How to deal with an overprotective family, after you leave home

Pennelope0214 asks: My family have been very strict, orthodox, protective people, like cross the limit kind. I wanted to leave my home because of that over-protectiveness, which I did last year by moving to college in another city far away. I have an elder brother; we didn’t used to talk but before moving he explained to me that he never liked my lifestyle due to which he was always irritated (my “lifestyle” meaning I use a little makeup). My mother is a very rude person, she’d call me dirty names when I did something bad. Even though I know they both love me. My brother didn’t know about that incident I told you about, where the man tried to cut my throat. I told him a few days back after the function in our college where another guy (who was my date, I didn’t know him but his friends and my seniors said he is nice) kind of harassed me which I told my brother. After all this he asked me to stay away from every guy and if he finds out something relating to any guy and me, he will do something bad. Yesterday we had another function, prom night. My mother kept in calling me saying she needs to talk to the college authorities, is it a university to study or just parties? When I came back I called my brother, and he said which guy did you go with? I said no one. He reprimanded me saying I am lying and he knows me, there must have been a guy. I cut the call. I am tired of living my life. I thought maybe when I’d move out things will change but no, that isn’t happening. This summer break I have to go to my brother’s for my internship and I am tense since I have to be there for one and a half month. He’d talk about that throat incident, boys and put on restrictions on me all the way over again. I don’t want to face him. I made a mistake telling him about the incident. I don’t want to go there or anywhere. I thought he’d understand what I’ve been through and would support me.

Hi Pennelope0214 –



I agree fully with you – the way your mother and brother are acting shows they love you, and it’s not at all coming in the way you need right now.


There may come a day in the future when you move away and get even more space from them, and that can be fine, just for you to get to live your life and be yourself.  I’m not a fan of completely cutting one’s family off – what I see is that people who do that tend to just ‘recreate’ their family with other people, and go through the same stuff they would have with their parents and siblings anyway.


But for now, you’re kind of stuck with them.  Like me in the cage at the pound, I could love or like or dislike or hate all the other puppies in there, but the one thing I couldn’t do was unlatch the gate and walk out!


So instead you have another job, which is to become an adult anyway. The fact is, you’re a college student.  I’m guessing you’re legally an adult where you live?  But even if not, you’re living apart from your family, and have the right to be yourself.


Now that doesn’t mean your mother and brother don’t have the right to tell you what they think, but you do have the right to respond.


For example, maybe you could say something to your brother like “I appreciate that you want to protect me, but the fact is that, as a male, you actually don’t know what it’s like to be harassed this way, and it would do me more good for you to try to understand my feelings than to tell me what you think is wrong with me.”  And yes, maybe add in there, “But if any jerk ever tries to hurt me again, please know, I will give you his phone number, his address, and the crowbar from my car’s trunk!  With my blessings!”


And with your mother, to say “If you want to call the administration of the college, feel free, but you’ll only make a fool of yourself.  All colleges have parties, which is so they can keep the young people safe from going into town and dealing with not-so-nice people, or even driving when they shouldn’t.  It would do me more good if you could give me help when I find myself not knowing what to do in a situation at one of these parties.  But if you need to make that call, sure, here’s the number.”


Do you see the difference?  What I’m imagining is you speaking adult-to-adult to them, about your needs.  Not them telling you what they think you need.


You actually know, Pennelope0214, exactly what you need from them right now.  But they’re used to treating you as a child – of course they are, they’ve done it your whole life!  It has to be you who changes that dynamic.


Not to say they’re not your mother and brother, but to tell them that their daughter and sister is a bit more grown up than the silly cute little girl they remember – and will always love.


Go for it!  And if you can’t find that crowbar, a big dog is always helpful too!




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