By Carol Traulsen
Have you crossed the line from caring to overbearing? Are the people who are the most important to you running the other way? No matter how much we love our friends, children or spouses we can’t protect them from pain or bodily harm, nurse them through sickness or solve all of their problems. Even if we could, we shouldn’t. How do we know when we’re giving too much? If your children refer to you as Smother, you’re overbearing. You’ve gone from caring to overbearing if you’ve called your spouse’s boss to demand a raise. Do you tell others how to raise their children? Do you have an issue with respecting boundaries? If your friends are afraid to tell you about their problems for fear you will want to “fix it” for them you have crossed the line.
Let’s examine the reasons for the behavior first. It comes from love and from fear. We don’t want the people we care about to experience pain- emotional or physical. When we see someone we love in pain we strive to fix it. When we see potential go untapped we want to draw attention to it. When we see a wrong, we wish to right it for someone we love. Most of us stop short of invading our friend’s and loved one’s lives in the name of fixing them. We learn that as adults we can commiserate, share, and brainstorm, but we can’t solve the problem for them.
Overbearing behavior is usually a desperate attempt to hang on to a person or a relationship. We are afraid that if we are just ourselves it won’t be enough. We feel like we need to be Super Friend, Super Spouse or Super Mom. We get good at sorting out our own lives and want to share it with others we see who are struggling. If we can just fix it they will be happy or fulfilled or untroubled. We see it through our own lens. However, if we “fix it” there is no valuable lesson, no growth, no change and no independence. No matter how much we want to we must resist the urge to live next door to our children and monitor their every move. It is painful to watch someone we love try to find their way in life and make mistakes. Don’t worry so much and take the pressure off of yourself. Eventually people get the hang of it. You did. Have faith in your friends and family. You selected them. They really will be okay without you to fix everything or offering your opinion without being asked. Your relationships will be stronger as a result. Fight the urge to fix your children’s problems. All you really need to do is listen to them carefully and be sympathetic. Then, offer your best advice like: “I hate that for you, but I know you can handle it.” Trust me, they can handle it! The next time a friend tells you her woes, listen, offer support and tell her how proud you are of her strength and problem solving ability. It will make you a caring friend not an overbearing one. This is painful for most parents; we hate to see our kids struggle to find their way. I can speak to this- it’s happening right now in my life!
If you think you’re overbearing, it’s ok! Just count to ten before you put your two cents in. Better yet, wait until you’re asked. If no one asks DON’T OFFER IT! You’re not the only one with the answers. If someone is doing something you don’t approve of, remind yourself that you aren’t the judge and jury of everyone’s life and that sometimes you might know what’s best, but maybe not what’s best for that person. I promise the world won’t come to an end if they don’t do it your way.