“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.”– Jane Howard
Family relationships are enduring and consequential for wellbeing across the whole of your life. For better and for worse, family relationships play a central role in shaping your well-being. Family relationships may become even more important to well-being as you age, perhaps needs for caregiving of parents or grandparents increase, and social ties in other domains such as the workplace become less central in your life.
A bad relationship can have a negative affect on your wellbeing, which can have knock-on effects to your other relationships and your overall wellbeing.
A good relationship can have a positive affect on your wellbeing, which can improve your other relationships and your overall wellbeing.
One of the simplest ways to improve your relationship is to talk open and honestly with each other. Sharing thoughts and feelings makes it easier for you to understand and strengthen your relationships. Don’t be afraid to let people know they are making you sad. Conversely share things that make you happy and feel positive, spread the love.
It is important to recognise the type of relationship you share with your family. Relationships should be two-way and symbiotic and joyful for all. There are times you will fell ‘leaned on’ or ‘put out’. At other times you will be doing the ‘leaning’. A game of give and take.
However you should recognise a one-way parasitic relationship, where you feel it’s all give and no take. At these times it is essential you speak up and communicate your feelings, as they can easily fester and become toxic.
The sooner you realise the relationship is failing the sooner you can do something about it.
There are many ways to fix broken relationships, with simply talking being the easiest way. In some cases the relationship is so damaged you can’t bring yourselves to talk, so using a mediator, another family member or a friend of the family can help. A third party can sometimes bring an alternative perspective on your relationship.
In some cases you don’t want to air grievances with your family or friends, and feel you need a truly neutral party. There are a number of charities that can help reconcile family differences. There is also private counselling. You should never be to afraid to suggest charitable help counselling, especially if you have exhausted all other methods and really want to repair your relationship.
It is easy to think of a relationship as irreconcilable, especially if it will be simply to painful to try and fix. Where a relationship is abusive (physical or mental) it may become untenable, and you need to cast aside that relationship for the good of your own mental wellbeing.
This is never an easy decision, but in some cases it could the right and only decision. You should never try to make this level of decision in isolation, you will need strong support, either good friends, other family or charity or counselling. Making such a decision will take it’s toll and having strong support for your choice will make it more bearable.
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