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Keeping the family at a healthy distance

When families intrude on your relationship they can make you feel very helpless. There is a way to manage this.

"Your mother`s on the phone." A harmless sentence but those five words was all it took to create an atmosphere in my home. I used to marvel at the power that existed between my mother`s index finger and the automatic dial-your-daughter button on her telephone. She of course was oblivious to its very existence. She thought that any time I had to myself would be just as happily spent with her. As for time spent with my husband, well, that gave `open time` a whole new meaning.

I remember thinking that once I moved out of home things would be better, that I would have some space to myself. When that didn`t work I thought well at least when I married she would understand that she couldn`t have my undivided attention. I finally recognised (after numerous cold dinners and some hideous arguments) that she would never get it and that change would be up to me or not at all.

Unfortunately that was the easy part. Putting it into practice was a different matter all together. The sulks, tears and `after all I`ve given you... ` speeches seemed both endless and very effective. Years of feeling guilty each time I thought about making myself unavailable made breaking the pattern very difficult.

Your rights
There was only one thing that kept me going and that helped me create a healthy distance between myself and my mother`s needs - the realisation that I was a person with as many needs and with as much right to my time as she had. That may seem somewhat simplistic and almost cliché but in reality it`s a difficult premise to hold on to. What`s more it was only effective once I genuinely believed to be true. Once I allowed myself to prioritise my needs for myself and for my relationship with my husband I was able to change my response to my mother`s demands to avoid disapproval.

Some tactics
For those of you who whose families (mothers or others) seem to invade your space the best thing to do is to talk to them about it. Put your needs on the table and show them why you need your space. That being said I know how difficult that can be. If you need to first test the waters with a more subtle approach consider some of the following. They may just give a breather.
* Take the phone off the hook or turn on the answering machine during supper.
* Turn your phone off when you are out and don`t want to be disturbed. If it is important they will leave a message.
* Pre-empt unwanted calls by phoning your family at a time that is convenient to you.
* Book a weekend away.
* Learn to say I will call you back if its not convenient.

Give it a try.

Article source: LifeWorld



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