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I am 26 and I moved out of my parents' house almost three months ago. I am happy that I am finally out on my own, supporting myself financially and starting my life as an independent adult.

My parents are upset that I "never" visit them. I did visit them for the holidays, and it is clear that they would like to spend more time with me than I am comfortable with.

To be clear, I love my parents and we keep in touch. My mom and I frequently text each other and speak on the phone every week or two. My dad and I have phone conversations every week. This is more than enough contact for me. Oftentimes when we talk it is just idle chitchat as none of us have a whole lot going on. Our conversations usually cover how we are doing (always "good"), how our jobs are going ("good") and if I'm seeing anyone ("no"). Still, it is nice to keep in touch and I know that they enjoy these check-ins.
Even when I lived in their home my parents felt that I did not spend enough time with them. I spent most of my free time with my friends, on the computer, or playing video games. I would always talk to my parents in the evening when we were all home from work, and again before going to sleep. We would often have dinner together as a family, but some nights it would not work out.
I figured that this issue would stop when I moved out, but it has not. If anything being four hours away has only made the problem worse, and in hindsight I can see why.

Recently my parents have been pressuring me to visit them. I do not want to do this. I live over four hours away from my parents and I do not like to travel. They have offered to come to my apartment but they insist on sleeping in my bed and booting me to the couch.1 These issues aside, the main reason I don't want to visit is that I do not like spending time with my parents.

The major reason that I do not like spending time with my parents is that we often argue. We have not argued since I have moved out, but it was so frequent while I lived with them that I fear it will continue when I visit. Without getting too far into the details, my arguments with my mother are usually civil but often end with at least one of us crying. My arguments with my dad are not like this.
My dad would often get mad at me for things outside of my control, or be mad about something else and redirect it at me. One time he got upset because I had plans for my long weekend and he had expected me to clean the garage that weekend. He did not tell me until I was walking out the door Saturday morning and expected me to cancel right then, even though my friends were waiting on me to pick them up. During this argument he told me to get out of "his" house2 and then got angrier when I left. This may sound extreme but this is an average case. The only thing making this particular argument any different is that I stood up for myself and left for the day.3
To be fair, I also redirect my anger at people when I shouldn't. We are both working on this problem. Still I would rather not spend too much time with them because I think that the odds of this happening is too great and outweighs the positives of my visit.

I have explained to them that I do not want to travel just to come visit them. I have explained that I would rather that they not come to my apartment just to visit. They do not seem to care.

One of my parents' birthdays is coming up soon. I knew this, and I had made plans for the weekend before as I had not planned on going back for the birthday.4 After my parents found out I had plans, they moved the date of the celebration to another weekend in hopes that I was available then.
To be absolutely clear, I do not want to go back and visit for this birthday. This is not a party for our extended family and friends just my parents, my brother, and me. We will be going to the beach5 for the weekend and I get the feeling that they expected me to come even before checking with me.

What should I do? I feel like I am on the hook for the birthday weekend now, despite not yet committing to going. I do not want to set the precedent that I will come back every six weeks. I don't even want to set the precedent that I will come back for everyone's birthday. I was hoping that living far away would exclude me from being expected at events like these, and I do not think that it is unreasonable for me to skip these events.
Am I in the wrong here? Should I go back for the birthday? Should I tell them that I don't want to go back because I am avoiding arguing with them and hurting our relationship, in addition to the other reasons I've already explained to them? Do you have any other advice for me in this situation?

Thank you for taking the time to read though my post.


1 They tell me that the norm is to let a guest sleep in your bed, but I have never seen nor heard of this before. In the past when I've visited friends or other family members I've slept in a spare room or on the couch. Even when my parents have guests they do not give up their bedroom and the guest sleeps on the couch. I slept on my air mattress when I visited for the holidays.
2 My mother and father both contribute to the lease payments for their house, which I no longer live in. I live in an apartment that I pay for myself. My mother has been the primary wage earner in my parents' house for a long time now. This is neither here nor there.
3 I did end up cleaning the garage in case anyone was curious. I did not care about having to clean up the garage, I was glad to lend a hand whenever I could. I just was not okay with my dad expecting me to drop my plans and abandon my friends for something so trivial and not time sensitive.
4 It is not a "major" birthday that's a multiple of 5 or 10. I am not a huge fan of birthday celebrations myself but I understand that I am not in the majority here.
5 Yes, we are going to the beach in winter. I do not like going to the beach as I find it quite boring, especially so in the winter.

I apologize if this is off-topic. I checked on meta to see if questions about parents are on-topic, and in this case I think it's a solid maybe.

  • How often are you willing to visit? Is there any way for you to stop accepting financial help from them? – WRX Feb 27 '17 at 22:32
  • Knowing whether guests sleep in the homeowner's bed may depend on where you are... I'm in the US and I've never followed this practice. Though, if you don't have a second bed and your own bed is big enough for two people, it would certainly be kind if you let them have your bed as, otherwise, they'd have to take the floor or pay for a hotel. – Catija Feb 27 '17 at 22:44
  • @WillowRex I would say maybe four times a year at most. Ideally less. I also am not accepting financial help from them. I thought I had stated that in the post but I will add it in. – Distant Son Feb 27 '17 at 22:52
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    No worries; it is completely on topic, and welcome. – anongoodnurse Feb 28 '17 at 2:16
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    @Rishi Thank you for the advice. I will call them, but I do not think I will become a father. I come from a line of people ill-equipped to be fathers and I really think it would be a bad idea for me to raise a child. – Distant Son Feb 28 '17 at 14:27
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TL;DR: Set boundaries.

This is an unfortunate but very common scenario. It's perfectly normal for adult offspring to want to separate and start a life with more independence. On the other hand, it's perfectly normal for parents to want to see their offspring more often than the other way around. So adjustments must be made by both sides, depending on how important the relationship is to all parties.

The relationship you have with your parents is also unfortunately fairly common. Your parents have been "in charge" of your activities for a large part of your life. They no longer are, but they haven't fully come to that conclusion yet. Long-standing habits die slowly unless their death is hastened along.

This is your life now; you have a right to the kind of life you want to lead. How you deal with your parents from today on depends to a large extent on what you imagine would be a good relationship in the future. None? That's unfortunate, but it's your choice. A meaningful and reciprocal relationship, where you love and respect your parents and your parents love and respect you, your significant other, and maybe be good grandparents to your children (if you plan on having a family)? Then you need to start mapping out strategies towards getting you there. Anything in between? Figure out what you want and make plans.

It sounds like your parents employ hyperbole and unspoken expectations in their dealings with you. You've been gone for 3 months; how can that be "never"? Your father had plans for you that he didn't express, then treated you poorly when you didn't comply. Neither of these tactics endear children to their parents (or any two humans to each other, for that matter.) You are neither a villain (what hyperbole makes you) not a mindreader (what expecting you to carry out unexpressed desires requires you to be). Don't feel guilty for not taking kindly to these behaviors. Also, very few people enjoy being manipulated, so free yourself from feeling any guilt here as well.

How do you move forward? You have many options. The good ones require work, energy, patience, and a measure of kindness thrown in.*

First, read some good books, and articles online, about setting boundaries. Do not attempt to set firm boundaries until you understand why they are necessary, how to set good ones, and how to react when your boundaries are not respected. Boundaries are a means to protect yourself from the harmful behaviors of others. They are vital to healthy relationships. When you have a very good understanding of boundaries, start setting them in your relationship with your parents.

A boundary that most people can recognize as reasonable and healthy is, "I am not a mind-reader. You can't expect me to do something we have not discussed and that I have not agreed to." Another recognizable healthy boundary is, "When you yell at me, I feel disrespected. If we can't discuss something civilly, then we need to put the topic off until we can."

Yourr parents aren't mind-readers either; you'll need to discuss your boundaries - the why's and the wherefor's - openly and more than once with them. People who don't understand boundaries often feel that they are being treated unfairly and will push back pretty hard, using their usual weaponry. They will feel that you're hurting them. Know this, and be prepare for the push-back, the accusations, and their hurt. Treat the last with kindness and understanding - which does not mean giving in - if you really do love them.

To address some points one by one:

Don't let your parents invite themselves to your home, and don't let them insist that they get your bed. You and their guests slept on the couch or an air mattress; what's good for the goose is good for the gander. If they are in your home, you have little control over situations that may arise, outside of excusing yourself and going out for a long walk, which might not be what you want to do. Either visit them, where you control your movements (you can leave), or meet on neutral ground somewhere you all would like to go.

Speaking of what's good for geese,

To be fair, I also redirect my anger at people when I shouldn't.

Don't expect others to do what you don't model yourself. Get this under control. Confrontation is not the same as anger. Confrontation is inevitable between people. Learn to deal with it in a way that avoids your being hurt (which is usually what precipitates anger.)

I understand you can love and appreciate someone without wanting to be with them, but you can help make things better than that; you can shape visits where you will actually enjoy your time with your parents by setting your boundaries carefully and respectfully, and you will honor your boundaries so that trust can be built between you and your parents about them, trust being a vital part of a good relationship.

I have explained to them that I do not want to travel just to come visit them. I have explained that I would rather that they not come to my apartment just to visit.

Well, that puts them between a rock and a hard place if they just want to see you. Try to frame your wishes more positively: "I would like to visit you best when I also can see a few of my friends" sounds so much nicer. "I would love for you to visit when the (ice festival/summer gardens/whatever activity is nearby) is happening; I want to see you, but I am not up to entertaining you all by myself for the (weekend/week/whatever.)" Word choices matter.

Finally, if you're having difficulty with setting good boundaries, a counselor might be able to help you sort through these difficult issues and help you see where you should draw your boundaries. You may find something in counseling that you're much happier with than what you can come up with on your own.

Good luck. You're not alone.

10 Ways to Build and Preserve Better Boundaries
Boundaries
How to set clear-cut boundaries in dysfunctional family relationships

*I will quote the Bible here to get at an age-old but important idea that is often glossed over. One of the Ten Commandments is, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you." In other words, you don't honor them because they somehow deserve it; you honor them so that you will not be cursed (in Old Testament times), you honor them because it's good for you. It will come back and somehow bless you in the long run.

  • Thank you for your response. It is reassuring to know that this is a common issue and everything you said makes sense to me. As an aside, I find it funny that you point how that I am not a mind reader. My dad loves to bring up how he is not a mind reader in situations where he is expecting me to read his mind. – Distant Son Feb 28 '17 at 15:35
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    I'm also wondering if it would not be better for the OP when he visits his parents to live at a nearby hotel. – Neil Meyer Mar 12 '17 at 11:00
  • @NeilMeyer - This is a good suggestion. Thanks for the comment. – anongoodnurse Mar 12 '17 at 18:11
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As someone who specializes in program development for special populations, (not to be confused with special needs), and having worked in community development with seniors for over 30 years, my colleagues and I know first hand that isolation and loneliness are epidemic amongst the elderly, at least in North America. Britain appointed a minister of loneliness for example. Adult children can play a major role in advocacy ie, helping parents to utilize services that help them to become more connected to community which in turn helps them to develop a stronger social network and receive appropriate care when in hospital or residence. Fact: incidences of elder abuse increase with isolation. Even if a relationship with a parent or parent(s) is not ideal, there should still be time set aside to make visits and interact enough to stay on top of a parent's needs and to assure advocacy when the time comes that it is required, either by the adult child or at least arranged by the adult child. One may wish to keep this in mind as parents age and begin to lose their friends through death. Also, they too will die some day and there will be no going back to make up for lost time and we dont want to end up with regret. The younger we are it seems, the longer we think we and our parents will live. Suddenly at a certain age, around 50, it increasingly feels like a time warp and that we cannot control what feels like time is rushing by so fast it is spiralling out of control. A day starts to feel like a few minutes.

Of course, adults have their own busy schedules and lives and parent manipulation and attempts at controlling their children are extremely unnerving, so of course reasonable boundaries need to be set. Settting boundaries does need to be done with sensitivity and in an adult-like manner.

We need to be careful not to dismiss a parent's need for love and reassurance as it can eventually lead to disaster.

If parents were or are abusive, this is far more complicated and seeking professional advice on how to handle such a situation might be considered.

On the subject of annoying however, weren't we sometimes extremely annoying as kids? Especially for those whose parents stuck it out for the long haul, demonstrated their love and provided for their children's basic needs to the best of their ability, and, with the understanding that they are imperfect, we can show them that we love them and, get ready, as this need is likely to increase as their own mortality gets closer and closer. Helping our parents to navigate (and even begin to think about) navigating their way to community activities and services to develop additional relationships can be very useful to all parties. That doesn't mean that when they do make new friends, it is time to throw in the towel.

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    +1 for multiple helpful suggestions. I think your use of guilt, however, makes this answer less useful than it could be. Maybe it's a cultural thing, but our parents brought us into the world, and they are responsible for us up to a certain point (which might be death if the child is seriously disabled.) It's not so the other way around. If parents are from unpleasant to toxic, it's the child's choice to forgive and give back/repair. I believe, maybe erroneously, that parents have an obligation to care for themselves and avoid being a burden, until they can't. – anongoodnurse Mar 31 '18 at 21:22
  • It is interesting, albeit unfortunate that you read into my message as a use of guilt. – Diane Doonan Apr 2 '18 at 0:08
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Okay from my own pov -- because there will be more than one answer.

You are an adult.

You are not accepting money from your parents.

You are willing to see them 3-4 times per year. Ask them to pick 2-3 of the times.

It is 8 hours of travel and you are willing and do talk on the phone bi-weekly.

They might be willing to travel IF they do not have to sleep on the couch. (I would not sleep on the couch either.) So bottom line here is, either you travel or they do. They won't without a bed at your end. Which is more trouble for you? Perhaps you could stay at a friend's place and let them use your place. (Just a thought.)

Adults do not let other people make decisions for them. You do exactly as you like, and like any other adult -- you take the consequences. Only you can decide what your family is worth to you. (If you were my kid I'd likely think you were not being very nice at all -- but you aren't my kid.) Consequences could range from not seeing your family, to no gifts, to no inheritance.

Talk. Set boundaries. They were young like you and had boundaries with their parents. They will likely appreciate you being respectful and honest. This is why you let them choose when most of the visits happen -- it means that when it means the most -- you will be there. Oh, and other stuff will happen that won't count as a visit -- weddings, funerals, important occasions, do not hold them or you to a set number -- be flexible -- it will pay in the long run.

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First, parent-child relationships typically change a lot when people move out. You shouldn't expect the same sort of arguments on visits. Your parents want you to visit. They know that only happens if you want to return. There is often a lot of tongue-biting during an adjustment period, but they love you and will try very hard to do what it takes to make you want to come back. That changes things significantly from when you were stuck under one roof. Also, many reasons parents and children argue (independence, chores, etc.) simply aren't there anymore.

Second, you really need to set some expectations, and make them reasonable. Just saying you don't want to visit your family for an unspecified period of time is frankly cruel. Pick a date you'll promise to visit, and say you need some space until then. Figure out an unselfish way to handle special events like birthdays in the meanwhile and communicate that. When you visit, if you plan to spend time with people other than your family during your stay, make sure to make the times clear up front. It doesn't have to be a big drama, just be an adult about it.

It's the uncertainty that's making this process more difficult than it has to be. It will be a lot easier if you stop making your parents guess about all the next steps. Yes, moms will always say they wish you visited more, but if you can remind them you have a visit planned, those wishes don't turn into nagging.

  • Can downvoters please explain their votes in a comment. – Neil Meyer Mar 12 '17 at 10:49
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You will never have your self-respect as long as you take your parents money. You may have considered there contributions to your living costs as being well-meaned but they seemed to want things in returns. You simply put have to make it your highest priority in life to make enough money to come out of your parents shadow.

Simply put, until you completely take care of yourself, your parents will always consider you a child and not a adult. You say you have a lease. Im not sure if that is American English for a mortgage or if it just means you are renting a flat. If you cannot afford the place you are in, move somewhere smaller and cheaper.

As for not seeing your parents anymore, I think this is a very good idea. When I moved out I still worked with my parents, so we still saw each other, but my parental relationships improved drastically because I made these big steps to being independant. My father saw me MUCH! More of a man and a equal when this happened, when I lived with him I was nothing more than a child.

You need to focus now on finding a career and a passion. When you get this and yes this could take years, you can reach back out to your parents and most probably your relationship will be much better.

  • I made the same error, Neil -- the OP is financially independent. I don't agree with never seeing his parents, but putting limits on it makes sense to me. – WRX Mar 12 '17 at 15:17
  • I misread the third point of the notes as them paying his rent. That makes a fair bit of this answer moot. – Neil Meyer Mar 12 '17 at 15:41
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    You can edit your own answer at anytime. Comments -- after 5 minutes we're stuck with them! – WRX Mar 12 '17 at 15:50
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Let me add ideas how to see your parents again. Somehow I think you want that, but without any obligation to do that regularly. You wouldn't ask this if you were happy with telephone contact only, right?

Another answer said the relation changes a lot when the child moves out. It was downvoted but I agree to this. Some things really change. Others don't.
You probably will no longer be expected to clean the garage and stuff like that. These problems should be out of sight now. Which doesn't mean there are no problems at all, of course.

In your current situation it's hard to know what you want. I suggest to see them, so you can evaluate that.

Visiting them or they visiting you really is not the best start.
Why not meet them somewhere in between. Make a city tour out of it. For several reasons.

  • You don't have to travel so far. This trip is worth doing for a single day only.
  • It's a clearly defined timespan. No "we'll see how long we stay", no "stay longer with us". Plan a day when you have to go to work on the day after. You have to be at home at xx:xx. Period.
  • It's without you/them sleeping at their/your place. This adds extra stress to the situation.
  • It is a neutral place. No complaining about how you live and how you should live instead. This takes away many chances and things to argue about.

You can prepare for some situations to argue, if there really is a reason to do so. Be honest, explain what you didn't like at home, why you don't want to start with a massive meeting (like several days). Explain in a neutral way, this should be a discussion only without a particular reason because you are not at anyone's home.

  • Of course it is easier to downvote instead of write a correction, but as many others too I'd like to know what is bad with this answer. – puck Apr 3 '18 at 11:45

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