How to Deal With Parents Interfering With Your Relationships

by Anna Green
Although parents can provide invaluable support to adult children, crossing boundaries can harm relationships.

Although parents can provide invaluable support to adult children, crossing boundaries can harm relationships.

Even though parents may have the best intentions, when they become overly involved in your relationships, it can place strain on you and your partner. Additionally, their interference can jeopardize your relationship with your family, particularly if they are not open to hearing your perspective. Often, the key to dealing with parents who interfere is effective communication and a nonjudgmental attitude. Although you may feel frustrated, asserting yourself calmly will yield the best outcomes for everyone.

Let your parents know how their behavior is affecting you. Although it may be hard to tell them they are interfering, it is important to let them know that their behavior is hurting your relationship. Do so respectfully and without using blame or judgment. Instead, let them know how you and your spouse feel. For example, “My husband and I feel hurt when you criticize our parenting,” may be more effective than labeling them as "intrusive" or "judgmental."

Set clear boundaries. After you have spoken to your parents about their behavior, let them know what type of behavior you do and do not find acceptable, suggests Julie Hanks, a licensed clinical social worker, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. For example, if your parents contact your partner and offer unsolicited advice or criticism, let them know that you appreciate their concern. But also make it clear that you and your spouse prefer to handle these issues on your own.

Tell your parents what you need and expect. Along with setting boundaries, let your parents know what type of role you want them to play in your relationship, suggests counselor David K. Flowers. For example, talk about family traditions and gatherings that you value. If you want your extended family to maintain some presence in your life, let them know this. If you find your relationships toxic and require more distance, however, then politely decline invitations and minimize their presence in your day-to-day life.

Limit contact. If your parents do not respect the boundaries that you set or are unreceptive to your requests for space and autonomy, limit the information and time you spend with them until they are willing to show you and your partner respect. This might include declining invitations for visits or limiting your phone calls to several minutes. Although it can be difficult to set these limits, make it clear that you are doing so because you are trying to preserve your relationship, not to be cold or sever family ties.

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  • If you have difficulty setting boundaries with your parents, a counselor may be able to help you assess your priorities and develop assertiveness.

About the Author

Anna Green has been published in the "Journal of Counselor Education and Supervision" and has been featured regularly in "Counseling News and Notes," Keys Weekly newspapers, "Travel Host Magazine" and "Travel South." After earning degrees in political science and English, she attended law school, then earned her master's of science in mental health counseling. She is the founder of a nonprofit mental health group and personal coaching service.

Photo Credits

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