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How to Deal With Difficult Family Members

Many families plan large get-togethers during the holiday season, but you might find yourself dreading these gatherings if your family is dysfunctional, overly judgmental, toxic or unsupportive. When difficult people in your life are relatives, it’s especially challenging. Here are five tips for dealing with them.

1. Set Boundaries and Stick to Them

If difficult family members routinely walk all over you or otherwise disrespect you, boundaries are an excellent way to improve your relationships. Your goal in drawing these lines is not to cut others out of your life, but rather to define your values and emotional limits. 

It may take you some time to perfect your boundary-setting skills, especially if there are few or no boundaries within your family. However, you’ll find that having healthy boundaries will give you more control and make interacting with difficult family members feel like less of a burden.

2. Don’t Try to Fix Difficult People

For your mental well-being, you must accept that some people are unwilling or unable to change their ways. Trying to fix someone who is hard to deal with, manipulative or emotionally unavailable may backfire if the other person demands more from you than you can handle. It’s essential to manage people’s expectations about what you can and will do for them.

3. Mentally Prepare Yourself

If you have an upcoming gathering where you expect potentially awkward or uncomfortable family interactions, it can help to gear yourself up beforehand. For instance, if you know someone tends to criticize your appearance or ask overly prying questions, rehearse your response in advance. You can try changing the subject or saying something assertive such as “I’m not comfortable talking about that.”

4. Avoid Hot-Button Topics or Sensitive Subjects

Some difficult family members like to stir things up because they enjoy the ensuing drama. They may not even have strong opinions about controversial issues, but talk about them anyway because they hope to provoke other people into arguing.

Though it can be challenging to stay neutral when someone says something outrageous or obnoxious, don’t say the first thing that pops into your head. Take a minute to formulate a calm and measured response.

5. Stay in Tune With Your Emotions

If you’re planning to spend a lot of time with difficult family members, keep tabs on how you feel. Pay attention to your stress levels, and know your limits. If you start getting angry or upset, continuing to participate in the conversation is probably not in your best interest.

There’s nothing wrong with excusing yourself and stepping away from a tense situation. Try deep breathing exercises or a brief meditation session to calm yourself down. Don’t be afraid to leave early if you get too overwhelmed and need a way out. There is also no rule saying you have to stay in touch with unsupportive or toxic people, even if they are related to you.

Break Patterns of Substance Abuse at Vista Taos

Though some people use drugs and alcohol to cope with difficult family members – especially during the holiday season – being intoxicated is an unhealthy way to regulate your mood and deal with unpleasant people. If the idea of sober holidays sounds inconceivable to you, that could be a warning sign of a substance use disorder.

At Vista Taos, we help people address the underlying mental and behavioral health issues behind addiction, allowing them to heal holistically. To learn more about our accredited, family-owned treatment center, contact us today.

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