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Are you tired of listening to your family tell you why something won’t work? Or maybe you’re exhausted from hearing their opinions on what you should do? We all have that special someone in our family who likes to control everything. Even if they’re well-intentioned, dealing with their constant stream of comments can be tiring and frustrating. So how do we deal with it? What can we do to stop them from taking all our energy and possibly our enthusiasm? Boundaries. This is where it’s at. When I learned how to set boundaries with controlling family members, my life and self-esteem changed. I felt more empowered to make decisions for myself and stand my ground. So let’s get you empowered too with these simple ideas on how to set boundaries with controlling family members
1. Trust yourself
When we have a controlling family member, who we’re used to listening to all the time, the most challenging part in setting boundaries with them is that we feel we need their voice. But, again, this comes from a lack of trust within ourselves.
I spent years listening to many controlling family members because I felt they knew what was best for me, better than what I did. My trust was found externally in their opinions and thoughts. Unfortunately, this led me to constantly second guess myself and make decisions that never honestly sat with me. I’m trying to think of one example here, but if I’m being honest with you, there are probably too many to count.
These decisions would range from small decisions like where to go to buy something up to big decisions about my career. I had a parent who was quite controlling and would consistently tell me what I needed to do and what I was good at. The problem was, I never actually knew for myself because I didn’t listen to myself ever. Not when I trusted their voice over mine.
When setting boundaries with controlling family members, the first step is to bring your trust back to you. Trust that you know what’s best for you. Unless we can generate that trust in ourselves, it’s challenging to set boundaries with controlling family members because we always feel we need their voice instead of ours.
2. Start taking small action on your voice
A crucial part of setting boundaries with controlling family members is taking small action on our voice and building that trust within ourselves.
The first action I took when setting boundaries with controlling family members was a little no’s. I had a family member walk in one day and start giving me the usual advice on my career and what I should do. While I was quivering in my boots, I said no. That I was following the way that currently felt right for me.
Start taking small action on the voice you know is there, behind all the opinions and expectations of the controlling family members around us. These small steps are like us building a little picket fence for ourselves, which are our boundaries. Each picket, each piece of the fence, is every time you choose your voice and take a small action to honour that.
3. Their response to your boundaries isn’t your problem
When we set boundaries with controlling family members, it’s common for them to have a problem with it. After years of being listened to, it requires a big adjustment for them when we finally say no thank you.
When I first told my family member no, there was a lot of anger and frustration, and I had a choice. I could’ve pulled that picket out and thrown it away, OR I could decide not to personalize their feelings.
I understood that I had spent years taking their advice with this family member. But I also realized that I wasn’t happy or fully myself for most of those years. So I decided to honour my boundary and not personalize their response to it because I understood that it wasn’t about me – it was about them. It was their concerns with control or lack thereof that was creating their behaviour, not my boundary.
I’ll be honest with you, when it comes to setting boundaries with controlling family members, it can go one of two ways. They can either chuck a fuss or get angry, so we can walk away and not personalize it. OR they can initially be surprised by it but then respect it, and the relationship can grow in new ways.
Either way, once we’ve set our boundaries and communicated our needs fairly, that’s the only thing we can truly control. Their behaviour and choices in response to that boundary are not our problems. The key relationships in my life have only grown when I’ve set limits.
4. Keep your expectations realistic
When setting boundaries with controlling family members, it’s also essential to understand who that person is. For example, with my Dad, I knew that setting boundaries would never work for him. He would constantly attempt to overstep them with frustration and anger. That doesn’t mean that our boundaries are wrong or shouldn’t be there. It just told me I needed to be realistic about the type of person he was. Some controlling family members will not be able to cope with your boundaries, and the relationship may stop there. It’s important to remember that we can only ask people what they can do. If a controlling family member cannot respect your boundaries or come to terms with them, it may be a case of letting the relationship go.
This is the most challenging part of setting boundaries with controlling family members because we love them no matter who they are. We want them to understand that this is a choice we make out of respect for ourselves. However, sometimes understanding who someone is and accepting that they can’t make these changes is about being realistic.
Keep your expectations realistic about the person you’re dealing with. I knew my Dad wouldn’t cope with the boundaries, but I set them anyway and stuck by them because they were important to my mental and emotional wellbeing. I reminded myself consistently not to be frustrated that he didn’t understand or accept this and to be realistic about the person he was. I didn’t expect him to be anyone different, no matter how much I wanted him to be. Each of these steps is important to building boundaries with controlling family members. The most important part here is that we remember not to personalize their response, keep our expectations realistic and find our voice. These actions have helped me create a life that truly feels like mine. I hope you find the same in taking these steps too.
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