5 Ways To Deal With Unhealthy Family Relationships

This week, I read a quote by Willard Scott in google+. It said, “Positive feelings come from being honest about yourself and accepting your personality, and physical characteristics, warts and all; and, from belonging to a family that accepts you without question.” Willard Scott. Somebody had posted a comment: I have it all… except for the family that accepts without question. When I read it, I felt sad. It reminded me that family is sometimes seen in a rather limited way and it is more than just the family we are born in. I commented that family does not only mean the family you are born in, it can also be friends or colleagues. He answered with a smiley: if it’s that kind of family I have too. I replied, me, too. It’s a good one. and he posted, the best one ever.

Life seems easy if your family relationships are supportive and nurturing.

However, how can you deal with family relationships if they are unhealthy or manipulative?

Our family relationships are the first relationships we experience in our life. As children, we needed their attention, their love and their nourishment. During our childhood, we adapted the best way possible to the circumstances and tried to fit it so that we could belong to them. We may have tried to save them from their problems. We may have taken on the responsibility for their happiness. As children, we need our family and we love them unconditionally without knowing what is good for us.
However, as adults, we have choices. We do not have to stay in relationships that try to control and manipulate or that constantly use blame or shaming. You may still feel obliged to do what your family says and wants, however you can learn to take care of yourself. Taking care of yourself isn’t selfish. It’s part of your personal growth process and your path to become mature. You can’t save other people, even if it is your family. You can’t change them if they don’t want to. You can only save yourself. And you are free to leave relationships that hinder your growth, that don’t accept and don’t support you. You are the most important person in your life. You are responsible for your well-being and your emotional health.

What can you do if your family relationships are unhealthy?

  • Execute your rights.
    You are an adult now, and you can claim your rights. What your rights are? Here are a few to think about: you have the right to be happy, and you have the right to be happier than those around you. You have the right to follow your own values and standards. You have the right to take care for yourself, no matter what. You have the right to be uniquely you, without feeling that you aren’t good enough. You have the right to be in a non-abusive environment. You have the right to dignity and respect.
  • Put some distance between yourself and your family.
    If your family relations are unhealthy, find a place for yourself that enables you to feel well with it. Put the distance you need between yourself and your family. What distance can you put between yourself and your family so that you feel well? What kind of contact do you want to have with them? You are free to put the distance you need and to follow your path. It is kind and caring for yourself to love your family with the necessary distance.
  • Cut contact with manipulative family members.
    If the relationships are manipulative or if they constantly drag you down, cut contact with these family members. You are not obliged to stay in contact with your family. You are responsible for your own well-being and for taking care for yourself. If your family ties hinder your personal growth, you have the choice to cut contact with them. I cut contact with my father when I was 26 years old. It was the best and wisest decision I took for my well-being. I acknowledged that he wasn’t able to give me the love and appreciation my inner child longed for. It was not an easy decision. I faced comments like how dare you, or you are a bad daughter. I received looks that expressed disapproval. I also received a card from a friend who thanked me for cutting contact with my father and given her the courage to do the same. The world is full of different opinions about what is right. Important is that you follow your intuition. I don’t know how it is like to grow up in a supportive family. I do know that there are good reasons to stop having contact with family members. Being a family relationship doesn’t justify manipulation.
  • Heal your inner picture of your family.
    Your childhood experiences influence your way to relate with the world. If you have experienced unhealthy situations, you have to heal the effects it had on yourself. If you don’t face the issues you experienced in your family, you risk repeating the same mistakes as your parents did. I always said, “I never want to have the manipulative relationship my mother had.” And I had it in another disguise until I dealt with the effects my family had on myself.
    As an adult, you are able to face the pain and heal your inner child from the pain he or she experienced in their childhood. Face your grief of all you didn’t have and let go of it. You also can do a family constellation to liberate the effects your family had on you. Through the process of self-discovery and awareness, you can find inner peace with the family issues you are dealing with.
  • Create your own definition of family.
    I am blessed with two types of family: the family I was born in and my chosen family. My chosen family consists of my three cats and my closest friends. They give me the love, support and sense of belonging I need. You have faced challenging family relations. You can continue to look at all what you never had, and it is likely that you will never get it there. You family gave you the best they could. They didn’t have more. They have their own story that hinders them to give you what you want.
    As an adult, you have the choice to create the kind of family you wish. Outside the family you were born in, there is a group of people waiting for you that accepts you without questions. That’s your family of souls. Invite them into your life!

Difficult family relationships are painful experiences. However, they don’t define your capacity to experiment positive feelings. Through growth, self-awareness and self-discovery, you can transform them into life mastery and wisdom. That’s a path so that you generate positive feelings with the kind of family you had.

 

Copyright © 2014, Natalie Jovanic. All rights reserved.

Natalie Jovanic

Natalie Jovanic is a Registered Therapeutic Counsellor. As a counsellor, she passes on what she believes in, but it isn’t just knowledge, theory, and professional experience. It is also her wisdom gained through her own transformational journey of healing violence and abuse.