How to Guard Yourself Against Unsafe Family Members

Uncategorized Dec 09, 2018

When I was still doing my radio show, a woman called into our program and said that she was going to visit her family for Christmas. She was depressed because she knew her grandfather would make things miserable, just as he always did. She dreaded hearing his criticism of her and her lifestyle. We asked her why she had to listen to that, and she responded, “I just have to, that’s all. I have no choice. That is what he does.” 

This woman lost her freedom the minute she walked in the door of that family gathering. She didn’t realize that no one can take away your freedom: she chose to give it up. She was letting her grandfather have power over her, but what she didn’t realize is that she didn’t have to give him permission. She felt that the pressure from her family to just “take it” was so strong, that this is the place where she lost her choices.

As we kept talking, we quickly thought of several choices she could make: 

She...

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This is How to Respond to a Passive-Aggressive Narcissist

Uncategorized Dec 02, 2018

For many of us, family get-togethers can be a real pain in the you-know-what. How wonderful it would be to have a perfect, happy family with no issues. But human beings live messy lives, and we do so many things the wrong way before we have sufficient wisdom to know the best approach. 

Not long ago a friend of mine asked me for advice on how to deal with a passive aggressive, frankly narcissistic text she received from her father about her upcoming visit. It was obviously coming from a place of hurt, and yet there was a lot of care in there, and also aggression and manipulation. It was clear that there were some deeper issues. This was a family in need of boundaries.

I didn't tell my friend exactly what to do, but I did give her a basic framework to think about the problem. I suggested she should wait a bit before she responded, because we always want to make sure that we are responding rather than reacting.

1. Gratitude.  The busy and messy state of so many of our lives...

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Boundaries: What You Prefer vs. What is Wrong

Uncategorized Dec 02, 2018

When setting boundaries with someone, it’s important to differentiate between what you prefer and what’s actually wrong. Before you talk to someone about changing his behavior, figure out if what he is doing is really a “bad” thing or just something you don’t like.

I refer to this distinction as a test I like to call “Would God and the Beverly Hillbillies Agree?” Here’s what I mean: Some things are just things you don’t like and want someone to change, but that person is not really doing anything wrong. Depending on where you come from, it may be acceptable or not.

For example, what is fine to Jed Clampett, the funny patriarch on the old Beverly Hillbillies television show, might be very distasteful to you. He was the kind of person who would keep a raccoon inside his house and stock his swimming pool with catfish. If your spouse did that, it would really bug you. It is all a matter of taste.

In contrast, mistreating people or...

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Tis’ the Season to Set Some Boundaries with Family

Uncategorized Dec 02, 2018

When you were born, you were placed you into a family for a season of time to help you grow into a mature adult. At some point this season ends, and your relationship with your parents changes from child-to-parent to adult-to-adult. The roles change from dependency and authority to mutuality. While you are to respect and care for your mother and father, you are no longer under their protection and tutelage. Children are to obey parents, while adult children are to love and honor them. Therefore, situations will occur where you need to make decisions and set boundaries with family with which they may not agree.

For example, you might decide to spend some traditional holiday time apart from your family. This can often be a cause for a confrontational talk:

You: “Mom, I wanted to let you know as soon as I could that I’ve made plans to go to the mountains with some friends this Christmas. I know this will be the first Christmas I won’t be with you and Dad, so I wanted...

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7 Steps to Help Someone Have More Awareness

Uncategorized Nov 27, 2018

If someone in your life behaves in a way that causes problems but he doesn’t know his behavior is a problem, you are dealing with unawareness. It can be something bothersome but not dangerous. Or it can be something life threatening, as with an alcohol, drug, or prescription pill addiction.

You may be acutely aware of the issue yourself, much more so than the person with the problem. You may want to address it with the person for his sake and yours. At the same time, you may be at a loss on how helpfully to approach him. Use the following seven steps to help that person come to awareness and find a solution to the problem:

1. Take a “Presumed Innocent” Approach
Until you know better, assume a person is innocent of bad motives or intents, and approach him accordingly. If the person truly does not know what he is doing, he needs compassion and gentleness from you. Being innocently unaware is a far cry from being resistant, defensive, or blaming. The other person may...

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How to Set Boundaries with a Difficult Mom

Uncategorized Nov 27, 2018

“My mother is a narcissist.”

I hear it a lot. I can understand why some people feel that way about their parents or others in their life who have left them hurt.

I’m going to keep using “mom” as an example here, but these are guidelines you can use with anyone in your life when you’re making rules and setting boundaries. Let’s take a further look. …

If you’re new to setting boundaries, or setting them with a new person, it can be tough and a little scary. But let’s think about how we approach that. You might say something like, “I’m in a process of personal growth, and I’ve made some changes. Our relationships is important to me, so I want to share them with you.” Then explain what you’ve discovered about your character traits, attributes, likes and dislikes.

“But my mom will just say I’m just being selfish, that I don’t love her …”

You can still set the...

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What Makes Triangulation a Toxic Behavior

Uncategorized Nov 26, 2018

I have something I call the Deadly Triad, and it refers to a concept called triangulation. We've got 3 people: A, B and C.

Problems always seem to arise when we're dealing with A, B and C. Sometimes these three people are friends, sometimes they're colleagues. They all have relationships with each other and apart.

For instance, we could be talking about a situation in which A should be talking to B but is talking to C about B instead. This combination of people plays out lots of different ways. How do we approach it?

First, name the problem. Start by talking about the disease of triangulation with the people that it might be affecting. Sometimes people’s intent isn’t nefarious, but they’ve found in previous relationships that talking to someone directly hasn’t worked. Now they fear it for some reason. Sometimes A and C will talk to each other about C, because where they have come from, speaking directly could have been dangerous.

So tell them you’ve...

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You Can Set Limits on Manipulative or Narcissistic Behavior

Uncategorized Nov 23, 2018

In the alcoholic home, if a spouse chooses not to limit her drinking, this is their responsibility. However, other family members can set limits on how they will be affected by it. If an alcoholic continues to drink, the other spouse can only limit themselves, not the other person. They can say, “I will limit my exposure to your behavior. If you continue to drink, the children and I will move out until you get sober.” You can’t stop your spouse from drinking, but you can stop yourself from being affected by it.

I realize this is one example, and there are many different situations and outcomes that affect this situation, but I want you to know that you still have control of the decisions and choices that you make for yourself. And making those decisions involves myriad details. 

If we can’t set limits on ourselves, however, we need to enlist the aid of others. This is still taking responsibility. If we call the police and ask them to help limit our...

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How to Set Boundaries Within a Dysfunctional Family

Uncategorized Nov 23, 2018

Look at your own life situation and see where boundary problems exist with your parents and siblings. The basic question is this: Where have you lost control of your property? Identify those areas and see their connection with the family you grew up in, and you are on your way.

Identify the Conflict

Discover what dynamic is being played out. For example, what “law of boundaries” are you violating? Do you triangulate? Do you take responsibility for a sibling or parent instead of being responsible to them? Do you fail to enforce consequences and end up paying for their behavior? Are you passive and reactive toward them and the conflict?

You cannot stop acting out a dynamic until you understand what you are doing. “Take the log out” of your own eye. Then you will be able to see clearly to deal with your family members. See yourself as the problem and find your boundary violations.

Identify the Need That Drives the Conflict

You do not act in...

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Your Boundaries Aren’t a Weapon to be Used Against You

Uncategorized Nov 21, 2018

Can you please do something for me? Would it be ok if I asked you for some of your time, your money, your energy? Would you mind making a sacrifice so that I could avoid having to do something that I am perfectly capable of doing myself?

If you're anything like me, you want to say “yes” every time someone asks for something from you. I really want to do whatever is going to make someone happy, and I bet you often feel the same way. However, we know that if we did this, we'd never have any time, money or energy to meet our own needs.

A woman I know, Lisa, once told me, "The biggest problem with telling my mother no is the 'hurt-silence.' It lasts about forty-five seconds, and it always happens after I tell her I can't visit her. It's only broken by my apologizing for my selfishness and setting up a time to visit. Then she's fine. I'll do anything to avoid that silence."

Lisa's mother has turned Lisa's personal boundaries into an offensive weapon that she can use to get...

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