Q I know it sounds mean but I’m ashamed of my parents. My girlfriend is pregnant and I haven’t told them yet because I know they’ll try and take over, giving her advice and telling us what to do and how to do it.
They’ve always been like this and I left home at 17 to get away from their control and bullying.
We were supposed to visit them at Christmas but I managed to get out of it, and they’re now expecting us to go for New Year. My girlfriend wants to meet them – she doesn’t know what she’s letting herself in for!
She comes from a very different type of family from me and thinks I must be over-reacting. I know I’m not and that they’ll ruin things for us if I let them.
A The answer is in your last comment… if you ‘let them’. So, what can you do that doesn’t exclude them entirely, yet sets adult boundaries around what is acceptable to you, and what isn’t?
It’s important for you to separate out what belongs in the past and the present. Maybe they were bullying to you, but you can change how you relate to that and how much you continue to allow that disrespectful behaviour.
You have much more power now than you did as a child, and the whole family needs to realise that. Things have changed now, and you must be very clear about what is OK with you and what isn’t.
Be specific. Be clear. Be fair. Be consistent. Be strong. Be mature.
This is your girlfriend’s baby too and her wishes must be taken into consideration.
Have a chat with her and explain how it felt growing up with your parents and family. The difficulties you had, what you didn’t get that you needed; and the way this has affected how you see and relate to them now.
Hopefully she will empathise, even if she hasn’t had a similar experience herself.
Together you can decide what to tell them and what you allow them to do. Their advice is just their advice. You’re not a compliant child any more and you don’t have to do as you’re told.
They are older, and hopefully wiser too, by now and their response to your good news might surprise you.
When you tap into your own power and wisdom you’ll know (and feel) what’s best for you, your relationship and your child’s future.
Be prepared to feel shaky as the little kid inside you stands up for himself – and have an agreement with your girlfriend that you will get support from her if you need it.
That could be an agreed non-verbal signal, or she may speak up too if she feels willing and able to.
Stay in your calm confident ‘adult’ mindset and things will probably go much better than the kid inside you imagines they will.
Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy)