Dealing With A Family Who Isn’t Good For You
Can we all just say something, right here, that perhaps isn’t “nice” to say: some people’s families just aren’t good for them. We all like to believe that, by nature, one’s family is always good for them. But that’s simply not true. A family is just a set of individuals that happen to share DNA. That DNA could make them predisposed to having some of the same likes, dislikes, habits, and dispositions, but it doesn’t guarantee that they’re all going to evolve to be people who get along perfectly. Okay, let’s just say it: being family doesn’t guarantee that you’ll wind up being good for one another. The truth is that some of us have family members who aren’t good for us. Some of us have family that doesn’t support us, energize us or uplift us. If this is you, then you need this: here is how to survive a family that isn’t good for you.
Have amazing friends
If you have a family that drains you and brings you down, you cannot afford to have friends that make you feel that way—at all. Just adopt a zero-tolerance policy for friends who are negative, needy, jealous, or just take, take, take. You need all the emotional and mental help you can get from your friends if your family is not helpful.
Filter what you share
If you have a toxic family, then you’ve probably had the experience of sharing great news with them…and really regretting having done that. Why? Because they picked it apart. They didn’t really think it was great news. They judged it. It may be time to realize that you can’t tell your family everything. Share the big news with your friends who are actually happy for you.
Turn to friends for a confidence boost
You’ve also probably made the mistake of calling your family before an important interview, or even a first date, hoping to get a confidence boost. Instead, you were left feeling insecure or downright cynical. So maybe stop calling mom before your presentations and speed dating events—call your awesome best friend instead.
Don’t believe the movies
You know those movie moments in which a mother realizes, at around age 60, that she’s been too critical of her daughter her whole life, never really understood her child, and wants to turn everything around now? Yeah…that doesn’t really happen in real life. People become more set in their beliefs as they get older. So when you see those movie moments, don’t call your mom, hoping for a similar moment. You might just be greatly disappointed.
Find a rock star partner
The great thing about growing up and leaving your family’s home is that you get to build your own, new family. So be militant about finding an amazing partner. Find a partner who understands and embraces every aspect of your personality. Find a partner who is an enthusiastic cheerleader for your goals, and thinks everything you do is incredible. He can undo all (or most) of the negativity your family sends your way.
There are probably certain topics that always ignite a fight between you and your family. Guess what? They always will. If you haven’t resolved this fight after 15 years, you probably never will. So stop going there. Talk about something else. Accept that there are some topics on which you and your family just won’t connect. Trying to connect on them seems to only drive you further apart.
Don’t call them when you’re down
It would be nice if your parents were people who made you feel like everything was alright, just when you felt like everything was falling apart, but maybe they’re not those people for you. Recognize if your parents only make you feel worse when you call them upset, and then, call somebody else.
Bring a friend
Somehow, family visits just go better when you bring a friend. Your family tries to be on their best behavior. They avoid topics that can start a fight, to be polite to your friend. So bring a buffer friend.
Keep some vacation to yourself
You need your vacation to reenergize. If your family takes energy from you, then don’t let them take up all of your vacation days. If you get two weeks off for the holidays, spend five days with them, and take the rest to yourself. Don’t feel obligated to give them all of your precious vacation days, if they don’t make those vacation days positive and beneficial for you.
If your family is toxic, and you don’t get along with them, be grateful—that means you recognized their problematic behavior and made a point not to take it on yourself. Naturally, if your family is emotionally unhealthy and you are emotionally healthy, you’re bound to bump heads. Take that head bumping as a sign that your efforts to be different than them are working.
You can’t always explain it to people
Only other people who don’t get along with their family will understand your plight. If you try to tell your friend who has a lovely, fun, healthy relationship with her family that your family is not good for you, she’ll just look at you like a sad and confused puppy. In fact, she might judge you. She can’t help it—it’s just a different world to her.
Let them talk
Maybe your family loves to lecture you and rant about all the ways they think you should be doing your life differently. Maybe they think you shouldn’t follow your dreams—that you should get a soul-killing 9 to 5 corporate job and marry a wealthy man you don’t really love. So, let them talk. You don’t have to listen. Turn your ears off and nod. The conversation can just wash over you like a wave, and then it goes away. Sometimes your family just wants to talk, regardless of if you’re listening. So let them.
Stop trying to change them
I’ve got news for you: if your 70-year-old father has yet to realize that he always dates possessive and paranoid women, or your just-as-old mother doesn’t realize that she has a victim mentality and never takes responsibility for her own happiness, they never will. It’s hard for people to change the entire way they look at life and their relationships when they’re old. Stop wasting energy trying to change them.
Limit your interaction with their issues
On that last note, try to limit your exposure to your parents’ problems. In other words, if your father does have possessive and controlling partners, just tell him you want alone time with him. You don’t have to take on the stress of those women, just because your father is willing to. Make sure when you see your mom, it’s to do uplifting things like exercise or go to concerts. Don’t get coffee with a depressive individual with a victim mentality…they’ll spend the whole time talking about their “struggles.”
Would it be nice if you had one of those supportive families who you looked forward to visiting and who always left you feeling happy and energized? Sure. But maybe you just don’t. That’s okay. You have control of your life and you can find that energy and support in so many other places. Fixating on how you wish your family was different only gives your toxic family more control over you. So accept it, and let it go.