Detaching with Love: Setting Boundaries with Difficult Elderly Parents
While detachment with love has traditionally been applied in situations where a loved one is struggling with addiction, it can also be used in other contentious relationships—especially those with individuals who have mental health disorders like borderline personality disorder (BPD) and/or narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). By giving up the notion that you can control a dysfunctional person’s behavior, you stop allowing them to control your emotions and behaviors. It’s hard and takes practice, but detaching works for many.
When you acknowledge that you cannot control or satisfy a toxic individual, you stop enabling them. They are then left to deal with the consequences of their decisions and behaviors. Conversely, the person who has been pushing your buttons will start to see that these old triggers no longer elicit the desired reactions: making you anxious, fearful, or angry. Detaching with love means that you affirm your love for the person but also make it clear that you will not tolerate being manipulated with fear, obligation, or guilt. This strategy is more about self-preservation and choosing not to participate in problems that are not yours than it is about tough love.
Randi Kreger, international expert on the effects of BPD and NPD on friends and family members, and co-author of Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder, stresses the “with love” component of detaching.
This excerpt from one of Kreger’s workbooks illustrates how detaching involves a delicate balance of caring without participating in the emotional dramas a parent creates…
Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories. “For anyone having to walk the last segments of life with a loved one, read this.” …Delores
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