by Christina Enevoldsen
I was talking with a friend who’s planning to set some boundaries with family. I’ve heard the things her parents have said and done to her for years so I’m celebrating this big step with her.
But my friend also shared her plans with someone else. That person wasn’t so supportive. That person’s advice to my friend was that she needed to accept her parents for who they are. After all, “They’re your only parents”. She suggested forgiveness in the name of love and peace.
I got the same kind of response about my family. Before people even knew what happened in my family, they judged me. Whatever the problems, I was supposed to work it out. No matter what they did, it was my job to “make nice”.
Putting “love and peace” above truth leads to anything but love and peace.
When I think about growing up in my incest family, not allowed to show any displeasure or negative emotions, was it a household of love and peace?
Real love doesn’t diminish a person yet insist that it’s okay. Real love recognizes the ugliness and does something about it. Love doesn’t squash and silence; it empowers.
Love and peace can only exist when conflict is allowed out in the open. They can only thrive with permission to set boundaries.
The breakdown in my family exists because my parents didn’t allow conflict. I had to be like them, think like them, believe like them and go along with them. There was no room for differences or disagreement.
I’m very close to a handful of friends and a few family members. They are deep, fulfilling relationships that have endured. They’ve lasted because conflict is allowed and normalized.
We can have those honest discussions because we’re willing to feel uncomfortable for a little while and let things be messy.
Love is messy. Love is involved. Not just in appearance, but in the nitty gritty.
I applaud my friend who is brave enough to be honest with her parents. Conflict exists. She’s not creating it; she is only acknowledging it. She’s willing to admit love and peace aren’t there now. And expressing her boundaries is the only chance it has of ever being there.
I’m Christina Enevoldsen and I’m the cofounder of Overcoming Sexual Abuse and the author of The Rescued Soul: The Writing Journey for the Healing of Incest and Family Betrayal. I’m a Strategic Interventionist and Certified Professional Life Coach with a specialty Life Story Certification. As a survivor of incest, sex trafficking and a 21-year long abusive marriage (now remarried to an emotionally healthy, loving and supportive man), I bring personal experience, empathy, and insight as well as professional training to help childhood sexual abuse survivors thrive.