When I was unhappily married, I kept my feelings secret for many years, hoping that I would snap out of it.
On the inside, I was suffering with my torment, but to everyone else, I appeared happily married. And of course, my parents they had absolutely no clue that I was unhappy. So, the day I told them I wanted a divorce, I think they would have handled the news better if I told them I was gay.
When they tried talking me out of it on multiple phone calls, each time I felt like I was a lawyer presenting my case for judgment, hoping I would be granted amnesty.
But it was a complete waste of my time.
They were just as much a victim in my marriage as I was — they drank the “narcissistic Kool-Aid,” and fell for all of it. But while I had broken free from my husband’s spell, they were still in a trance by his false charm and grandeur.
I made a critical decision — I couldn’t wait around for their approval — it was my life, and I had to do what was right for me. Soon enough, I had hoped, they would understand the truth (which they did, although it took them three years).
However, every time I would tell them my divorce plans or even mention the D-word, their plea efforts pressed on: “Oh Lindsey, are you sure you want to do this? Can’t you do counseling? What about the kids? You know, marriage isn’t always a bed of roses; it takes work and commitment…” Blah, blah, blah.
Their “support” was becoming my greatest road block. Every week I built the courage and strength to move ahead, but even their slightest negative comment would set me back a few weeks. I had to build a boundary, perhaps my biggest boundary yet.
There’s a funny thing about our parents — no matter our age, we still feel like a child when we are around them. We can’t always articulate our feelings, perhaps because we are afraid of what they will think.
But when it comes to taking a massive risk in life, you need not their approval, but their willingness to adhere to what you require of them. And if they are unwilling, you walk away, hopefully only temporarily.
You do not have to listen to advice from those who have never witnessed rage, insults or lack of empathy. You cannot make decisions based on their opinion of a person who is charming only in public.
Only seek guidance and validation from those who truly understand your situation. Anything less than that, you set a boundary. Here’s how:
1. Write down your trigger issues — what do people say that get you upset, uncomfortable, sad, fearful, etc.? Let’s say it’s the question, “Are you sure you want to do this?” Then ask yourself, how does this make you feel? If it makes you retreat into insecurity, then this is your boundary, and it’s not up for questioning by anyone.
2. Then you write this down, practice it, and then verbally state your boundary:
“Mom, I can see why this is confusing you, but I can’t have you ask that question anymore. It makes me feel scared and insecure, and all I need is support right now. Are you able to refrain from asking me that?”
And the last question is key — get them to answer, so that they truly acknowledge your boundary. If they can’t, then tell them the consequence:
“Okay, then I’m going to need space from you right now. When you are ready to be supportive, then I am here to accept it.”
See how easy and refreshing that is? Now you no longer have to deal with their grief and confusion, on top of yours!
When a woman gives birth to a child — you don’t hear the nurse saying, “Wow, are you sure you want to rip your vagina to 13 centimeters? It’s gonna be pretty rough down there!”
Or what about the climbers on Mt. Everest — you don’t see Sherpas saying, “It’s pretty cold and horrible up there — you might even die — are you sure you wanna do this?”
I’m pretty sure that a birthing mother or a mountain climber would tell anyone to shut the hell up should it interfere with their mission.
You must do the same.
Except don’t tell your parents to shut the hell up. Use the examples above, please… I don’t want them to yell at me.
Lindsey Ellison is founder of Start Over. Find Happiness., a coaching practice that helps women navigate their divorce or breakups. She specializes in helping women with narcissistic abuse, and coaches them on how to break free from their narcissistic partners. For a free video series on breaking free, click here.
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