I am a twenty-eight-year-old divorced woman with a nine-year-old son. I have lived with my parents since the break up of my marriage, but it won’t be long before I will be out on my own, which is what I want the most.

For some reason I feel like I don’t fit in with anyone, not even with my own family. I love them, but from a distance…. Their bad attitudes, the constant fights I have with my mother, the talking back and lack of respect of my younger sisters, and the horrible conduct of my brother, who is now eighteen, really bother me…. I can’t stand the way they act, which never changes and I feel has been a negative influence on my son. Is it wrong to love them from a distance?

Dear Friend,

Your situation is not unusual. When people are put together in relatively small spaces for long periods of time, they almost always get on each other’s nerves. And when two mothers (such as you and your mother) live in the same household, there is often hidden tension, which may develop into open bickering. So it is wonderful that you will be able to move out very soon.

Your question, whether it is wrong to love your family from a distance, might be answered differently in different cultures. Multigenerational living is the norm in many places in the world.

Taking care of aging parents is certainly the right thing to do. When an adult child can bring the parent into that adult child’s home, then it can be a positive experience for the entire family. However, when it is the adult child who moves back into the parents’ home (or who never left), all of the roles get mixed up. It is the parents’ right to expect the adult child to conform to the parents’ household rules and procedures, but many adult children in the Western world are not willing to conform. Constant power struggles are the result.

After the story of God creating Adam, and then Eve, the Scriptures say that a man is to leave his father and mother, and make a home with his wife.(1) The wife obviously leaves her father and mother so that she can make a home with her husband. Of course, neither Adam nor Eve had an earthly mother or father. Mothers and fathers did not yet exist. But the principle of leaving is so important that the instruction was given before it was ever needed.

After you move out and have had some time on your own, your negative feelings will be more manageable. You will have the power to visit your family and then leave. When you do, it will probably be best to always go with a specific mission in mind, such as helping one of them in some way. Keep busy while you are there, pursuing your goal. Then, as soon as you are finished, give everyone a hug and leave.

We wish you the best,

1 Ge 2:24