Helpful people are usually well-intentioned, sympathetic, and aware of the needs of others. They take pride in and draw strength from their ability to comfort and nurture others and are able to do so with ease.
Being helpful can be a wonderful quality. However, when the need to contribute becomes over-reaching, it becomes unhealthy and intrusive. A strong desire to help often arises from a need to feel needed in order to feel worthwhile. Wanting to be needed sometimes leads a person to become overly-involved, meddling, and manipulative in other people’s lives.
This relationship became unhealthy when an attempt was made to create an alliance with your daughter by weakening her relationship with you. This undermines your relationship with your daughter and causes more suffering rather than helping your family.
It’s important to insist on boundaries for you and your daughter. The most effective and compassionate way to do so would be to acknowledge the adult’s desire to be helpful, and then to clearly state what you want.
You might say, “I appreciate your desire to help my daughter. But when you say negative things about me, that hurts us both. We need to work things out in our own way. So for the time being, it would be most helpful if you gave her some space. Please don’t discuss me or our lives with her.”
You might also tell your child that when people try to establish a connection by demeaning someone else, everyone suffers. Tell her that if this occurs again, she can say, “It makes me uncomfortable when you say negative things about my mom. You better talk to her directly.”
by Alison Poulsen, PhD