Dear Amy: I’m a grown millennial. My parents are aging. Unfortunately, I don’t have much in common with them.
I live nearby and they want me to visit them every week.
They’re disorganized and I like to be organized.
They don’t plan for the future, and live day by day.
They are always in debt, while I am frugal. The list goes on and on.
We have different hobbies and religions, too.
It’s tough. They are over 70 and I’m dreading the caregiving years.
I can’t be the only person in this situation.
How should grown children deal with parents with whom they have little in common?
Dear Anonymous: If you are a parent, I hope my insight will help you to reframe your reaction; if you’re not — my thoughts might help to inform the way you see this issue.
The reason I raise this is because the experience of raising children can lend a useful perspective to the bookend experience of providing care to elders.
Those helpless infant and baby years, the trying toddler era, holding hands at the crosswalks, anxious nights, trips to the ER, soccer games, birthdays, holidays … these are all times when most parents give their all — even if their “all” is limited.
And if you’ve ever wondered what it was like to interact full time with someone with whom you have nothing in common — I suggest that you spend four or five years raising a teenager.
Given the level at which your parents function, they may have done a less-than stellar job meeting the standards most parents work so hard to reach, but — not to put too fine a point on it — you are alive. High functioning. They obviously care about you (and I assume that you care about them).
Here’s how adults in functioning families should deal with their aging parents: with compassion and patience.
Here’s how adults do deal with aging parents: with some frustration. Prepare yourself for some anxious nights, trips to the ER, holding hands at the crosswalks, etc.
It is vital that you take good care of yourself. This includes establishing boundaries, understanding that you will not be able to control or change them, and practicing the all-important level of compassionate detachment where you are able to enjoy some of your time with them, despite your differences in temperament and lifestyle.
Dear Amy: I was in a 13-year relationship with a man 17 years older than me.
I helped to raise his daughter, who gave me a beautiful grandson.
My ex and I were never in love. We never did anything together, and he was very emotionally abusive toward me.
I left him for another man my age. I am madly in love with my partner.
My new love and my ex hate each other.
My new love says that if I have contact with my ex, he will leave me.
The problem is that I constantly feel guilty that I left the other relationship.
I worry about my ex’s feelings, and so I talk to him behind my partner’s back.
I am tired of feeling guilty.
I’m tired of feeling obligated to my ex, and I know it will destroy my current relationship.
Can you help me to find some ways to let go?
Dear K: If you’re tired enough of this dynamic to ask me about it, then you should be ready to let go.
Your guilt over leaving an abusive relationship is misplaced, but you haven’t actually left. Guilt is part of the abuse cycle. As long as you let your guilt guide you, you’re still cycling.
You should ask yourself how this contact with an abusive ex serves you. Are you actually afraid of committing to your new love?
You’ve been engaged in something of a “soft exit” from your previous relationship. This has not worked, and so you should now actually break up.
The modern version of breaking up means disengaging across every platform. Doing this will clear the path for a healthier and more honest relationship with the man you love.
Dear Amy: I was so disappointed in your response to “Anxious,” who wanted to greet her new neighbors with a note stating that she has “severe social anxiety…” Thank you for further stigmatizing mental illness by suggesting that she change her note to state that she has “some health issues.”
Dear Upset: I don’t think it’s in a person’s best interest to be specific about their health to strangers. There is always time for that, later.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at email@example.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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