The first thing you need to do is to LIGHTEN THE PRESSURE to control one another, so that you can have healthy boundaries with each other. To do this you have three substeps to accomplish to LIGHTEN THE PRESSURE.
I also like this part about the emotional hooks they pull on us:
10 Emotional Hooks in Family Life
1. Lack of Individual Identity
Maybe you are hooked by the irrational belief that: "I am a nobody without a somebody in my life." If you are, you maintain no boundaries with your children because you are very dependent in getting your identity from being their parent. You are willing to do whatever it takes to make the relationship happen, even if you have to give up your health, money, security, identity, intelligence, spiritual beliefs, extended family, country, job, community, friends, values, honor and self-respect. The rational message needed to establish healthy boundaries from this hook is: "I am a somebody, just by being who I am. I am OK just the way I am, even if my children no longer need me. My value and worth as a person is not dependent on having my children needing me. It is better for me to allow my own children to be independent and healthy than to have them dependent on me and for me or them to be sick intellectually, emotionally and/or physically. I will work diligently with my children to correct this faulty thinking which has made me too dependent on them depending on me. By being more my own person and allowing my older children to be more independent our family will flourish and grow healthier."
2. Scarcity Principle
Maybe you are hooked by the scarcity principle of feeling happiness: "because the current status of our family life is better than anything we have ever had before." This is a common problem in families which have faced trials and challenges in the past. The problem is that the current status of your relationship might be better than what you had in the past, but it might not really be as healthy an intimate family life as described earlier. You may be so happy with your family's current functioning that you are willing to give all of yourself intellectually, emotionally and physically with no regard for what you need to retain for yourself so that you do not lose your identity in this relationship. You may be in a recovery program like AA, Alanon, NA, CODA, ACOA etc. You may be in a Bible Study Group or some other form of spiritual renewal self-help group.You may have a support system and a plan of recovery for personal and spiritual growth. You may find that in your family life you have no time to do the "recovery or growth activities" of: maintaining contact with your support system, going to 12 Step or other group meetings, or reading recovery literature or scriptures. You may find it hard to maintain your new behavioral and emotional commitment to personal and spiritual growth in your family. If this is true, then your family is not supportive of your recovery for personal and spiritual growth and is not healthy for you no matter how happy you are in it. If in your family life you have no alone time to spend with your spouse, other children, extended family or friends then it is not healthy no matter how happy you are in it. If in your family life you have no time, energy or resources to put into your career, education or current job then it is not healthy for you no matter how happy you are in it. If in your family life you are finding it difficult to maintain your own spirituality and connection with your Higher Power then it is not healthy no matter how happy you feel in it. A family which requires that you sacrifice all of you for the sake of the happiness you feel, in it, is not a healthy intimate family. A healthy intimate family life allows you to make time, space and allowance for you to focus on yourself, your own needs, your spouse, each of your children individually, your extended family, your friends, your recovery program, your support system, your career, your education, your spiritual beliefs and your personal integrity, individuality and identity. The rational message needed to establish healthy boundaries from this hook is: "I will focus on my needs, my identity, my individuality and my personal integrity in my family life. I will set aside my time, resources and energy to give to my children, my family, my friends, my support system, my recovery program, my spirituality, my career, my education and my community involvement while maintaining a healthy intimate family life with my children. I will insist that I have the time, resources and energy to focus on all aspects of my life in my family life. I will not become complacent in my family just because there are no conflicts or crisis in it at the time. I will work with my children to insure that the health of our family is ever growing and increasing."
Maybe you are hooked by irrational guilt that you must think, feel and act in ways to insure that your family life is preserved, secured and nurtured no matter what personal expense it takes out of you. You feel guilty if the your children are not succeeding or thriving without your personal resources, energy, money, time and effort going in to making such success happen. You have a problem of feeling over-responsible for the welfare of your children and cannot allow to accept personal responsibility to make choices and live with the consequences of these choices. This irrational guilt is a driving motivation to keep you tearing down your boundaries so that you will always be available to your children at any time, in any place for whatever reason your children "need" you. The rational message needed to establish healthy boundaries from this hook is: "My children and I are responsible for accepting personal responsibility for our own lives and to accept the consequences for the choices we make in taking care of our own lives. I am not responsible for the outcomes which result from the choices and decisions which my children make. My children and I are free to make our own decisions with no one forcing us to make bad ones which will result in negative consequences to ourselves if they should occur."
4. Inability to Differentiate Love from Sympathy
Maybe you are hooked by the inability to differentiate the difference between love and sympathy or compassion for your children. You find yourself feeling sorry for your children and the warm feelings which this generates makes you think that you are in love. The bigger the problems your children have, the bigger the "love" seems to you. Because the problems can get bigger and more complex, they succeed in hooking you to lower your boundaries so that you begin to give more and more of yourself to your "pitiable" children out of the "love" you feel. The rational message needed to establish healthy boundaries from this hook is: "It is OK to have sympathy and compassion for my children, but that does not mean that I have to sacrifice my life to "save" or "rescue" them. Sympathy and compassion are emotions I know well and I will work hard to differentiate them from what love is. When I feel sympathy and compassion for my children, I will remind myself that it is not the same as loving them. The ability to feel sympathy and compassion for another human being is a nice quality of mine and I will be sure to use it in a healthy and non-emotionally hooked way in the future in my family."
5. Helplessness and Neediness of Children
Maybe you get hooked by the neediness and helplessness of your children. You find yourself hooked when your children get into self-pity, "poor me" and "how tough life has been." You find yourself weak when your children demonstrate an inability to solve personal problems. You find yourself wanting to teach and instruct, when your children demonstrate or admit ignorance of how to solve problems. You find yourself hooked by verbal and non-verbal cues which cry out to you to "help" your children even though they have the competence to solve the problems on their own. You find yourself feeling warmth, caring and nurturing feelings which help you tear down any shred of boundaries you once had. These sad, weak, distraught, lost, confused and befuddled waifs are so needy that you lose all concept of space and time as you begin to give and give and give. It feels so good. The rational message needed to establish healthy boundaries from this hook is: "No one is helpless without first learning the advantages of being helpless. Helplessness is a learned behavior which is used to manipulate me to give of my resources, energy, time, effort and money to fix. I am a good person even if I do not try to fix and take care of my children when they act helpless. I cannot establish a healthy intimate family life with my children if I am trying to fix or take care of them all of the time. I need to put more energy into fixing and taking care of myself if I find myself being hooked by my children's helplessness."
6. Need to be Needed
Maybe you get hooked by the sense of being depended upon or needed by your children. There is no reason to feel responsible for your children if they let you know that they are dependent upon and need you for their lives to be successful and fulfilled. This is over-dependency and is unhealthy. It is impossible to have healthy intimacy with an overdependent person because there is no give and take. Your children could be parasites sucking you dry of everything you have intellectually, emotionally and physically. You get nothing in return except the "good feelings" of doing something for your children. You get no real healthy nurturing, rather you feel the weight of your children on your shoulders, neck and back. You give and give of yourself to address the needs of your children and you have nothing left to give to yourself. The rational message needed to establish healthy boundaries from this hook is: "It is unhealthy for me to be so overly depended upon by my adolescent and young adult children. There is a need for me to be clear what I am willing and not willing to do for my children. There is a need for my children to become more independent from me so that I can maintain my own sense of identity, worth and personhood. It would be better for me to let go of the need to be needed than to allow my children to continue to have such dependency on me. I am only responsible for taking care of myself. Human adults are responsible to accept personal responsibility for their own lives. Supporting my children intellectually, emotionally and physically where I have nothing left to give to myself is unhealthy and not required in a healthy family and I will be ALERT to when I am doing this and try to stop it immediately."
7. Belief that Time will Make it Better
Maybe you get hooked by the belief that: "If I give it enough time things will change to be the way I want them to be." You have waited a long time to have a healthy intimate family life, you rationalize: "Don't give up on it too soon." Since you are not sure how to have one or how one feels, you rationalize that maybe what the family needs is more time to become more healthy and intimate. You find yourself giving more and more of yourself and waiting longer and longer for something good to happen and yet things never get better. You find that your wait goes from being counted by days, weeks or months to years. Time passes and things really never get better. What keeps hooking you are those fleeting moments when the family life approximates what you would like it to be. These fleeting moments feel like centuries and they are sufficient to keep you holding on. The rational message needed to establish healthy boundaries from this hook is: "It is unhealthy for me to sacrifice large portions of my life, invested in a family life which is not going anywhere. It is unhealthy for me to hold on to the belief that things will change if they have not in one or more years. It is OK to set time limits in my family life, such as: if in 3 months or 6 months things do not get to be intimately healthier then I or all of us will need to seek professional help to work it out. It is OK to put time demands on my family life so that I do not waste away my life waiting for something which in all probability will never happen. It is not OK for me to blow out of proportion those fleeting moments in my family life which make me believe that there is anything more in it than there really is."
8. Belief that It Must be All of My Fault that there are Problems in the Family
Maybe you get hooked by the belief that: "If I change myself more things will change to become more like I want them to be in our family life." You rationalize that maybe the reason things are not getting healthier and more intimate is because you need to change more to be the person your children want you to be. You feel blamed and pointed out by your children as the reason why things are not healthier or more intimate in your family. You find yourself having to defend yourself from attack from your children for "not being good enough" or "doing enough" to make the family's relationships work. You find yourself with a mounting list of expectations, duties or responsibilities, given you by your children, which must be accomplished if the family is ever to become what you want it to be. You find yourself needing to change the ways you think, feel, act, dress, talk, look, eat, work, cook, entertain, have fun, socialize, etc before you will be "good enough" for your family life with your older children to work. You find that you will have to basically give up "who you are" for "who your children want you to be" if your family life is ever to work. You find yourself hooked by the challenge to change and you find yourself working harder and harder to effect the change. What keeps you hooked is the affirmation and reinforcement you get from your children when you effect a small change. The only problem is that there is always something else identified which needs to be changed after the last change has been accomplished. You are in a never ending loop of needing to change and unfortunately there never seems to be an end to it. The rational message needed to establish healthy boundaries for this hook is: "I have to be real to myself and be the person I am rather than to be the person my children want me to be. It is not healthy for me to give up my personhood and identity to please my children just to maintain our family. I have a right to my own tastes, likes and dislikes, personal style, beliefs, values, attitudes etc. I am in control of my own thinking, feelings and actions. I will not allow my children to take control of my basic rights."
9. Fear of Negative Outcomes for Children
Maybe you get hooked by the fear of the possible negative future outcome if you are not deeply involved in taking care of and fixing your children. You may be aware of the hooks which keep you boundary-less with your children. Yet you are afraid to LET GO of the control you have with your children for fear something very negative might happen to them. Maybe you fear that your children would go to jail, become: homeless, hungry, jobless, poor, lonely, scared, or worse yet dead if you do not continue to fix and take care of their needs. If your children are married you might fear they might get a divorce, keep their kids away from you, turn their kids against you if you did not rescue, help out or take care of their current "pressing need." This fear of the possible negative future outcomes is so debilitating, that it feels better being sucked dry intellectually, emotionally and physically than to LET GO and watch your children suffer their feared awful negative outcome. You find yourself powerless to keep from doing the healthy thing because of the intensity of this fear. You have become a prisoner in the prison of this relationship. You have become a hostage of very powerful, needy, helpless, manipulative "hostage takers." You are a possession of your children. You find yourself doing all you are asked to insure that this possible negative dreaded outcome does not happen. You are being emotionally blackmailed and may even have heard threats of suicide if you say you want to change or get out of the relationship the way it is. The rational message needed to establish healthy boundaries from this hook is: "I am only responsible for my life. No one can make me responsible for my older children's life. I can choose to feel responsible for my children's life, but I cannot control or determine the outcome of that life no matter how hard I try. I am powerless to control other people, places, things and conditions. The only thing I can control is my own thinking, feeling and actions. I need to hand my children's problems and needs and the outcomes of their lives over to my Higher Power. I cannot carry my children's possible negative future outcomes on my body or I will experience failed emotional and physical health. It is OK for me to expect my children to accept personal responsibility for their own lives. It is OK to require my children to accept the consequences for their own actions, choices and decisions."
10. Idealism or Fantasy Thinking
Maybe you are hooked by the fantasy or ideal about how it is supposed to be. You have an ideal, dream or image in your mind of how a family is supposed to be or how it should be and you have a difficult time accepting it the way it really is. You work hard at making your family life approximate this idealized fantasy. You put a great deal of time, energy and resources into making it become a reality. Unfortunately the more you give and give, the fantasy never becomes the reality you are wishing for. The pull to make the fantasy become real is very powerful. You seem brainwashed into believing that it is possible even though all of your efforts have not made it happen, after years and years of effort on your part. You get hooked by the delusion of the fulfillment of the fantasy and live as if the fantasy has become reality. You are sometimes so out of touch with reality that you appear to be psychotic to others when you discuss your family life. They know it is not real and in some cases does not even closely approximate what you are saying. You keep pouring your resources, energy and time into an empty pit which seems to never get filled. You become obsessed into acting and looking like the fantasy is real. You get hooked into waiting for the "big pay off" down the road if you just stick with your children in their state of irresponsibility and/or over dependence. You remain loyal to the belief that it will happen one day. "Wake up and get off the fantasy train before it runs off the track!" you hear people saying but ignore their warnings and keep blindly on, in search of your quest. The rational message needed to establish healthy boundaries from this hook is: "I must accept reality the way it is rather than how I want it to be. I will give my support system, in my recovery or spiritual renewal program, permission to call me on it if I am hooked into a fantasy family life and losing myself in it. I will work hard to stay reality based and keep myself from losing my objectivity and contact with the way things really are. I will make every effort to accept my children the way they are rather than how I want them to be. I am a human and subject to making mistakes and failing and I will forgive myself if I make a mistake in my efforts to establish a healthy intimate family life with my children. Once I give up the delusion that things are the way they are supposed to be, I will work with my children to try to correct the problems in our family life."
Use the tools in the Tools for Handling Control Issue (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992) to get yourself further unhooked and detached from any unhealthy aspects of your family life. Use the tools in the Tools for Personal Growth (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992) to get yourself more rational in the face of the hooks you experience in family and your relationships with others.