Family is where we grow and learn to interact with the world around us. There is nothing as wonderful as having a family that is supportive, caring, and nurturing. However not always are we blessed with such an idealized family. Many of us encounter at least one or two family members that make it difficult for us to live a happy, peaceful family life. Well of course, there are challenges, arguments and disputes faced occasionally, even in a cohesive family. However, unfortunately, if you are a part of a difficult family or find at least one member driving you crazy, it’s important to equip yourself with ways of dealing with it. Here are few things to keep in mind when you have to deal with any such situation.
- 1. Acceptance is the key:
It's often easy to feel that the person in front of you is deliberately choosing to make your life a hell. We naturally tend to assume that this person is intentionally causing us misery and which further fuels our feelings of hurt, hate and rage towards the person.
It becomes crucial to recognize that the person is not the problem, but it is his/her actions that we find either fair or unfair. Moreover, remember we all are products of our genetics and our past experiences and that we do not always have a choice there. Don’t make it your agenda to 'fix' them. Just as you are the way you are, they are the way they are. Accept them with all their flaws. Try to shift your attitude from 'He shouldn’t be doing this' to 'I might not like it but that’s how he is'.
- 2. Look beyond the roles:
We all tend to hold certain ideas in our mind about how each of the family member should be and what role do they need to play in our life. For example, a mother should always be there or a father should be strong and so on. These expectations create an idealized version of how this person should be in our mind. Well, in reality your family members might not be the perfect match for this role. It then becomes important to recognize that before anything else, they are just humans and need to be seen only as humans.
- 3. Not everything would be 'bad':
When you end up having troubles with a particular person over and over again, it is a common tendency to feel 'Oh God, not this again!' even when in reality you might have shared some good times with them. As you end up being on a look out for all the trouble that this person is causing, the good parts are filtered out and go unnoticed.
It might seem effortful but a good way to cope better with the situation is to look for and focus on the ‘good’ part. Additional, to make this relationship bearable, you could identify neutral, non provoking activities such as playing a game or watching a movie, wherein you could build on your positive experiences with this person.
- 4. Be aware of the triggers:
If you pay a close attention to the situations that pose a problem, you might be able to identify what triggers you or this person off. There will be a strong difference of opinion in particular areas and your history might suggest that such discussions always stir up a chaos.
To be aware of and avoiding such topics could be the best way to maintain harmony. It would be wise to strategize ways to address these issues in a non-confrontational fashion if the other person brings up the topic in your conversations. One way would be to gently deflect any such topic.
- 5. Create safe spaces:
In case it is extremely unavoidable, have delicate conversations in a space where you both feel comfortable. More importantly, ensure that you would have access to help or would be able to walk away from the situation if things escalate and take an ugly turn.
When the other person is expressing their point of view, do not interrupt. Give them a chance to say all that they want to say. Do not assume what they might say and cut them in between.
Moreover, listen empathetically. Recognize that whether you agree with them or not, they feel what they feel and that their feeling is valid.
- 6. Draw the line:
You might feel cornered due to the constant nagging or unwelcomed interference of this person in your matters. It might make sense to set certain boundaries between the two of you. You can decide on what you would want to or not want to share with this person. Make sure that your boundaries are respected and communicate with the other person what are some things that you cannot tolerate.
- 7. It's not about you:
Yet another common experience when dealing with difficult people is to feel like probably there is indeed something wrong with you. Especially when this person tends to criticize you, put you down or blame you for their problems.
Remember, that irrespective of what their words or actions suggest, it does not reflect on who you are. Do not take things personally.
- 8. Assertiveness and open communication:
In case you find yourself in the middle of a discussion around sensitive topics, remember to communicate your viewpoint in a non-threatening way with lesser words. Being assertive, especially using “I” statements would be the way to go. It helps in communicating that you take charge of your feelings and that the other person is not being blamed. This brings down the defensiveness in the other person.
Remember, these are few general guidelines that can help you cope better. In case you are facing significant concerns due to the troublesome relationship, you may to reach out and seek psychotherapy for depression, anxiety and stress. Moreover, engaging in family therapy might prove to be beneficial so as to address your unique concerns and work on family dynamics. However, in case of any physical, sexual or emotional abuse, ensure safety and reach out to appropriate sources of help such as Women and Child Welfare Committee or Police.