adult-child and parent relationships

We Treat Adult-Child and Parent Relationships Differently

January 25, 2024

Do we hold adult-child and parent relationships to a different standard?

We tend to have different reactions and judgments about behavior in relationships. Our reactions often change when we find out how the people are related. Let’s work through an example.

The Relationship Dynamic

Consider a relationship dynamic involving two adults: Person Y and Person X. They’ve known each other for 25 years. Over the years, they’ve spent time living together and living apart.

Person Y

Person Y has a history of relational trauma from their own childhood. Over the last 25 years, especially during moments of stress, they have yelled at Person X. They have become highly critical of Person X’s appearance and try to control what they wear. When Person X doesn’t listen or agree, Person Y may respond with the silent treatment.

Person X

Person X has gotten really invested in their own personal growth. They found a therapist and have been reading books. They’ve started using words like “boundaries,” and this drives Person Y crazy. Person Y is trying their best. This info is all new, and they can’t be expected to learn and know all of this stuff.

The Struggle for Autonomy

Over the last 25 years, Person X has been trying to become their own person. They have likes, interests, and boundaries. They don’t want to be yelled at every time they’re with Person Y. They want to express themselves through what they wear and to be able to say, “I don’t appreciate when you put me down every time I see you.”

Person Y really doesn’t think it’s such a big deal. They’re just trying to help. They don’t want Person X to look ugly or embarrass themselves! They need to help them. But Person X just doesn’t agree. They don’t think this level of control is healthy in a relationship. Person Y assumes they’re being brainwashed by a therapist.

The Relationship Question

What is the relationship between these two people? How would you feel if they were married? What about if they were friends? siblings? What if I told you Person Y is a 50-year-old adult, and they are Person X’s parent - how would you feel?

Maybe you have someone like Person Y in your life. Maybe you are Person Y. I want you to know that this is difficult. Every family relationship is different and nuanced. If you need extra help with this, we’re here for you at Calling Home.

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