How to Deal with Difficult Family Relationships

Families are beautiful, complicated, and ever changing beings. They are living and breathing organisms made up of language, values, beliefs, religions, and traditions. Sometimes there are disagreements, fights, and/or past hurts. This often happens when one family member challenges any of the above factors. I’ve recently experienced this myself, and it’s tough to know how to deal with a family member who decides to push you out of their life.

As I’m sure you’ve discovered, there is no one answer to family relationship challenges. What I can offer is describing what I’ve done so far with the jury still being out on whether or not my actions were effective. Feel free to share how you’ve dealt with a long-standing conflict with someone you love and cherish within your immediate family.

In my conflict, my character was questioned after a thirty-two year close sibling relationship. My sister pushed me away, along with my two nieces, who I’m close to and dearly love after I just moved 2,500 miles to be closer to my family. This was devastating. I apologized, but no change resulted. I’ll keep it simple, but it’s of course, a complicated relationship with extrinsic influencing factors.  How do you deal with being pushed away?  I’m still learning how to effectively deal with this myself.

Silent patience

After a few text wars between my sister, and also me, and my brother-in-law including many hurtful accusations, I went ghost. When in heated discussions over text or in-person sometimes everyone needs space to think about the situation. This is still occurring. I believe the situation would’ve worsened if the conversations continued.

Remain kind 

After much experience over the years, I try to always choose to be mature and kind. This is very difficult when words are being slung around towards you that you can’t believe you’re hearing from someone who knows you well, and loves you deeply. Stay kind so you don’t have any regrets. This isn’t something I did and wish I would’ve.

Focus on the present issue 

When issues surface often times many other past issues surface or even resurface. This can be destructive or productive depending on how well you and the other parties are listening to and understanding each other. From my observations this goes south quickly due to the success or failure of addressing the compounding issues. Ask yourself, “what is the actual issue?”

Think about your life without them

We take our family for granted at times. When you’re irritated, frustrated, and/or angry, think about your life minus them. How does it look? How does it make you feel? What do they mean to you? Then, reassess your reaction and language. It’s cliché but life is just too short to push them away because of a disagreement. This leads me to my next point.

Agree to disagree

We’re all uniquely designed, which is the beautiful part about being you, but this can cause friction within families. Sometimes accepting your differences allows for the relationship to continue without resentment. Due to us having egos and the drive to be right, we miss this step. We have to fight against our inner mean girl to break through to the mature open-minded self.


This may seem obvious but it’s not something we like to do. Say that you’re sorry for what you did to create the problem. Remember that the only person you can control is yourself. Be a part of the solution, not the problem.


Even though you may not understand what happened and may never will think about letting it go. Forgiveness is key to mending relationships. If you want to start a healthy relationship with them again, or simply move forward in your life, forgiveness (from your end) is essential. I understand there are circumstances where this may be the ultimate challenge.

Before reacting, step back and ask yourself what you really want. Do you want to preserve the relationship or be right? Do you want to maintain the relationship and apologize? Do you want to create strict boundaries after dealing with reoccurring fights about the same issue, despite the fact that they are family? What do you want and need? How can you contribute towards a collaborative solution? I challenge you to rise above your surface, egocentric disposition, and instead act with your deep, loving self (the challenge is for me too!). 

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