Unfortunately, our relationships with our families aren’t always as easy-breezy as we’d like them to be.
If you’ve got that one family member that loves to pick at you, disrespect you and wear you down at every gathering, you may be struggling to know how to lay down some ground rules and protect yourself from more hurt.
Whether they’re controlling, problematic, narcissistic, abusive or just downright rude, knowing how to deal with the conflict, prioritize your mental health and call them out on their behavior can be tricky.
If you’re not sure how to handle it, we’ve put together this list of the most important tips and conversation starts you need to know to help you manage those relationships and start making a change.
Here’s how to deal with family members that disrespect you.
1. Maintain Distance
Sure, they may be your family, but that doesn’t mean you have to be close to them.
If your family member is constantly disrespecting you, you’ll need to implement some physical and emotional space between you to protect your own mental health.
If you need to attend the same events, don’t feel obliged to sit and talk to them if you don’t want to.
Excuse yourself if required, and explain your reasoning to other family members if you need to.
If it’s not possible to physically avoid them at said events, don’t feel like you need to attend.
Your mental health should be your number one priority – so don’t neglect it to please others. If it’s possible for you to maintain distance, don’t be afraid to do so.
If you feel ready to talk to your family member (s) about their behavior, don’t be afraid to do so.
However, launching yourself into a conversation with a hothead is not going to achieve meaningful results.
Keep your cool, and communicate your concerns elegantly and concisely. You can even rehearse what you’re going to say beforehand if it will help.
While you’ll need to keep a cool head, you’ll also need to be firm.
If you’re requesting space or a change of attitude from them, be clear and firm in your request, but don’t start attacking them or get defensive.
This will weaken your argument and give them more ammo to wear you down with.
3. Set Boundaries
The most important thing you can do for yourself is to set boundaries.
Although you can’t control how your family members will act around you, you can let them know that if they don’t respect your needs, there will be consequences.
What those consequences will be is up to you, but put some thought into it beforehand, as you’ll need to be willing to uphold your end if they disrespect them.
When you’re setting a boundary, it’s important not to point fingers or get on the defensive.
Try saying something like: “When you make jokes about my career and my finances, it makes me upset. If you continue making those comments then I’ll need to leave”.
This will let your family member know what to expect if they keep disrespecting you, and if they’re genuinely trying to better themselves, they’ll make an effort to change.
If you’ve already tried setting boundaries and they’ve been disrespected, don’t be afraid to have a discussion with them about ceasing all contact if it’s right for you.
Trust your gut, and do what feels best for your mental health.
However, you should also remember that sometimes, you may need to compromise on a boundary issue.
Boundaries aren’t always as clear as “if you don’t stop, I’m going to leave”. It may need to be a case of “I’m fine with you doing that, but only if you do it on my terms”.
4. Know If It’s Time To Walk Away
Sometimes, no amount of discussion or compromise can solve the situation. You’ll also need to know when it’s time to cut ties.
No one wants to be in this situation, but remember: just because they’re family, doesn’t give them the right to have access to you.
Respect still needs to be earned, and there will be consequences for their behavior, especially if you’ve tried to reach a resolution and they’re unwilling to cooperate.
If you do need to cut ties, it’s normal to feel guilty. It can be hard, but you need to remember that you’re not the one who should be feeling ashamed.
If you’ve tried everything to repair the relationship and they’re still disrespecting you, they’re the one who should be ashamed.
Sure, people can change and sometimes they deserve second chances, but they also need to meet you halfway, and prove they’re serious about changing, too.
Sometimes, these decisions are met with resistance from other family members.
Be prepared to have an honest conversation with your family about why you’re cutting this person out, and make your decision clear.
Don’t let other people try and sway you or debate your feelings, and set solid boundaries.
5. Seek Support
Dealing with a disrespectful family member is tough. Seek support from other positive people in your life, including family, friends, and professionals.
Ensure you have a solid emotional support network to fall back on, especially if you’re not getting this from your family.
Although this negative relationship may be draining, you’ll need to surround yourself with other positive connections and remind yourself that you’re worthy of love and respect.
Don’t be afraid to lean on people if you need to, and seek strength, guidance, and support from those who love and respect you.
Dealing with a disrespectful family member is never easy, and it often requires uncomfortable conversations.
Remember: your mental health is your priority. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries, be firm, and lean on others for support if you need it.
You should also remember that it’s not your responsibility to fix them.
If you’ve done all you can to heal the relationship, know when it’s time to walk away and start living life for you.