Saturday, February 15, 2014

Accountability is not supposed to be a one way street

There is a trend among young adults these days estrange themselves from their parents.

They justify this by blaming their parents for everything that is wrong in their lives.  The list of reasons is as long as the number of families suffering through these estrangements.   Every estranged adult child has a litany of reason why their parents weren't satisfactory.   They use these reasons as excuses to sever relationships with their parents.  They say this is for them a journey to self hood, to emancipation from the values of their parents.  To express themselves.

Young adults have always made this journey through adolescence to adulthood, and most parents, if they are honest with themselves expect their children to undergo some form of emancipation as they establish themselves in their own separate lives.  In fact I would wager that most parents WANT their offspring to lead independent successful lives.  Part of a parent's work is to teach our offspring the skills needed to some day be independent.  Most parents rejoice when they see their children capable of taking on the responsibilities of adult independent lives.  They see this as validation that they did a good job as a parent when their child grows to be an adult that no longer needs them for the requirements of everyday living.   An expression of rebellion and independence is welcomed!

However, something vital has changed!

In order to “express this rebellion” it has seemingly become necessary to lay blame on the parent for something.  It does not matter what the something is so long as they blame the parent for it in such a way as to say “because you did “xyz”  you were a bad parent to me and therefore I will estrange you from my life.

It is no longer enough for the emancipating adult child to just say “I want to do this my way”.  To express their autonomy and thereafter to make their own path is not enough!  

They now feel that they have the right to say to the parent, “if you disagree with me you are wrong and I won’t speak to you until you agree with me”.  They want their way to become the only right way.

They want control over their parent’s thinking, their parent’s feelings, and their parent’s actions.  Some of them label their parents with “armchair psychological symptoms” to assuage their guilt, as in “I can’t be around a toxic person”

Here is where it gets really tricky.  I always supposed that a relationships between adults was based on equality.  Where everyone has the right to their opinion and where friendships are not devalued because of different points of view.

I read an interesting article the other day by Dr Joshua Coleman. In it he says:

“….you talk about your perspective and he or she talks about theirs. You talk about how you felt hurt or misunderstood. Your kid talks about how she or he feels hurt or misunderstood. You put your heads together and make sense of it, and you move on and get closer as a result.

That is not the case once there’s an estrangement in place. It’s not that kind of a dynamic. A lot of adult children say they want a relationship of equality, but in reality, it probably isn't going to be a relationship that feels very equal to you. ….. It requires that you have to give without really expecting very much in return. You’re going to have to reconcile yourself to the fact that it’s a one-way street…” 

Dr. Joshua Coleman goes on to say that if we want a relationship with these estranging adult children we have to play by their rules.

What is this really saying?

It is saying that the estranging adult child wants everything their way.

The estranging adult child wants you to cave to all their demands, accept all the responsibility for everything that is wrong (absolve the adult child of any guilt the may feel over their actions)

The estranging adult child says they want a relationship only if they get to set the rules and play their games with your emotions and your heart.

The estranging adult child is saying; “we are in control of this relationship and you have no say in the matter and if you cross us on any of our rules you will be once again punished with estrangement.

The estranging adult child is saying that you the parent don’t count.  Your feelings don’t count.  You are unimportant.  Only I the adult child am important. 

I find this one way street approach to be incredibly insensitive to my needs as an individual. 

Am I expected to accept rude demeaning behaviour from another adult in order for me to earn the right to be in their life?  Am I expected to put all my needs and my feelings on hold so as not to offend?  Am I, as an adult supposed to allow another adult to manipulate me and control me to the point where I do everything I can to please them or else they will reject me?

I write this and think, isn’t this juvenile school yard behaviour?   Isn’t this reminiscent of what children taunt each other with “I won’t be your friend if you…..”

Am I supposed to become a child bowing down to the school yard bully, only this time the school yard bully is my own adult child, now grown and thinking they have the right to control and manipulate me, my thoughts, my feelings and my emotions?

A find this concept rather hard to swallow.

And let’s say that I do accept these “New Rules” and play that game.  What kind of a relationship would that really be? 

This one way street where I am always wrong and they are always right. 

This scenario where they presume to control me with their demands, while I am expected to acquiesce to their demands.  

Is this really a relationship?  
Sounds more like a dictatorship to me.

So the questions that need to be asked are as follows. 

  • Is a relationship with these emancipated estranging adults worth my self dignity?
  • Can I feel good about myself when I am not true to who I am in order to make them feel good about themselves?
  • What about my personal value as a human being, am I to deny myself the right to be of equal value?
  • And is accepting a one way street relationship even good for my self esteem?
  • Is establishing a one way relationship worth all that I would be expected to give up?
  • Is no relationship better than one where I have to put on a mask and forever pretend to be someone who I am not?
  • Does any relationship asking me to sacrifice my true self this much worth it?

My personal response is NO IT IS NOT!

  • Better my dignity than a relationship where I am forever the trodden upon.
  • Better my own company than the company of those who feel they have the right to control me.
  • Better my own life lived with validation and honesty than one where I put on a mask of supplication and inferiority.
  • I will not sacrifice my value as a human being to aggrandize anyone’s ego.

Alone and Strong

This is my opinion.
I am entitled to my opinion.

In my two way street approach to relationships my opinion is just as valid and valuable as their opinion.

And anyone who feels the need to squash my opinion in order for their opinion to have value is not really welcome in my life.

© Renate Dundys Marrello

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  1. Well said...I want this posted on my Facebook site for anyone and everyone who visits to see. Thank you!

  2. thank you for you kind words
    I am honoured that you wish to share this link on your page

  3. Renate, do you feel that school and its political views are to blame in any way? My daughter siad her college accounting professor spelled out how this economy is the fault of the Baby Boomers and this economy really has made the youth of our country feel it after college, no work with better pay. They depend on their parents to carry them. We want what is best for them, but I was actually asked to sell my condo to help my est. daughter buy a home to establish her in a better area than where I currently live. I have looked at single parent, married, religion...but political views have separated family so much. Breakdown of family, church, and when I see that her new life of inlaws liberal, it makes me wonder. I am sure all of these aspects contribute, but how do we stop this madness?

  4. hoping to send you a private message via email! :-)

  5. This is an incredible article. So true!

  6. Remarkable article! So on target without pinning it on anyone. They are looking for retaliatory blame (to blame back on you to prove how bad you are and to justify behavior), but this gets it across in an accurate, but global, way. And this is amazing- unfortunately, it is indeed everywhere.

  7. Very good article, Renate. :)

  8. Renate, you are not the only one who feels the same about letting go of yourself for the sake of our children. I reiterate everyone word you shared. I will not forsake myself for the sake of anyone else. I did it for a while and it felt horrible. I felt manipulated, trodden on, my needs or opinions never mattered. That is not a relationship, any relationship. Respect yourself first! Thanks for your views. I share them.

  9. thank you dear readers and followers for your kind words. It is encouraging to know that I am able to speak for all of us.

  10. Thank you for this wonderful article. I feel a bit stronger after reading it. May I share it with the estranged adult children in order to let them know I will no longer remain their doormat?

    1. Thank you for your kind words and I am pleased that they helped you find your inner power and strength.

      You may share, but alas, I must warn you that it is unlikely to make a difference. I believe that adult offspring that estrange are so convinced that their way is the right way that nothing we say or do will change their minds. I fear that the change of heart must start with them or not at all.

  11. Well written article. Thank you for putting all my thoughts into words. There are a number of things that explain why adult children abandon their parents which include divorce, lack of religion or moral training, societal influence, counselors, lack of undertaking financial responsibility, and other family member influence, are among them. Thank you for validating my reasons for not wanting a relationship anymore.

  12. Thank you for this article. It is helping me to see where I go with my eldest daughter who is 43 and has had a troubled life since puberty. I am going to counseling now with her, but is just seems like abuse sessions right now, and even the therapist advised us just to text and see if we can reschedule another session that won't be so volatile. I'm 69 now, and want to have peace with her if at all possible, but now realize I can only do so much now.

  13. Thank you for this article. This has been a quite a struggle for me. I haven't seen my 20 year old son for 5 years. I don't know where is or how he's doing. It's grief that never ends.