sixtyandme logo
We are community supported and may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Learn more

3 Tips for Navigating Complicated Relationships on This Side of 50

By Leslie Moon October 26, 2023 Family

As I write this article, I find myself in a phase of life where I am 61 years old and very suddenly having to supervise care for my mom who just turned 85. This situation is further complicated by the fact that our relationship has not been the most fabulous. She was an active alcoholic for a large part of my life, and I raised myself for the most part.

The feelings that I’m currently immersed in are everything from resentment (because I’ve taken care of her since I was 5 years old) to realizing that I’m doing the right thing to anxiety and worry in general about what the future might hold because there is a limit to what I can or am willing to do in this situation.

But I’m her only child. I’m all she’s got right now.

In my community, Life Balance After 50, I often hear from women who struggle with complicated or toxic relationships in their lives.

These relationships can occur with parents, adult children, spouses, siblings, and friends.

Managing them can be difficult and take a physical and emotional toll on us at this stage of the game. Following are my three top ways to stay healthy and balanced as we move through these situations.

Lean Into Your Supportive and Healthy Relationships

Your friends and family truly want to help, so let them! Cry, vent, or grab someone to join you for a movie or a cup of coffee. I always think my husband is sick of hearing me complain, and then I do again, and he gives me accolades because I’m doing what I’m doing. We should complain! It’s OKAY to complain!

Take people up on their offers to help if it’s something that would be helpful for you. I had a good friend who offered to go with me on a visit to my mom’s, and I loved that idea. If there’s a day I feel l need it, I will definitely ask her to go with me! And I know that she’ll be happy to!

Lean into your people. It’s validating for you as well as physically and emotionally healthy.

Practice Self-Care

We read it and hear it over and over, but many in this community don’t apply it to ourselves and our own situations: If we aren’t taking care of ourselves and keeping ourselves healthy and happy, we are no good to our loved ones or others that we might be caring for!

It is so important to carve out time for ourselves each day to do something that brings us joy and gives us purpose. Whether it’s getting ice cream with a grandchild, curling up with a great book, taking a walk outside, or volunteering, take the time and do it!

I had planned a weekend with my husband, children, and grandchildren at our beach home before all of this happened with my mom. As the date for the weekend came closer, I considered postponing it. After thinking about it, I decided to go ahead and go, and I was so glad I did. I had four days with my husband and two days with all of the kids and grands filled with laughter, ocean, sand, and fun. It was a great respite and one that was well deserved, if I’m being honest.

My going changed nothing of my situation with my mother. But it gave me days of joy, family, and love. It filled my cup.

Know When It’s Time to Let Go of the Relationship

This can be very difficult to consider, particularly if your toxic relationship is with an adult child. But there are times when it just has to be done. Being afraid of another person is a sure signal. If your relationship with that person is negatively affecting other healthier relationships, that can be a signal, as well.

And, of course, if you are feeling sick, anxious, stressed, not sleeping, or not eating because of the complicated relationship, it may be time to step back and/or set some boundaries.

If I think about cutting off ties with my mom, there’s all kinds of guilt that I feel followed by anger that I feel that way. The emotions and feelings when we think about cutting a relationship out of our lives are often intensely strong.

Although I will likely never cut things off with my mother because she’s 85, and I’m the only person there to take care of her, I will and have started to set boundaries in terms of my time as well as what I’m comfortable or not comfortable doing.

I’ve become more able to say “no” to certain requests without feeling guilt. I have put my behavioral background to use and am actively not attending to things that are said in an effort to rile me up.

Sometimes these tools work and other times they don’t. On the days they don’t, I try to give myself the grace that I need. I take extra breaks or don’t visit that day.

Most importantly, I tell myself that that’s okay. And I mean it!

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Do you have a complicated or toxic relationship in your life that you are managing? What are the biggest challenges? What small step can you take today to carve out a bit of time for you?

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

I am at this stage with my adult child. She does not wat e in her life. We are both going to counselling separately and our last one is together in a few weeks. I still don’t know what I have done.

She is a 31 year old trans woman. She came out10 years ago. I feel the change started when she started taking the hormones. She lost her sense of humour.

I was starting to think that things were going to be OK but recent events have made me question that. 5 weeks ago I tripped onn iorooted sidewalk and fell face down on the side walk.
My face looked like I had been badly beaten. I took photos and sent them to her. She expressed her shock at how badly looked. She never asked e if she could do anything or get me groceries or my Rxs. Nothing. Then I didn’t hear from her for week. ‘How is the healing going’ that was it.

Last week I had a medical emergency. I was Bleeding internally and was on intravenous and drip antibiotics for 4 days. She text me once and said how are you. She never came to see me. She lives one bus away. I was home r days before she contacted me.

She was a very compassionate and empathetic boy/man. It appears now that she has no empathy. I am very saddened by thus and deep down I know I have to walk away…with love. I will always love her and be there is she ever needed me. She doesn’t need me now. This is not how I saw our lives turning out. I am 73. T


Sharon, I am so sorry that you are going through this. She knows you love her. Keep gently letting her know you’re there but more importantly practice self care for you too. Lean into your supportive people. Thank you for sharing this.


If you have any children of your own they will be watching how you treat your Mom and they will do the same for you when you reach that age.The old saying “What goes around comes around ” is really true. We need to teach our kids not to be turned off by old people. Be sure to include them in her care so they will learn by your example. I know it’s hard but if we love only those who love us where is the merit in that? Also keep your boundaries and if she is abusive stop going for a while if there is someone else there to take over for you. The elderly are the most neglected people out there by their families I know because I worked for them for many years. The wealthy elderly especially. It was so sad to see how little their children cared about them. If your Mom drank a lot she was covering pain and obviously was abandoned by your Father who took no responsibility for your care as a child. What an evil man to hurt both of you. Maybe she can talk about it with you so you can have a full understanding. Empathy is a real healer of relationships. Good luck to you.


There are so many wrong assumptions made here. I don’t expect all to agree with my pov but when someone bashes someone that I love I do need to make that right. My father is an amazing man and has been and continues to be a rock for me. The rest of the comment I will just breathe and walk away from because I understand that it’s coming from someone who has not walked in my shoes.

The Author

Leslie is the founder of Life Balance After 50 where she uses her background in counseling and behavior analysis to help women navigate their goals and dreams after 50. She created a free mini workbook along with a guide and a full-length workbook for women who are looking to redefine and find joy and purpose in their second half of life. Contact Leslie at

You Might Also Like