Trying to defend myself against everything she said in the letter won't work, obviously, and I am too mad about that to speak with her about other things. I will decide about the longer term later.
Your use of the word "defend" immediately made me remember to bring out the JADE
acronym I learned on another forum (one about dealing with difficult in-laws, but I've found it helpful in dealing with lots of different kinds of difficult people.) You never want to JADE
- justify, argue, defend, or explain. One of the other posters explained it so much better than I ever could, so I am copying and pasting her advice here:
is to Justify, Argue (and/or Apologize), Defend, and Explain. You never, ever, EVER want to JADE
. JADEing is self-defeating behavior, because it allows the toxic individuals in your life an "in" to beating you into submission. To JADE
is to hand over your power to someone else.
By "justifying" your decisions, you hand over your power by giving the other party the right to judge you. Nobody has the right to judge you for your needs.
By "arguing" with the other party, you hand over your power by making their desire to argue with you legitimate. Your needs aren't going to change no matter how much someone argues with you about them.
By "apologizing" to the other party, you hand over your power by admitting you're doing something wrong. You have every right to protect yourself and make sure your own needs are met.
By "defending" your position, you hand over your power by making the other party an authority figure. You're an adult, and fully capable of deciding what you do with your life. Nobody else has a right to tell you how to live.
By "explaining" the reasons for your boundaries, you hand over your power by giving the other party a chance to nullify your own experience. Your experience is your own. It is precious. Nobody else can know whether it's true or not.
I know it can be really really hard to learn new responses to situations, especially situations people have spent years grooming you to react to in specific ways. Fortunately, the script for avoiding a JADE
moment is both brief and adaptable. It's something Nancy Regan taught us decades ago: JUST SAY NO!
"No, that won't work for me."
"No, I can't do that."
"No, thank you."
"No" is a complete sentence.
And when the "but whyyyyyyyyy?"s start, break all the grammatical rules with another one-word answer: "Because."
"Because that won't work for me."
"Because I can't do that."
"Because I said no."
The third and final step is the really brilliant one. Change the subject.
"No, I told you I won't be doing that. So how's the weather been where you are? Are the azaleas blooming yet?"
Now, there is a difference between JADEing to toxic people who don't have your best interests at heart, and exploring your own reasoning and reactions with people who are trying to help. You have to learn where that line is for yourself, from situation to situation. It takes practice--and that's okay. If you keep at it, it will become second nature, and you'll find your life is a great deal simpler.