Family relationships are crucial yet can be critical. It’s no secret that being part of a family is hard.
There are times when the people who are closest to you can be the most frustrating people you know. However, there’s a very fine line between healthy family relationships and those that can leave long-lasting emotional scars.
While it’s easy to believe that any family is dysfunctional, there are some truly dysfunctional behaviors that severely impact the mental well-being of everyone involved.
It’s not uncommon for a person’s family to bully them. Whether they engage in harmful behaviors with the best intentions in mind or for truly malevolent purposes, any family member who bullies another risks tearing apart those delicate relationships. (These ought to be vital to childhood development and that should last through life.)
Dealing with dysfunctional family members is often difficult to recognize. Some people may dismiss an overbearing mother or a codependent sibling as just a part of the family without realizing how damaging these behaviors are. While actions such as name-calling and gossip are easier to spot, that doesn’t mean they are any easier to diffuse. All too often, these behaviors are swept under the rug until they begin to tear away at relationships and create rifts.
Any kind of abuse, drug or alcohol addiction, or any other damaging behaviors to the family should be addressed as a whole. There are several resources available to help struggling families overcome these issues together. However, less subtle behaviors require a more trained eye to recognize and solve. The following lists behaviors that a heart-to-heart may address with or without the help of a family therapist.
10 Dysfunctional Things That Destroy Family Relationships
1. Not Accepting Each Other’s Differences
It is inevitable that not all family members will be the same. Whether someone comes out as gay, or they turn out to enjoy different activities than the rest of the family, accepting these differences creates strong familial bonds that last.
2. The Constant Need to be Right
Does someone always have to be right on issues or have the final say? This attitude can lead to a disconnect in the family, since no one else’s viewpoints, beliefs, values, or opinions will ever be valid.
3. Constantly Bringing Up the Past
We’ve all made mistakes in the past and would like them to stay there. But if our parents or siblings want to continually bring up those mistakes and criticize us for them each time the family comes together, the only result is a fraying of those relationships.
Everyone knows gossip is bad, but it’s a guilty pleasure that everyone loves. In families, it can be lethal. Because family relationships are so close-knit, gossiping mouths can bring a close relationship to a grinding halt. The best solution? Don’t engage in gossip and stop it in its tracks.
5. Expecting Perfection
Perfection is such an arbitrary concept, and in family units it can lead to high levels of stress. We want to make our family happy, but the standards may be too high to reach for or they may be unattainable.
6. Name Calling, Labeling, and Insults
This behavior should have been nixed in grade school, but it still finds its way into family arguments. If the family has a none-too-savory nickname for another family member, this can stretch their relationship with the family to breaking. Avoid name calling and insults.
7. Lack of Forgiveness over Small Issues
Holding grudges over small things is a waste of energy…and causes family strain. While some families forgive a member over major transgressions, forgiving someone for something small in comparison affects everyone. Simple slip-ups deserve forgiveness to heal the family bonds.
8. Assigning Blame
Throwing another family member under the bus is a sure way to destroy your relationship with them and the rest of the family. Instead of trying to save face, accept responsibility for your actions. However, if you’re assigning blame based on gossip, please find out the truth before you make any further decisions.
A family member may need help during a time of hardship, however there’s often a thin line between getting help from family and being codependent. Other family members may view this as advantage-taking, laziness, or even enabling.
In line with always having to be right (see #2), there is someone who may always offer their advice…even if it’s not wanted. It’s nice to have advice sometimes, but letting a family discover life on their own is a way to strengthen bonds and deepen relationships.
If your family deals with any of these issues, it may be difficult to deal with them and even harder to quash them before they do more damage. Gossips will find it difficult to give up their hobby, while some relatives may be so set in their ways that change will be hard to come by.
You can take the first step by reaching out to other relatives or seeking a counselor’s advice on how to approach certain issues. No family is perfect, but with time and determination you can improve your relationship with yours.