Conflict with you family of origin, extended family, or partner’s family can be difficult to navigate
“You don’t get to choose your family, but you do get to choose how they’re allowed to treat you”
– Michele Meleen, M.S.Ed.
Conflict in Family Relationships
It is possible to have a difficult relationship with anyone you have a relationship with. You may be having a hard time getting along with your parents, siblings, in-laws, or extended family. We can’t choose the family that we are born into. It also often happens that we fall in love with someone but then have difficulty getting along with their family!
If there is a relationship that is causing you upset, it can be helpful to work with a therapist to explore things like boundaries; radical acceptance; and to get an unbiased perspective on the situation. One of the things that makes these difficult relationships even more difficult is that often there is no one in your life that you feel like you can talk about it with.
Relationships with difficult or “toxic” parents
In my professional experience, it is rare that people choose to cut off all contact with parents or those that raised them. Even in situations of overt abuse, it can be more painful to not have your parents in your life than to not. It is important in these situations to decide where you want to set boundaries and do so. For some, boundaries were not taught to them growing up, or even not allowed! So it can cause inner turmoil when you think about setting boundaries now, even feelings of guilt or shame. It can be hard to decide where you want to place boundaries, if you have no experience setting them. Some people don’t set boundaries with family because they know their family members will ignore or disrespect the boundaries. Working with a professional can help you decide where you need the emotional protection of boundaries, and how to best go about setting and communicating them.
For clients who have left the religion they were brought up in, or who have experienced spiritual abuse or religious trauma, it can be painful to maintain relationships with family members who don’t understand your experience or respect your decisions. Many LGBTQ+ clients who grew up in evangelical families report hurt at the struggles their families have accepting them for who they are.
Some people have in-laws who dislike them and often they are unsure why. They may disrespect you, make hurtful comments, or try to drive a wedge between you and your partner. What’s worse is that in some cases your partner might take their family’s side instead of supporting you.
Creating Healthier Relationships
It can feel impossible to improve your difficult relationships with family members if they are unable or unwilling to change. It may not seem possible – but changing the way that you interact with the people in your life can improve your relationships even if the other person does not change anything.
It may be that the relationship that you want to improve is the relationship that you have with yourself. If you struggle with self confidence, self esteem, or simply liking and respecting yourself, therapy can be helpful for that as well.
Relationships with ourselves and others are the most important parts of being human. Don’t struggle alone, feeling like things can never get better!
When to See a Professional About Navigating Difficult Relationships
If you are questioning whether or not you should seek professional help in dealing with difficult relationships, you can likely benefit from talking with a therapist!
You can learn how to create healthier relationships, even if the other person does not change at all. If you are interested in setting up an appointment, visit the appointment page.
Stacey is a therapist in private practice and the owner of Inspired Happiness Therapy and Wellness in Ridgeland, MS.