7 Things You Don't Owe Your Parents — Or Anyone
Lots of people have trouble saying "no" to anyone, but saying "no" to your parents can be particularly difficult. After all, most of us love our parents and are grateful for all they've given us. But there are some things you don't owe your parents, no matter how much they've done for you.
"You don’t actually owe your family anything," Carrie Krawiec, a licensed marriage and family therapist at Birmingham Maple Clinic in Troy, MI, tells Bustle. "Also, anything that feels owed or obligated often comes at the price tag of guilt or resentment, so families should reconsider using 'owe' as a method to coerce people and start to use free choice and a sense of autonomy, which yields more gratitude and pleasant feelings."
The many things you don't owe your parents include "time, money, a place to live, a job, your feelings, your thoughts, a shared opinion on any topic, your religious beliefs, your political beliefs, access to your children, your interests, access to your spouse or significant other, and immediate responsiveness," she says. "Now, you may choose to give one, more, or all of these, but you should feel empowered that it is your preference, choice, or that you elect to do it because the cost of not doing it is too high (conflict, some other loss or change in some other area)."
Here are some things you shouldn't ever feel like you owe your parents — or anyone, actually.
1. The Life They Want For You
Your parents may have dreams for your future, but they should never stand in the way of your own dreams. "Being an adult is the time to forge our own path, sometimes similar to our parents and other times completely different," relationship expert Marla Mattenson tells Bustle. "We never know which category we will fall into until we have the opportunity to make a choice that our family members would not make, would not agree with, or would flat-out reject.""
"You don’t have to conform to the path your family wants for you," she says. "It is a gift to understand that your path is different from your family, and that comes with making choices they may disagree with in business, relationship, and life."
2. Tolerance Of Mistreatment
If anyone in your family is mistreating you, you don't have to put up with it just because they're family. "We should not put up with being shamed, humiliated, bullied, betrayed, or abused (obviously, not physically or sexually, but also emotionally) in any way," psychotherapist Karen R. Koenig, MEd, LCSW, tells Bustle.
3. Sacrificing Who You Are
If pleasing your family means hiding parts of yourself or pretending to be someone you're not, you don't have to please them. "Sacrificing your sense of self to familial expectations is a good way to breed resentment, anger, and pain," Anna Poss, a therapist and owner of Anna Poss Counseling & Psychotherapy in Chicago, tells Bustle. "Healthy relationships allow you room to be your authentic self. If your family relationships do not allow for this, it may be time to think about setting boundaries."
Your choices or traits might make your family uncomfortable, but it's not your job to ensure their comfort. "So often, people hide their sexual and/or gender identities, their interests, their careers, and their truths from family because they believe it could make a relative feel uncomfortable," licensed social worker and LGBT expert Kryss Shane tells Bustle.
"This results in surface-level relationships and significant hardships during familial gatherings," says Shane. "While the words you choose when talking with your family should be kind, you are not obligated to be inauthentic simply because a relative might not like or feel comfortable with some aspect of your life and of who you are."
While many people's parents want to spend time with them, and doing so can be nice if you enjoy it, you don't have to spend time with them if it makes you unhappy or gets in the way of your goals.
"While putting time and energy aside for your family is important, your personal and professional goals are just as (if not more) important," licensed mental health counselor GinaMarie Guarino tells Bustle. "Sacrificing your goals, dreams, career, or future for your family shouldn't be expected of you and will likely lead to resentments if you do sacrifice too much for your family."
Nobody is responsible for anyone else's happiness. Of course, it's important to be kind to others, but you shouldn't have to tiptoe in order to keep anyone happy, your parents included.
"It is also important to make sure you understand the difference between taking care of your family and making them happy," says Guarino. "It is not up to you to please your family or make them happy. You can provide care and support, but you do not have to agree or go with everything that they say you should do or is important."
If you choose to have a close relationship with your family members, it can be great to feel like you all can count on one another. But that doesn't mean you have to let anyone in your family use you for every little thing they need help with.
"You don’t have to drop everything at the drop of a hat for a family member in need," Texas licensed marriage and family therapist Heidi McBain tells Bustle. "Stop and figure out what is best for everyone in the situation before you react and make a decision. It might be that you need to go help out, or it might be that someone else would be better suited to help at that moment in time. Take the time to figure it out first."
Some parents will guilt their kids into giving them things on the grounds that they raised them or paid for their education. But that may have been their choice, and you have no obligations in return. If you are willing and able to devote your time and attention to them, great. But if not, take care of yourself first.