This post was updated on Nov 29, 2022
The family you grow up in can shape your personality, your approach to life, and your personal relationships. In the ideal world, every child would get the chance to thrive in a family environment that provides them with love and support to have secure attachments. Unfortunately, that is far from being reality for many people today.
If you feel like your parents or caregivers may have impacted your adult life in a somewhat dysfunctional way, you are not alone. Parenting and family relationships as a whole are incredibly complex, and even the people who have our best interest at heart may fail at providing us with the affection and support we need. This can result in a whole range of problems in the kid’s life, including impaired self-regulation behavior, self-esteem, and overall relationship happiness.
In this article, you will learn how to spot dysfunctional patterns in your family, get tips on overcoming relationship challenges, and break the pattern of dysfunction to become a healthy adult. Keep on reading.
What Is An Unhealthy Family Relationship?
A family relationship can be considered toxic or dysfunctional for a number of reasons. Some common patterns found in such families may include impaired communication, a lack of closeness, excessive criticism, lack of empathy, power struggles, and excessive expectations.
Still, your family may be dysfunctional in a completely different manner. Only you know the unique impact your family has had on your life and your place in the world. The thing is, if you were raised by someone who failed to provide you with appropriate care and affection, there is a chance that this will result in an avoidant or anxious attachment style and influence your parenting style as well.
Because of this, it is important to uncover any patterns of dysfunctional relationships in your family and try to stop them from hindering you. This is the first step towards breaking the pattern of family dysfunction and creating your own legacy with your own values.
What Are The Signs Of A Dysfunctional Family?
Identifying unhealthy patterns in family relationships can be hard, especially if they are all you have ever known. Here are some common examples of dysfunctional families that may or may not apply to you:
- Poor communication: dysfunctional families often have a hard time communicating and listening to each other. This may include not speaking to each other often, yelling, engaging in one-sided conversations, and so on.
- Lack of intimacy: relationships built on intimacy are enriched by meaningful and deep connections. Unhealthy relationships, on the other hand, often have intimacy issues. You might not b able to trust your parents or caregivers or you might feel like there’s no real closeness between you.
- Constant sibling comparisons: Parents who blatantly and consistently compare their children can cause deep-seated insecurity that may last throughout their child’s life. It may even cause serious rivalries between siblings.
- Constant criticism: many parents want what’s best for their kids and often criticize their choices. However, when criticism is relentless and meant to put you down, it can cause a wide array of self-image issues and insecurities.
- Unpredictable environments: kids who are exposed to unpredictable and impulsive family interactions experience substantial emotional trauma. They may also perpetuate the same chaotic behaviors in their adult relationships as well.
- Substance abuse and enabling behaviors: people who experience childhood trauma and are raised by someone who abuses substances are more likely to abuse alcohol and/or drugs in adulthood, too. Or, become codependent on taking care of others and enabling their spouse and/or children.
How Do You Deal With An Unhealthy Family Relationship?
Dealing with an unhealthy family relationship is a long process that is unique to each family system. However, a good first step is usually to identify family patterns that do not serve you and look for ways to overcome the negative effects of your upbringing. You can also try:
- Communicating honestly with your family members to invite them into a change process with you
- Cutting ties with toxic family members or avoid certain family events
- Setting appropriate boundaries to protect your well-being
- Reaching out to professionals and finding resources to understand your family’s toxic patterns
How Do You Break A Family Pattern Of Dysfunction?
It can take quite some time to break from a dysfunctional family pattern. Still, identifying and overcoming unhealthy relationship behaviors can help you step into relational change and pivot into a healthy adult. Here are some guidelines you can follow:
- Find courage: it takes a great deal of bravery to confront your family. Try to develop coping strategies for conflict and prepare yourself before opening up dialogue with your family members.
- Learn how to set boundaries: healthy emotional and physical boundaries can help you keep your distance from troubling family members and minimize their impact on your wellbeing.
- Minimize contact: unfortunately, it is sometimes impossible to salvage dysfunctional relationships. If your attempts to remedy the relationship have failed, it may be time to cut contact with the family member for a period of time.
- Find a healthy support system: do you have friends or other family members you can rely on when things get tough? This can be of immense value if you find it overwhelming to deal with the harmful family relationships on your own.
- Let go of things that you can’t change: it is often futile to try and change the opinions and behavior of your family members and trying to do so may cost you quite a bit of energy and nerves.
- Seek guidance from compassionate and knowledgeable relationship coaches. Professionals can help you identify unhealthy relationship patterns and provide you with resources for breaking them.
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