Do you sigh when you see that your caller id is from a family member and you know they are calling you to talk to you about your divorce? You know their heart is in the right spot; but the reality is that they are suffocating you emotionally. You may be asking yourself ‘how do I tell them to back-off without hurting their feelings?’
The answer is that You are not responsible for how they feel.
Your responsibility is ensuring that you are emotionally healthy; especially when you are going through a very emotional period of your life. This means that you need to build boundaries on what you’ll discuss and with whom.
I’m working with a client who has a mother who calls her 4-5 times a week to get a divorce update. My client dreads the calls; they follow a predictable pattern. Her mother would always start with ‘Hi Honey, how are you doing?’ Then based on previous conversations she would ask how a certain situation turned out involving her Ex.
The conversation would then transition into ‘I knew you should have never married him; he’s no good’. And then proceed to tell her what to do with the situation. Her mother would feel entitled to follow-up in a couple of days to find out the results of her suggestions and the cycle just continues.
And my client wonders why she dreads receiving calls from a mother she dearly loves.
Having someone pushing their will into your affairs when they’re not invited should not be tolerated. You need to build boundaries around your life. You have the right to make your own choices, solicit ideas from people when you request it and you have the right not to talk about certain aspects of your life … no matter who they are.
So How Do you Do Effectively Tell Someone to Back Off?
My client was finally able to tell her mother she loves her, but she is working on moving past her divorce and therefore does not want to talk about her Ex, or her divorce. She went on to say that she would greatly appreciate it if her mother would support her and not bring either topic up.
Her mother didn’t particularly care for it; but she agreed. For the next few phone calls, her mother would revert back to old behaviors and my client would gently remind her of their agreement not to discuss certain topics.
Drawing boundaries can be performed with love and compassion and does not need to involve arguing. Be prepared to have to repeat your boundary request several times before the new pattern takes hold.
My client shared with me a few weeks later that now when she sees her mother’s number on caller-id; a smile breaks out on her face since they talk about how her life is moving forward.