I put the rag down I was dusting the dresser with to move my phone. This message popped up:
“When loved ones in your life are making stupid choices…keep calm, getting stressed will only make you feel bad and change nothing.” Followed by crying emojis and saying they miss me.
This was from one of my dearest friends, and I replied, “Oh, no. Which one is it this time?”
I swear her and I have parallel families of origins and so many similar experience in our upbringing. We often laugh that we have the same crazy mom. Only hers is from small town Saskatchewan and mine is from Finland.
We both have alcoholism and addiction in our family and the dysfunction that follows it, as well as controlling mothers with undiagnosed anxiety disorders.
This message reminded me of something that has been helping me lately. When people I care about make choices that (to me) are so obviously poor and rooted in dysfunction, this is the mantra I’ve been using, and it’s been helping.
“Just because they are making choices committed to dysfunction, it doesn’t mean I have to join them.”
Family’s, especially families of origin can be so triggering for us. We can get so worked up about the dynamics that play out and then unconsciously get thrown into the role we’ve always played in them.
It’s like we’re all in a play together. We all have a character and a role that we play, and when we get together, no matter who we are in the “outside” world, we immediately revert back to that role. It’s like a trance that we hate, and maybe even are aware of, but pull is so strong, its difficult to step out of.
My mom used me as her confidant from the time I was a small child. She shared and asked for advice from me about very adult problems like finances, her and my dad’s relationship, his alcoholism, and struggles with my brother.
As an adult, I’m constantly setting up boundaries regarding talking about other immediate family members, her questions about my finances, and the constant terrible and sometimes hurtful unsolicited bad advice.
It’s clear to see that I was raised with enmeshment and co-dependency. Boundaries never existed before I started making them as an adult.
Boundaries are difficult for those who don’t have any. One of the greatest lessons for me has been learning how to be okay with other people’s discomfort, frustration, and disappointment around the boundaries I set.
It shows up like pushback (mothers and daughters don’t have boundaries!), denial (asking the same topics I’ve stated were off limits to discussion, like my finances), gaslighting, (why are you getting so upset? It’s just a question!) or guilt/shame trips (why are you being so mean to your old mama? I raised you better than this).
To take care of ourselves, sometimes that means loving from a distance – this doesn’t only mean physical distance, this can also be emotional distance. We can love with compassion and stop the cycle of dysfunction so that we don’t pass it onto our kids.
And for you mamas who have grown kids, it’s never too late. We are always growing and evolving and as we learn better its our work to teach better. I firmly believe this.
I love my family, and I know they love me, that has never been in question. AND when they are making choices committed to dysfunction, I choose not to enter into it with them.
The hardest part of love is that to truly love someone, we can’t try to control them. We have to love people enough to live their lives, bad choices (in our opinion) or not, and know that none of us are aware of our own dysfunction until we wake up to it. Until then, it is just our life, and we have reasons for the choices we make and the way we live, just like them.
When we can see patterns of the dysfunction, the only thing we can do is love without expectation (which is the only real love anyways) and love ourselves enough not to enter the cycle.
If you want learn more about boundaries and codependency, I’ve got simple masterclass you might be interested in: Boundaries and Codependency Explained For Moms. Click here to learn more.
I want to hear your thoughts on this in the comments below.