When are you old enough to have people stop telling you how to live your life?

First off, let me be clear I am not talking about living outside society’s rules and expectations. If you shoplift, run a grow-op, drink and drive, smoke in the presence of others or abuse your family, there will always be people telling you how to live; there is no age limit…

Growing up

As a child and youth you accepted as normal that your parents and teachers would tell you how to live. In fact you depended upon it. Gradually, as you moved through your teens, you developed a picture of how you wanted to live your life. That picture has undoubtedly changed over time, but your ownership of it has strengthened.

As a young adult you became more resistant to your parents freely telling you how to live, and they gradually shifted, sometimes unwillingly, to offering advice when asked.


If you married young, your husband may have taken over from your father in telling you how to live your life; and you may have taken over from his mother in telling him how to live his life.

During early adulthood you develop a deepened sense of who you are and what you want from your life. This can be threatening to your partner if neither of you understands that what is happening is normal and natural personal growth.

The key to getting through this phase of life intact is for each of you to work on knowing what you want for your future, discuss your plans, support one another through the inevitable changes, and find solutions to the apparent impasses. Resist the free advice that rushes in at any sign of trouble, but do consult carefully as needed.

Middle age

You are now old enough to never have anyone telling you how to live your life. It simply should not happen anymore. You are the captain of your life, whether you are single or married.

However, are you able to live your life without telling anyone else how to live theirs? As you mature, this is the question that is really hard to deal with for many people. Again, discuss, discuss, discuss. Discussion is not about winning an argument and having your way, but about getting past mistakes and finding solutions that both of you are happy with.

So if you are in a marriage where you are being told how to live or where you are telling your partner how to live, I encourage you to both take a hard look at your lives and do what you need to do to correct the imbalance.

You are too old to be living this way.

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Dr. Neill Neill retired his psychology practice at the end of 2013. He maintains an active coaching practice via telephone or Skype with select clients dealing with alcoholic husbands or ex-husbands. Check out his book, Living with a Functioning Alcoholic: A Woman's Survival Guide. http://drneillneill.com

3 thoughts on “When are you old enough to have people stop telling you how to live your life?

  1. Hi Dr. Neill,
    This post really resonated with me! I have hit that stage where I am “middle aged.” And this article helped me realize that I am confident in myself and my experiences that I don’t let people tell me how to live my life anymore. I listen and if the advice is sound I take it, but if it’s not I cast it away. I found this article to be very empowering–that it is ok for me to feel in control of my own life.

  2. I am working on that aspect of my life even though I am approaching middle age; people are still trying to tell me how to live my life. I am in therapy, learning how to be more assertive and to get people off my back.

  3. I think that the temptation to either be driven by someone else’s opinion or the opposite end of the polarity, to be the one needing to try to control another comes from one’s fears of not knowing who they are even after they get that perfect job, spouse, and live in a beautiful setting.

    To live by anything or anyone external is living blind to the inner voice of the Spirit from which we learn our purpose while living on this earth. So to anyone past middle age and into their 80’s and 90’s still feeling unfulfilled struggling to keep what one has gained in their exterior world, be not dismayed.

    Take heed to the part of you that has been all these years hidden to you…your soul that has been calling out since toddlerhood to know it’s spiritual Source.

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