When I say the word “family,” I’m sure that several different feelings come to mind. Let’s be real here, family can either bring the greatest joy to our lives or the greatest amount of pain. I’ll bet that many of you who are reading this post started thinking of all the awkward Thanksgiving dinners or holidays that you’ve had to stomach through with that one family member that always manages to get under your skin. For others, many of you are remembering very traumatic events that you’ve suffered at the hands of some family members, and you are having a hard time forgiving them.
I think the burning question that we all have is how can we possibly get along with people that we can’t stand in our families? I would like to answer that question with a question. Is it that we are trying to just simply get along with difficult family members, or are we simply coping with being around them until we can leave? One instance involves you actually pursuing a relationship with that family member, while the other implies that you’ve given up on the relationship and are simply just tolerating being around them. Whatever the case may be, there are ways to work around the conflict and possibly end up with what we all want in the end: peace of mind.
1. Know what your limits are in terms of how you interact with this family member. We all have limits or areas in our lives where other people are not welcome. And that is perfectly okay! When it comes to that difficult family member, you don’t have to let them into places of your life where you are not comfortable with them being. You have every right to say the word “no” if you need to.
2. It’s okay to say what you feel. Your feelings are your own. No one can own them for you and no one can express them on your behalf. It is important, however, that when you express them that you do so in a way that is not cruel or hateful to others. In fact, expressing your feelings to this family member may help with resolving the conflict between you two. I do have to issue a disclaimer, though, expressing your feelings may help with resolving the issue, but that does not necessarily mean that will be the case. If anything, it can help start changing things within the family.
3. If a family member has a habit of abusing you, you have every right to put an end to it. Abuse in any form is unacceptable and no one should put up with it. If this family member always has a habit of verbally abusing you during family functions, you have every right to say that you will not be attending any family functions that they will be attending if they continue. If there is actual danger from this family member abusing you, you have every right to contact local law enforcement in order to ensure your safety. If there has been a history of abuse, you have every right to set limits with this family member in terms of how much time you spend around them.
4. Don’t focus on the past and hold a grudge. Holding a grudge is like drinking a poison that the offending person was supposed to drink. They never die, but we slowly die on the inside. This is where forgiveness is very important. I know what you may be thinking, “Forgive them? You’ve got to be joking!” No, I’m not joking. Forgiveness is incredibly important for us to be able to move on and heal. The important thing to understand is that forgiveness is a process and it could take years for you to be able to do that. Forgiveness also does not mean that you reconcile with the person that hurt you or excuse their behavior away. It just means that you are not holding the past against a person in order to set yourself free to live your life.
As I said earlier on in our conversation, being around our families can be tough. There are some things, however, that it is important for use to realize when handling less than ideal family situations. We are valuable members of our families, and we are entitled to respect and dignity from all of our family members. This may look different from family to family, but it is essential for all of us to do our parts in order to resolve conflict accordingly.