I'm in my mid twenties, recently graduated (2 years ago), single, living alone, and working professionally. I am not a very open person. I keep my personal life, professional life, family life, and friends-circle very separate from one another.
My parents have an empty nest now. I have four siblings, making there 5 children of my parents in total. I am one of only two that live nearby my parents. Occasionally, they like to drive over and visit with me, especially since I am one of the very few children they can easily physically meet up with.
I love the opportunity to spend time with my parents, at least in principle, and usually in practice. There is nothing overtly unhealthy about our relationship, they are very respectful parents and I believe I reciprocate that. Time doesn't stop for anyone, and after my grandparents passed away, I realized I don't want to take my parents for granted while I have them, or squander opportunities to bond with them while we share existence together. Therefore almost every time they ask if I'm open to them swinging by for dinner, I accept happily. The problem arises on these occasions, when we get together to bond and relate to one another.
The way this usually plays out, we pick a place to eat, and then eat and catch up. The problem I have is that I feel like I don't have a lot to share with them, or perhaps I don't have a lot I am willing to share with them. I can keep the conversation going for some time by querying and letting them share their lives, but when I come up with scraps in return, I think it is starting to stand out now, and it is a bit awkward. I can tell they are starting to notice it, but don't fully understand it yet, because they misunderstand. For example on the last occasion, my mom followed up the visit with an sms concerned that they chilled the conversation by offending me somehow (not the case, and I assured her so).
So what is it I'm asking?
I don't know what 'the solution' looks like.. I don't know if there is something I should say, or a behavior I should change, or there's nothing that can be done, or even something else. So overall, it is difficult to distill this into a pointed question.. Whatever it is though, the following are what I am hoping to accomplish:
- I want to be able to relate to my parents in a casual, fun, and relaxing way. I want to be able to bond with them regularly.
- I don't want to be the cause of any awkwardness or feelings of estrangement.
- I want to maintain the boundaries in my life (not at all costs, but just as a strong preference I have for some reason (I am not even certain why I am this way, I just am))
What can I do?
I think the concern about estrangement is key... I'm not looking for ways to excuse discussion of topics, or even excuse the obscurity. They don't ask pointed questions that I need to explicitly decline. They don't even know what they don't know.. All I think they really know by now is, I don't share a lot, I'm not very open, and there has clearly got to be more to my life than I volunteer to them. Some people may think that unreciprocated openness is a problem... ...and I can't decide. Our relationship has been fine up to this point, but if they truly start to suspect/realize they have a very small share of me, will they feel estranged? and will it weaken our relationship in their eyes (even though it has been the same and strong as ever in my own)? Is a relationship like this fair, or is it on unequal footing? Have I been in the wrong this way, or is this normal?
People have requested I make this a little more concrete. To elaborate on some examples of dried up or dead conversation ends:
- My workplace is great, but the work itself is rather mundane. Work is normally a safe bet for getting a conversation off the ground among strangers, but among people I am close with, I personally just don't get any enjoyment or find any interest in going on about it. It feels to be a tedium and a drag, elaborated just for politeness.
- In my personal time I have a number of hobbies. e.g. I game, I draw, I write... but circumstantially, each of these are either things they have an express lack of interest in (the particular games I play) or I am 100% not interested in sharing even the existence of (drawings, written works)
- I spend time with friends and we have good fun doing things together, but again, circumstantially, the vast majority of this I'd rather maintain in a completely exclusive sphere from my parents. They do not know any of my friends, or what I do with them even if they did know them.
- We occasionally talk about other family members during catch up, but this is kind of cheating because we all have contact with the family as much as one another, and it only serves as a (weakening) distraction from the fact I am not sharing about my own life.
- It has occurred to me that maybe we should find some kind of activity to share instead of just a meal and conversation. We haven't talked about that in years, and it might be a viable route to reconsider, but at least the last time we considered it (years ago) we just couldn't think of anything we would all really enjoy together.
- We have had very fun and engaging spiritual discussions before, in part because they are dedicated Christians and I fell very very much away from that. Over the years this has basically dried out though. Philosophically there is no further anyone is likely to be convinced. I have no spiritual life of my own to share. Occasionally they have an interesting bit of their own spiritual life to share, but again, it's one sided (them sharing, not me).
Hopefully this helps and I apologize for not including it in the original post.