How Parents of Adult Children Can Let Go of Faulty Expectations

Updated on January 25, 2018
RandallOnTheMove profile image

I hold a degree in theology with an emphasis in human behavior. I have studied relationships and behavior for more than twenty years.

Let me start by explaining my credentials. I am not a so-called "expert" in relationships. I do not have a doctorate in human relations. I do, however, hold a degree in theology with an emphasis in human behavior. I have studied relationships and behavior for more than twenty years. The majority of what I have learned has been through "real-life" interaction, not just theory taught in a classroom. I believe that understanding people and building healthy relationships is the key to success in life. When I say success, I do not mean wealth or reaching a certain level of status. Those things can be attained through relationships, and rightly so. I define success, however, in terms of enriching others, and being enriched by others in turn. With that said, I would like to speak about a particular kind of relationship that, if not handled properly, brings a lot of bitterness to all involved.

I am referencing the relationship between a parent and an adult child. In fifteen years of counseling and observation, I have found that this relationship is one of the most skewed. In most relationships, tension usually comes two ways: when there is a simple misunderstanding between two people, or when one person’s expectations of another is not lived up to. In the parent-adult child relationship (which I will refer to as the PAC), the latter is always the case. The former can cause light tension, but family usually moves past simple misunderstandings. That is not always the case with non-family relationships, which I will discuss in another blog. It is in the area of expectations that we find bitterness brewing with the PAC. So is there one party at fault? As with most relationships, it takes two to tango. That being said, what I have seen repeatedly is that more times than not, the parent is to blame. I will discuss the child's issues in another blog, but for now, let’s look at the parents.

The Faulty Expectation of the Parent

Parents have a lot invested in their child…money, time, memory, and most of all emotions. To most parents, their children are their world. What I have seen, though, is that most parents refuse to acknowledge the separation that occurs as their child moves into adulthood. It is the fact that they have so much invested that leads them to believe, subconsciously, that there are never any boundaries to be observed. To put it bluntly, after a child reaches eighteen years of age, the only rights a parent has in regard to input in that child’s life are the rights that the child gives them. When a child is underage, a parent is free to give advice and direction whenever they choose. They can lecture at any given time. They can give their opinion at any given time. However, if that pattern continues after that age, it leads to bitterness. The child is sensing their independence and wants the freedom to live their life. So only at invitation does a parent of an adult child have the right of voice or opinion.

What if they live in your house? Well, certainly there have to be rules. Chaos should never be tolerated. In respect to your property, you always have the final say. My son just turned eighteen. He lives at home, but there is an understanding. I do not intrude in his life unless he asks my opinion. I do not tell him whom he should date or not date, whom he should have as friends, or what career path he should take. I do, however, have the right to determine who is allowed on my property, as well as the boundaries of using my property. He can’t just take things as he wishes, nor leave things lying around. The point here is that parents of adult children need to learn that the rules have changed. A continuance of unsolicited intrusion will cause a major disruption of the relationship. I find it amusing that most parents I talk to whose PAC is strained honestly think their child is ungrateful. The truth is the PAC is strained because the parent has overstepped their bounds. The faulty expectation is that they should always have uninhibited boundaries with their child, no matter the age.

Overcoming Faulty Expectations

So how does a parent overcome this faulty expectation? First, acknowledge the problem. Ask others, not the child, if you behave in this manner. Take the criticism, and adjust accordingly. When you feel the urge to give your unsolicited advice, simply stop and keep your comments to yourself. Recognize that your child is not a child anymore. They should be free to succeed or fail on their own. Here is a good way to look at it: how would you like it if someone did that to you? Finally, apologize to your child for your behavior. You would be surprised how far an apology would go. What if you do not have an adult child yet? When your child reaches age twelve or thirteen, begin to prepare yourself for that change in life. Recognize that they are getting older and determine how you are going to react when they reach adulthood. I call this ‘preparing your heart’. It is a simple meditation exercise that is very effective. The best part is that no one needs to know but you. It really is that simple.

Life Examples

I want to give you some ‘real-life’ examples of this faulty expectation. I know a man who has two daughters. He is very wealthy and is used to people doing what he tells them to do. I had a conversation with him and during the course of the conversation I asked him if he still had plans to sell a business he had. He said no, because when his youngest daughter married he was going to make her husband run the business. If this occurs, and the young man does not want to run the business, do you think it will cause some tension? He then went on to tell me how he decided which house his oldest daughter and son-in-law should buy. What is amusing is how he doesn’t understand why some people do not like him. He actually told me he thought it was because he was successful and wealthy!

Another example is of a couple I did premarital counseling with. Now, going into this I knew she was a ‘daddy’s girl’. I have known this family for a long time so I knew that about her. I talked to her about that during counseling. I explained that getting advice was okay, but not at the expense of her husband. She agreed. A couple of years later, I discovered they were getting divorced. I talked with both of them separately at their request. I got pretty much the same story from both. Her father was giving advice on everything. It began to make the husband angry because he did not ask for the advice. In his words, he got advice from him when he needed it, but did not want it on everything. Basically, the father gave his opinion on everything. It caused problems in the marriage two ways: first, the daughter should have stood her ground when advice was given without being asked. Second, the father should have kept his mouth shut until asked. The second would have prevented the need for the first. What happened was that when the father gave advice contrary to the husband, the daughter always sided with ‘daddy’. All of that could have been avoided by the parent. The marriage ended in divorce. They had a child together, so now we have a family that is split. I could go on and on with more examples, but you get the gist.

Let me say this so no one will misconstrue what I am saying. If you know your adult child is being abused, by all means step in. I have a fourteen year old daughter. When she becomes an adult she will be free to date and marry whomever she wishes with no unsolicited input from me. However, if her boyfriend and/or husband of choice manhandles her, I am getting involved for her safety. So I am not saying to overlook extremes. I am saying to let your adult children be adults.

I hope this has been informative. Please look for my other posts about relationships.

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      clare oregan 

      8 days ago

      I disagree whole heartedly.I have four adult children. Two live at home one with a baby.I am disgusted with their bickering when we are all together.There is always a blow up at xmas and easter.They are always positioning to be the most important.Lately their disparaging comments are misguidedly directed at me....Mom.My 21 year old who lives at home, said she is as equal to me in the family home yet she does not pay rent.The lady with the baby has taken me down with sarcastic comments like "Great Parenting".She also does not pay rent.I have an elderly father I look after and I babysit for my daughter while she is taking her drivers test with my car.I am so finished being a mother!!!!!!

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      Anthony.gus73 

      2 weeks ago

      Randall. I must admit, when i first read this article i thought you missed something out, and not "just" referring to the "Learning To Let Go, Part 2"

      It's about the "struggle" learning to grow up, and helping children become responsible people in adult life.

      Maybe the reason they're not hearing this is because of the tendency to blame others and our resisting to grow up "which is part of the problem to begin with" but it is the job of the parents to help their children become independent and resposible, for that reason they will "always" blame the parents "untill" or "if" they grow up and become responsible in adulthood.

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      Anthony.gus73 

      2 weeks ago

      Just read that "Learning To Let Go, Part 2"

      Which answered my previous question.

      Quote. Yours. "It seems they want independence and freedom, but they want Mom and Dad to foot the bill. If not in money, then in other ways"

      So true. Also understand where the conflict comes from as well.

      "Adult children, however, who assume that their parents own them help, without repayment, will always struggle when the parents don't give in. They will always feel less of a person, and then blame Mom and Dad" SO SO True :)

      Wish some adult children could understand these things, but when they really do grow up, they will understand.

      This and "Learning To Let Go, Part 2" are really good articles. Appreciate you writing them.

      P.S. putting aside some genuine childhood traumas and abuses "some" aduld children may have experienced in life, the "Above" are issues they have to deal with in life anyway.

    • profile image

      Anthony.gus73 

      3 weeks ago

      Randall. Question.

      Do you think adult children can also have faulty expectations of their parents ?

    • profile image

      Bea 

      6 weeks ago

      I should add that my daughter is 28 and this has been going on for several years. It seems that as I begin to adjust having almost no relationship that I hear from her. She usually wants something from me (and I am not talking about emotional support) but "things." I have stopped reinforcing that behavior by listening to her wants and needs and sympathizing with her (about her stolen bike, inadequate tent needed for upcoming trip etc..) not offering to buy whatever she usually is asking for in a roundabout or manipulative way. She is planning on returning here for a wedding of a friend soon and as she will see or possibly stay with me, I imagine she will ask me to pay for her plane tickets. It's highly unlikely she would come visit me if I didn't offer to pay. The last time I did and she treated me like an annoyance at best while visiting, showed no consideration of what I might like to do and had high expectations that we do all that she wanted to do-after all- she came to visit me and acted as if she was doing me a favor. I normally love to see her but she treated me so poorly that I was relieved when the trip was over. Normally, I miss her when she leaves and need to readjust to a long and unknown period of not hearing from her for months. I feel like I finally begin to move forward, stop grieving the sense of loss so much and boom- she calls. It is an emotional roller coaster because as I said, contact is all one sided. It has become hard to reopen the wounds I feel but cannot express as she would surely say I was trying to make her feel guilty and not call again for many more months. I just want to heal. It feels like a death in a sense as the relationship was both ways until around college and beyond. I understand she has her own life and is busy. I am retired but try to keep busy with friends, volunteering etc... But I feel so depressed by the one sided relationship, feeling used and uncared about and loss of a once mutual relationship, where I could actually phone or contact her once in awhile. I stopped because she never responded. I told her that rather than call her knowing she's super busy, that she could call when she had time and felt like talking. In any case, it feels like a death in a sense, though she's alive because she rarely calls and is usually emotionally cold and distant. I have to be super careful with whatever I say because she misconstrues it and gets angry and gives me no opportunity to clarify her perceived affronts. I walk on eggshells and am tired of it. I love her so much but honestly, it seems less painful after not hearing from her for months and the pain reactivated with short, superficial calls in which it seems nearly impossible to not offend her-even then. As far as discussing her feelings or what might be bothering her (as it appears she is angry) she flat out will not respond or discuss. I did say some things that deeply offended her several years ago, have apologized, asked if there is anything I can do to attempt right things, asked her to please feel free to express her anger etc... She won't and seems to be using the past to punish me. I did overstep my bounds, did acknowledge and apologize but it seems that she cannot let go. She does bury and avoid difficult feelings whether with me or others and it has only gotten worse over the years. She cannot be wrong or apologize or take responsibility for her part in any faltering or failed relationships. She also has no problem just writing people out of her life and not always because they "wronged" her but she is busy with present relationships and drops people she was friends with for years when they are no longer near by. This has been an ongoing trend. Sorry for rambling so long but I am trying to give you some sense of the larger and longer situation. She admittedly keeps herself frantically busy and issues are not to be dealt with but avoided and stated as "drama" with whomever it might be. I am concerned by her seeming lack of empathy for people. She knows how to "act" but as her mother and having seen her real side (a distant memory it seems) she does not seem to feel much but plays the part as needed. I am not trying to be mean but she really does seem to discard an awful lot of people when they want more than she wants to give which sounds like basic reciprocal friendship.

    • profile image

      Bea 

      6 weeks ago

      Randall, the post below is mine. Can you offer any advice?

    • profile image

      bea 

      6 weeks ago

      I understand what you are saying and realize I have made mistakes with my adult daughter. She has distanced herself a great deal and despite my apologies she seems unable to discuss or forgive me. The problem is this. The relationship and any and all contact are 100 percent on her terms. She calls when she feels like it and months pass in between. She lives on the other side of the country and if she decides to visit here she tells me when. She has all the power and I can take or leave it, if I don't like the terms. It is not a relationship I would accept with others as it is completely one sided and I feel she abuses that power because she knows I miss her. I fear rightfully that it is her way or the highway and have begun to resent her attitude that she is doing me a favor rather than seeing me because she values the relationship. She asks me to pay for her flights if she visits and I doubt she'd come otherwise. So, would I have a relationship with this with a friend? No, but this is my daughter who I love and miss. I am having trouble accepting the completely one sided contact that she expects but will otherwise lose contact all together. I struggle with this because as I said,she is my daughter and I don't want to completely lose her but sometimes feel no contact would be better than on;y having contact on the infrequent basis she does with months passing without a word. I finally begin to adjust to the pain and grief of having so little a relationship, it being all about her needs and convenience and zero interest or concern for my life or wishes and need for a more balanced relationship. What's your advice. I feel deeply sad with the superficial and onesidedness, am I am tired of feeling used but the alternative is no contact.

    • RandallOnTheMove profile imageAUTHOR

      Randall Rittenberry 

      7 weeks ago from Cookeville,TN

      That is a tough one. I will tell you I spent the better part of a decade without much contact with my father. He was emotionally and verbally abusive. He called me one day out of the blue and asked why I never came around except for a couple of hours on Christmas. I bluntly told him why. We worked through it eventually. Sometimes it is for the best. While I can't tell you that it was the right choice as I don't know all the family dynamics, I can tell you that an unhealthy relationship are worse than no relationship. Did she ever say why she wouldn't allow her children to stay with you? As for the gay thing, I hate to say it, but that is just self-righteous on her part. Religion is one thing, love is another. We can love someone without approving of their life choices. Ultimately, it comes down to what is more important: relationship or religion. Religion is hateful, God is love. It may be she is more concerned about how other religious people think about her for having a gay sister. I'm sorry...ranting now.

      Going back to the question of what you should have done: if the relationship was miserable, you did the right thing. It may be the best in the long run. It was for me.

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      Deb Horn 

      2 months ago

      We have 3 daughters. The eldest is married with 2 children. Our middle daughter is gay and married to a woman. We had always had Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving dinners together. Also, we ate in a restaurant for each of the 3 daughters' birthdays. Our eldest refuses to do this anymore if the woman our daughter married is present. (She is against gays for religious reasons). Also, she does not allow her children (ages 8 and 10) to spend any alone time with us or the other grandparents. We decided to end our relationship with her and her family. What should we have done? (Of course, none of us are happy).

    • profile image

      Hayley Bennett 

      3 months ago

      I am having a hard time with my older daughters 23,27 they both don't live with me know but we are a very close family one daughter works with my fathers business and my other daughter works in our business mainly with my husband as we own a pub. Now for the last 19 years on an off I have suffered with depression, it started when my youngest was around 18 months old never had a history of depression but I did go to doctor saying I didn't feel right in myself but wasn't sure what it was. Instead of talking to me he just prescribed antidepress ion which I refused to take, I had lost my grandfather Christmas Day 6 months later my nan died a day before my wedding then my honeymoon I lost a baby. So I think maybe looking back I should had counselling, but unfortunately I was getting worse and I couldn't stand feeling that way anymore, I felt I was no good to anyone my children would be best without me and stupidly took an overdose my eldest at the time noticed I took some tablets but just told her mummy had a belly ache, she was concern and ran my parents as I am typing this now I feel terrible, I got taken to hospital and obliviously have to see different people in the hospital where I had to take medication to help me unfortunately, after trying three lots of medication I can honestly say it mad me worse I was up all night doing house and living on 3 hours sleep per day or feeling like a zombie so I gradually come off the medication, which I haven't been using for over 10 years, I have had relapses but never got really low. Unfortunately the last five years we as a family have been through a court case with my father-in-law which has caused a strain on the whole family mentally & financially, we finally have finished in high court 8 weeks ago and are still waiting for the result, but in the mean time my husband and I have separated and he moved in with my eldest daughter, I feel the 2 eldest daughters have not once rang or txt to see how I am. I emotionally haven't been coping with the break up. I felt so alone and last week decided I have a husband that doesn't want to be with and two daughters who I feel don't really like me, I just wanted to end my life again. I know this is not the answer and I ended up in hospital but lucky enother I was ok, my eldest daughters have basically hated me for what I done so I txt them a message apologise for my actions and explained how I felt, they have responded with a horrible txt saying they don't want anything to do with me I need help I am selfish I don't think of others, wonder why dad left you will feel he should be free from you, I understand they are hurting but they are not children they are adults but there isn't any compassion towards me or support which that properly sounds selfish as I am the mum, what would you advice to try and win my daughters back I was in a dark place I had lost everything I loved and know one seemed to care how I was feeling my husband court case which could mean we lose our house and 2 daughters who had no care about there mother. Is it just them reacting, or they can't cope, I don't feel proud and I never thought I would be in this place again, my heart has broken regarding my husband but my children I feel have been cruel now my youngest who is 19 she never would be so unkind how would you bend this relationship with my daughters. I know this is a lot to take in but I really dont know what to do. Some advice I would appreciate that.

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      Shereeb 

      5 months ago

      I'm having a really hard time right now. I have two kids which one almost died at birth, and now has cerebral palsy. My kids are 21 and 22. I have been very close to them. I will always be. My son wants to go away for 2 and half days to the beach. I literally have cried every single day. I find it hard and impossible to let go. I don't know whats wrong with me. My kids are really good kids. I'm not just saying that either. My problem is everything that could happen or go wrong goes through my mind. I feel like I'm gonna end up in he hospital. I'm having a very hard time. I love these kids so much. They are my world... I could never let anybody babysit them, I hardly ever let them stay away from home, and when I did I hardly slept. But I think the time has come where I'm gonna have to let go. I just don't know how I'm gonna survive it.

    • profile image

      Praj 

      2 years ago

      Hey hi!,

      I too am my parents very loved daughter, and I have faced a similar problem as u gave in your life examples. I have been in a relation from 7 years. I was 22 when I started dating. My parents kept forcing me to leave the guy for 3 years without meeting him. I still kept meeting him lieing to my parents. Getting fedup to my stubbornness they decided to meet him, and they weren't pleased with his parents but were ok with my bf. They asked them to have a house of their own as they were staying in a rented house, my bf took efforts of buying one after 1 year in the outskirts of city we live in, coz it was expensive to buy house somewhere near the city. I appreciate it, my parents too appreciated it, but now after 6 years they say that how will you travel to work after u get married? When I have decided to get married to them with their consent , how on earth do the have to bother me on how will I live my life? Still I made efforts to make them understand what could be done. They wernt convinced and asked me to rethink. Later they made decsion that I better get married in the next 4 months, which when I told to my gf he said, he wasnt yet ready as he needs a little more time to settle things for us financially. I was a little worried with his statement as I knew my parents wont listen to this explanation, so I tried to pressurize him to agree by saying the same thing that its now or never. He was taken aback as I was considering my parents concern, so our relationship got bitter, he wanted me to make my parents realize they were doing wrong, but since I have never said anything to my parents which makes them feel insecure interms of their child doesnt value them anymore kind of thoughts, I couldnt do much. now I dnt know what to do. how do I still have both sides happy.

    • profile image

      Hurt mom 

      3 years ago

      My child just informed me that she made the decision to transfer college and move 7 hours away where her boyfriend of two years lives with his family. I don't care for this boy at all. She has so much going for her. She has a full academic scholarship but doesn't care. Boyfriend doesn't work or go to school. Total bum!! His parents think the world of my daughter and are rolling out the red carpet for her. I am beside myself. How do I deal with this?

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      lilly 

      3 years ago

      I'm not sure if my mother has a right to be offended here and I'm not being considerate enough or if, as I feel, I have the right to feel as though she isn't respecting me. I changed my legal name due to traumatic events in my past, I am trying to create a then and now in my life as I have come a long way with dealing with issues this has left me with and the name my mother gave me was a constant reminder of where I used to be and to enable me to grow I felt I needed to leave that behind. However having explained this to my mother she keeps maintaining that I have done this to spite her and that I have rejected everything she ever gave me and that I'm a selfish and inconsiderate daughter. She refuses to use the name I have chosen and further more refuses to allow people, such as my brother, flat mates and friends, to use it around her. The problem is that anytime I try talking to her she acts as though I am attacking her and claims I am causing her depression and I have to walk away. Now I know this is untrue and this her manipulating me and people around us, it is not guilt that makes me walk away but I get so angry I worry about the consequences of staying around her. I am not sure how to get her to acknowledge that while this may not be easy for her I have spent the last eight years dealing with a trauma and finding ways to cope with the aftermath, this decision was made after three years of discussing options with a counsellor and not a spur of the moment because I felt like it. I'm 25 and I don't live with my parents I don't ask for their help with anything as I work full time and study part time so I am perfectly capable of supporting myself I don't understand why she thinks that she has to treat me like a child who cannot make their own choices. Currently I am barely speaking with my family because it is causing me so much stress but I would like to find a way to make her understand what she is doing as I do not want to completely cut off from everyone other than my brother which is the direction this is currently going as no one else in my family will say anything or argue with her decision.

    • RandallOnTheMove profile imageAUTHOR

      Randall Rittenberry 

      3 years ago from Cookeville,TN

      Let him go....if you haven't done anything wrong it is his issue. If you try to force a relationship it will just get worse. When he comes around on his own, and they usually do, it will be a true relationship. I know that can be hard, especially as a mother. We would be that way with non-family members, but sometimes we think the rules are different with family. They are not. Is it harder to let family member go than a non-family member? Absolutely! But if you don't then you are inviting misery on a whole new level. Hope this helps, and sorry to hear about this situation.

    • RandallOnTheMove profile imageAUTHOR

      Randall Rittenberry 

      3 years ago from Cookeville,TN

      Why didn't you just tell your mother to mind her business? It sounds like there is more here than just her being over-protective. By giving in, you are accepting and enabling her attitude. I have news for you: she is never going to approve of anyone you date and it is not her place to do so. Stand your ground, and stand up to her. What's more important...her approval or your happiness? As a grown man you are wrong to allow her to treat you like a child...take your stuff and chaperone you? Sometimes we just have to grow a set. I have had to do the same thing with my father and my in-laws at times. They get over it.

    • hot dorkage profile image

      hot dorkage 

      3 years ago from Oregon, USA

      29 yr old son, lives away, has done mostly since graduating HS. Have seen him on/off in those 11 yrs, including a stint when he stayed back at the old home place but he has been an hour away since 2009. I was seeing him regularly for lunch this past year, but it became clear in spring he was not into it so I quit telling him when I was down. I had business in his neck of the woods was every 2-3 weeks and sometimes he said no and sometimes I couldn't anyway and that was OK, so maybe we had lunch 6 or 7 times since last Oct. Anyway.... No contact for past 6 months. The last thing I remember saying to him that may have pissed him off is that he told me of some "friend" who was engaging in criminal activity in a way that could implicate him. I warned him that it was probably a good idea to distance himself from that or he could get sucked in and do time. Other than that all was civil and small-talk. well 6 months gone by so I sent him a birthday card on his B-day signed "love, Mom" now he says he will call the cops if I contact him again. I am not worried about the cops because I have never done anything to even remotely threaten him and that is so full of crap that it's unbelievable, but I am heartbroken by the sentiment expressed in that message. I guess he doesn't want an Xmas card..... Please advise...

    • profile image

      Jonathan 

      3 years ago

      I'm 35 years old, and an only child. I moved out from home when I was 19, but after my father passed away a couple of years ago, my Mom and I both fell onto financial hardships. We decided to help each other by selling each of our places, and moving in together to help save some money; but always with the intention of be being on my own again.

      I've always been very close with my Mom, and she's always been supportive in everything that I've chosen to do with my life. Everything that is, except for dating. I've always had low self esteem when it comes to women, as I don't consider myself attractive or anything special. And there's always been this underlying fear of my Mom's expectations of who I date, even as a teenager and as an adult; so I've always kept quiet about girls, never mentioning what kind of woman I'm even attracted to. Or when asked by family and friends why I'm not married or have a girlfriend, I always simply brush it off with a comment like, "I'm too busy", or "I'm never getting married, it's not for me", which always in my heart has been a lie. Part of me feels embarrassed admitting to my Mom (and to everyone else) that I do want a relationship.

      Earlier in the year I started hitting it off with this woman at my health club. But on my first date with her, as I was walking out the door, my Mom asked where I was going. I told her that I was going out for dinner with a woman I met at the club. And her response to that was, "Fine, go out with your hooker." And it wasn't said in a sarcastic way either, she was quite miserable about it. When I got home later that evening, my Mom was quite angry with me, and she started yelling at me for going out and spending money on some woman, money we don't have! I told her I paid for her $13 dinner with my own money, but it didn't matter to her. I had no business going out on a date.

      Regardless of my Mom's reaction, I continued to see her anyways. And the more I saw of her, the better my Mom's attitude got. Maybe it wasn't going to be so bad after all, and she just need time to adjust. I told her more about the kind of person she was, and how we enjoyed each others company. We dated for about a month, when my Mom said she wanted to meet her. So plans were made and the three of us went for dinner. I really couldn't gauge how things were going throughout meal, and I was nervous about the entire situation, but things seemed to be going okay. At one point, my girlfriend gently and briefly touched my arm, twice. No other physical contact was made between us during that time. After the evening was over and my Mom and I went home, the next couple of days were a disaster. My Mom called her everything in the book, and how she was just using me or sex (even though we still hadn't slept together). Or that she was too old for me (she's four year's older than I am), and that she expected better from me. She kept making all these judgments about her, none of which were true. And then she brought up the fact that she put her hand on my arm during dinner, and that "she kept pawing" at me. My Mom said she had no business touching me like that, especially when we've only been dating for a month. God forbid she knew about the hot and heavy make-out sessions we've had in my car. But I was stunned, heartbroken and hurt. And in the end, she didn't approve of my girlfriend, and pretty much told me to end it.

      My girlfriend told me that she had suspected that my Mom didn't like her at dinner. She said we could continue seeing each other if I wanted, but she wouldn't be kept a secret. That lasted about a week. I went to lunch and a movie with friends the following weekend, and invited my girlfriend to meet them. I wanted my friends opinions of her. Maybe my Mom was right? My friends thought she was lovely and that my Mom was just being overprotective and overstepping her bounds. A few days went by, and my girlfriend called me, and my Mom blew up. She asked why she was still calling me, and she thought that I had ended it over a week ago. My Mom then asked if she came to lunch and the movie with my friends. By this point I didn't have a choice, and I lied, and told her that she wasn't with us. My Mom was telling me that she was going to start chaperoning me with my friends, to the health club where I met my girlfriend, and even threatening to get a hold of my phone records, as she wanted to know what I could possibly be texting with this woman all the time. (My personal phone that I pay for). She then started lecturing me about sex, as if I was 14 years old, and telling me that I needed to find someone who was my own age, and who was still a virgin. It was at this point I realized there was no way I could continue this relationship with this girl. And neither one of us wanted to keep it a secret. So what choice did I have, I had to end it. My girlfriend was hurt, but understood the situation I was in. She did however leave me with one thing that I took to heart. She told me that she knew the kind of girl my Mom would approve of... herself. And I think she may be right about that.

      It's only been a couple of weeks since I broke it off, and it hurts, it hurts a lot. This entire ordeal with my Mom has me deeply depressed. Everyone tells me I should just move out, but I can't, not yet anyways. I'm not in a financial position where I'm able to do that, nor is my Mom able to live on her own again until we have some of the money issues resolved. But even if I did move out, even to the other side of the world, it seems as if she's never going to approve of anyone. My Mom is the only family that I have left, and I love her dearly, but this entire situation has made me incredibly resentful of her, and fearful and sad about the possibility of being alone for the rest of my life. Yet my Mom has always said "one day, when I get married". But how is that supposed to happen if I can't even date?

    • RandallOnTheMove profile imageAUTHOR

      Randall Rittenberry 

      3 years ago from Cookeville,TN

      @Joyce Taylor...I am not sure I understand the relevance of your comment to this hub.

    • profile image

      Joyce Taylor 

      3 years ago

      I suffer from PTSD and just about the whole family suffers from bipolar disorder. We were born into a very selfish home with two parents who would rather drink in the bars and leave us home alone or in the car all day and night with no food or water, I am the youngest and was 3 when I started having panic attacks but back then they didn't know enough about this to get a real diagnosis so most of us go threw a life of hell.

    • RandallOnTheMove profile imageAUTHOR

      Randall Rittenberry 

      4 years ago from Cookeville,TN

      @nightwolf3000.....that is tough. My advice would be to help with the baby things, but nothing else. Just say no. I feel bad for your grandchild because he/she is an innocent victim here. I am seeing this way too often in today's culture among young people. I think a good dose of reality is what is needed. So just say no on the help unless they are trying to work and do for themselves. On a side note, it is possible your son's anxiety and depression lies in the fact he isn't contributing to his own life. My son has similar issues, but it won't change until he takes responsibility for himself.

    • profile image

      nightwolf3000 

      4 years ago

      I'm hoping to get some advice. Reading this article and all the posts has already helped me some. I have a 20 year old son that has anxiety and depression issues, didn't graduate high school and refuses to work. We let his girlfriend who had no place to live come stay with us and she would work here and there but couldn't hold a job long before either quiting or getting fired for not going to work everyday. We provided everything for them while they lived with us for a year and we decided last year that they needed to move out if they weren't going to get jobs and set goals to do something with their lives. She was pregnant at the time so they were able to get low income housing and food stamps, she has had 2 different jobs (customer service call center) in the last year and she calls in sick and makes up stories not to go into work. I don't know how she hasn't gotten fired because she is home more than she is at work. The baby is now 6 months old and of course I think the world of my grandbaby. I honestly don't think they have bought anything for the baby. I buy diapers and wipes when they are on sale in bulk and give them to them, her grandparents bought the bed but everything else I've bought. I don't pay their bills but if they run short I'll fill up their gas tank or buy them food. They always spend what little money they have on my son for video games or something he wants. They have no money saved and are pregnant again. They are always behind on their bills and complain about it to me all the time. My sons anxiety got so bad recently that I had to get him into a therapist and got him medication, our health insurance plan has a large co pay so I'm paying $160 a month for him to see the therapist so he can feel better plus the cost of meds. I have accepted that he doesn't want to work and that he wants to be a stay at home dad, but how am I supposed to feel when I find out she is skipping work and not getting paid for this time off and putting herself into a situation to get fired. They make up lies saying she is going to work but then I find out about it, now they are upset with me because they feel like I'm stalking them. When I tell my son that I'm not going to help them anymore because they aren't helping themselves then he just stops calling me and gets mad. The thought of not seeing my grandbaby really upsets me (I see her almost everyday). I don't know how to set boundaries of not helping them without it hurting our relationship. Does anyone have any advice?

    • profile image

      NIGHTWOLF3000 

      4 years ago

      I'm hoping to get some advice. Reading this article and all the posts has already helped me some. I have a 20 year old son that has anxiety and depression issues, didn't graduate high school and refuses to work. We let his girlfriend who had no place to live come stay with us and she would work here and there but couldn't hold a job long before either quiting or getting fired for not going to work everyday. We provided everything for them while they lived with us for a year and we decided last year that they needed to move out if they weren't going to get jobs and set goals to do something with their lives. She was pregnant at the time so they were able to get low income housing and food stamps, she has had 2 different jobs (customer service call center) in the last year and she calls in sick and makes up stories not to go into work. I don't know how she hasn't gotten fired because she is home more than she is at work. The baby is now 6 months old and of course I think the world of my grandbaby. I honestly don't think they have bought anything for the baby. I buy diapers and wipes when they are on sale in bulk and give them to them, her grandparents bought the bed but everything else I've bought. I don't pay their bills but if they run short I'll fill up their gas tank or buy them food. They always spend what little money they have on my son for video games or something he wants. They have no money saved and are pregnant again. They are always behind on their bills and complain about it to me all the time. My sons anxiety got so bad recently that I had to get him into a therapist and got him medication, our health insurance plan has a large co pay so I'm paying $160 a month for him to see the therapist so he can feel better plus the cost of meds. I have accepted that he doesn't want to work and that he wants to be a stay at home dad, but how am I supposed to feel when I find out she is skipping work and not getting paid for this time off and putting herself into a situation to get fired. They make up lies saying she is going to work but then I find out about it, now they are upset with me because they feel like I'm stalking them. When I tell my son that I'm not going to help them anymore because they aren't helping themselves then he just stops calling me and gets mad. The thought of not seeing my grandbaby really upsets me (I see her almost everyday). I don't know how to set boundaries of not helping them without it hurting our relationship. Does anyone have any advice?

    • profile image

      LotusFlower75 

      4 years ago

      Randall - Thanks so much for your response! You have no idea how much your brief paragraph just helped me. I have received so much judgment because I chose to separate myself from my family. I've had so many people tell me that family should come first, no matter what and that you should always stick by family no matter what. Like you said, it's the idea that you're supposed to stay loyal to family even if you're miserable. I have never felt that way, and I always believed that I had the right to have some kind of peace in my life even if that meant no longer being part of my family. None of family members seem to understand, and they simply view me as being difficult or weird. I have 3 older siblings, and they have all chosen to remain close to the family and even moved back to the little town where we grew up to be near our parents. They like to pretend that none of the dysfunction and abuse we grew up in ever happened, and that we're just one big happy family. The way we grew up was not normal or healthy, but I was quickly hushed and dismissed whenever I tried to discuss it with my mother or my siblings, like they thought I was just trying to start trouble. I've always been the one who wants to discuss things and get to the truth, while the rest of my family prefers a sweep it under the rug and pretend it never happened approach. It's such a bizarre situation, and I often feel completely alone in trying to make any sense of it. I have carried around a lot of guilt for choosing to remove myself from my family, especially since I don't personally know anyone who has gone through anything similar. My mother was good at laying on the guilt as well. I'll never forget 10 years ago when I first met my spouse, and I told my mother that my spouse made me the happiest I had ever been. She did not express joy that her daughter was happy. Instead, her response was, "Even happier than when you lived with me?" Why would a mother do that?! Why not just be happy that your child is happy? After all these years, I am finally starting to realize that I don't have to feel guilty for choosing my own peace of mind over my dysfunctional family. Thank you again for this article, and for making me feel a little less weird for not being close to my family.

    • RandallOnTheMove profile imageAUTHOR

      Randall Rittenberry 

      4 years ago from Cookeville,TN

      @LotusFlower75,

      Your experience is why I wrote this article to begin with. As a counselor, I am always confronted with this situation. I have also seen this happen on a more personal level...not with my parents, but a lot of my close friends and other family members. I think the thing that always bothered me was that the people who want to control their adult children are usually the same ones complaining about their parents trying to control them. I understand the need to separate yourself as well. Too many people use the excuse of family to justify their behavior, or stay miserable because of a sense of loyalty. I had a situation recently where I had to take a stand against a family member, and I was willing to walk away from that part of my family if I needed to do so. Life is too short to be miserable. If reconciliation isn't possible, I will take my peace any day. Hang in there!

    • profile image

      thelma 

      4 years ago

      My daughter was dating this boy and he try to control her and she up with him and his parents thinks she's wrong for breaking up with him now

    • profile image

      LotusFlower75 

      4 years ago

      Randall - I, for one, thank you very much for this article! I see that there are some parents on here who take issue with what you wrote. Those are probably the ones who need to heed the information you provided here the most. If a parent is allowing their grown, adult child to still live with them, then that's on them. And I'm referring to adult children who are mid-20s or older, not teens to early 20s which is typically college aged young adults. If someone is old enough to be working and out on their own, then they should do so. Why allow them to stay in your home and then complain about how much you hate having them there? Make them take responsibility for their own lives.

      I find your article particularly helpful when it comes to adult children who DON'T live with their parents, but the parents still feel like they need to butt in and tell the "child" how to live, what choices to make, etc. The child has the right to say "enough already!" I am a woman in my late 30s, and my situation got so bad that I essentially cut off all contact with my mother for the past couple of years. I have never felt so at peace! I know a lot of people will think I'm a horrible daughter, but I really don't care. I got tired of her constant criticism and unsolicited advice. She never listened to me, and constantly disrespected my boundaries. I just got tired of it. I grew up in an extremely unhealthy home environment, and it never ceases to amaze me that my mother who made so many horrible choices for herself (and by extension, her children) thinks that she has any right at all to criticize my choices. In addition to being an adult child, I am also her youngest. And for some parents, they seem to always view their youngest as a baby. I am nearly 40 years old. At what point do they realize that I am an intelligent, mature adult capable of handling my own life? What's interesting is that although I'm the youngest, I am the only one who has actually moved out of the state we grew up in. I was the first to go to college, and I'm the only one who has traveled extensively and experienced things that most of my family never imagined. Yet for some reason, they seem to refuse to view me as the woman I am today instead of the child they remember from decades ago. To the woman who said maybe adult children should listen to their mothers, well I say maybe it's the mothers who should listen to their adult kids. Your children have already spent 18 years listening to you. Don't think that you can't learn anything from your child just because you're the parent.

    • RandallOnTheMove profile imageAUTHOR

      Randall Rittenberry 

      4 years ago from Cookeville,TN

      I think so, if that is how you feel, for now anyway. There may come a time when you may change your mind, and that is ok as well. More than likely this will be a passing interest for her and him. It is rare that much of an age difference works out.

    • profile image

      evelynjo 

      4 years ago

      How would you handle your 22 year old daughter dating/moving in with a 52 year old man? Twice divorced, recovering alcoholic? She is living on her own, so I know there is nothing I can do about who she chooses to date, but I do not want this man (who is my age) at any family functions. I am never going to accept him (I have met him). I know it might mean losing my daughter and I feel that is ok. She has changed a lot and I hardly know her anymore. Do I just leave her alone?

    • RandallOnTheMove profile imageAUTHOR

      Randall Rittenberry 

      4 years ago from Cookeville,TN

      Thank you

    • poweranni profile image

      Anne Gillingham 

      4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Thank God: a balanced, normal article about this topic.

    • RandallOnTheMove profile imageAUTHOR

      Randall Rittenberry 

      4 years ago from Cookeville,TN

      I think you have the right to choose whether to babysit or not regardless of what they think.

    • profile image

      tierd in la . 

      4 years ago

      m my past as excusey problem is my mom never protected me as akid .now my adult kids use that as an excuse to say i use my mom as excuse to not babysit .i have told them because my nerves is to bad to keep kids .so iam using my past as an excuse. i feel because i have no family or friends.my kids use this to get their way .what do u think

    • RandallOnTheMove profile imageAUTHOR

      Randall Rittenberry 

      4 years ago from Cookeville,TN

      Unfortunately, I see this a lot. In my own life, my parents didn't try to control me, but my father was a constant source of criticism. He never gave opinions on finances, life goals, parenting,etc., but he was always tearing me down as a person. He would make snide comments, and outright humiliate me in front of others. I finally made a decision to not be around him except when I absolutely had no other choice; usually holidays. That went on for about 10 years, and then he finally brought up the fact that I didn't spend time with him and he wanted to know why. So we had a long talk, and I told him in no uncertain terms that the behavior he had towards me was unacceptable. It worked out; today we have a good relationship. But I had to make a choice for my own emotional health, and my family's as well, not to allow anyone into my life who caused me pain. That is hard to do sometimes, but I believe it is the only choice we have at times to be able to function in a healthy manner. Now keep in mind that she has issues as well, and most of the time your mother isn't just picking on you. It is probably a by-product of her own insecurities. That will help you to have compassion, but it still doesn't excuse the behavior. I would have a talk with her about it;let her know how it makes you feel. If she is unwilling to listen, then you may have to walk away, at least for awhile.

    • profile image

      Me 

      4 years ago

      This article is fantastic. I'm dealing with a lot from my mom lately. I'm 27 with three kids, my husband and I are thriving on our own, and it's almost as if my mother resents this. She is constantly telling us we aren't doing good enough and honestly I would be fine with the criticism she calls advice (I've been dealing with that forever.). Where I am having an issue though is that she never has anything nice to say and if I dare to contradict her,even politely, she isn't shy about screaming at me for being a bitch along with a string of other horrible and out of line things. Worst of all she isn't shy about doing this in front of my kids. I am at a loss for how to deal with her at this point short of cutting ties with her. There are other issues as well but this one bothers me most of all. As a mother I just can't imagine spewing such hateful things at my children even when they are grown up.

    • RandallOnTheMove profile imageAUTHOR

      Randall Rittenberry 

      4 years ago from Cookeville,TN

      The advice I would give you is going to run counter to our current culture. It is simple.....it is your home and you get to make the decision. I understand she may have anxiety and depression, but that does not give her the right to hold you and your property captive. This is a great time to put your foot down and say no. This will do two things: 1) it reinforces that you are the authority in the home. Remember, I stated in the article that you have the right to decide what happens on your property, regardless of how old your child may be. 2) it sends her the message that she can't use her condition as means to manipulate others into getting what she wants. This is very critical. I hope this helps.

    • profile image

      AngeC123 

      4 years ago

      Would love advice here.. my adult daughter has returned home to go to college near home. Her anxiety and depression issues made dorm life very difficult for her and she just did not do well. We have a dog, and now she wants another pet to "help with her depression" I personally do not want another pet in the house. I do not want the added expense and have to take care of it when she is out of town. I get so much anger and hate for saying no, its like when she was ten. Any ideas on how to deal with this, or do I just suck it up and live with an angry person?

    • RandallOnTheMove profile imageAUTHOR

      Randall Rittenberry 

      4 years ago from Cookeville,TN

      @ Jane...."I guess I do not entirely agree that parents should't discuss these issues with their adult kids.' I believe these things should be taught before adulthood. After adulthood, we have no right to tell them anything unless they ask. I would ask that you ask yourself how you would feel if you were an adult and your parents just hounded you with advice all the time, or intruded into your life, or had anopinion on all things 'you'.

    • RandallOnTheMove profile imageAUTHOR

      Randall Rittenberry 

      4 years ago from Cookeville,TN

      @Jane and Missy,

      I think you have missed the point of this article. The article is talking about boundaries, and I actually touched on the issues you both state, but it was very brief and toward the end of the article. It is directed more towards adult children who are on their own. I still see issues between some of my friends with meddling and controlling parents, and they are in their mid-40's with grown kids of their own! That was the 'meat' of the article. Even with my son living at home, I feel it is not my right to say anything unless it affects the whole household. I do not believe in co-dependency nor enabling! Quite frankly,Missy, I have to ask why you are enabling that type of behavior from your son. Since it is your home, he either tows the line or gets out. Until you take that stance, you are only enabling your son. Missy, I couldn't agree with you more, but what a lot of parents do, and I have seen this increasingly the past decade, is continue to bail their kids out. I believe a person should suffer consequences for bad decisions. That was how it was when I was growing up! Unfortunately, our society, and government, have fostered an environment in our country that doesn't allow people to suffer for not being responsible. I have a second part to this which covers this subject in reverse. I may need to update it because I think both of your comments had great points to learn from. Thanks for your input and for reading! Even if you don't agree, I appreciate you taking the time.

    • profile image

      Missy 

      4 years ago

      @Jane - I couldn't agree with YOU more. This article rather rubs me the wrong way. My son, who made the mistake of getting married and having a child too young, is now getting divorced and living with ME. I am supporting him, driving him around and providing free babysitting services. I want him OUT in the worst way because of the way he treats ME. HIS choices were HIS. Why should I have to pay for them or adjust my life and attitude to fit HIS bad choices? My life has gone to CRAP in every way since he moved in with me and there is constant stress and tension from an ADULT child who is acting like he is a teenager in high-school again.

    • profile image

      Diane 

      4 years ago

      I have been married for 28 years and have a meddling mother! My husband has 2 kids from a previous marriage who my mother has become obsessed with due to accusations she made 20 some years ago. Instead of dealing with her guilt she has bought and enabled one to the point of stunting her growth. She has been to our counsellor once a few weeks ago and said she has done nothing wrong and it is basically her way or the highway! It is pretty hard to raise a responsible and accountable child when there is someone meddling and going behind your backs constantly. I am at my wits end and have decided that my relationship with her can no longer go on. We last spoke 2 months ago and I am struggling with the fact that a mother would ever let someone come between their child and themselves. We have two children of our own and I would never let that happen! Power is money to my mother and that is how she has conducted her whole life - buying gifts, cars, etc. to get the support of family members who know there is a problem, but will not stand up to her. Any suggestions???

    • profile image

      jane 

      4 years ago

      If these adult kids are so grown up and make such good decisions, then why are so many living at home? They are on our health insurance until 26 yrs. and most cannot afford to repay loans, drive a car, etc. Kids today are entitled and want our lifestyles. They do not understand that it does not just happen overnight It takes hard work . Many kids I work with today have poor work ethics and lack competitiveness. Many feel strongly about making personal statements- they may think it is acceptable to sport tattoos and piercings but it will not help them on the job front. Also, the hookup culture is pervasive with this generation and is impacting their abilities to have meaningful long-term relationships. The 24/7 technology may be convenient but has replaced oral and written communication.I feel that we have been too lenient with our kids. I guess I do not entirely agree that parents should't discuss these issues with their adult kids. Maybe more kids should listen to their parents. Otherwise, find some place else to live!!

    • RandallOnTheMove profile imageAUTHOR

      Randall Rittenberry 

      6 years ago from Cookeville,TN

      @ Someone. How old are you? You said you are a teen, but are you an adult as in 18 or 19?

    • RandallOnTheMove profile imageAUTHOR

      Randall Rittenberry 

      6 years ago from Cookeville,TN

      @ Thomas....I have a 19 yr old and go through the same thing. I usually don't give him advice unless he asks.

    • profile image

      Thomas 

      6 years ago

      My adult children still live with us. The problem I am having is that my kids will not listen to a damn thing I tell them. I have lived a rather worldly life. I have seen things, and frankly, done things that 90% of the populace has not. Yet, my kids act like I'm a dumb ass everytime I open my mouth. Just this morning my wife and I have decided...."NO more advice!" That's it! From this point on when asked...."I don't know." is going to be my response. Let them learn it the hard way. I had to.

    • profile image

      Someone 

      6 years ago

      My father is the same. I am a teen, and he comes into my room everyday (I'm a girl, btw) and stares. Now, in the room of a teen, there are obviously things that one does not want other people to see. So him being here causes me to get annoyed. Then, when my mom tells him to leave, he leaves after saying how he won't disturb me. And it makes me feel guilty. Really guilty. But tomorrow, he does the same thing again. And again, and again. It has almost gotten to the point where I try to avoid him, and I don't want that to happen. It's not like I hate him, but he uses words like 'still a baby', 'my love'... and seriously, it kinda creeps me out. Then he'll mention how when I was young, I would go running to him for everything. This happens many times. Almost everyday, in fact. But when I try to tell him how I need my privacy, he just brushes it off. Could I have some help, please?

    • RandallOnTheMove profile imageAUTHOR

      Randall Rittenberry 

      7 years ago from Cookeville,TN

      I am glad you are thinking about this now. i did the same thing when my children were that age, and I was able to deal with the emotions involved before they got out of hand. My kids know that they can come to me about anything, but it has to be at their invitation.

    • CheapDaisy profile image

      CheapDaisy 

      7 years ago

      I am 34 years old and I experience this almost everyday from my mother. I have been screaming...boundaries...for a few years now but I feel so emotionally dependant on having a realtionship with her that I find myself in this cycle. Now that I have two girls of my own (4 and 2) I am constantly talking to my husband and thinking about what type of mother I should be once they are wives and mothers. I could say so much more. EXCELLENT HUB EXCELLENT!

    • RandallOnTheMove profile imageAUTHOR

      Randall Rittenberry 

      7 years ago from Cookeville,TN

      Thank you all for the kind comments.

    • Karanda profile image

      Karen Wilton 

      7 years ago from Australia

      Excellent hub and nice reminder to me as a parent of adults that my children have grown into functioning human beings. To me they will always be my babies but I know I need to recognise them as adults and respect their choices.

    • GetInTheKnow profile image

      GetInTheKnow 

      7 years ago

      As a mother I can see how easy it is to want to step in and fix all their "Troubles". As someone who was young once I can also see how much of a negative impact that can have. A lot of people don't realize that by not allowing our young adults to take control of the responsibilities and choices in their lives (obviously there are some exceptions i.e. when safety is involved) we can easily be setting them up for heart-ache or a failure to thrive so-to-speak. Those actions do not promote independence and as an adult independence is something you have to learn to succeed - in most cases.

      Great info!

    • profile image

      John Nelson 

      7 years ago

      Good stuff Randall...perfect timing!...I have 3 adult daughters and we are having these issues now. Thanks for the advice!

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