The late spiritual leader, Ram Dass, is quoted saying, “if you think you’re enlightened, go spend a week with your family.”
Even if you’re not headed down any sort of spiritual path, we can all relate to the fact that family is difficult to deal with sometimes. Some quality time with our relatives can either refresh us, put us in our place, or have us feeling downright confused.
Fortunately, there are ways for us to maintain healthy family relationships and repair the ones that happen to be damaged.
We’re going to explore a few of those methods in this article, giving you some fuel to get back in touch with your family and try to make things work.
Let’s get started.
1. Address Issues when They Come Up
The first thing to keep in mind with family relationships is that you’re bound to experience some friction.
This is true with almost any relationship. Family is a little different in that you’re forced into family relationships instead of getting to choose them like you would a group of friends. You get what you get, and it’s your job to try and figure out how to move forward.
Extremely toxic family relationships might require separation or closure, but we can agree that minor setbacks with well-intentioned family members deserve our attention.
Rifts come up when those little issues and grievances aren’t dealt with. They build up and evolve into resentment, which is far more difficult to mend.
So, when something strikes you as a problem, try to muster up the courage to at least address it with the family member in question.
2. Stay in Touch
Staying in touch with family can be hard. We all have our own lives to deal with, and it’s tough to reach out and make a phone call or send a text.
That said, those little instances of communication are what keep the relationship alive. Communication makes the difference between just a “member of the family” and a person whom you connect with.
Different people might have unique expectations of what “staying in touch” means, too. Understand the individual’s expectations as well as your own and try to strike a balance. Mutual respect should allow the other person to put themself in your shoes and understand why you might take longer to reach out.
3. Ask Hard Questions
Real concern and love for a person require that you take an interest in their happiness and wellness. Some people really don’t like to breach personal topics, and others are too heavy-handed with them.
Relationships can flourish when you understand those boundaries and try to find space to communicate deeply within them. That might mean teasing out issues and experiences that are meaningful and difficult for the other person.
If you show that you care about their feelings in this way by making the effort to reach out, you can establish a higher level of connection and comfort. All people want to feel like their experience matters, and the best way for you to reassure them of this is by asking and taking an interest.
4. Emphasize the Group
One-on-one relationship problems can often be mitigated by the larger group. Your family unit can work to improve the relationships among all of the members.
Make memories, have discussions, work with one member to help out another. These actions help to solidify the fact that you’re all part of a group that’s meaningful and important.
Additionally, a rift between two people can lead to separations in the larger group. Most families experience a time or two when sides are chosen and rifts are made. It’s best to try and work these things out as they come up, thinking together about ways to improve the situation.
A great way to keep a minor thread through the family unit is with a Facebook group chat or a group call.
5. Consider Forgiveness
Forgiveness is an idea that holds a lot of weight in the Western world. That isn’t to say it isn’t important around the world, but the United States has a particular attitude toward it that can be damaging.
We’re often told to forgive the people we love. That’s it.
The attitude can shield us from real healing and understanding, though. Some things are just hard to forgive and require a lot of attention to work through. It’s crucial that you work through your difficulties on your own terms, but with the idea of reconciliation in mind.
On the other hand, it’s important to know when to let things go. Some things are small, and the family member in question might not have had the intention to do any harm to you.
People are people and sometimes we butt heads, but innocent mistakes usually aren’t worth ruining relationships over.
6. Listen, Accept Fault
There’s no shortage of people out there complaining about their families. They get into the minutia of everything that their father ever did wrong. Sometimes, those complaints are totally fair.
You don’t tend to hear a lot of people admitting that they, too, are making mistakes in their relationships.
If someone says that they’re hurt or confused by your actions, try to take a minute and hear them out. Just like you can forgive their missteps, they should be able to forgive yours. It’s hard to make that step if you don’t admit any wrongdoing, though.
Further, consider whether or not your stance on the issue makes a difference. They were hurt. Sometimes you just have to take the hit to your ego for the sake of the relationship.
7. Show Up When You Can
Finally, make the effort to be there when your family comes together.
It’s a simple action that puts you in the position to work through the ideas listed above. If you don’t show up, you can’t grow the relationship and things start to decay.
If you’re available, try to bite the bullet and make time for your family members.
Struggling with Family Relationships?
Figuring out how to navigate difficult family relationships is tough. We’re here to help, though. Whether you’re trying to figure out how often to call loved ones or which kind of questions to ask in hard times, we can provide some information.
Explore our site for more ideas and insight into ways that you can strengthen your family bond.