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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Relationships » Parents crossing emotional boundaries

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Author Topic: Parents crossing emotional boundaries
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I had a discussion with my counsellor today about how my mother has confided her deepest secrets to me since I was 14 or 15, including telling me about abuse she experienced from her first husband and when she was a child. I'm not angry with my mother about that. In fact, I feel sad that she felt she had no one to turn to but me and my siblings for talking about that. At the time that it happened, I had felt "mature" that my mother was telling me these things. My counsellor discussed, though, how that is inappropriate, that she should be talking to someone on the same level as her, not her children, and that it does rob a person of parts of their childhood when a parent confides in them like that because they don't worry about kid-things anymore, but adult-things. Looking back, I wonder how much of an impact it did have on me that my mother told me those things. I find that I have never been able to enjoy the things others my age do, or that I didn't feel it was "acceptable" for me to do those things, including going to parties. I feel responsible and like a caretaker towards my parents a lot of the time, partly also because they are aging.

After reading this post by tsangpo, I see that there are others here who's parents have crossed those boundaries. I'm wondering how those of you who are or were in a similar situation feel about it? Do you hold animosity towards your parent(s) for that? How did you feel about yourself that your parent(s) told you those things? How do you think it has impacted your life?

[ 12-03-2008, 05:37 PM: Message edited by: orca ]

Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.--Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Posts: 2726 | From: North America | Registered: Apr 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
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I guess I'll give it a go. Recently, my mom told me that she wasn't happy with my dad and asked me what I would think if she left him. She quickly said that she wouldn't actually leave him, but obviously she's thought about it. She's also said that she feels like he's isolated her with his lack of social skills/some kind of anxiety disorder and his feud with his family. They've been married for nearly 25 years.

Anyways, my mom shared this with me a couple weeks ago, so it hasn't affected my growing up, but it definitely has added stress to my life. Part of me is glad that she feels she can talk to me about these things, but the bigger part of me feels like I'm being placed in the middle and like I have to choose a side. My mom has a therapist she can talk to, so I really don't feel like I'm the right person to talk to about this. She even asked me if I had learned anything in my psychology classes that could help identify what's "wrong" with my dad.

I can understand that it would be tough to live with him like this, especially since I've moved out. My dad has a really short fuse, and although he's never been physically violent towards her (that I know of) he's been verbally abusive to my mom and I, and has hit things around the house (made a big dent in our fridge once). He's gotten loads better and has been seeing a psychiatrist for years now, but he still has a temper.

Well, that's my ramble.

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Posts: 1345 | From: Canada | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
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This has been a big theme in my therapy too.

My parents are both therapists and have been discussing their clients and each other with me as if I were a colleague for as long as I can remember (they each--a male and a female--believe the other one is secretly gay... *rolls eyes*... they've been divorced for several years). On the one hand, being let in on all these confidences made me feel special, and smart. I also felt completely alien from kids my age.

I find that I have never been able to enjoy the things others my age do, or that I didn't feel it was "acceptable" for me to do those things, including going to parties.
It's cool to hear that someone else felt this way. I never considered it an option to participate in adolescent activities. I was continually mortified by and censoring any thought/feeling/behavior which I thought could be labeled "sophomoric." Kids my age were like another species--there were some I hung out with regularly and thought of as friends, but none that I felt I could confide in at all. Where would I begin? And how could they possibly understand? I got the impression from my parents that I was profoundly different. The "Special" label given to kids is a double edged sword--to get the benefits you have to deny your needs; to follow your own impulses might mean revealing that you're not really special.

Every child is, of course, special, but this sort of dynamic sets up the idea that only through being "mature"/denying ones own needs is one considered special. It also left me vulnerable to abuse like I mentioned in this thread.

Kids who have their parents relate to them in this way totally get the short end of the stick in my opinion--extra burdens, neglect around age-appropriate needs, isolation and a complex about where their worth comes from.

I think parents crossing emotional boundaries though is universal. It's what unhealed people (read: everyone) does: unconsciously try to get their kids to meet the needs their parents didn't.

without tenderness, we are in hell. -Adrienne Rich

Posts: 407 | From: USA | Registered: Oct 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
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I just had an urge to send my parents an email, basically just saying hi, and sharing a few things that are going on with me because I haven't spoken to them in a while, and it struck me how unusual this was. I rarely have conversations with them that are just about me. I often feel like I have to psyche myself up for conversations with them because listening to them requires so much work. I have trouble remembering conversations with my parents that aren't mostly about them or what's going on in their lives. It feels like there's never space for me to share what's going on with me--either they'll have some big reaction or they'll be sort of disinterested. Does anyone else have this experience?

Also, if anyone is looking for a good book on the whole parents crossing emotional boundaries theme, I recommend Alice Miller's "The Drama of the Gifted Child." The word "gifted" in the title refers not to being academically gifted or whatever, but the common human ability/"gift" to repress needs as children in order to survive under abusive parents.

without tenderness, we are in hell. -Adrienne Rich

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My eyes hurt and I haven't been able to read the other posts (Can't find my glasses...), but I will tell you how I feel about my mother doing that with me.

She's told me everything. I wanted to know though. I'm so glad she's told me, that I was able to help her. That she was able to vent onto me. She's my mom... I love her with all of my heart. I worry for her, and the fact that I could make her feel better makes me happy. I feel nothing of the sort, of what your counselor said. I'm happy my mom told me. I want to know these things.

Posts: 11 | From: Kansas | Registered: Dec 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator

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