Q: I’ve tried everything I can think of to help my family with their problems. Nothing seems to help and I just keep getting pulled into their drama. They call me constantly to talk about their issues and it’s draining. I’m in the middle of a job change and new relationship, so I have my own stuff going on. How can I keep myself sane without completely distancing myself?
A: You’re obviously a huge source of support to your family, but that doesn’t mean it should be at your expense. If you’re feeling emotionally and physically drained, you will have nothing left to give to others or yourself. Not a good place to be. Take a little space for yourself girl. And then it’s time to set up some clear boundaries with your family. That means some difficult, but honest conversations need to happen. Tell them exactly what you shared with me-that you love them and want to support them, but it’s taking a toll on you. You can share that you’re dealing with a lot of change in your own life, so phone calls need to be cut back. Set some guidelines by being clear about what you can and cannot do. For your own sanity, don’t feel like you have to pick up the phone every time they call. Maybe cut your calls to 2x per week or whatever you find manageable.
When they start venting about all their issues, explain to them that rather than rehashing the problems and staying in a negative place, you want to focus on coming up with solutions. That moves the convo to a more positive place. Maybe talk to them about finding some other ways to cope, like talking to a counselor, yoga, walking etc. Utilizing some coping skills for yourself might be beneficial, too.
The main takeaway here is this- It is not your job or responsibility to solve your family members’ problems. We are each on our own journey and as you’ve learned, they’re gonna do what they want to do. We have no control over their behavior. This is kind of great in a sense because it takes the pressure off you. You can be an ear to listen to (on your terms) and offer love and support, but don’t let them take advantage of you, even if it’s not intentional.