What Happens When You Stop Trying To Change Your Parents
For a long time, I did not get along with my parents. Interactions with them were never without tension, arguments, and possible yelling. Nobody left feeling happy—that’s for sure. The best I could hope for was less fighting than usual but, a truly positive interaction? Yeah right. That friction with them was something I felt all of the time. I didn’t even realize how much I felt it all of the time until I finally got rid of it. Everybody wishes their parents were…more accepting…more open-minded…more liberal…more something. So, did my relationship with my parents improve because they did change in the ways I wanted them to? Nope. My relationship with them improved because I let go of the idea of changing them. The only thing that was going to change was my desire for them to change. I had control over that, so I did something about it. Here’s what happens when you stop trying to change your parents.
It’s hard at first
I’m not going to lie: at first it’s very hard. It’s in your bones—in your muscle memory—to react to the annoying things they do and say. You feel like you’re disrespecting yourself and stepping on your pride by not reacting.
But, it does get easier
I promise you it does get easier. Eventually you train yourself not to react to the things that would typically upset you, and slowly but surely, it doesn’t bother you to do so. You wake up one day and realize that you haven’t fought with one of your parents in months, and you didn’t feel you had to compromise.
You notice their better traits
When you stop obsessing over the things you with they’d change, you actually get to notice the things you really like about your parents. The things that bothered you were like walls around your parents’ true self. They were just getting in the way. When you don’t look at those flaws anymore, you realize your parents are actually kind of great.
Phone calls end peacefully
This incredible thing happens where, when you get off the phone you just…go on about your day. You don’t need a drink, a cigarette, or a deep meditation session. Your emotions aren’t so altered by the call that it changes the course of your day.
Visits end peacefully
You also leave visits with them happier. You don’t get home and call a friend, begging her to come over and drink wine with you. You don’t need to recover from visits.
Not all comments warrant a response
You start to pay attention to which comments do and don’t warrant a response. You used to impulsively respond when your parents upset you. Now, you develop this distance from the comments—you witness them, assess them, and send them along. You don’t always have to reply.
They take up less mental real estate
Only once you stop trying to change your parents do you realize just how much you used to think about them. They took up a tremendous amount of mental real estate. Your brain feels so much freer now and you can focus on other things.
And stop dominating your conversations
You also stop talking to your friends, coworkers, and dates (or serious partner) about your parents. And you (embarrassingly) realize that you used to talk about them too much. It was rather juvenile, the way you’d talk your friends’ ear off about your mother.
There’s less anger
You feel less anger. You’ve stopped trying to change something you can’t change so, naturally, you get to release the anger that came with that infuriating process. You may find yourself more patient with everyone you encounter.
You even pity them, a little
You actually begin to understand your parents better. When you don’t attach expectations and frustration to their flaws, you have the distance to analyze them—you start to feel sort of bad for them, understanding where those flaws come from.
You get to know yourself better
Obsessing over how you wish your parents were or weren’t is like keeping your umbilical cord attached to them. Fixating on them is a form of being attached to them. You can’t really figure out who you are until you stop obsessing over how your parents are or aren’t like you.
You realize they sacrificed too
You have to laugh at yourself when you realize how silly it is that you thought you made huge sacrifices in that relationship. Sure, you tolerated their judgmental comments but they like…paid for your life and cared for your wellbeing every day until you were 18…and still now.
And, you realize maybe they hold their tongue
You also realize that you probably weren’t the only one unhappy all these years. Your parents probably have things they wish they could change about you that they don’t even speak up about. You find it in your heart to be grateful for that.
You can probably quit therapy
You can probably quit therapy, or at least cut back on sessions. It’s amazing how much therapy we think we need when our parents upset us. Without your parents taking over the sessions, you can make better use of therapy.
You’re glad, because time is passing
When you really stop trying to change your parents, you wake up one day so grateful for it. You realize time is passing quickly, and wasting it trying to change things you can’t change, rather than enjoying the relationship, is a shame.