It’s not uncommon in families to have strained relationships, whether between siblings, parents, or relatives. But knowing how to deal with difficult family relationships, especially unhealthy relationships, is pivotal. Using healthy communication strategies can help you clearly communicate your wants and needs. But where do you start when you’re dealing with a strained relationship?
How to Manage a Difficult Relationship
Family relationships can be challenging, but they can also be sources of strength. If a family member has hurt you, it’s important to remember that sometimes it’s your own fault. How you interact with family members relates to your behavior, so learning how to manage a difficult relationship may help you overcome your negative feelings towards family members.
- Ask for suggest meeting someplace neutral. Family relationships can be among the most important relationships in our lives, and they often last a lifetime. But like any relationship, they can also get messy. If your family relationships are coming up short, it might be time to get everyone together to talk and try to mend fences. If it’s getting too hard, though, one possible solution is to meet someplace neutral.
- Prepare yourself mentally for your interactions. There are sometimes difficult conversations that come up, and dealing with these issues can be a challenge. But you can help prepare yourself mentally for your interactions by learning effective communications skills, then using them to get the most out of any difficult conversations.
- Be empathetic. Dispelling the myth that tough love is the best way to handle anger or difficult family relationships, research shows that empathizing with others is the most effective way to show love and avoid conflict. As empathetic people, we can learn to look at it from the other person’s perspective instead of just focusing on our own anger and frustrations. This perspective allows you to feel the same emotions but recognize them as such so they don’t cloud your ability to see the situation as it truly is.
How to Interact with a Difficult Family Member
The key is to take the first step and understand what issues they’re dealing with—and how you can help them.
- Evade Hot Topics or Sensitive Subjects. Family members and loved ones who are difficult are a fact of life. Difficult family members can create hurt feelings, though, and it’s difficult to know how to react. Should you avoid them altogether, or should you discuss sensitive topics with them?
- Pay Attention to Your Emotions. It’s not always easy to have difficult conversations with family members, but there are times when it’s better to tread lightly. When family members are difficult, it can be hard for others to understand how their actions affect you. They may be hurt, angry, confused, or resentful, and it can be difficult to maintain your calm.
- Be Intentional. Whether you’re a guest at a family gathering or trying to communicate with family members online, it is easy to say the wrong thing or tense up and shut down. But it’s important to remember that sometimes the best thing you can do is be intentional and model the behavior you want to see in others.
- Avoid Trying to ‘Fix’ Things. Family conflicts are an unfortunate reality of life, and they can certainly put a strain on relationships. It’s normal to feel upset when family members feud or argue, but it’s important that you’re able to set your emotions aside. Doing so can help you identify what the underlying issue is and resolve it. But what do you do when a family member seems unwilling to listen to reason?
How to Deal with Toxic Family Dynamics
Toxic family dynamics are, by definition, stressful, frustrating, and damaging. Sometimes that damage can be hard to undo, but, fortunately, there are some ways to effectively deal with destructive behaviors and negative attitudes towards your life. In addition, there are things you can do to minimize the harmful effects of others’ toxic behavior.
- Set boundaries. Knowing how to set boundaries is important for maintaining a healthy, happy life. We each deserve to have healthy boundaries and people who respect them.
- Give yourself permission to leave. Toxic family dynamics can be damaging to your overall well-being, causing you stress and making you feel stuck and unhappy. Fortunately, you can take back control of your situation. You can leave an unhealthy situation and permit yourself to leave.
- Be selective about what information you share. Dealing with toxic family dynamics is hard, but there are things you can do to create a more positive environment within your home. Everyone experiences unpleasant family dynamics, but being selective about what information you share with your family members can help reduce the impact of these dynamics. Learn their differences, and don’t forget to value your own health above all else.
Family relationships can be tricky to navigate at times. Even the closest families can occasionally have a disagreement, but when big disagreements fester, the relationship can disintegrate. When you think your family relationships are healthy, it can seem like there’s nothing wrong. But, when problems arise, you may realize just how unhealthy your family interactions truly are. When dealing with difficult family situations, it is advisable to seek the help of a therapist.