Do all you can to live at peace with them, but if they refuse to live at peace with you, then live your life in peace without them. This “tough love” can be so difficult, but sometimes someone will simply refuse to be in a relationship with you unless they’re pulling all the strings and you’re jumping through their hoops. Do all you can to live at peace and be one who builds bridges instead of tearing them down, but if this person isn’t willing to do their part, then you might need to love them from a distance. Don’t let them manipulate you or control you or steal your joy.
I recently sat down with a young couple who is going through a very serious struggle in their marriage because of someone outside their marriage. You might assume I’m talking about a mistress or an emotional affair, but this has nothing to do with wrongdoing on the part of either spouse. Their struggle has to do with an overbearing parent.
The husband’s mom (and the wife’s mother-in-law) has bombarded the young couple with pressures, demands, emotional pleas, tantrums, threats, bullying, name-calling and a myriad of other unpleasant tactics to get her way and to manipulate the dynamics within the family’s relationships. She seems to see their marriage as a threat to the relationship and influence she once had with her son. See seems to view her daughter-in-law as competition for her son’s attention rather than a beloved new addition to the family.
This young couple seemed exhausted by their dealings with what seems to be a narcissistic and emotionally unstable person. They want to honor and respect her. They want their young daughter to have a relationship with her grandmother. They want peace and no drama, but they also don’t want to be a doormat to her unhealthy demands. Sadly, their struggle is a very common one.
It’s very common for a couple to face an overbearing parent (or parents) in their marriage, but dealing with overbearing and emotionally unhealthy people can happen in all parts of life (work, school, home, etc.). Not if but WHEN you find yourself in a relationship with someone who is bullying, manipulative, unstable or unhealthy in any way, for the sake of your family and your sanity, PLEASE implement the following boundaries.
Five Boundaries to save you from unhealthy relationships and manipulative people (in no particular order)...
- “Teach” them how to treat you by how you treat them AND by how you allow them to treat you.
Make sure you’re not responding to negativity with negativity. Don’t sink to their level, because you’ll lose. It’s been said that when you wrestle with a pig in the mud, you BOTH get dirty, but the pig likes it! Be kind and respectful even when it’s not returned; not as a reflection of their character but as a reflection of yours. If the difficult person continues to bully, you might need to remove them from your life to protect yourself and your family until they change their toxic behavior. This leads directly into #2.
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