Are your sisters yelling, your parents arguing, or your brothers braying? Maybe you're the "raging relative" who needs to be calmed down! Fighting with family members is normal and sometimes even healthy. But, if those arguments cause problems in other aspects of life, then they need attention.
Check these tips for raging relatives -- you might find a helpful way to cope with family members you love, but just can't get along with...
1. Know when to draw the line. On my How to Cope With Difficult Parents article, many readers describe toxic relatives who cause a lot of harm to themselves and their family members. My readers ask the same question over and over: "How can I stop my brother/parent/uncle/family member from doing it again?" It depends on the situation, of course, but many times the answer is found in letting your relatives face the consequences. If you keep protecting them from natural consequences, they'll keep acting the same way.
2. Figure out what the "natural consequences" are. If your relative causes physical harm to another person or family member, then a natural consequence is legal action. If your relative always borrows money and never pays it back, then a natural consequence could be filing suit for repayment (provided you and your relative signed a loan agreement). Another natural consequence is not being invited to family dinners or celebrations (if the toxic relative always ruins the get-togethers). Many families try - out of love - to protect their relatives from the results of their actions. This may appear to be a loving thing to do, but it's "enabling." It perpetuates the behavior.
3. Learn how to deal with difficult people. Dealing with difficult people can be challenging, but there are many books and resources on how to deflect conflicts and situations. Read about boundaries, take workshops or classes about setting healthy boundaries with difficult people, and consider talking to a family counselor about the best way to handle your toxic relative.
4. Distance yourself from toxic relatives. Sometimes the best way to handle family problems is to separate yourself physically and emotionally. This may mean moving to a different house, state, or country. Or, it may mean not answering the phone until you're mentally and emotionally ready to talk. You don't necessarily need to cut toxic relatives out of your life; rather, you can give them a quick call every 2-3 months - or you can send a note instead of calling.
5. Don't expect your family member to change. Change the things you have control over, such as how often you visit. Even knowing you have control over the littlest things can make a difference! Your toxic relative may never change, but you can empower yourself in different ways. For instance, if you have an alcoholic sibling, you can join an Al-Anon support group. Toxic relatives are stressful - there's no doubt about it - but you can reduce the stress by checking your own attitude and response to them.
6. Expect criticism. Handling problems with family requires setting healthy boundaries. It's easier to set boundaries than to actually stick to them! Learn how to protect your boundaries despite criticism from other people. And remember that your toxic relatives may not think they're doing anything wrong, and may not see the negative effect they have on you or others. They may think everyone should live and act the way they do. That's their right, and it's your right to live the way you see fit.
What do you think -- are you dealing with a raging relative? What helps you smooth things over?
Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen is a full-time writer and blogger who created and maintains five "Quips and Tips" blogs: