By Rev. Renee
Ever notice how certain subjects always seem to be fair game for our relatives to criticize, dictate, pry into, make demands about, pressure us, use for comparisons, or try to exert control over? When we feel our stomachs knotting up and our blood pressure rising, it’s often because the discussion just wandered into that aggravating territory, and trust me, it was no accident. Usually it’s the same subject or subjects every time, or at least most of the time- except for professional control-freaks who have to have something to say about almost everything.
Although individual budinskis each have their own style, if we take the time to understand their nature, we can usually predict their “modus operandi”.
A pushy, nervy relative will simply demand to know personal information, force his unwanted opinions on us, feel perfectly free to voice his disapproval and criticism of any aspect of our existence, and blatantly dictate his instructions for running our lives.
Others are more subtle, yet with practice we can still see it coming. Little by little, a perfectly innocent, pleasant conversation will start to take a turn toward a subject we’d rather not discuss. My birth-mother was an expert at this sneaky segue- working whatever she really wanted to talk about into conversations that started out having absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with her target topic. She could spend an hour getting to her REAL point in the most convoluted way possible. But eventually, I learned to recognize when this was happening and cut it off at the pass.
When we find ourselves repeatedly dragged into unwelcome conversations, it’s time to introduce the concept of personal privacy called Off-Limits Subjects. Some people just don’t get the concept of minding their own business, and will need to be told. These topics are not open for discussion simply because they’re nobody’s business, and also because we don’t want to hear it. Feel free to add to the list anything else you don’t wish to discuss.
It is inappropriate to remark, pressure, interrogate, dictate, demand, criticize, or question ***mature adults on any of the following topics:
If we’re going to get married
When we’re going to get married
Who we’re marrying or dating (unless he’s an abuser, addict or criminal)
If we’re going to have kids
When we’re going to have kids
How many kids we’re going to have
How we’re raising our kids (unless they’re being abused, neglected, or endangered)
What career we choose
Our political views
How much money we make, invest, save, spend, or have in the bank
Where we choose to live
Our sex lives
The clothes we wear
The friends we choose
Comparing us to our siblings or mom’s friend’s daughter
Comparing our kids to somebody else’s kids.
Whether we choose to keep or to end other relationships
The limits we choose to set on other’s behavior
How clean we keep our house
Whether we cook dinner every night or eat fast food
What we eat
The pets we have
Anything at all about our appearance or how we look, unless it’s complimentary
Our medical conditions
The hours we keep
How we spend our money
Our taste in anything, including clothes, home decor, men, friends, etc.
Our abilities or intelligence, unless it’s complimentary
How we choose to spend our time
Foolish mistakes we’ve made
Our harmless personality traits, such as shyness
Anything we are sensitive about
Things that make us feel uncomfortable
Anything we find embarrassing, humiliating, or offensive
Any other personal preferences
Any other personal information
Anything else we wish to keep private
Our boundaries and limits
As we’ve said before, once we become a***mature adult (as opposed to a chronological adult), we are EQUAL to every other adult. We do not obey other adults, we do not allow them to pry into our business, and we do not allow them to criticize, demean, pressure, or control us. And most of all, we do not answer to anyone but God about our personal lives.
Is our relative overstepping her bounds? A rule of thumb is to ask ourselves if we would be comfortable prying into her business or criticizing her on the same topic, and would she welcome our comments or be offended? If she thinks it’s inappropriate for us to comment on or question her about a particular subject, then it is also inappropriate for her to comment on or question US about the same subject. If she feels free to ask us how much money we make, then we should feel just as free to ask her how much money SHE makes. If she thinks it’s her place to point out that we’ve gained weight, then we are just as entitled to make negative comments about HER appearance. If she feels free to ask us about our sex lives, then we should feel just as free to ask her about HER sex life. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be EQUALS.
Telling a relative that she needs to mind her own business is never easy, but it’s a skill we need to learn. People who have the nerve to pry, criticize our decisions, interfere in our personal lives or invade our privacy don’t care that they are making us uncomfortable. They are too dense to get subtle hints that certain questions or remarks are inappropriate. We will have no choice but to be firm and direct in setting our limits.
So how to get the message across? Simply state, “That’s personal and I’m not going to discuss it with you, so let’s change the subject”, and then REFUSE to talk about it. Repeat if necessary, until she gives up. For more stubborn cases, you may have no choice but to firmly state, “That’s none of your business.”
***For a discussion on what defines a mature adult, see the 2-part article “A Price To Pay For Independence” on our website.
Copyright 2002-2016.-All articles on this site are copyrighted. Permission to copy is granted for non-profit use only.Please help yourself to anything we write if you can use it to help others. A link back to this site is our only requirement. Please contact us for any commercial or other use. All e-mails, letters, and other correspondence become the property of Luke 17:3 Ministries, Inc. Due to the large volume of e-mails, we're sorry that we are unable to personally answer every one, but we do lift everyone who writes to us in prayer to the Lord.
The Lord specifically called Sister Renee to minister to Adult Children, not their parents, estranged siblings or friends, abusive or abused spouses, or victims of other types of abuse, although what we write here can often be meaningful for those folks as well. Because of this, our ministry and website have a narrow focus which we will not be changing. We simply can't cover everything. In addition, it is not our purpose to help you re-establish contact with someone who felt it was necessary to cut you off for the sake of their own well-being. We do not keep a list of resources for estranged parents or any other type of abuse and suggest if you are sincerely interested in making amends with an estranged relative, you do an internet search for a website or group that will be more relevant to you. If you cannot find a group or site that you can relate to, we suggest you start your own, and bless other people in your position as well as find support for your personal issues.
For Adult Children and others as well, please understand that we cannot give you personal advice concerning your particular family relationships. We are not therapists or lawyers, we usually do not have enough information to form an opinion, and time does not permit us to give enough thought to each person's individual situation to do it justice. If you need personal advice, we urge you to contact the appropriate professional, depending on the problem you have- your minister, therapist, attorney, police department, local domestic violence hotline, etc. In reading this site, you acknowledge that nothing you might read here qualifies as or substitutes for professional advice. Please note we cannot recommend or refer you to a counselor and we do not have a list of therapists or recovery groups in your area. The only Counselor we recommend is the Holy Ghost, and we encourage you to read the Bible and learn for yourself what the Lord says about the issues we write about.
Our articles are strictly our personal opinions and testimonies and are not intended to give or offer any advice. All who access this site do so with the understanding that we are NOT professional counselors and we strongly recommend that you discuss your individual situation with your pastor or therapist and pray for the Lord's guidance before acting on anything we write on this site. Unfortunately, the abuse we discuss is all too common, inflicted on countless victims by countless perpetrators. All names and identifying details in our articles have been changed to protect the innocent as well as the guilty. Any resemblance to a real person or persons whom you might know is strictly coincidental.