No family is perfect -- with so many individuals being involved in each other's lives, there's bound to be an occasional rift. Unfortunately, when small rifts aren't soon taken care of, they can fester and become huge problems. If there's some tension between you and another of your family members, take the time to talk out the issue and start to heal from hurt feelings. After all, your family is more important than the feud.
If you need to talk to a family member about an issue or rift, choose a time and place that is perceived as neutral to both parties. Meeting at someone's house or when the wounds are still fresh could be a recipe for what seems like an enemy attack rather than a peace offering. Try to meet at the home of a neutral relative or a mediator after you've both had time to cool off.
When there are several people involved in a family rift, there are other feelings and emotions to consider. While you want to be heard, you also want to validate a family member's feelings. Start the conversation by offering a compliment and acknowledging how your family member felt, such as "I know you care about our family deeply and your actions were trying to help." Then, transition into "I" statements -- a verbalization of how you felt. "I just felt like I wasn't being listened to and that made me feel unimportant." This communicates your position without placing blame and allows you to take responsibility for your part in the disagreement.
If a family rift has cut deep, you may not be able to regain the exact relationship you enjoyed before the feud. That's OK, notes psychologist Azadeh Aalai in an article for "Psychology Today." Try checking your expectations at the door when you spend time with a family member and remember that simply being there is a step in the right direction. You may find that a new, stronger or more beneficial relationship rises from the ashes of your rift.
Set New Boundaries
Once you've communicated your feelings, it's time to draw new boundaries for your relationship, suggests DrPhil.com. If you were fighting about money, perhaps you agree to keep finances out of family gatherings. If you're worried about hurt feelings, make a pact to be more aware in the future. These new boundaries will help to define your healing relationship so that new arguments don't put you back at square one.
You don't have to completely resolve all of your issues or hurt feelings in one session, notes the book "Healing From Family Rifts: Ten Steps to Finding Peace After Being Cut Off From a Family Member." Mending hurt feelings, repairing a family bond, and trusting in the future will take time and effort on both of your parts. Instead, understand that it will take time and several positive interactions for you to heal the hurt feelings caused by a rift.
- Healing From Family Rifts: Ten Steps to Finding Peace After Being Cut Off From a Family Member; Mark Sichel
- DrPhil.com: Fixing Your Family Feud
- Psychology Today: Did Your Thanksgiving Come with a Side of Family Drama?
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