Families are complicated. We all know that.  There’s nothing quite like grudge-holding, judgmental relatives who gossip behind your back.  (Except, maybe, middle-school cliques.)  Nevertheless, you want your family members to love and support you.  

“What did I do wrong?”  “How many times to I have to apologize?”  “Why are they so mean to me?”  These may seem like rhetorical questions, but not if you’re the one doing the asking.  

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.  As a Mediator, I obviously would love to see the whole family participate in a conversation where each member shares feelings and offers solutions.  That only happens in my world when family members are sitting around my conference room table.  And it does, in fact, happen with excellent results.

However, if you think a family mediation is neither feasible nor practical, there are other options.  

Remember, though, that things happen in families that are or were out of your control.  Situations such as death, divorce, abuse, and addiction affect every member of the family despite who is or should be responsible.  So, even if you didn’t cause your parents’ divorce (and you didn’t), it can affect your perspective for the rest of your life.  But that doesn’t mean you need to hold onto it like a suitcase with a missing wheel and a broken zipper.  

Psychologists almost unilaterally offer these three tips:

  1.  Stop trying to earn your family’s love.  Bonnie Raitt said it best in one of my all-time favorite songs: “I can’t make you love me if you don’t.”  When understanding this concept, try shifting your perspective.  If your cousin, who constantly tries to prove she’s better than you, irritates the crap out of you, is there really anything she could do to make you love her?  
  2.  Choose another family.  Find people who care and support you.  Make your own community, whether at work, at church, at the gym, or at the dog park.  Maybe a biological or genetic connection isn’t the answer for you.  Maybe you’ll discover another definition of “family.”  And if you do, nurture it and treat them the way you want to be treated.
  3.  Take responsibility for your own happiness.  Understand that no one can literally make you mad or sad.  It’s our own choice to feel what we feel.  So, choose joy, and figure out how you get there.  Discover what brings a giant smile to your face and make a beeline towards it.  The people you gather along the way will help you if you let them.

What’s your takeaway here?  That family doesn’t matter?  Nope.  That you could have prevented your parents from getting divorced?  Nope.  That you should have noticed your brother’s drug addiction sooner?  Nope.

Instead, I hope you reread the three points above.  Memorize them.  And then take some baby steps towards making changes to distance yourself from the family that doesn’t value you in the way you need to be valued.  Find your own joy.

Please comment and share your thoughts.