Some Boundaries almost 2nd Nature, Yay Me!!

One of my relatives likes to call at around 10pm or 10:30 on a regular basis.  The latest I ever get up on a workday is 7am.  Usually, it’s closer to 6am or sometimes 5-5:30 am if I’m going to the gym.  Even though I have a really hard time with insomnia, I at least like to try to go to bed somewhere between 10 and 11 pm. 

 I normally let his calls go to voicemail because it can take 20 minutes to get him off the phone even if I tell him I’m about to go to bed or I haven’t eaten yet (when he calls when I just get in the door).  But another relative in that branch of the  family is going through a tough situation with domestic violence and she’s young and has a baby.   I’d offered to see if I could find any resources for them and had sent her some information earlier in the day.  I thought the phone call might be in regard to that.    So I picked up.  I asked how things were, no mention of a crisis.   So I mentioned that I was about to go to bed and asked, “is everything ok?”  When he replied yes,  I said I was glad to hear that and I looked forward to catching up this weekend when I had time to chat.  I had to repeat it a couple of times, but I was off the phone in 10-15 minutes, which is a lot less than usual with this relative.  And I managed to do it without offending him.

In the past, I would have stayed on the phone and resented it.  Or I would have got impatient and maybe a bit snippy and/or distracted.    Instead, I was able to get off the phone and decide on a time when I’m more able to chat.    I didn’t have a problem with making my needs, in this case the need to get to sleep at a reasonable hour,  known.  Letting voice mail pick up works too, but I wanted to make sure I was there if my younger relative who’s going through a tough time needed anything.  If she had, that would have outranked my need for sleep (or attempts at it, fell asleep around midnight, with several awakenings).

As I got off the phone, I actually did a little boundary dance as setting that boundary came very naturally and didn’t reequire a whole lot of thought/planning.  And it was done in a win/win way.  It feels good that it’s becoming more second nature to me.

6 thoughts on “Some Boundaries almost 2nd Nature, Yay Me!!

  1. Wow, I just posted the following yesterday on an online forum

    Hi everyone.
    My mum, who lives interstate, has been diagnosed with bipolar in the past and more recently, histrionic personality disorder and somatization. She is a difficult person and fairly self absorbed. This is not just my opinion. I am an only child (aged 43) and have an elderly step father (86) who has the patience of a saint but calls me regularly to offload about her behaviour. (although he does not confront her about it) She refuses to recognise that she has any mental health issues and believes that Christians don’t suffer from depression.
    I have had major depression with anxiety/ocd since the birth of DD1 aged 6. I now have DD2 aged 1.
    I recently returned to work part-time and have been a little symptomatic.
    My mum does not know that I work as she feels that it is wrong for mothers to work.
    She sends me pages of religious literature, including books on the evils of “my little pony” a toy she knows my daughter plays with…
    My mum sleeps all day (until about 4 pm) and stays up all night (until about 4 am)
    She likes to call me at night and talk for long periods, mainly about her health or religious issues.
    Yesterday I rang her in the afternoon and she said coldly “You should know by now what time to ring me – late afternoon or evening” I responded “You should know by now that I have 2 young children and that is the busiest time of the day” (btw I was calling her at 5 pm…trying to cook dinner and amuse everyone) She then said she didn’t know why I call earlier in the day as my father (step dad) doesn’t want to talk to me as he knows I should be talking to her!
    Anyway I saw red, told her she was self-absorbed, not normal in sleeping all day and giving me such a small window of opportunity to call her etc etc – she told me to “repent” for being disrespectful to my mother…I told her not to provoke her child to wrath! She hung up…My step father is apparently furious with me for stepping over the line…
    No contact since. (apart from a telephone message by me immediately after saying perhaps we could agree on a mutually convenient day and time each week to call)
    The call was probably a minor issue in the big scheme of things but I have reached a point where I recognise the dysfunction for what it is, that I am probably not going to change her and I need to respond in a more open, mature and adult way as I am sick of being treated like a child, need to set proper limits on her behaviour etc etc etc, be a good role model for my daughters etc
    My question (yes there is one!!) – should I write a letter to her setting out my wish for a better relationship with her but my need for her to accept me as I am, tell her truth about my life and to stop being authoritarian (or if she can’t stop that I will have to terminate calls etc) and start trying to be assertive rather than remaining passive (as I usually do) and having resent and anger build up? However I suspect she will respond with a 20 page discourse refuting everything…
    I am not sure where to go from here and would appreciate any advice?

    stumbled across this sight after researching about boundaries, limits, personality disorders etc and having a lightbulb momen

    1. Marianne,

      Sorry you have to deal with all of that on top of taking care of small children and working. I’m not too familiar with Histronic Personality Disorder, but I do know it’s part of Cluster B Personality Disorders and it’s in the same family as Borderline Personality Disorder & Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Here’s an overview of Cluster B you may want to read if you’re not already familiar with it:

      Some of the books I’ve found helpful in understanding the personality disordered people in my family & setting boudaries are listed below, you can look them up at and some have tables of contents and sample pages. Some of the boundary stuff may be helpful with HPD, but I’m not very familiar with HPD.

      1) Mean Mothers: Overcoming the Legacy of Hurt by Peg Steep

      2) Will I Ever Be Good Enough: Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers by Karyl McBride

      3) Children of the Self Absorbed: A Grown Up’s Guide to Getting Over Narcissistic Parents by Nina W. Brown

      4) Understanding the Borderline Mother: Helping Her Children Understand the Intense, Unpredictable and Volatile Relationship by Christine Ann Lawson.

      There’s a forum for family members of BPD called BPD Family. Personally, I find it’s a bit too close to the Kumbaya Forgiveness Police side for my taste, but it may be worth a look to see if anything resonates there as a lot of the members have very valid and interesting insights into boundaries and other issues adult children of parents with PDs face. Ostesnibly, people who are no contact or limited contact with their family member with a PD are welcome. But I’ve noticed when people vent anger and a lot of other people start chiming in with their own anger, they’re accused of group think and reminded that they might be hurting the feelings of BPDs reading it. I understand BPDs are ultra sensitive to things and I’d never go on a site intended for them to vent my anger, but I also think survivors who’ve been abused by BPDs need a space where they can let out their feelings withoug being censored, which is why I don’t participate there any longer (my mother exhibits behaviors of both NPD & BPD, I’m not sure which she is).

      Shrink4Men is geared towards men who are or who have been in relationships with Cluster Bs. As well as family members who want to support them. Personally, even though it’s not geared for the children of parents with PDs, I find it a much more comfortable space because as long as you’re respectful of other members, you can vent feelings about the abuse the parent with the PD has inflicted upon you.

      You also may want to consider starting a blog of your own. I was inspired to do this when I read One Angry Daughter and Narcissists Suck. It seemed like a great way to process what I was going through and seeing other daughters going through it let me know I wasn’t alone. WordPress is pretty easy to use and you can make it private so that just you can read it if you don’t feel comfortable having it “out there”. Links to both of those blogs should be in my list of blogs. Narcissists Suck would probably be helpful as far as boundaries. The author is also involved in her church and has a PDed mother who would try to use God against her. She also had a nasty run in with a narc in her congregation. I’m not religious or overly familiar with scripture, but Anna Valerious (nom de plume of the blogger) quotes scripture, etc. which refutes some of the nonsense some abusers quote to religiously justify their abuse.

      Parents are deified in our culture. Mothers even more so. Which can make it very lonely when our mothers are mentally ill and abusive.

      As to contact, once we accept the fact that our mothers can’t truly mother us because of their illnesses, we need to decide what we need to do for our own healing and well being. Quite simply, we can’t have a close relationship with a mother who is ill with a Cluster B illness. They will draw us in and take everything we have until there’s nothing left. So our choices are Limited Contact or No Contact. This site is in regard to divorce with a high conflict personality, but I think it’s a good overview of the basics:

      There are a lot of different factors which go into deciding limited contact or no contact. No Contact often involves collateral damage when it comes to folks like your stepdad and extended family. I lost some of them when my bro & SIL decided to go NC with me after an argument which resulted from their solidarity with my mother’s smear campaign. My mother then went NC with me.

      Another factor is how well does the parent with the PD respect the boundaries you set? My mother won’t respect boundaries. When I set ones she couldn’t cross (e.g. staying in a hotel and renting a car the last time I was in the same area as her instead of staying with her and relying upon her for transportation), she was angry and commenced a smear campaign as well as berating/shaming/yelling at me at least twice during the visit.

      In your case, provided limited contact is acceptable to you, talk to her about setting a mutually agreeable time. If you can find one, give it a try. But don’t give her any info she can use against you, keep things very neutral and unemotional. Topic changes can work well. I don’t think the relative who inspired this blog entry of mine is PDed, but he does tend to ramble on and try to impose his political views on others. I’ve found topic changes work well. I know some of his interests, such as hunting, so I’ll bring that up when he starts talking politics. It seems to work well.

      Also, avoid being alone with a parent with a PD. Many of them will only attack when they’re alone with their prey/child or in the presence of the parent’s apologists/enablers.

      I’m glad this posting helped you, I’ve been greatly helped by a lot of what I’ve read by other daughters, it’s nice to have the chance to return the favor.

      1. PS: I realized I forgot to address the letter you were thinking of. During my first estrangement with my mother, also initiated by her, back when I was 24, I tried to set some boundaries in a letter. Bascially, my condiditons for reconciliation/resumed contact were:

        1) no physical violence
        2) no screaming and cursing at me

        She wrote a letter back accusing me of making false allegations of child abuse. I’d referred to an incident where she tried to choke my brother because she didn’t like his driving, she got nastier to her golden child when I left for college. You can write a letter, but you may want to focus more on the boundaries than any past incidents, which she may deny.

        Also, If you haven’t already, I recommend building on and developing relationships with people who can be your “family of choice”, especially maternal figures. I’ve developed a relationship with my great aunt, though it’s sometimes strained by my mother’s smear effort. I also look up to a good friend’s mom as a maternal figure. My friend and her sister joke around that I’m the 3rd daughter her mother didn’t know she had! 🙂 This is a great comfort and can really help, particularly if you wind up in a no contact situation.

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