10. Boundaries and Family Drama

Boundaries and Family drama

Do you feel like you are always getting pulled into the middle of family drama? Are you the one having to be an intermediary between family members? Well that is exactly how Debbi was feeling with the relationship with her parents and brother.

In this interview, Debbi discusses the family drama that she is getting pulled into. Mary helps her identify and specify her boundaries and figure out a clear way of communicating those boundaries. Learn how boundaries can help you gain a healthy relationship with mutual respect.

Main Episode Takeaways

  • Identifying how involved you want to be in family drama
  • How to communicate your boundaries clearly with family
  • No family is perfect, which is why boundaries are so important
  • Learning to reason rather than react to situations
  • Recognizing other’s boundaries

Want to learn more about boundaries?

– Boundaries IQ quiz HERE
Take my Boundaries 101 Course
– Do you want to overcome your hurdles of people pleasing? Book a free call with Mary!


Mary: Hey, today we’re talking with Debbie about boundaries. Hi Debbie. Thanks so much for coming to this podcast. Tell us a little bit about you. 

Debbi: Hi, Mary. I’m Debbi and I have a very fun family. We appear on the outsides to be very normal, but on the inside we have just as much drama as everybody else.

Mary: Awesome. So that’s what we’re talking about today.

Debbi: That’s what we’re gonna talk about today because sometimes my family does not listen to my boundaries. 

Mary: Oh man. Boundaries and family drama. Let’s go. This is gonna be fun. All right, so tell me what’s going on. 

Debbi: So my family, like a lot of families, is non-traditional… Well, we’re traditional, but we’re non-traditional because I don’t have any kids, but I have my parents and I have a brother and my brother and I share custody of my parents in a manner of speaking. He gets them for the winter and I get them for the summer, which means they live with me during the summer and they live down in Arizona during the winter with him.

And around holiday times, especially when they go home to visit, our relationships and how my brother relates to my parents and how I relate to my parents is very different. I have a very open relationship with my parents. I’m very honest with them. They’re part of the household. We make household decisions together. We all contribute to the household whether it be monetarily, labor or decision making. Equally we all have a say. We all have a stake and we all make sure to honor each other in that say and stake and try to listen to each other and make decisions about the household that are positive for everyone.

 And sometimes that means making independent decisions, but we trust each other to do that and if we were gonna do something big, we discuss it, especially if we’re expecting the other person to pay for it financially. Like right now we have a roof repair we recently did. We put in half and half on the roof repair and paid for the roof repair. And that’s something that’s important to have. And when you have a co -hab situation, whether it be roommates or parents, it’s important that you share responsibilities and be clear about those expectations. Which I’m usually really great at. 

Mary: So what’s the problem?

Debbi: My brother doesn’t like to contribute at all in their household. He does pay for the utilities, but he doesn’t pay any rent. Otherwise, my parents own the house down there that he doesn’t have any financial stake in their house. And when it comes to spending time together or et cetera, my parents have a really hard time understanding why their relationship with my brother doesn’t work like it does with me and my husband. My brother is not the same kind of communicator. He does not have the same objectives about their living situation as I have with my husband and my parents. And I think that it makes a big difference because sometimes I feel like when they’re down there, I get phone calls late at night, middle of the day at strange times, usually if I’m working, I let it go to voicemail because I already know what it’s gonna be about. But I’ll get a phone call from him basically saying, why don’t our parents understand me and how I work? And I’ll get a phone call from my parents usually saying, Michael’s not making any sense, make him behave. 

Mary: Mm. Okay.

Debbi: And I’m like, I’m not my brother’s keeper. How do I handle this ? 

Mary: Awesome. All right. This is a great example. I love it. So boundaries about your role in the family drama, right? So they want you to make him behave, he wants you to make them behave. What do you wanna do? 

Debbi: I want them to be adults and treat each other like adults and deal with their relationship, and I understand that I am intertwined in this. They are family. I am gonna communicate with them. I’m gonna be around them. I am gonna hear things. I mean, every family has this drama. There is no way around it. But I don’t like being put in the middle of it so that somehow when things don’t work out, it’s somehow my fault. Mm. And that’s what tends to happen is when I do talk to him or have conversations with them and I try to be reasonable or say, why don’t you just listen to the other person or something, well, can you tell them that for me instead? Or can you help me understand how to tell them that? Which usually means I don’t wanna tell ’em, you tell ’em for me and make them understand. And I don’t wanna be that go between. I don’t wanna be the person in the middle of the tug of war. I don’t wanna be the person that fixes it for them because that’s not my job. First of all, I can’t fix anybody else. The only person I can fix is me.

Mary: That’s right. That’s right. 

Debbi: But secondly, I don’t want the guilt that comes with that, that’s trying to be laid on me, that guilt’s not my responsibility to take on and it’s not my responsibility to change the situation that they’ve chosen. Mm-hmm. or to somehow miraculously fix it. And when I’m in these conversations, I feel a lot of pressure, because being the elder sibling, being the dutiful daughter and because I’ve worked so hard to establish the boundaries we have here in my home, our shared home up here, that somehow I should be able to give them that gift for down there. But that isn’t really my responsibility. It’s not my job to do and I have a really hard time sometimes saying no, I can’t fix this for you. I can’t go tell them that. That’s not my responsibility. You need to talk to them directly. It’s a very awkward and difficult situation sometimes to be put into because they are my family, I do care about them. I do want the best for them, but I also have a hard time sometimes realizing it’s not my job to fix it. 

Mary: Yes. Yes. 

Debbi: And so sometimes I make the mistake of throwing myself in the middle of the situation, especially I’m physically present, down visiting their home. What happens?

Mary: And tell me more about that. What happens when you do get in the middle? 

Debbi: Well, last time it happened, my mom got really, really angry, not at me but at my brother. He has some very interesting ideas on how life works compared to the way we think life works and it’s dealing with personalities that are very similar and I love my family, I love my brother, but sometimes I don’t like the way they behave towards each other and in this particular case, he doesn’t want to have any responsibility for that household, even though he’s living in that household. And so last time I went down to visit, I came in and I had to immediately open all the windows because that house had not been cleaned in six months.

Mary: Oh no.

Debbi: And so the first thing I’m doing with my mother is I drove down with my mom because they were transferring households from here down to Arizona. And the first thing we had to do was open up the entire household and went straight to cleaning. Mm. And it was late, it was a long day’s drive getting there, the sun was setting, and here I am cleaning a house because I gotta make sure I have a place to sleep that is safe.

Mary: Sanitary.

Debbi: Yeah. And then when I asked my brother on the way down, I called him beforehand and said, Hey, I’d be willing to chip in for a cleaning crew or something to help come in because I know that sometimes you have a hard time keeping up with everything. He does have animals and a dog and a cat, and it just, it can be very difficult. And he told me the house is clean enough. Mm. And I got down there and so my mom and I, my mom who’s older she’s not a spring chicken anymore, but she’s totally still able to go do stuff on her own. She just wears herself out by working herself too hard sometimes. By the time we ended that evening and we’re finally able to get to sleep, we got up the next morning and cleaned more. It just felt like for two days straight cleaning, which is not particularly how I want to help my mom spend her time in that situation. And my brother didn’t see a problem with any of it. 

Mary: Okay. So interesting, interesting stuff. This is a great example. Okay so you want to be able to say what? 

Debbi: I wanna be able to say, this is your guys’ relationship, you need to be able to work it out between yourselves. And when I’m here and I’m visiting, yes, I wanna spend time with you guys, but I don’t want it to all be about being the go-between when I’m here.

Mary: Okay. So what you’re willing to do is spend time with them. Mm. What you’re not willing to do is to be responsible for their relationship with each other. 

Debbi: Correct. 

Mary: So your responsibility is your relationship, right? Or at least how you show up to those relationships?

Debbi: Correct. I can only control myself.

Mary: That’s right. Yeah. So you’re part of that, right? So when they’re trying to engage you in fixing their relationship with each other, what does that usually sound like? What does that look like? Tell me what one person would say to you. 

Debbi: Well, usually they’re not in the same room together. It’s usually pulling me aside or catching me alone and venting.

Mary: Hmm. Are you ok listening to venting?

Debbi: Not always. I try to change the subject. So in some cases it’s okay, might as well get it out now, at least I know what’s going on. So I’m not walking into something blind. It’s very interesting, It’s like we all for some reason find ourselves watching those TV shows with plenty of drama in ’em. And it’s amusing because it’s a story. And it’s like, okay, this is what’s happening. And you wanna be involved in people’s lives, you wanna be involved in the story, you wanna understand what’s happening. 

Mary: So you kind of like the drama story?

Debbi: You like the story, but you don’t like it to come home.

Mary: Oh, okay… So where’s that line for you? 

Debbi: For me, it’s, yeah I wanna know what’s going on in your life. I wanna know what you’re caring about, but where it crosses the line is when they ask me to do something about it; well would you just talk to them about this? 

Mary: Mm. So you’re willing to listen, but you’re not willing to intervene?

Debbi: Correct. 

Mary: Okay. So that’s your boundary line. 

Debbi: Mm-hmm. I can listen, everybody needs somebody to listen once in a while but I don’t wanna feed the monster either. 

Mary: Yeah, so it’s interesting. There’s not a right or wrong solution to this, but I definitely have taken a little bit of a harder boundary in my own family relationships sometimes, and even said like, this is a person that I love and that I respect, and I understand that they’re a family member to you too. But I’m not willing to listen to you say bad things about a person that I love. I’ve had to say that, well, not had to. I’ve chosen to say that before. And it doesn’t always go over well, right? Sometimes it’s like, well, you know them and they’re this and they’re that, and I’m mad and, you know, whatever. And I’m not willing to engage in a conversation where you’re trash talking a person that I love. 

So sometimes I have had to and decided to and feel good about like, mm no, I don’t let anybody talk about people I love like that, right? Like you’re not gonna trash talk my child to me. You’re not gonna trash talk my sister to me. You’re not gonna trash talk people that I care about. Even if it’s your sister too. 

Debbi: Yeah. The interesting thing on this one is it usually doesn’t get to the point of trash talking. It usually comes to the point of intervening, but I do know they love each other, they want the best for each other. It’s just, I feel like from my perspective, they don’t wanna see each other as they really are and accept that, that’s not going to change. Mm. So there are situations where it’s quite clear that they have boundaries even if they’re not aware of their own boundaries and that those personality traits aren’t gonna change. My brother isn’t suddenly gonna start taking less overtime at work and spend more time to have dinner with my parents at home. That’s not gonna happen. He’s gonna work the hours and take the overtime, that’s why he is done his whole life. 

That behavior’s not gonna change. So me saying, Hey, mom and dad wish you would spend more time with them and intervening in that way is not going to change the behavior. So that’s usually when I’m like, mom, this is the way it is, this is who he’s always been, this is where he is at. And my mom doesn’t want it to be that way anymore.

And it’s not my responsibility to change either one of them. And I don’t like being put into that situation of being asked to change and asked to move that line. Recently there was a matter of my mom, I’m gonna go down there and spend the holiday season with them for Christmas. I’m gonna go down and spend a week. My mom’s excited that I’m coming because she thinks that when I’m around my brother spends more time with us. And that he’s gonna be more interactive, she’s gonna get more of his time. So going into that situation, I wanna spend time with them for the holidays, but I also don’t expect my brother to take more time to spend with us, that’s not his priority. That’s not what his desire is usually. So that’s not my expectation of him. But I already know going into this, that her expectation is that my husband and I visiting for Christmas, somehow my brother’s going to spend more time with us. 

Mary: Right. So it’s so interesting to me this idea of our expectations, right? And how expecting someone to change that, that creates stress and strain in our relationships. So it’s really hard to be in a relationship with someone that we want them to change and I love that you have found that accepting them the way that they are is what brings you peace in your relationships with them, because you can’t make somebody change and it’s not really realistic to set the expectations that they’re going to change. Right? Because they may or may not. I mean maybe. We don’t know. That’s up to them.

Debbi: They can choose to change. 

Mary: They can.

Debbi: I’ve talked to my mom about this, I’ve told her he is not gonna change. He is who he is and she still seems to think that she can understand him if she can figure out the right buttons to push that he will change. And I think that’s the part about it that’s heartbreaking for me is watching her go through that struggle and I can’t fix it. I can’t change it. The times I do intervene and the times I say, Michael, come spend more time with us, or do this or do that sometimes yeah, I’ll get a response out of him because I’m not there all the time. So he will spend more time with us, but more likely than not, he’ll tell me, oh no, I have an opportunity to work overtime, so I’m going to do that.

Mary: Yes. Yes. 

Debbi: Because that tells me where his priority is and what he’s concentrating on. I don’t understand his priorities, but I’m not him. 

Mary: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Debbi: And that’s okay. He’s allowed to have his own priorities. So I spend the time with my parents that I can, because they enjoy spending time with us. So that’s what we try to invest in and spend time with. The hard part is I sort of feel, I guess maybe because the biggest thing is sometimes I just feel like I’m being used as a tool to pry open a box that’s never gonna open. 

Mary: Mm, mm-hmm. But you can’t be used as a tool if you…

Debbi: If I don’t allow myself to.

Mary: If you don’t behave as a tool. Right? 

Debbi: ** Like, how do I spend time with ’em?

Mary: If the tool doesn’t work they’re not gonna continue to try to use it. Right?

Debbi: You would think.

Mary: You would think, or if the tool says, Hey, I’m not responsible for your relationship with each other. Right? So let’s talk about how to have that conversation. So give me an example: who says what? 

Debbi: My mom does the, you’re coming down for Christmas, Michael will make more time for us, we’re gonna have so much fun and we’re gonna… she starts going off on all the activities we’re going to do together. And I’m gonna be like, mom, that sounds cool but Michael doesn’t need to be there for all the activities if he doesn’t wanna be. 

Mary: Right. So what if you just say, I’m really excited about those activities and you stay out of the Michael part.

Debbi: That would probably be the smarter thing to do. 

Mary: What if you’re like, oh, that sounds fun. I’m really looking forward to spending time doing these things. She’s like, and I think Michael’s gonna come since you’re gonna be here. Right. Then what? 

Debbi: Try not to break out in laughter.

Mary: Yeah. Michael gets to make his own choices about how he spends his time. I’d love to have him too. 

Debbi: Yep. That could go with that. Michael’s gonna make his own choice on how he spends his time, but I can… 

Mary: So and then your mom might come to you and say, you know, I’m really disappointed we planned this activity and Michael didn’t come. 

Debbi: Well, we still had fun. He missed out. 

Mary: Yeah, like you just get to love Michael for where he’s at, right? And you get to love your mom, right? But you can’t be put in the middle. People always talk about how we’re being put in the middle. Nobody can put you in the middle. 

Debbi: Yeah. I think a lot of times I feel like because it’s physical proximity when I am there, like I don’t have a choice but to be in the middle. And the reality is, I just need to do a little bit more before I speak and choose my words more wisely. 

Mary: But do you have a choice to be in the middle or not? 

Debbi: I do. I do. Yeah. I can choose not to be in the middle, but sometimes it really doesn’t feel that way. 

Mary: Yeah. And you can choose to have a conversation or not have a conversation about it, right? So we’re kind of exploring this option of like, oh, that sounds super fun, right? Like, I’m excited about this, or I had a great time, or whatever it is, I’m looking forward to this thing and not really addressing it. That’s one option, right? Or you might want to actually address it. And say something like, mom, thanks so much for planning these activities, I’m looking forward to them. Michael gets to choose what he’s gonna participate in and what he’s not gonna participate in. And I’m requesting that you don’t talk to me about how Michael spends his time. That’s an option too, you know? 

Debbi: That is an option. 

Mary: I’ll see you tomorrow for our next activity. 

Debbi: Yep. If I wasn’t staying at the house, that might work.

Mary: What do you mean if you weren’t staying at the house? 

Debbi: The I’ll see you tomorrow part. 

Mary: The I’ll see you tomorrow part? Oh, yeah. Or maybe it’s like, let’s go do the next activity. What is hard for you about them feeling disappointed about their relationships with each other?

Debbi: I think it’s hard because I know that both of ’em want to have better relationships with each other. Part of it is watching that struggle of my mom trying so hard. And she wants to love on my brother, but the way that she wants to do it is not the way that he always understands, or that he usually understands.

And I think my brother does care about my parents. But he doesn’t communicate it in a way that they understand and sometimes it’s in a way that I don’t understand either. I have a hard time understanding my brother’s behaviors and actions sometimes, and I can accept that that’s who he is, but it doesn’t mean that I always can understand what he’s up to or what he’s doing. With my parents, I think because I do have a much more open relationship with them, it’s a lot easier to figure out why they’re doing what they’re doing or understanding that hey, oh, this is normal behavior for them. 

With my brother, I have a much more limited relationship with him, and it’s always been more limited and a lot of that has been his choice. He’s not a high communicator. He doesn’t want to interact as much with the family. I. He’s a bit of a loner. He doesn’t really seem to interact much with anybody. He’s got his own thing and he does his own thing. And that’s okay. I have to be okay with that because that’s who he is. And it doesn’t mean I love him any less. And I don’t think he really loves us any less. I just think he doesn’t relate in the same way that we do. And I think that’s the painful part, is trying to watch everybody relate and realizing we’re not really understanding each other. 

Mary: There’s a disconnect there?

Debbi: Yeah. 

Mary: Mm-hmm. So I love that you’re already going to; what are some generous assumptions that we can make about the people involved here? Right? So what’s the most generous assumption you can make about your brother in this situation? 

Debbi: He loves us. 

Mary: He loves you.

Debbi: He just doesn’t understand us. 

Mary: Yeah. Or he is doing the best he can. 

Debbi: Yeah. 

Mary: Mm-hmm. What about for your parents? What’s the most generous assumption you can make? 

Debbi: They love us and they don’t get us all the time either.

Mary: Yeah. Yeah. 

Debbi: And I think in some ways I’m a lot better about communicating with them because I’ve worked at it because I’ve had help working at it over the years and I’ve sought to work it out. But I don’t think that’s something my brother wants right now at this stage in his life. I think he just wants to be able to do his thing right now. But I’m not sure about that. Because that is making an assumption about what he wants. I guess asking him what he wants has never reacted very well. I have asked him in different ways, how would he like to do things, what would he like to do? And I don’t usually get much of a response from him, and I sometimes really wonder if he knows himself what he wants.

Mary: And maybe he doesn’t.

Debbi: He might not, and that’s okay. We all go through things and it’s not always… who we are and who people see us as are sometimes two different things. 

Mary: Yeah, for sure. And you just get to love him through it. 

Debbi: Yep. 

Mary: Yeah. Awesome. So that hard conversation… the next time your brother calls you and says, mom and dad are driving me crazy. 

Debbi: Okay. They drive me crazy too sometimes, but we just gotta roll with it. 

Mary: uh huh, right? 

Debbi: Just go with it. 

Mary: Maybe you just, yeah… you know what? It’s kinda hard living with parents sometimes. Yeah, but we still love ’em, right? 

Debbi: Yeah. Even when they move in with us.

Mary: Even when they move in with us, we still love them. Or next time your mom complains to you, what? How do you want to handle that? 

Michael’s gonna be Michael and this is who he is. And we just have to accept that that’s the way it is and it’s not really gonna change. 

But can you go talk to him? 

Debbi: And maybe have her go talk to him and yeah, I’ve done that before. Actually, that exact phrase. 

Mary: Yeah. Like, oh, sometimes you might wanna go talk to ’em. I for sure have taken on roles as kind of mediator and, you know, extended family disagreements or friend disagreements and if I’m doing it of my own free will and choice, then that’s one thing, right? But feeling like I’m put in the middle, that I have to, that I don’t want to be responsible for their relationship is very different then like, oh yeah, I understand what’s going on here and I’m a good communicator and I have the skills to help you guys move forward, and I’m willing to do it. That’s okay too, right? But what’s not okay is, I feel like I’m in the middle and it feels terrible and I’m starting to resent both of them and I’m not showing up the way that I want to, you know? 

Debbi: Yeah. And I think that’s a hard part of it is part of me wants to help. Part of me wants to have a family that all talks to each other, all gets along, and I realize that that’s unrealistic. No family is perfect. No relationship is perfect. There’s always going to be something. But conflict is the story of life. Mm. But at the same time I think I do need to be at that point where I am a little bit more of an observer instead of having the missiles thrown over my head at each other. So… 

Mary: For sure.

Debbi: And the good news is I don’t always choose to be in the situations or when I do choose to be in the situations, my desire is actually just to have a relationship with them of some sort. Yeah, hopefully a positive one. I don’t want negative relationships. My hope is to come out of it with at least saying, okay, I’m here, I’m participating and I wanna be involved in your lives because I care about you guys. But I can do that without saying, yeah. I’m gonna let you guys talk through me and use me as the intermediary all the time. 

Because my job is not to be the intermediary in this case. My job is just to participate in the family unit, and maybe my job should be more of, to step back and let them talk to each other. 

Mary: So we can at least encourage them to, or request that they do. Right? That’s how we communicate our boundaries is usually in the form of requests. So it might sound like, Hey, I’m not willing to go talk to him right now, but I encourage you to go talk with him. So what’s your takeaway from our call today? 

Debbi: That my relationship with my parents, my brother, is always gonna be a little bit complicated, but maybe the best option instead of trying to be the problem solver, trying to be the one to take the lead, is to step back and let them take their own leads. I think honestly it’s one of those things where, I think going in and figuring out how to keep a clear head while going through that because one of the things that we run into in those situations is usually there’s a lot of emotional charge to them, whether we want to or not especially when it comes to our families, it hits so close to our own development of our own boundaries and who we’ve become and our own emotional centers because, what we’re raised around, the environment, the personalities, whether you believe in nurture or nature, whatever it is, that’s what we react to and what’s molded us into who we’ve become.

And so sometimes in those situations I find the hardest part is sitting down and actually thinking rationally and taking a moment to breathe and figuring out even to tell myself to do that. Because sometimes it’s just so emotional that I have a hard time not reacting. I have a hard time reasoning instead of reacting, and I need to figure out how to reason better in those situations and actually figure out how to diffuse my own emotions so I’m not reacting as much. Is there a better way to go about that? 

Mary: Yeah. I wonder if there’s maybe just a question, like a prompt you could ask yourself in those situations when you’re feeling kind of emotionally charged and in the weeds of the family drama. Maybe it’s, you ask yourself something like; what do I want my role to be? Or, What’s okay for me here and what’s not okay for me here? Or what am I willing to participate in? So those questions around like, what are my boundaries in this situation, right? What’s my responsibility? What’s not my responsibility? Because I think you know it. I think you know what you want your role to be and what you don’t want your role to be. Just sometimes when you’re in the thick of it, when you’re in the middle of it, then it’s easy to be kind of pushed in one direction or the other. But if you know you are willing to listen, but you don’t want to intervene, right? And someone comes to you and wants you to intervene, then you can go back to that; what am I willing to do? What am I not willing to do? Oh, Oh yeah, I’m willing to listen. I’m not willing to intervene. 

Debbi: Right. Okay. So ask my question, what am I willing to do? What I’m not willing to do? 

Mary: Yes. 

Debbi: So what would Debbie do? 

Mary: What would Debbie do? That’s perfect. Yeah. Or what do I want my role to be? Sometimes I have that question when I’m in groups or extended family situations where I’m like, what do I want my role to be here? Especially if there’s some conflict. 

Debbi: I’ve always liked the, begin with the end in mind. What’s the outcome I want from this situation for me?

Mary: And what is the outcome you want in this situation for you? 

Debbi: I wanna be able to enjoy my family. I wanna be able to honor my relationship with my brother and my parents by respecting them and having that respect reciprocated.

Mary: And the good news is that it’s possible when you have boundaries. Yeah, you can do it. You can stay in healthy relationships and you can have respect and you can show up the way that you want to, as long as you’re clear about what your boundaries are. 

Debbi: So as another question, let’s throw another one in there. A lot of times when I’m in those situations I can recognize my own boundaries, but I have a hard time recognizing when I’m crossing onto somebody else’s boundaries. Mm. Like my mom’s boundary and the situation of communicating with my brother is, she doesn’t wanna communicate with my brother. She wants me to do it. That doesn’t feel like a boundary to me though. It’s acceptable that she doesn’t want to communicate with my brother. She doesn’t wanna be the one to have to deal with the situation.

Mary: Yeah. So if her boundary is that she’s not willing to talk to your brother, right? That’s your mom’s boundary. She’s not willing to talk to your brother. There’s a lot of other things she’s willing to do, but she’s not willing to talk to him. Then what? 

Debbi: Well, usually my boundary in that situation is fine, we’re not gonna talk about it anymore.

Mary: There you go. You’re like, so your boundary’s not gonna change. She’s not willing to talk to him. You’re still not willing to talk to him, nobody’s gonna talk to him.

Debbi: I can’t control that one. It’s like, it’s not my responsibility to talk to him about it, so I’m not going to.

Mary: Yeah.

Debbi: I think that’s sort of hard because sometimes when another person hears that no, in your boundary, no, I’m not doing that. They don’t wanna listen and I think that’s what I run into often with my mom is that she doesn’t want that answer. And so she tries again for a different one. So in that case, that’s where communicating my boundaries and listening to other people’s boundaries sometimes and realizing our boundaries aren’t aligned is kind of hard because I usually try to change the focus of what we’re doing or where we’re going with things or what’s going to happen? Usually redirecting is the way I’ve tried in the past, and that seems to be pretty effective most of the time, but it still doesn’t feel like anything gets resolved. 

Mary: Yeah. So if your mom’s coming to you and asking you to have a conversation with your brother, my generous assumption is that she thinks there’s a conversation that needs to be had, and she doesn’t wanna be the one to do it. And so she’s kind of viewing you as like a resource, like maybe Debbi would do it, maybe I have this resource, maybe Debbie can do it for me, kind of thing. Right? 

Debbi: Debbi doesn’t wanna be the tool for this.

Mary: But if Debbi doesn’t wanna be the tool, doesn’t wanna be the resource in this scenario, then your mom still has the same problem of, I think there’s a conversation that needs to be had, and I don’t wanna be the one to have to have it. Right? She’s gotta look to other places. She’s gotta either find a different resource. Maybe there’s someone else who wants to have the conversation. Maybe there’s another way she can solve the problem, but it’s still her problem to solve. So what you’ve done by saying no is not taken on responsibility for her problem. Right? And there are sometimes, like I said, you might want to be the resource for her. You might wanna do it, but if you don’t want to, then it’s still her problem to solve. She has to figure out how to either have the conversation or be okay with not having the conversation or find a different person or a different avenue to address the problem that she wants to solve. But it’s making the problem hers, it’s not taking the problem from her when we have that boundary. 

Debbi: And I think that’s the hard part I have with emotionally, is figuring out how to disconnect that emotion of I’m supposed to do something about it, or the guilt of not doing something about it for somebody else. I think it’s a little bit of a rescuer mentality maybe that I’m dealing with there. That I want to fix it, I wanna make it better, but letting go of that is sometimes really hard for me. 

Mary: Yeah, well you can still show up with love and compassion towards your mom without fixing her problem for her. That’s an option. That probably would serve you well in this situation. Like yeah Mom, I know that sometimes he doesn’t make sense to me either, and I’m just gonna love him because that’s where he is at. Right? And I’m gonna love you because I know it’s frustrating to you too. But we’re committed. I love you so much. I’m here for you.

Debbi: Cause it’s family. 

Mary: Because we’re family. We’re in this together. 

Debbi: Yeah. You don’t you don’t always get to choose your family. So you do get to choose whether or not you spend time with them once you become an adult, though.

Mary: That’s true. That’s true. And you’re choosing, you want to spend time with them.

Debbi: Yes. Yes. 

Mary: Just not as the mediator. 

Debbi: No. No. 

Mary: Nice, nice. Okay. Awesome. Is this helpful for you? 

Debbi: Yes. Thank you.

Mary: You’re welcome. You’re welcome. All right. We’ll see you next time, Debbi. 

Debbi: Thanks.