Oh, there he goes off to his room to write that hit song "Alone in my principles."

Dear writers who have returned to the nest,

What were some challenging things about moving back in with your parents? If you could go back in time, what would you advise to make the process as pleasant as possible?

-Mama Bird


Dear Bobbi,

I just completed an unexpected year of living with my parents again. It was good and necessary, and it was hard. I'll tell you more about it, but partly through a framework of the BYU devotional from yesterday, because it was great. 

I came back to them because I wasn't doing well on my own. My parents did a good job of helping me get back on my feet, but their hesitancy to let me walk again created a lot of tension and internal turmoil for me. It felt like they had a lack of faith in me, possibly because they were so concerned with where I had been that they couldn't see where I was going, and where I already was. And I knew I would always be their daughter, but I felt a lot of resentment being treated like their child, even if I maybe needed to be. I mean, I am an adult (technically) and I haven't gone through everything, but had I not gone through sufficient for me? I guess I wanted that to be more validated. 

It was useful to understand The Four Horsemen of Marriage, so coined by psychologist Dr. John Gottman. I had learned about them in a class or two, and also while reading the beginning of Malcolm Gladwell's Blink. The four have a few applications, but when trying to predict likelihood divorce through couples' interactions, researchers can forego laborious coding and just focus on contempt, because that is like saying, "You're not even worth having a relationship with," while others communicate something more like, "If this relationship if going to work, something needs to change." My basic take on it is that the first three criticism, defensiveness, and stonewalling are all used to protect the relationship, and contempt is used to protect an individual. 

Even though they're about marriage, I'm pretty sure they're the Four Horsemen of Relationships In General. There are lots of examples of this in my year of being back home, and you can read more examples in Blink, but here's an example of my mom being awesome and slaying the horsemen:

Auto: [some complaint about the new dog groomers I tried because they shaved my dog too close and made her sore]

Mama Surf: That's why when I find someone I like and that's good, I stick with them. 

Auto: Well, this isn't about you being right. 

Mama Surf: *silence*

Ouch. That's a little hard for me to see written out. But let me write it out again, this time in terms of the horsemen. 

Auto: I did something different than the way you do it because I want to be my own person and I didn't make a great choice and now my dog is sad so I am sad.

Mama Surf: Well, here's a piece of counsel that has helped me in my life. 

Auto: *perceiving the counsel as criticism* Well, I didn't express myself to be criticized. You always say you want to talk with me, but I can't do that if it's like this. If we are going to play this game, though, I sure can criticize back. *intensified defense through intensified offense* 
Her resulting silence made me feel like a battle at first, and it later helped me realize that, yeah, it wasn't about being right; She was just trying to help. I probably resented it at first because, generally, I tend to act as if I don't need help. I think needing it makes me feel like I'm incapable of doing things myself. 

At one point, after lots of perceived criticism and defense, I concluded that I just couldn't trust my parents with things of importance, because every time I tried to talk to them, both parties (being my parents, and myself) would end up hurt and frustrated. This was fueled by some contempt, and is when I began to stonewall. To my mom, it was a sign that our relationship was not so good, but to me it was just a way to put a temporary buffer between two opposing forces until we realized we were on the same side.  

My heart was later softened to realize that it wasn't them who was hurting me; I just couldn't trust myself not to be hurt by their imperfect but well-meaning attempts to help me. Scriptures helped a lot with that. And lots of prayer.

In summary, I think it goes back to love languages, but moreso to general communication and interpersonal skills. Additionally, it was really helpful for my mom and I to read The People Code, and it might be helpful for you, too. 

It is easier to love at a distance, and so it is more rewarding when you can love up close. Make sure to love God and yourself, and then it will be easier to love others, especially those most like you. 

Take care,

-Auto Surf