Stuck in the middle

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    First off, I just wanted to say hello to everyone here! I’ve just recently signed up to be a part of TinyBuddha and all of the wonderful things it has to offer. I’ve been reading great posts of wisdom here and have been doing my best to apply them to my own life, and now I want to get more involved by helping however I can and in turn, seek out more wisdom.

    Which brings me to my topic. I admit I wasn’t sure where this topic was supposed to go, so if anyone thinks this is the wrong place to post this in, feel free to move it. But I wanted to talk about something that’s been on my mind lately and I wanted to get off of my chest as well as seek out some sort of solution towards it.

    So I live in a family of five, with myself as the middle child of three adult children. We’re a pretty close family, but as of late, I’ve been feeling some bottled up resentment and irritation towards them for one reason or another. I will warn ahead of time, this is going to be a long post because I’ve been keeping this in for a long time and I need to get it out there.

    My dad is a loving dad, supportive and fair, but sometimes, I feel he can be too controlling (in a loving way) and often discusses topics that drive me and the rest of the family insane at times (like hot political topics and what not) even though we don’t really want to hear them. We try to tell him, but I feel like he doesn’t listen or is so set in his mind to tell us whatever he thinks of such-and-such that he doesn’t stop to consider that his actions might have consequences on us. I also feel irritated by the fact that when we try to tell him to run an errand, he can do it and he often does a wonderful job, but other times, if the matter is not urgent or top priority, he takes even longer to complete said errand (fix hallway lights, painting ceilings, things like that).  Sometimes I feel like he’s a hypocrite and has an ego in some aspects and I hate having to see this side of him.

    My mom is also loving and supportive, but she can drive me up the wall too. She complains about a lot of things (like having the dishes done, the aforementioned hot news topics), and sometimes without warning me ahead of time, she’ll complain to me about our family like I’m her confidante even though I didn’t ask to be one. She also gets so defensive whenever someone in our family complains to her about whatever they don’t find appealing. This one time, my brother asked me to tell her about how he hated the way the folks organized our kitchen and when I did, she snapped at me. It hurt a lot. I also hate the fact that she acts like she’s the only one acting responsibly around the household when that is not true; we do our best to help out around the house but she acts like she’s the one with any real say in where things are handled and how she sees the house fit. Heck, anytime we do end up helping around the house, she either appreciates it or she goes into a panic mode because it doesn’t fit into her view (like if we clean out the fridge without her knowing for example). She also wants to give advice on how I should dress for certain events and while I do appreciate it, sometimes I think she forgets that I’m in my late 20s and can choose my own outfits just fine. She also has the tendency to be completely aggressively blunt to the point where I, or someone else, can feel hurt. She and my dad love to collect so much material stuff that it’s left me wondering if she can’t see past the end of her nose. I worry about her because she seems to keep a lot of emotion in and I have no idea if she’s aware of it or not.

    Speaking of my brother, he’s a great guy-he’s silly and intelligent, but he can be outright moody and irritable, and like my mom, he acts like he has the proper say in how the house should be run. He wants to help, which is good, but I’ve noticed it’s usually when we have never asked for his help and can handle things ourselves. This one time, I was making dinner, and he insisted on helping me with cutting something even though I did not want his help and have tried to subtly tell him to leave me alone. He has a very specific viewpoint of how things should be when at the end of the day, he’s not the main man of the house. He grumbles a lot about little things that I have to hear them when I don’t want to hear them and I’ve become so sick of his whining. He can also be very forgetful and put things off as well; whenever we’ve asked him to do an errand (clean out his room), he’ll say ‘I’ll do it, I’ll do it’, but never does. It doesn’t help that he works about five days a week, and while that’s not bad, I wish he’d spend more time actually completing the task as opposed to watching his favorite programs on Netflix. He gets extremely tense that I have to keep myself from reminding him of practicing what he preaches. He wants to practice Zen (or something akin to that), but how can he when he gets so irritated half the time?

    Last, but not least, my older sister. A nice sister, but I sometimes feel like I don’t know her anymore. She doesn’t live with us, so that may play a part in my feelings towards her. I’m going out of town this weekend to partly visit her, but I’m dreading it because like my mom, she can be critical about what I should wear even though I don’t want her help. I also am dreading the visit because whenever we’re together, she tries to grill me for any information on our parents and tries to talk about their flaws when I don’t feel comfortable talking about them with her, especially if I don’t have an answer for her questions. She also wants to find out what I want to do about my future while I’m content to figure it out for myself at my own pace instead of being thrown into questioning. I feel like the environment where she’s living has changed her so much, including her view on things. She can be so into politics that I’m left wondering if that’s all there is to her. I don’t want to discuss politics at all with anyone; I especially dislike how they can leave a negative impact on people, especially these days and I would rather focus on the things that are beautiful and leave a stronger impact on others than some negativity can any day.

    I feel like I’m the middle man in between all of this and acting as the main balance between everyone, and I’m at the point where I’m through acting like everyone’s confidante or on just sitting on the sidelines. I want them to handle their issues themselves because I feel like even though I have seen their issues unfold, I feel like talking to them about their issues is a surefire way to not only make them defensive (as in the case with my mom), but also assuring me, like I have nothing to worry about even though I’m observant enough to see through this facade. I’m mainly the quiet one in the family, so it’s equally annoying to not be able to say anything when everyone around you talks over you like you don’t have a say in the matter. I love them, but I’m a point where I need some advice on how to handle my family and live my life however I want to live it and not through some complaints or unwanted help. Should I stand up for myself or should I let life find a way?

    Thanks for listening and whatever advice you can give, I will appreciate it.


    Hi Franky,

    I had to smile while reading your post. Reads to me that you have a pretty nice family. Families go through changes and periods of “disequilibrium”, and it’s all normal. Significant changes in a family start to happen when children go through adolescence which started in your family many years ago, and again through emerging adulthood (ages 18-25) which you are also past now. Emerging adulthood is the age of identity explorations when people explore possibilities in love and work. It’s also the time when many people leave their families of origin and transform themselves – make independent decisions about what kind of people they wish to be and realize that they are not made only in the parents’ images. (Emerging adulthood doesn’t exist in all cultures, and I’m not sure what your culture is.) At the same time that all these changes are happening  for the adult children in a family,  parents are typically going through midlife which also impacts  the family system. Midlife can be difficult as it’s considered a time when people feel less energy, may have a decline in health, feel less attractive, less creative. It’s also a time when they may reexamine their lives and feel very dissatisfied. All of these changes create tension between parents and their adult children, and relationships between them typically improve once the young people leave the home. It’s all normal.

    You say, “I’m a point where I need some advice on how to handle my family and live my life however I want to live it and not through some complaints or unwanted help. Should I stand up for myself or should I let life find a way?” It may be time to start to think about leaving home, if possible. If this is not possible, talk to your parents about the way you feel, and listen to them when they tell you how they feel. Be aware and understanding of what each of you is going through. As far as your sister goes, if visiting her causes you distress, don’t visit her.

    Hang in there, Franky. It gets better.



    Dear Franky:

    My comment is regarding the first five paragraphs of your post: you stated that both your father and your mother are “loving and supportive”.

    When your father goes on and on about topics that distress you, and you told him that it does, that is not loving and supporting. When you figured that he doesn’t stop to consider the consequences  of his actions on you, that means  he  is not supportive.

    A loving and supportive person pays attention: if the consequences of his actions cause distress on the supposed “loved  ones”- he stops those actions.

    When your mother uses you as a confidante even though it distresses you (it is not a healthy role for a child to be a parent’s confidante)- not loving or supportive. When s he snaps at you or is otherwise aggressive, repeatedly, then she is… not loving and supportive.

    Both are probably loving and supportive at times, in certain contexts. Most parents are by feeding their children. But if a parent is repeatedly unloving in some ways, as the ways you described, that causes distress that is not resolved by the few things that are loving and supportive. Somehow, a parent needs to  be consistently loving and supportive. Not perfectly, of course, but consistently, paying attention and correcting their behavior when needed.


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