Parents Boundary

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Hello. Before I begin, thank you very much for such valuable service. It’s sincerely appreciated!

I’m a 28 year old male living with my parents. These days I’m working on becoming independent, financially and emotionally. Having said that, I wonder if it’s appropriate to feel sympathy towards one’s parents.
Today I refused to visit my grandmother (paternal) so my parents went there without me. My dad’s family is cold and not really social, they never laugh or smile. That’s why I finally refused to go for the first time ever in my life. My parents came back and they are asleep now, and I feel kinda sorry for my dad. Thing is he has no boundaries and very self centered (emotionally unavailable), which caused a great deal of pain for my mom and myself, and I’ve been like a therapist for my mom while growing up. Dad and I have an awkward relationship. I feel sorry for my dad for being that way, for not being loved and not having a chance to fully grow as a whole loving person. I also feel sorry for my mom for marrying such a guy and craving love that’s just unavailable from her husband.
Nonetheless, I want to go my own way. I do want my parents to be emotionally healthy and happy, but I also want to take care of myself and just stop caring for their marriage and their mood for one second. I want to just forget about their emotional mess without feeling like a cold blooded person. That’s because I’m old enough and need to live my own life. Should I just stop feeling sorry for them and forget about them? (I think my dad could use some therapy but he probably would refuse..)

A: Thank you for your kind words about our service. Your question is a good one for us to respond to because many young adults around the world feel the tug to help their parents while needing to develop their independence. At 28, it is time for you to devote the bulk of your energy and resources to self care and growth. Your parents made their choices before you were in the picture and you have been a very loving and helpful son. But limiting your own growth in the service of being depleted by their needs doesn’t help anyone. It is time for you to be at the center of your life.

This doesn’t mean you have to cut off your connections altogether. But it does mean you have to limit what you give and how much. Don’t exhaust your life force on a situation that is draining and hasn’t improved much despite all your efforts.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 27 May 2014

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2014). Parents Boundary. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 24, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/05/27/parents-boundary/