Q: I'm a grown woman with young children of my own, but my mom is still trying to control my life. She insists that we need to be "best friends" and reacts harshly if my husband and I connect with anyone else in our extended family without her being present. What can I do?
Jim: Healthy boundaries are good for all kinds of relationships, even between members of the same family -- especially relationships with controlling and manipulative personalities.
If your mom would actually be open to hearing your concerns, I'd suggest you (carefully and prayerfully) talk to her about your feelings. You might say something like, "Mom, I want very much to have a meaningful relationship with you, but only on the following terms." Then let her know that she simply doesn't have the right to hold you accountable for the time you choose to spend with other people. If she listens and agrees, you've gained your point.
If she refuses to listen -- and based on your description, she might -- you really have no choice except to back off and keep your distance. You can see her on holidays and at major family gatherings, but you'd be wise to keep your connection with her as light, cordial and superficial as possible.
You may feel as if you're losing an important relationship, but the truth is that there really isn't any relationship to lose. Honoring your parents doesn't necessarily imply that you must go along with everything they want you to do, especially when you're a full-fledged adult. There are ways to "honor" someone without giving in to unreasonable demands and sacrificing your own self-respect.
If you think it might be helpful to talk your situation over with a member of our staff, I invite you to contact Focus on the Family's Counseling Department. Call 855-771-HELP (4357) for a one-time free consultation.
Q: Is it reasonable to think of my husband's obsession with video and online games as an addiction? Every night when he comes home from work, he goes straight to the television or computer. On weekends he devotes hours on end to gaming. I'm very concerned about his behavior. Am I making a mountain out of a molehill?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: Most people consider addiction to be related to substances like drugs or alcohol. In reality, addiction can involve anything that becomes such a priority to a person that he or she is willing to neglect friends, family, faith, responsibilities and even physical health to pursue it. Clearly, electronic games can produce this kind of addictive behavior.
This may sound extreme, but it needs to be said: Your description of your husband's behavior leads me to believe that he may need formal intervention, such as that used in dealing with an alcoholic. Focus on the Family's Counseling Department (see above) can help you with referrals to qualified therapists in your area.
A local counselor will likely want to enlist some of your husband's friends or family members, and perhaps your pastor. There may be a need for a group of you to sit down with your husband and confront him about his problem. In the best-case scenario he will admit that something needs to be done. He may even express a willingness to get help with his addiction. But there's also the possibility that he will react defensively and deny that anything is wrong. If that happens, you and the counselor will need to make some tough decisions about what to do next.
Regardless of the course of action you choose, you'll need the continuing support of friends, family, church and a caring therapist. I wish you the best.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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