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The Secret to Getting Along With Your Parents

Family

“My experience is that the teachers we need most are the people we’re living with right now.” ~Byron Katie

Nothing hurts like being misunderstood, and there is no place that this feeling runs rampant quite like it does with family.

I used to think I was the only one.

For years after I moved out, each visit back home would be preceded by careful, specific preparation. I would try to brace myself for whatever would be coming my way.

I would spend the entire two-hour bus ride turning all of the possible criticisms and probable arguments over and over in my head. I would rehearse ways I could react to various imagined scenarios.

I thought preparing myself would soften the blows. It didn’t.

Ram Dass once said, “If you think you are enlightened, go and spend a week with your parents.”

Imagine my embarrassment and hopelessness at thinking I’d finally cracked the secrets of peace and happiness, only to find myself welling up with the same old anger and resentment each time I faced my closest relatives.

Even after I began a journey of personal and spiritual growth, visits back home were toxic.

I would prepare. I’d show up. They would judge me. I’d react. Then, I would judge myself for letting their judgment get to me. Then, they’d judge me for letting it get to me. Then, I’d judge them for judging me. It would be a giant, exhausting mess.

Each time I returned home, I would be exhausted and wondering how I’d ever lived with these people in the first place.

One day, in the midst of recovering from such a visit, I found myself in an intimate conversation with a friend about beauty. She shared with me how she sometimes felt so disgusted by her reflection that she could hardly function.

I empathized, letting her know that I had suffered with that severity of self-hatred for close to ten years.

I said, “You know what I’ve learned? It wasn’t my reflection that was hurting me. It was my expectation that, every time I looked in the mirror, I would discover someone else, some other person who wasn’t me. Jennifer Aniston maybe? But Jennifer Aniston never showed up. It was always just same, old me. That was what really hurt—the expectation that was never met.”

Immediately after the words poured out of my mouth, my mind lit on fire.

I realized, with stark clarity, that the same relationship I used to have with my reflection, I was having with my parents. I kept showing up, time after time, expecting different people to magically appear.

I kept expecting that they would change.

When I told my partner about my epiphany later that evening, he looked amused. I asked him why he was smiling like that.

He told me, “This is what I’ve been trying to tell you. I’ve definitely said this to you. Many times! You’ve said it to me too!”

I was surprised, but not for long. I thought about my relationship with myself and how I’d heard messages of self-love, self-acceptance, and self-forgiveness, but it took me years to truly internalize them. Maybe that’s how it was with my parents. It wasn’t that I didn’t know the answer. I just had to be ready to experience it.

The next time I went home, it was like a whole new world. I didn’t brace myself for criticism, nor did I plan my words. I just showed up with the assumption that, maybe, they would never change.

This simple belief completely transformed my relationship with them. Suddenly, I could see them for who they were. They were, and always will be, flawed and beautiful, just like me.

I could suddenly smile at their criticism and laugh at their judgment. I could embrace them even if they didn’t feel like embracing me. I could understand them even if they misunderstood me.

I used to think that people who had good relationships with their parents had perfect parents.

That’s just not true.

People who get along with their parents have just as many family conflicts as anyone else. They just choose to accept those conflicts as part of life, and love their kin anyway.

For me, learning to accept my family, just as they are, opened up new doors of opportunity.

Right after I started practicing understanding and acceptance toward them, I got the inspiration to work on a book. I got the passion to start my own business. I got the courage to speak my message loudly.

All these things happened within a few months of my epiphany, and I can’t pretend that the timing was a coincidence.

I honestly believe that our expectations of our families, our own judgments about them, hold us back in ways we can’t even imagine. I honestly believe that, if you can learn to love your parents, just as they are, you’ll unlock boundless potential within you. I truly believe that this is the one missing piece that most people don’t realize is missing.

Of course, it’s not easy. Nothing worth having is easy, but it’s always simple.

And this is my simple message, today and forever: accept and allow. That is the path toward peace, love, and serenity.

Photo by pilostic

Profile photo of Vironika Tugaleva

About Vironika Tugaleva

Vironika is an inspirational speaker, life coach, and author of the award-winning book The Love MindsetVironika helps people cultivate self-love, heal mental and emotional suffering, develop healthy self-care habits, build deeper relationships, and unleash their potential to change the world. Read more about Vironika here and get a free sneak preview of The Love Mindset.

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  • T

    That was a beautiful post Vironika. Just recently through art therapy, using little figurines, I was able to for the first time see my parents, as more than just my parents. They were human beings, like the rest of us, with flaws and all. Dad was the Wizard and mum was Mrs. Bennet from pride and prejudice. The reality, about expecting them to be the kind of parents I hoped they would be, instead of accepting the kind of people they are. And since then there has been a tremendous change in the way I view my reality with respect to my family. In fact since my hyper reaction to their views about thing has stopped, they have become more open than I would have ever dreamed of. It’s like some sort of a pressure has gone. That pressure was all in my head. Pressure of what a family is ‘supposed’ to be. And I can truly say I love them, and know in my heart they love me, just as we are.

  • Absolutely beautiful Vironika! I think this is true not just for parents, but for any relationship. Simply letting go of your own expectations of them, instead looking inward and changing yourself, the way you view them, the lens in which you see them and the relationship you have with them. The process of letting go opens the door to spaces that have been dying to be exposed. Love this piece so much! I think it’s very much relateable across the board. Thanks for sharing.

  • iamthisage

    It took me a long time to accept my mother’s narcissism. Even today some days are better than others when it comes to my expectations of her. One of the epiphanies I had was when I realized that how my mother related to me was a result of how she navigated the world around her. That helped to set me free. There is a grieving process that comes with this realization, and even at this age, as my younger brother copes with pancreatic cancer and my mother runs away to France, I am feeling challenged by my own response. I’d like to spend more time criticizing her, but energy is precious and while I get to be sad and angry, my energy is better spent forging the path that the universe has given me because along that path are people who love and “see” me.

  • Jennifer

    This couldn’t have been more timely and many of the comments are as helpful as the articles. I’m in the process of discovering this acceptance now. And while I’m not there, I’m certain this article and a few of the responders pushed me several steps ahead of where I was this morning. Thank you, all of you.

  • Amanda

    well said. I have had nearly the same experience except I still live with my parents.

  • Then this lesson has definitely been an important one for you!! 🙂

  • This is such an amazing story, T! I love how you say that, since you’ve changed, they’ve changed. Funny how that happens, isn’t it? Sounds like you’re in an amazing place on your journey. Keep on walking, love warrior! 🙂

  • You are so welcome, Eric. You know, the other day, I saw a piece of graffiti that said: “Expectation is the root of all heartbreak.” Bathroom wisdom strikes again!

  • Yes, time is very important. We either spend our time criticizing or loving. We cannot do both. And, at the end of our lives, we will feel that choice so powerfully – the choice that was made for us if we did not make it intentionally. Surrender, my friend. Everything is really very beautiful and nothing is so tragic as regret.

  • ashhed77

    I find that every time I feel able to accept my mother’s narcissism that she does something else and I’m suddenly at square one, having to grieve and accept it all over again. When people talk about forgiveness and expectations, it seems that there is an assumption that it is not an ongoing process, it’s easy to forgive yesterday but not so easy to forgive the everyday constant. I guess that goes back into expectations of change which are futile. It’s just so painful, no matter how my energy is spent. Sadness and anger, yes, are hard, but even harder is the empathy I feel towards her. When it concerns my mother, I just wish I couldn’t feel at all.

  • Gosh what a great post and so very true. It’s funny when you say ‘your mind was on fire’ about your new revelation. I have that too. Mine is with my mother. Everything I expect her to be different, to be someone she isn’t and each time I am disappointed. I even know it when I do it yet I still feel that way. It’s learning to except, to change your own expectations and be happy with what will be will be. It’s kind of a control thing that you have to let go of, plus the attachment we form with regard to our nearest and dearest. If we loosen the grip a little bit and realised that we all are learning in some way or another than we are all in the same boat, so we can then feel empathy for them. A great honest post and I am so glad you shared, I think we can all learn something from it. Thank you

  • Love that quote! or Graffiti art!

  • T

    Thanks Vero. I guess it’s same for anyone, we all know what we should do, but something clicks in the head one day, and then it just gets very easy doing what we should have been doing to start with. ‘When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.’ read this somewhere a long time ago, finally beginning to understand it. Good luck with you journey of love too :). Xx

  • To love my parents unconditionally is very difficult. There is such an inter-generational difference that is so heartbreaking. I feel like they will never understand me, but that is no reason to stop loving them.

    Because I would not be where I am without them. And that’s the truth. It was just crazy to grow up and find out these people are actual human beings who makes mistakes, have vulnerabilities, and who failed more than they succeeded. But that’s how we all are.

    This article gave me much food for thought. Thank you!

  • Shelby

    I’m 46 and have never had an easy relationship with my mother. However, now that I am the mother of a 16 yr old girl, I look back and hate myself for being such a brat. I know as teens we don’t realize the depth of our words or actions, but hearing those same words coming from my daughters mouth is soul crushing. It really is true, what comes around, goes around!!

  • Meghan

    You’ve got me in tears!! I’m a parent of a teen (ugh) and I look back on how nasty I was at the same age, not realizing until much later that my parents were people; human beings like everyone else!! Your words are so true!

  • Guest

    What a magical article and so very true. My parents and sister, truly don’t understand me at all or the spiritual work and journey that I’m on. It’s a blessing to know other people have been through similar. Thank you for a beautiful ‘message’. Love, light and harmony. Tammy

  • What an absolutely magical message to share. My sister and parents don’t understand me at all and the spiritual path that I am taking. It’s lovely to read that other people have also been through this and got through. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful story. Love, light and harmony. Tammy xxx

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  • Reb135

    “I could suddenly smile at their criticism and laugh at their judgment. I could embrace them even if they didn’t feel like embracing me. I could understand them even if they misunderstood me.”
    … This moved me.

    Parents can surprise you, especially as we all get older. My father has become a little more affectionate over the years. I will never forget how out of the blue, I received an email from him saying how proud he was of me. He had never said anything like this before and it makes me cry to this day when I think about it.

  • You are so right. It is a process, like any change. Keep on going 🙂 You’ll find your acceptance of her mirrors your acceptance of imperfection in yourself and in the world! Keep on going!

  • I feel you! I got an “I love you” the other day. Blew me right out of the water. I suppose we reap what we sow 🙂

  • Yes! I’ve felt this as well. Somehow, I’m grateful that I can feel the pain I’ve caused others. It seems to balance things out, doesn’t it?

  • “I feel like they will never understand me, but that is no reason to stop loving them.” Yes, Kevin. That is perfectly true. And how liberating! No need to be understood by them (which might just be an illusion anyway!)

  • You are so welcome, Paula! Thank you for your gratitude and engagement.

    I think the funniest thing is when we realize that we need to release our expectations about our releasing of our expectations. 🙂

  • Danielle Dinh

    I was expecting some magic elixir but your real advice just hits the mark. We are often hurt because we expect too much of our family. Articles like this help me to internalize it more. Thanks!

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  • Katydid

    Sometimes I think parents judge their adult children because they have what I call “the story in their head”. Parents see their children’s gifts when they are young, and begin thinking about what their child will excel at – a journalist, or an MLB player, or a concert pianist. When the child goes off in a different direction it can be nearly impossible to lose that story in their head, and not be angry that their child is not doing what Mom and Dad think they would be successful doing.

    I am 56. My parents (who are now gone) had a story I did not follow, and it was tough having a relationship with them. They were rarely happy with anything I did. I found living in another state helped. It made it easier to be around them in “doses”.

    My brother often pushed my buttons. He knows everything and is always right (older brother syndrome?). Eventually, I was able to just listen to him talk … and talk, but not take him so seriously that I would get irritated.

    Also, parents have a hard time letting go of their children, and not continuing in the role of giving “helpful advice”, which is often viewed as criticism. We have so much experience, and we think if we try to help you, you will avoid all the stupid stuff we did when we were younger, but really, we all have to do the stupid stuff to grow up. It’s just painful to watch our children go through hard times or suffer from bad decisions.

    And … keep the thoughts in mind you have today when you have children. What kind of relationship will you create with them? Judgement and criticism free?

  • t

    needed this today. Thank-you : )

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  • Thank you for reading! 🙂

  • You are so welcome, Danielle! And, really, isn’t love the only kind of magical elixir? 😉

  • This is so true. And I think that judgment comes, originally, from deep self-judgment. Parents who accept themselves as real, flawed, authentic human beings can easily do so to their children.

    A parent who follows their dreams will never squash their child’s dreams. But those who follow the way of the box? Of course they will tell their children to get into the box. Why wouldn’t they?

    We only treat others as well as we treat ourselves. I think with a heaping dose of self-love, we can become better parents, better friends, better humans. 🙂

  • You are so welcome 🙂

  • Right back to you, Tammy! Keep walking with pride and love. They might change their views when they see how happy it’s making you 🙂

  • Yes! Love that quote too. Thank you for sharing.

  • Twan

    Thank you Veronika. This post is very insightful.

    I love my family very much, but visiting them always makes me feel empty and misunderstood. I guess it´s so hard to be with them, since they are the ones that raised you and imposed their view of life on you. It feels like they emit a magnetic power that tries to pull you back into your old thought patterns and way of life.

    I assume my parents will never see life the way I do, and maybe they will remain judging and creating conflicts and drama for the rest of their lives. I guess you´re right, and it is best to just accept them as they are, not expecting them to change.

  • Kate Markg

    hello

  • Lin

    Thank you Vironika for this beautiful post. I have been thinking the same thing many times, but I always have to remind myself when I meet with my mother. She is a very narcissistic person, and everything that goes wrong in her life is always my or my sisters fault. I hoped for years that she would change and I was always hurt every time we met, because no matter what I do, she always finds something to complain about. Accepting her the way she is is really the only way to deal with her.

  • Marina Yamamoto

    I just found this article after spending a week with my mom.. Just when I think I’ve learned the art getting along with her, I realize we will always have our struggles. I had to look up how common it is to not get along with your mother, as sort of a way for me to just accept it.

  • emilia

    Thank you so much… I’m literally in tears right now. All my life my parents and I (especially my mum) would go through non stop arguments, criticisms, judgements etc. I would hate her for making me feel so bad about myself, than I’d feel guilty because I would think if I was the kinda daughter my mum wanted me to be we would not go through all these endless arguments. I came to point where I just stopped responding, when she would start scolding me I’d walk away and this led me to always trying to avoid her. I hated going home because that meant another argument would take place, when I would be home I’d lock myself in the room just to avoid arguments. I hated how all this affected me because I’m enlightened and should know better. I remember telling my friends that for some reason my mum brings out the worst in me, I’d be filled with all these negative feelings and no matter how hard I try via meditation, chakra cleansing I’d find it hard to be peaceful n calm around her. I would constantly prepare myself for the speeches, the criticism, the throwing of my past mistakes into my face.

    what made me more sad was that every time I’d say ok no more I’m over it, she wont get to me anymore but once more I’d find myself crying because if her and the things she says.

    Id feel bad because my friends would constantly here me complain or vent about my mum. In my head I was like how am I enlightened if I’m still going through all this.

    But today your article gave me hope. thank you so much for that.

    namaste

  • Sachi

    I can relate to this post so much. Going through something similar with my mom, and my friends hear about it all the time too. It is a constant cycle of me reacting negatively to things she says to me, and then feeling bad about being this angry, horrible person to her. The last few days I have just felt like we should lead separate lives, and I’ve been avoiding interacting with my parents as much as possible. This post also gives me hope, and I will try to practice more acceptance towards them.