Q. I am a divorced mother of two children. Their father remarried, had more children and moved across the country. His mother lives close to me and I have maintained a relationship with her because of the children (her grandchildren).
She is a very controlling woman and I’m getting fed up with her. She constantly asks me to drive her places and visit her because she is lonely. Now that my daughter drives, she started asking her for favors too. My daughter has school and I have a full time job.
She will not move closer to her son because she gets better social services for the elderly in this part of the country and she takes advantage of them all. She makes me feel guilty when I try to say no to her. My ex knows how manipulative she is and he even tells me not to give in to her. I need help.
A. I’ll be blunt. You need to develop some backbone and boundaries and take care of yourself first. My coaching practice, The LYF Experience, is all about Loving Yourself First. That doesn’t mean alienating others. It means you can be there for your ex-mother-in-law when it is convenient for you. This goes for your children too. Your daughter’s education comes first; then she can occasionally help her grandmother.
This woman gets her way because she knows she can. Perhaps that’s why her son moved far away. When the manipulation begins, you need to calmly tell her that you are not available, then direct her to those social services that she has at her disposal.
No one can “make you feel” guilty and no one can take advantage of you without your permission. Your feelings are yours and no one has the power to give them to you. When others behave in a disturbing way, our feelings get triggered by our own painful past experiences. These could be feelings of guilt or shame about ourselves or resentment toward others. If you are depleted of your energy, then you have nothing left to give to yourself and the resentment begins. Try to validate your own feelings and honor them by practicing self-care.
Diane Young of Fair Lawn is a certified empowerment coach whose practice, The LYF Experience focuses on relationship and career transition coaching. LYF stands for Love Yourself First and her clients achieve success through personal development. Diane is also the founder of The Unemployed Optimists, a networking and support group for people in transition. Contact her at 201-791-5241 or firstname.lastname@example.org.