As they say, you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family. That’s part of the reason why family dynamics can be so tough.
Even when you love each other, it doesn’t mean you’ll always like one another.
Fallouts, disagreements, and arguments are common in all sorts of families.
It’s easy to point the finger. But if it feels like conflict follows you around, it’s time to consider whether you could be fuelling the problem.
Here are some signs that you are.
1) You try to change your family
On the surface, wanting your family to change for the better sounds like a noble intention.
If we love them, why wouldn’t we want them to grow into better versions of themselves?!
But that mentality can quickly land you in hot water.
The day that I realized that I was not responsible for my family, the day my relationship with them changed for the better.
- Letting go of certain things they were doing that I didn’t agree with
- Acknowledging any suffering and struggles they created for themselves were down to them, not me
- Accepting their right to make their own choices, even ones I don’t always believe are serving them
We can support our families as best we can. We can offer them advice when they want it.
But it’s their life, and they get to dictate it (whether we agree or not).
Love never gives us the right to try to control. It leads to frustration and potential fallouts when we try.
Even when we have the very best intentions, when we try to direct and steer our families it can feel more like we’re judging them.
2) You’re judgemental
If you’re completely honest with yourself, deep down you think you’re better than them.
And that sense of superiority has a tendency to crush empathy and compassion.
You may feel like:
- They’re constantly wrong
- They keep making mistakes
- They’re not as smart as you
- Their opinions and ideas are stupid
- Their lifestyle choices are misguided or downright idiotic
Hey, you may even be right. But the fact remains that nobody wants to feel judged. It is incredibly alienating.
It divides rather than unites. And any judgemental attitude can quickly spill out into nagging, neighsaying, and negativity.
If you’re never giving them the benefit of the doubt, you are probably being too hard on them.
3) You refuse to cut anyone any slack
The unfortunate truth is that none of us are perfect.
We fall short all the time.
Most of us are simply doing the best we can with the tools we have. And it’s true that sometimes, that’s not good enough.
But it’s also human.
Our parents weren’t given a manual. They mostly use what they themselves were taught, along with applying the personal experience they’ve gathered along the way.
Family members are bound to screw up. When we struggle to accept imperfection, we can have unrealistic expectations of our family.
If nothing less than flawless will do, you may inadvertently become an unforgiving and demanding family member.
4) You’re known as the “difficult” one in the family
Of course, being the so-called pariah of the family doesn’t mean it’s your fault.
You may well be the only fair-minded one within a difficult dynamic.
But if everyone else gets along with one another, except for you, then it’s worth considering why.
Are they making you feel like an outsider or have you turned yourself into one?
Do you ever:
- Have angry outbursts?
- Give people the silent treatment?
- Use hurtful words or language?
- Snap and lose your patience?
Sometimes we’re not aware of all the ways our behavior impacts the people we love.
It’s important to stay open to feedback, especially from the people who know us best. Be prepared to listen to concerns they have.
Because if you firmly feel like they are 100% the problem, the chances are you may not be fully acknowledging your own role in the conflict.
5) You can’t see any ways in which you are contributing to problems
In your mind, there isn’t really a discussion to be had about it. The problems in your family lie elsewhere and not with you.
This polarizing way of approaching things can mean that you’re simply not seeing your blind spots.
As they say, it takes two to tango.
Conflict is much the same. You can’t really have a one-sided conflict as both parties need to engage in it for it to escalate into a problem.
If you accept that you’re not always a perfect little angel, it’s a good sign that you at least know this. It suggests that you are taking responsibility for yourself.
But if on the other hand, you always feel like the victim and the responsibility lies with them, you probably aren’t actively working on finding resolutions.
Compromise is off the table and stubbornness sinks in.
6) You refuse to drop past grievances
One of the ways we can dig our heels in is by refusing to let bygones be bygones.
That’s not to say we’ll instantly get over past traumas or hurts. They need to be acknowledged, apologized for, and worked through.
But constantly dragging up the past has a habit of keeping you stuck in it.
Reminding your sister every time you argue about that time back in junior high when she kissed your boyfriend probably has little to do with your current dispute.
At some point, you need to move on.
You may well be creating conflict if you can’t let go of grudges and focus on the future.
7) You need to be right
One of the reasons you may find it hard to let things go is a need to always be right.
Discussions and exchanges quickly descend into full-blown arguments because you don’t seem capable of backing down.
Even seemingly light-hearted occasions like family board game night can take a turn for the worst when your competitive streak comes out to play.
You frequently claim that it’s “the principle that counts” but never ask yourself whether sometimes it’s better to be happy than to be right.
Feeling like “you’ve won” becomes the main aim, and to hell with the consequences.
If that means feelings get hurt it’s a price you are willing to pay for the sake of your pride.
8) You criticize, gossip about, or bad-mouth family members
Ok, who of us hasn’t had the odd whinge about a family member?
They can get on your nerves and, understandably, we may need to vent from time to time.
It’s never ideal if we’re honest. But if we do indulge, then there is a way to go about it.
For example, it’s never a good idea to gossip or speak badly about one family member to another.
Sharing how we’re feeling with a trusted outsider such as a friend or partner makes it less contentious.
If you go stirring the pot at home, don’t be surprised if you shake up some arguments.
Giving loving and constructive feedback is very different from criticizing and attacking someone. And so it’s going to get a very different reaction.
Make sure you are definitely doing the former and not the latter.
9) You speak without thinking or say things you don’t mean
Healthy communication is challenging even at the best of times. But when things are strained, we don’t always put our best foot forward.
Our emotions may get the better of us and we end up lashing out or saying things we later regret.
- Have a habit of insensitively putting your foot in it
- Use someone’s insecurities against them
- Try to assign blame
- Use manipulation or guilt tactics to get your way
…Then you need to brush up on your communication and conflict management skills.
That may include:
- Apologizing when you have hurt someone
- Really listening to what they have to say
- Explain your reasons why, without making excuses for bad behavior
- Agree to disagree sometimes when you can’t see eye to eye
- Knowing that you don’t always need to offer your opinion (sometimes it’s best to keep quiet)
10) You don’t respect boundaries
Much like good communication, boundaries are also the lifeblood of strong relationships.
When we push buttons and cross lines, it’s going to lead to conflict.
As familial bonds are often so close, we may be unwittingly more likely to step over boundaries than we would with friends.
- Give your family time to themselves when they want it?
- Allow them to keep some personal information private?
- Give them the freedom to change their mind?
- Allow them to say “no” to you without questioning it?
- Show respect towards their beliefs and values?
- Leave them to manage their time and life as they see fit?
If you’re failing to do some of these things, you may need to be more mindful of upholding boundaries.
We can’t change our family or control how they behave.
That’s not to excuse their role in any conflict. It’s to remind us that the only thing we can take charge of is ourselves.
So that’s always where we should put our energy.
Cultivating greater self-awareness about how we interact with others helps us to become more mindful and sensitive.
Improving our own relationship skills helps us to lead by example — and that’s far more inspiring than judging, nagging, or criticizing will ever be.