Jan 24, 2020
How To Manage Difficult Family Relationships

You cannot choose your family but you can choose your friends – here's how to deal with difficult family members.

We probably all have connections with people in our lives, such as family or friends, where the relationship could be considered “unhealthy”. This could be the person who drags you into their drama or traps you in a cycle of arguments, anxiety and discontentment.

Often our connections with these family members or friends tend to reflect our inner beliefs about ourselves, in that we do not believe we are “good enough” to be happy and have fulfilling relationships. These beliefs develop in our childhood and are influenced by our upbringing. However, these do not have to define your relationships in your adult life. You have the power to change the way in which you relate to others and ultimately you have a choice about the people that you allow into your life. Change can happen but one of the first moves is to learn to love yourself. Relationship and family counselling can provide you with a safe space to explore your beliefs about yourself and your relationships and it can empower you to make positive changes so that you develop healthier more fulfilling relationships in the future.

Below are some pointers that may be helpful to support you as you start to manage relationships with difficult family members and/or friends:

Be Responsible

A negative encounter with a family member or friend can be viewed as a learning experience. Ask yourself what can I learn from this situation?  It may be that this negative experience demonstrates to you that you need to speak up for yourself, something you would not normally do.  

Identify Emotions

We need to remember that all our relationships do not have to last forever.  It is OK to leave those unhealthy relationships by the wayside if they don’t make us feel good about ourselves. When we are connected to difficult family members, we may experience quite strong emotions such as hurt, panic and anger. It is these emotions, rather than the person, that is the problem. In these situations, try to identify the root cause and why this person bothers you so much, then try and let it go.

Don’t Engage

Engaging with the negative behaviour of a difficult family member is playing into their hands. Often this is what they want, as you are supporting them by fuelling their bad behaviour and continuing with their unhealthy patterns of relating. In these situations, it is best to disconnect with their drama.  Don’t let yourself believe you are in the wrong or that it is your fault - it is not. Disengage and focus on your own wellbeing.

Take a Break

Sometimes you may need to take a break from the difficult family member or person. Taking some time out can help ground you. Take a walk, take some deep breaths and remember they do not have any power over you.  

Maintain Boundaries

Boundaries are extremely important as they stop your family members or difficult people treating you any way they wish. Clear boundaries maintain clarity about what you deem as acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in a relationship.

Distance Yourself/Move Forward

You do not have to spend time with negative people or with those that evoke such strong emotions in you. If the connection does not feel comfortable for you then distance yourself. Move forward by making space for new more fulfilling relationships.

Respect Yourself

It is important to respect yourself. When you have respect for yourself you are less likely to invest your time into people who treat you badly. Instead, you want to surround yourself with positive happy people with whom you can develop healthy and more fulfilling relationships. 

You Can Only Change Yourself, Not Others

Remember no matter how much you want that difficult family member to be different towards you, you do not have the power to change them no matter how hard you try.  You can only make positive changes to yourself. Remember they are who they are, set yourself free from this.

If you find yourself in a relationship with a difficult family member, friend or work colleague and would like some further to understand your situation then please do contact me via my contact form or give me a call. We can work through this process together.

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