By Thomas Whitfield
This isn’t guy orientated, but I thought you might be able to help. My parents and I haven’t always gotten along, then initially rejected me because of my sexuality. It’s better now, but there is still a lot of distance. I think being an adult now takes a lot of the pressure off, but we’re not as close as I think I’d like to be. I’m not angry with them any more, I just don’t know how to connect. Do you have any tips for helping people mend relationships with their family? -Male, Gay, 26
One of the biggest mistakes I see with clients and their family members is trying to fix things too quickly. This is not an overnight change. There is no right thing to say or do to make everything better. What I recommend is making regular contact, either text or phone call, where there are specific things you want to share or talk about. Set an agenda for the call, limit the time to just a few minutes and begin with a call once a week. After you feel more comfortable with that, either make the time on the call longer or call more frequently. An agenda will allow you to stay focused and not fall back into picking apart the past (there’s plenty of time for that later after you’re talking regularly).
I hate going home for Christmas and genuinely don’t want to, but it’s out of my control, sort of. When I go home my ultra-religious parents try to guilt me into being straight. I know that sounds weird, but I don’t know how else to say it. They make comments like, “When you’re done with this gay stuff,” and, “It’s time for you to settle down with a girl so you can be happy.” My go-to for dealing with it has been to just ignore them and smile. It’s exhausting. I don’t want to fight with them about God. They’ll never change their views. I just want them to drop it and leave my sexuality alone. -Male, Gay, 23
You didn’t ask a specific question, but it sounds like you want someone to tell you it’s OK for you to have boundaries and demand respect, even from your family. Yes, you should tell them to drop it or they will risk losing you for the holidays. Tell them this before you go, then stick to your rules—and have a backup plan. Give them a warning the first time it comes up: “I said I wouldn’t tolerate listening to this any more, and I meant it. If it comes up again, I’m leaving.” Practice whatever it is you want to say, so you don’t have to think too much about it, then say it when appropriate, if needed (but don’t go looking for a fight). Chances are, they will come around and respect your boundaries more when you make it clear what happens if they don’t. Sometimes we have to treat our parents like they are children too.