Boundaries Boundaries Boundaries
June 25, 2011 12:13 PM   Subscribe

Can you recommend a book or two about helping to set boundaries with parents?

Particularly, trying to deal with wife's rather smothering parents who frequently use guilt and thinly veiled criticism as tools on a nearly daily basis?
posted by The Giant Squid to Human Relations (7 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I found this one incredibly helpful: Boundaries - Where You End and I Begin.
posted by Wordwoman at 12:24 PM on June 25, 2011

I am forever recommending The Drama of the Gifted Child for getting at what's underneath people's relationship to their parents.

The (highly simplified) idea of the book is that many parents use their kids to compensate for their own insecurities. "Gifted" children in this case being the kinds of kids who have the emotional intelligence to perceive and meet the emotional needs of their parents. According to the author, this sets up a generational cycle of insecurity, because the parents — the only people in the world who are supposed to love the child unconditionally — are instead, because of their insecurities, requiring their children to unconditionally meet their needs, which leaves the child deeply insecure later in life, having not had their own emotional needs met by the parents.

It's an amazing, empowering book. I don't agree with all of it, but it helped me a lot. I hope it helps your wife.
posted by gauche at 12:44 PM on June 25, 2011 [5 favorites]

If You Had Controlling Parents (which I've recommended before in similar questions). I personally found it quite helpful.
posted by flex at 1:09 PM on June 25, 2011

The best thing I ever did to set boundaries is move a few states away from my folks for a decade or so. By the time I moved back it was easy for me to set my boundaries.

No book can make you stick to your guns. YOU have to do that. You do that by deciding beforehand what you will and won't accept and kindly enforcing that, and not being afraid of the consequences.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:10 PM on June 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

I second moving away as a great way to set boundaries. Definitely harder if you have kids, a mortgage, etc. Still, the peace of mind might be worth it. Also, although it isn't a book, I'd recommend
Your wife's parents may not be narcissists but the sections labelled "The Hope She'll Change" and "No-Contact Guilt" seem relevant.
posted by anotherkate at 9:36 PM on June 25, 2011

Best answer: Cutting Loose is really good. I agree with St. Alia no book will make you stick to your guns, but I think this book will give your wife some good knowledge and ideas to help your wife think of ways to do so.
posted by foxjacket at 12:44 AM on June 26, 2011

I second Drama of the Gifted Child. It's got an awful title but it allowed me to morph from someone who cringed at the sound of the phone in fear of a call from my mother, to a person who actively seeks out her company because now (thanks to the boundaries!) I find her fun to be around.
posted by aunt_winnifred at 1:07 PM on June 26, 2011

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