First and foremost family isn’t always blood, right? Often our best friends are closer to us than our own brothers or sisters are, and thats okay.
There is nothing as challenging and stressful as dealing with difficult family members. You know the ones; the uncle who is always seeking for financial rescue, the cousins who are always prying into your relationships, the aunt who just shows up at your house, the mother who always finds fault in you, the father who wants you to be a perfectionist, the entitled brother or sister – It’s a pain.
Its way easier to do away with a difficult friend, neighbour or work colleague, but conflicts with family member are often more challenging to manage. Entitled, narcissistic and prying family members can run you down.
Difficult family members cross your lines at will. You can only regain your peace if you set boundaries, here are ways to set them.
Don’t be apologetic about setting your boundaries or use a subtle passive approach. Using hints or being passive when setting boundaries doesn’t work. Get to the point, Hey cousin “talking about my relationships with other relatives is off-bounds. It’s a complete no” Come out and state what the boundaries is. Don’t hint someone who is prying into your life with an example. If your parents tell the same embarrassing story of how you grew to your relatives, say directly “I am no longer tolerating you speaking about my past”. It is your life, take charge. You have to call it for what it is.
Prioritise your needs
We all have that one family member who expect everyone to drop everything and help dig them out of a situation of their own making They can go ahead digging themselves into trouble knowing very well that you are there to rescue them. The few times you attempt to delay your response they guilt you and play the family is everything card. That is their way of manipulating you.
The next time this happens, hold space, do not volunteer your help. Put yourself first and let them know, you too have critical needs. This is not saying you are not sympathetic to their plight, but you are not responsible for fixing their needs. Don’t be coerced into thinking others first before yourself. That ain’t right, that is not being family.
Be willing to walk away
Some family members in their ignorance and egoistic ways will do everything to frustrate your relationship. This can be a parent, brother, sister or relatives. They simply won’t stop treating you like a doormat. You will never get the respect you deserve, no matter how hard you try. They are just toxic and self-absorbed. Other people might tolerate them but you are better off just leaving them. Sometimes walking away is the best language they can understand. You need to be ready to do that for yourself because it is by no means a selfish act. You don’t have to offer any further explanation.
You probably grew up lacking a voice. Your family had the last word over your life. You have never stood for yourself. Even as an adult you still feel that your family have more say over you. Its time to unlearn that. They might have conditioned you to think you are small but now you need to find your voice and speak your mind. You don’t have to be disrespectful but its okay to let your parent, brother or sister know when you mean something. This is you taking charge. You come first, this is your life. Always stay focused on how you respond, don’t let them sway you.
Learn to say No
Now this is one word a difficult family member hates. They will push you until you change that No to a Yes. They will guilt you and use all sorts of family is everything manipulative statements. Family is only everything when they need something. How about your needs. How about your life. No-one thinks about that. You will hear them say, “You don’t love us, that you are selfish and don’t care”. These can be difficult things to hear but saying No helps you focus on your life.
Its never easy saying no to your relatives because they feel like they know you, they are entitled to you and your lives are enmeshed. But what is worse, ruining your life or establishing boundaries to regain control.
Little is more
You don’t have to share every detail about your life especially with a difficult family member. They don’t have to know where you work, how much you earn, who you are dating and where you live. Give them little details or none at all. If they join your social media, restrict what they can see. Let them go about making assumptions whilst you are living your life. If they overstep, don’t hesitate to block them. What you need is a ‘don’t ask and don’t tell policy’. Call them out and remind them not to ask you about your private life. No-one needs to know how great or not so great your relationship is, how successful or not successful you are – give them nothing. Stay emotionally safe by limiting information you say to them.
You don’t owe anyone an explanation and you are not responsible for how they feel about your boundaries.
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