photographed by Megan Madden
The seating arrangements at a wedding. Laundry. Christmas dinner. Donald Trump. Love. Grandchildren. Voice messages. The wall color in the bedroom. Feminism. Birthday gifts. The time intervals between phone calls. Permissive women. Tomatoes. These are just a few of the topics the adult women I spoke to for this article have been arguing about with their parents lately. To quarrel with our parents, we should all be too old for that by now. However, a short survey of women over 20 in my environment showed that we are obviously never too old to yell “Mom, that's enough!”.
If you argue with your mother or father, or both together, there is one thing you should know: you are not alone in this. I used social media to search for people who, as adults, still get into regular arguments with their parents. The result was overwhelming. There are a lot of people out there for whom the years of conflict just seem insoluble. Many women I have spoken to have said that if they argue with their parents, they feel like teenagers again and that these arguments are different from anyone else who has them. The 32-year-old Fiona says: “Most of the time our arguments revolve around the fact that I feel patronized by them. They just still treat me like a kid and don't take my opinions seriously. And since I am treated like a child, I then act like one too. "
Laundry. Christmas dinner. Donald Trump. Love. Grandchildren. Voice messages. The wall color in the bedroom. Feminism. Birthday gifts. Permissive women. Tomatoes. These are just a few of the topics adult women have argued about with their parents lately.
Elaine is 33 years old and comes from the United States. Your parents voted Trump, which leads to arguments again and again. “There are always heated discussions when I mention that I just find Trump's actions questionable, just like his irrational drivel on Twitter, and the mood there right now in the country. I was so disappointed in my mom and dad when I found out that they both voted for Trump. On election night and the day after, I felt numb and just cried for hours. ”Although Elaine argues a lot with her parents, she wants them to continue in her life. This attitude is very common among the women I have spoken to. "I still love my parents unconditionally and nothing will ever change that."
Ashna, 24, is still living with her parents. Not uncommon with today's rental prices. If you live with your parents as an adult, however, old dynamics can reappear that you already experienced as a child. And that often leads to conflicts. “I quarrel with my mother every day. About everything: laundry, when I come home, how often do I have my phone in hand, why I'm single, what I wear, what is for dinner, whether we should buy a cat. I just don't know how to finally stop acting like a teenager if they keep treating me like one. "
Rosie is 32 and the conflicts with her parents revolve around politics, feminism, their life choices and divorce. She accuses her parents of failing in their parenting role. “In my dream, I have parents who are still together, who kiss furtively in the kitchen when they think no one is looking, there is apple pie, an open fire and big Christmas dinners with the whole family. The whole kitschy package. Every time we argue, however, I am reminded that none of these exist in our home. Sometimes we also feel strange guilty: What if you drop dead tomorrow and the last thing we did together was yelling at each other? "
Developing an opinion, fear, insecurity, uncertainty, distance and getting older seem to be the main reasons that adult women find themselves in violent arguments with their parents. The 38-year-old Sandra is no different. “My parents are getting older and I try to support them as best I can. They don't want to give up their privacy and independence, so they keep some things secret from me like teenagers would. Other tensions arise from relationships with their grandchildren. To what extent they spend enough time with them or help me to look after them. All these arguments break my heart. "
Bernadette is 31 years old and has "many small arguments [with her mother] that usually resolve quickly". But both seem to know very well where their limits are and which things prefer to remain unsaid. “It almost seems like the two of us can get so angry at each other because we know deep down that we can always resolve our conflicts. Our connection is so strong that it can never be destroyed. "
But that doesn't apply to every relationship by a long way. Some of the women who responded to my call on social media have not spoken to their parents for weeks, months or years. Some of them have no intention of making contact again. I worked with family therapist Dr. Shadi Shahnavaz spoke to understand why we as adult women quarrel with our parents. She says: “The relationship we have with our parents as children usually continues into our adulthood. If you had a good connection back then, felt safe and understood, you can still feel that love and respect today. If, on the other hand, you haven't felt heard and understood, you grow up feeling empty. This can lead to conflict in adulthood when that emptiness turns into anger. "
Some of the women who answered my call did not speak to their parents for weeks, months or years. Some of them have no intention of making contact again.
But it is entirely possible to improve this relationship. If you manage to convince your parents of family therapy, you can have some important conversations here, moderated by a psychologist. “It is in our nature to want to love our parents. That's why most of us try to mend the relationship, ”explains Dr. Shahnavaz. At meetings, she asks her clients to put themselves in each other's shoes. Then she talks to them about how their own behavior might affect their counterparts. It can also help outside of therapy to use this exercise in order to develop more understanding for one another. Our parents, like all human beings, are complex individuals with their own feelings and problems. Imagining what effects your own behavior could have on them helps to perceive the people behind the mother or father. This can also help you better understand childhood dynamics.
“We need to be clear about what happened in our childhood. So we can better understand how we react now as adults. When we find ourselves in constant conflict with our parents, we need to be aware of where it started. The reasons for our conflicts may seem trivial at first, but there is often something bigger behind them. It is not uncommon for an old rage to be involved, stemming from an injury or a secret. Perhaps there was a hushed up fling that the child knew about, or a tension between the parents that was hushed up at the time, but which now comes to the fore in the form of quarrels. "Says Dr. Shahnavaz.
And what is the best strategy to resolve the conflicts with our parents? “Take your freedom. When you feel the anger building up inside you, leave the room. Go away and in a quiet place write down what bothered you. Let it sit for twenty minutes. When you've calmed down, go back and see what you wrote. You can probably cross half of the things out because you wrote them in a rage. However, if there is something else on this piece of paper that is still important to you, try to talk to your parents about it in a quiet atmosphere. It also helps a lot of people to write an email. In this way, the parents do not fall into a defensive mode directly from the injury or react out of anger. One of my clients did the same, and her mother's first reaction was outrage. But then she read the mail again, calmed down and read through what her daughter had to say to her. So the two could talk about their problems in peace. "
Because often the disputes with our parents are not about the wall colors, marriages, seating arrangements or tomatoes. Rather, they are the result of tensions and fears that still stem from our childhood. So we should try to end this by understanding one another and showing compassion.