It is natural to be distressed if you are a parent watching your adult child make decisions that seem to be unwise. Further, it often seems to makes sense to feel that some action is urgently needed to change unhealthy behaviors. Particularly, with alcohol or drug addiction, it is tempting to think about an intervention. And we know that some interventions, if conducted by a skilled professional can lead a person to agree to treatment.
However, setting up an intervention, may yield disappointing results. We need to accept that more often than not, we are powerless over controlling other people.
With my clients, I try to help them to embrace the inevitable truth that they are often powerless over controlling their adult children’s decisions. I encourage them to accept the inevitable limits of a parent’s capacity to influence adult children. I suggest to my clients that it is only through closeness and connection that parents have influence. Criticizing adult children and aggressively confronting them with one’s own perspectives regarding how they should live their lives is at cross-purposes with the goal of maintaining an amicable relationship. And if you remain close, you ultimately may have more influence.
Having said that, as a family member, it is wise to state what you are observing (sticking to facts, not impressions) and then to offer support and resources. But if the loved one refuses that assistance, you need to work on acceptance of what you cannot control.
1. Chill First: Take a time out to get calm before discussing conflict; you want to communicate, not vent
2: Love Comes First: Remember the other’s endearing qualities before beginning
- It’s a Partnership not a Duel: Don’t try to change one another, but to understand and support one another
- This Isn’t Badminton: Agree that each partner has the chance to speak without interruption while the other listens;
- Take a Lesson from Cats: Start with an attitude of curiosity rather than judgment
- Honey First:
Speaker–Encourage your partner’s listening by opening with a positive
- This Isn’t about You:
Listener– Temporarily pull the window shade on your issues
- Put Down the Sledgehammer and Take Off the Armor
Speaker–Resist the temptation to criticism and blame
Listener–Defensiveness blocks communication; put yourself in your partner’s shoes
- First, Do No Harm
Speaker—Voice appreciation rather than contempt
Listener– Stay attentive to your partner’s complaint
- Lighten Up
Speaker–Humor is bonding; smile, even elicit a chuckle
Listener—Do not make jokes about the speaker’s issues
- Stay in the Present
Speaker—Don’t bring up ancient history
- Know When to Stop
Speaker–Don’t perseverate on the issue. Make your point, then listen.
Listener: If your partner is going on and on, gently offer to voice your understanding of the problem.
“Someday my prince will come” is a fantasy that just about every little girl had at one time or another. The reality is that few princes (or princesses) show up. Even if you find yourself with the person of your dreams, there will be inevitable bumps in the road. The tough reality is that when you commit to a relationship, you inevitably experience disillusionment. You find out that your prince or princess has flaws you were unaware of or ignored during your courtship. If you were expecting perfection, you’ll surely be disappointed. If the gap between your expectations and reality is great, you may even spiral into despair. The reality is that every partner and every relationship has flaws. Satisfaction in your intimate relationship is directly connected to your ability to accept, even embrace, these imperfections. In a rewarding and successful relationship—a wise relationship–the connection between you and your partner is so solid that you are content with the not-perfect relationship.
Adapted from Anxious in Love, available on Amazon.
What we say to ourselves affects our relationships.
Here are some good thoughts:
- The more I can control my thoughts, the more I can control my words.
- Because I want a good relationship I find it easier to let go of my need to have everything fair.
- After I take a few deep, relaxing breaths, I can release the desire to say something judgmental.
- Because I value my relationship I release the need to be right.
- Because I know that we are different, I accept that we can disagree.
If you are having difficulties in your marriage, assess whether if one of you has anxiety.
Research indicates a link between anxiety and martial distress, with anxious individuals reporting greater martial conflict and lower levels of marital satisfaction (Whisman, 2007; Whisman, Sheldon, & Goering, 2000; McLeod, 1994).
People with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) are more likely to divorce (Hunt, Issakidis & Andrews, 2002) and report low relationship quality with their partners compared to those with other psychiatric diagnoses (Wittchen, Zhao, Kessler, & Eaton 1994), suggesting that the treatment of anxiety stands as an important topic when approaching successful techniques in couples therapy.