, knew nothing compared to now and we should have not bitten the hand that feeds us and trod on the toes of those who walk with us, just to show our independence.
    We succeed in life because of the people around us and their important input.

    Don’t be too quick to out rule them, to boundary them etc just because it can be a little too much.
    Listen and appreciate and then make your mind up while forever being thankful and dignified to receive their input.

    They can’t control you
    That’s your mindset
    They have just helped their child grow and move on to be an adult, it’s a hugely difficult time for them, and a time which takes a long time to adapt too.
    Wait it out with dignity and love

  15. hmm… I didn’t, I’ve been an addict and criminal for most of my life, so I’ve put the fear of losing a son into my mother, and she still deals with that(a couple of years ago she showed up at my house in the middle of the night, because I hadn’t replied on facebook for a couple of days(I simply forgot, read the message, forgot to reply))..

    However, it’s all become a lot better with time, but it’s because she puts in the work, not because of anything I do(besides maybe tolerance and patience?). She sees a therapist.

    And I’m 34 years old, my point to this little story is that the work is on her.. all you can do is clarify and make it known to her

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