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2015 was definitely the year of self-improvement for me. I didn’t expect it starting out but that’s what happened.
I quit smoking!
I am drinking more water than anything. (Before, it was strictly Pepsi and tea)
My post, 50 Ways to Save And Make Money reached thousands of readers!
I went through the Make Over Your Mornings Course.
I took a much needed break from the internet to plan 2016.
I am in better health now that my thyroid is somewhat under control.
Through this journey to self-improvement (that I didn’t know I was on at first!), I read many “Self-Help” books. A common theme I noticed in each of them was the advice to lean on the support of your family. To let your family members know when you need help. So many of the authors made the assumption that the reader would have a mother who would be happy to babysit. O, a sibling who would participate in a freezer cooking day. The comments were scattered throughout many different books. I understand the intention that is how family SHOULD be. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
You see, I don’t have the “typical” family. I didn’t grow up in a house with a white picket fence and a mom and dad and 2.5 siblings chasing the family dog. No, my upbringing was of a different breed. Without going into the specifics, I will say that my family is considered dysfunctional at best. Aside from a select few members, I cannot count on them when I need help. I’ve dealt with addictions, mental health issues and harassment. And that has just been from one member!
I spent many years trying to fix their problems to no avail. It started to get to the point where the dysfunction with my family was affecting my daily life. It was not healthy at all and I had to learn how to make changes in order to live the life I want to live.
I know that I am not the only one with family members who are more like enemies than anything else. I’ve learned 5 ways to deal with dysfunctional family members without sacrificing your own sanity.
Do Not Fall Into the Same Patterns
Each family has their own sets of patterns. You go to your parent’s house for Thanksgiving and after a few hours of friendly conversation, someone says something hurtful and an argument starts. If you know that one family member gets particularly hurtful after a few hours, leave before the conversation turns. Or avoid speaking to that family member. If a hurtful remark is said, try to brush it off instead of engaging in an argument. Recognize the patterns, they are different with each family, and decide how you are going to handle it BEFORE it happens again.
Pray For Them Every Day
You can continue to pray for your dysfunctional family members even when they are acting, well, dysfunctional. In fact, that is the time they need your prayers the most!
Practice Tough Love
For example, if they have a drinking problems and always needs money for their rent to avoid eviction, don’t do it. Maybe do it one time with the stipulation of them going to rehab and that’s it. If they continue drinking and ask for money again, don’t give it to them. It’s tough but that is the only way they will learn that their behavior needs to change. Practicing tough love may look different to you. It may be that you will have to refuse to bail out a family member from jail or less dramatically, not cover your brother’s lunch for the billionth time this month.
Don’t allow family member’s dysfunction to play a role in your life. If you’ve tried to help them and you’ve got burned or they refused help, you don’t have to continue. You can still love them and wish the best for them. Set some healthy boundaries to prevent their mistakes from affecting you. This may look different depending on your circumstances. It may be best to only visit certain family with your spouse along for support. Or, maybe only allow them to visit with your children with you present. Set boundaries which will work for you.
Remove them from your life.
This may sound harsh to you. And it’s the one I’ve struggled with the most. But, if your family member’s dysfunction is so bad that it is affecting your own life or that of your children, it may be better to cut ties. YOU can break the cycle. I’ve had to take a step back from different family members at different parts of my life. This has helped me tremendously.
It still hurts that I don’t have the “typical” family support that others do. But, I know that I’m much healthier and happier practicing these 5 steps.
***Please note that I am not meaning dysfunction between spouses. If that exists in your life, I strongly urge you to seek immediate help.***
How about you? Have you had to deal with difficult family members? Are you still stuck in the dysfunctional cycle or have you broke free? Share in the comments your experience with this.