The Control Business

There are a lot of parents in this world, even parents of adult children in their thirties or forties or beyond, who seem to think they can continue to control the lives of their children who have lived on their own for years.  The one I hear about most often is the parent who decides that their adult son or daughter shouldn’t get married to whomever they are engaged to and so they declare that they will not attend the wedding – often throwing in that they won’t have anything to do with their now adult child and his or her new spouse – if they don’t listen to the common sense the parent is providing and call off the wedding.  There are only two problems with that approach.  The first is that it’s none of any parents business who their adult children decide to marry and, second, the approach doesn’t work.  In fact, even in the unlikely circumstance that your daughter is about to run off and marry Gengis Kahn, the only thing your little manipulation exercise will succeed in accomplishing is that she will run all the faster.

Most often, though, the dreaded future son or daughter in law isn’t nearly as bad as the imagination of the parents who are threatening boycott, and most of the issues are inside of the aforementioned parents.  If I could ask these parents just one question, it would be “who in the world do you think you are?”  Of course, I would have follow-up questions as well, and recommendations of a good therapist so that Mommy and Daddy can work on their own issues instead of imagining them in their adult children.  In almost every case of controlling and manipulative parents I have encounters the only thing they have succeeded in achieving are the same people they have tried to control.  Certainly, brides and grooms are sad when their family doesn’t show up for their wedding, but they also tend to wake up to just how unhealthy their families of origin really are.  Boycotting parents don’t usually consider the fact that the people who do come to the wedding are likely to ask where the boycotting parents are – and they will be told the truth.  Now even if they succeed in getting back into their adult child’s life, they will have a lot of damage control to do with the people who were at the wedding.

The most frustrating thing about these situations is that the boycotting parents seldom realize that their child’s marriage decision isn’t any of their business – but they still cause the equivalent of a family civil war with their attempts at control.  As in so much of life, if people learned to worry about their own stuff and not worry about everybody else’s, the world would be a better place.

Now, suck it up and get to that wedding before everybody realizes what a jerk you are!

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