I spent 2016 learning how to be a therapist. I sat with many people who were hurting. Most of them had something in common, they have been hurt by family. Someone somewhere caused pain that left them feeling hopeless, depressed, scared or alone. The holidays are over and a New Year is here. Here are some tips to dealing with the family members that are causing conflict or pain in your life.
- Be a good listener.
Find out what the person you are in conflict with wants and how they expect you to meet those expectations.
- Repeat back what you hear them saying to make sure the message you hear is accurate.
It is so easy to have a rebuttal in our heads going the whole time someone is talking instead of listening
- Decide if you can meet the expectations.
Sometimes you can and sometimes you cannot. Only you can decide.
- Express the feelings you experience as a result of the way you are being treated.
This is not easy and takes vulnerability. Vulnerability is difficult because it means you can get hurt. Call them on the phone and ask them to listen, write an email, letter, however, if you can get your feelings across, do it!
- Try to compromise. Compromising is a part of life. There is always a happy medium if two people are willing to find it.
- Draw boundaries when necessary.
Until I became a therapist I use to believe that no matter what it took family was family and you worked it out no matter. I have learned this last year that it takes two. Relationships are never one sided. It takes two people who want a better relationship to make it work. If you are the only one fighting for your relationship, then it is time to draw boundaries.
- Do not allow yourself to be treated poorly no matter how much you love the person.
Here are the ways to recognize if you are being poorly treated:
- The person calls you names.
- They blame you for the relationship break- down.
- They manipulate you by withholding love from you. I see this lot. It is often done through silence. The person refuses to talk to you, answer calls or engage in an adult to adult conversation with you.
- They punish you for not doing what they want.
- The create unrealistic rules to follow.
- Be intentional without being controlled.
You can open the door for a better relationship to happen without being controlled or at someone else’s beckon call. Being intentional means I will not allow the person to control me or manipulate me but will be available when they want to talk.
- Have self-respect.
Self-respect says I will not allow someone to belittle me, blame me for problems or treat me poorly.
- Do not sweep problems under the rug.
Problems that are left undealt with only get worse. If you have a family member that ignores you for long periods of time and then pretends everything is ok is manipulating you. The only way to not keep repeating the same patterns over and over again is to talk about them. Do not allow anyone to treat you poorly and then pretend something never happened. Being an adult means you hold people accountable, help them grow and invite them to take ownership of their actions.
- Forgive over and over again.
Someone cannot keep paying for the same mistake. Offer forgiveness whether they ask for it or not. Forgiveness sets you free. The only person held captive by not forgiving is you. Forgiveness does not mean you invite someone back into your life to be hurt, it just means you are letting go of the hurt they have inflicted on you.
- Don’t be afraid to say goodbye
This is the hardest one for me to write but I truly believe, if someone is manipulating you, hurting you, abusing you or continuing to inflict emotional pain on you then you need to let this person go. It doesn’t have to be forever but you cannot allow yourself to be treated this way.
- Realize that life is short
Do not give up easy. Fight hard. Try to get along. Seek help from professionals. But if someone doesn’t want to change realize that life is too short to be treated “this way”. Do not succumb to emotional or physical abuse to mend a relationship. The opposite is also true, do not hold on to anger, pain, and hurt when you could just get along. Life is too short.