I was emailing with a friend about her on again/off again relationship with her mom.
The status of their relationship hinges on whether or not her mom is sober.
Right now, they’re in that off space. And it’s kicking up loads of drama and guilt for my friend.
She’s making some big, positive changes and has no desire to share what’s going on in her life with her mom.
Just the thought of her mom praising her and even saying, I love you, makes my friend sick to her stomach.
I could completely relate to her because I’ve felt the same about my parents.
This made me realize that as loved ones of addicts and alcoholics we all, at times, feel conflicted over our relationships.
I couldn’t tell my friend exactly what to do with her situation. But through some of the tough choices I’ve made, in regards to my parents, I shared with her what I’ve learned about navigating these tricky relationships.
And this is exactly what I’m covering in today’s post.
And while we’re exploring this through the lens of my relationship with my dad, these 3 lessons can easily transfer to any relationship.
Once you’re done reading, leave your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below. What have you learned from your relationship with your alcoholic parent? What situations do you find difficult to navigate?
Our complicated relationships with our addicted parents and loved ones is such an important topic. And it’s one that rarely sees the light of day. That’s why I want to encourage you to share your thoughts with me in the comment section.
Remember – in this community – your opinion, experiences and insights matter. And you never know who’s going to be inspired by what you share.
Know someone who’d appreciate this post? Share it with them.
As always, thanks for reading.
Have a great week and I’ll see you next Tuesday.
#1 Relationships Need To Be 50/50
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve explained to my dad that our relationship can’t be 80/20. It has to be 50/50.
That means that I refuse to be the one putting in all of the effort while he makes an effort when it’s convenient for him.
At first I felt guilty for speaking my mind on this one. I mean, who was I to be schooling my dad on our relationship?
That’s when I realized that with my dad, I’ve always been the adult. And if I wanted our relationship to change I was going to have to keep taking the lead.
If I was no longer okay with the broken promises, the inconsistencies and the lies then I had every right to ask my dad to meet me half way.
If he wasn’t willing to contribute his share then our relationship wouldn’t work. On the other hand, if he was willing to show up then I’d have no problem keeping my promise.
I swear. Every time I had this conversation with my dad he agreed with me, told me what I wanted to hear and sang another list of empty promises. But his behavior never changed.
Which leads me to lesson #2.
#2 Actions Scream And Words Whisper
When it comes to your relationships, actions scream and words whisper.
That means, that what people say they’re going to do means squat until they actually do it.
And yes, this cliché bit of advice also applies to your parents.
My dad is a master at talking a good game. But when it comes to taking action, it all falls apart.
As a kid, I was easily manipulated by the vivid stories that fell out of his head. But as I got older, I realized that what my dad said he was going to do and what he actually did were two different things.
When I had the 50/50 conversation with him (see lesson #1) I actually told him, “Dad I don’t want you to just tell me that you’re going to meet me half way. I want you to show me. I want to see you making an effort.”
Now. This lesson isn’t about achieving perfection. It’s about showing up and trying. I’d much rather see my dad making the tiniest bit of effort versus him making empty promises about what he’s going to do but never does.
If you ever get confused about what to believe in your relationship, take a step back and look for the gaps between someone’s actions and their words.
The larger the gap, the more caution I’d take.
#3 Always Do What’s Best For You
If there’s one lesson about relationships that you remember from today’s post, I want it to be this one.
Don’t ever let anyone’s opinion of your relationship with your parent take priority over your experience. You have every right to do what’s best for you.
No one but you knows what it’s like to be your father’s daughter.
No one but you knows what it’s like to be your stepmom’s son.
No one but you knows what it’s like to be your mother’s daughter.
So that means, if your uncle doesn’t agree with your decision to keep your drunk father at a distance – that’s okay. Your uncle has never been your father’s son.
If your aunt thinks your stepmom is the sweetest person ever and criticizes you for cutting her out of your life – that’s okay. Your aunt has never been your stepmom’s daughter.
I’ve spent years feeling guilty over decisions I’ve made with my relationships with my parents.
Because people in my family criticized my decisions. I wasted so much time and energy wanting these people to approve my choices that I made myself sick.
I thought that if they didn’t agree with what I was doing that I must be doing something wrong.
It wasn’t until I realized that I didn’t need their stamp of approval to do what was best for me that I felt correct.
Even if no one in my family ever believed me – that my mom used to chase me around the house with knives. Or that my dad would disappear for weeks at a time. Or that my stepmom threatened to disown me if I ever got pregnant – I realized I still had to do what was best for me. Even if that meant keeping my parents out of my life.
As a result, I’ve learned that there’s a huge difference between a person that wants to blindly criticize your choices versus a person that actually wants to listen and understand them.
It all boils down to this,
If you’re going to take advice, pay close attention to the opinions of the people that ask you why versus the ones who can only criticize.
And even after that, always do what’s best for you.