Hello everybody, welcome to episode 170 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. Today's post is from a distressed listener living at home with her parents.
Before we continue, I'd like to remind you that if there's a question you would like help with on the advice column show, we welcome you to email it to us at advice AT oldpodcast.com
The question we’ll be looking at today comes from a woman who finds herself living under her parents’ thumb after going through a divorce and trying to rebuild her life with her young son in tow. She has an idea about how she can clear the air a bit, but she’s a bit nervous about pulling the trigger on it. Let’s see if we can help her to communicate clearly and give both parties an opportunity to have their voices heard so she can move through this new phase of life successfully.
QUESTION: “I’ve been feeling unable to live my life. I have a 2 yr. old son, I'm 28 and I live with my parents. I feel like I am stuck, living my life based on their opinions. I've been going through a divorce for over a year now- I found a wonderful new man I want to be with around the same time. But they aren't approving of me being in another relationship.
I was staying at his house a lot with my son, and they started treating me differently-excluding me from family plans etc.
So I felt like I had to stay at home more to please them. I cant afford to live on my own, and I'm currently trying to find a job that makes more money so my son and I can move out. I have a hard time staying positive sometimes, and the air at my parents is very heavy. I have been going to therapy- and have realized that my parents seem to be trapping me, but they don't realize it. I wrote them a long email, but I am nervous to send it. I don't want there to be any tension at their house, well, because I still live there- and mostly for my sons' sake.”
How to Have Peace at Home
Ok, quite a predicament you’ve found yourself in, but no worries at all. I think we can talk through this one, and it’s wonderful that you’re already seeing a professional who it sounds like is helping you to make some cool discoveries. I’ll give you my thoughts, and hopefully they don’t conflict too much with your therapist’s.
I understand your fear around sending that email, but right now, it seems to be your best shot at having peace in the house in a way that honors your needs.
Assuming your parents love you and have their version of your best interests at heart, I would think they’ll look at this situation differently if you express to them, not angrily, that their actions are hurtful to you and stunting this rebuild of your own life.
Sending vs. Not Sending Your Email
I don’t see the benefits of not sending it, as it doesn’t seem as though things are going to get better around the house on their own. Seems as if they’re only getting worse as time passes.
Unless you have reason to believe otherwise, the biggest downside seems to be the very temporary discomfort of them actually taking in your words.
And speaking of which, I might recommend buffering this whole process by either letting them know before the email comes, but preferably printing it out so they can enjoy the more personal feeling of having it in their hands rather than reading it from a screen. You may even want to consider handwriting it.
Encourage Your Parents to Send A Letter Back
Now, the next thing I might recommend is that either before or immediately after they read it, you encourage them to send back a letter of their own before engaging in a face to face discussion.
While conversations aloud are very good, one thing that people never seem to realize (and I can’t understand why) is that we receive messages from people much better when we are not in a position to respond immediately, not just salivating at the chance to answer back and thus barely hearing what they have to say.
That’s why podcasts are so effective. Because they invite a space to listen and truly take in the words of other people.
That’s very hard to replicate in conversations sometimes, and I really believe that we tend to grasp the value of people’s ideas exponentially faster when we are made to listen to them without the option of immediate response.
So if you’re starting the talk with a letter that gives you the gift of speaking without interruption, they may enjoy having the same opportunity. Of course they may want to roll right into a heated discussion, but really plead with them to write it out first. Their thoughts will be presented more mindfully that way and you will have both been briefed and listened to before having an actual talk.
Be Opening to Listening
And it’s not just them that needs to be open to this listening, but you as well. You’re frustrated just like they are, so do them the same justice that you want them to do for you and try to see their logic. You’ll probably find that they’re just looking out for you in the way they feel is right, and are nervous about you getting hurt again so quickly and at such a young age.
Maybe you’ll reassess this new man of yours from their perspective.
The point is that they’re feeling just as uncomfortable with your actions right now as you are with theirs. They’re also feeling as though their voices are not being heard and respected, the same way that you are. It’s probably because of this that they’re using harsh rules and distance to try to get their points across.
Living With Your Parents: Conclusion
So rather than seeing this whole ordeal as a huge point of conflict with your parents that you’re dying to get out of, hopefully initiating an honest exchange like this will help you to see it instead as a chance to really connect with them and learn about why they see things the way they do.
Reframe this as a chance to get a clearer understanding of them and hopefully, in turn, for a stronger bond with them, not to mention catch a glimpse of a different parenting style. It wouldn’t hurt to hear all their thoughts with your son in mind, and how you might feel about him if he was in your position and you were in your parents’ position.
If you can manage to do this, not only will it help the remainder of your time under their roof until you feel you can move out on your own or with your boyfriend, but in the long run, there will be less of a dark cloud hanging when it comes time to see your parents in the future.
Thanks for being here with me today everyone and for supporting our asker today as well as this podcast.
Asker, I appreciate you sending this question in and putting your trust in us. I hope this episode has helped you and inspired you to be as receptive to your parents’ feelings as you wish they’d be with yours.
If you’ve got any questions or concerns for me, you know where to find me and I’d be happy to clear anything up.