How To Heal A Damaged Family Relationship In 10 Clear Ways

Family relationships can often be fickle. You find yourself in a conflict with a family member, and this can lead to anything from a stint of the silent treatment to cutting that family member off completely.

Your response depends on the conflict and how you’ve chosen to communicate with that family member thus far.

What is the main cause of family conflict?

Family conflict is most often caused by a difference of opinion or belief over an important issue.

Even though you’re a part of the same family, you won’t always see eye to eye with all family members on an imperative matter, and you will often disagree.

These disagreements don’t have to be earth-shattering, but sometimes they explode into something bigger than the family members expected. An argument that goes south can cause a deep rift among families, resulting in the severance of communication and affection.

Does every family have problems?

There is not a single family in the world that doesn’t deal with problems and conflicts from time to time. The difference among families is the way they choose to respond to the conflict.

Some families practice healthy boundaries and communication skills that help heal conflicts as they arise.

Some families are fiery and vivacious; they allow emotions to take over when an issue comes to light.

Each type of family handles conflicts differently depending on the past generations and how they were taught to deal with issues. There’s nothing inherently wrong with one way or the other.

However, using proper communication skills as opposed to acting out of emotion will encourage healing instead of broken and damaged relationships.

If you’ve experienced the demise of a family relationship or are uncertain of how to patch things up, here are some tips.

How to heal a damaged family relationship in 10 ways that make sense. 

1. Accept the situation as it is

When facing a conflict with a family member, one of the most important things you can do is accept the situation as it is. Establish that you’re in a disagreement and recognize that you’d like to fix things.

This doesn’t mean accepting the conflict without taking action. If you want to improve the situation and work through the conflict, you absolutely should. But don’t accept the situation and resolve to do nothing about it, unless that’s your response of choice.

Sit with your thoughts, ground yourself, and think about the situation for what it is. Realize it’s there and present and acknowledge the fact that you’d like to fix things.

2. Recognize the part you play

Family conflicts are rarely one-sided. You may be at odds with a family because of something they’ve done, but there are always two sides to every story.

In order to work through any familial damage, you must realize that you are involved in the situation just as much as the family member is and accept responsibility.

You don’t have to be hard on yourself or come at yourself with judgment but look at the situation as fact; be impartial. Look at the argument from both ends of the spectrum and understand that you may play just as big a part in the conflict as your family member.

3. Put yourself in their shoes

In any type of conflict, it’s highly useful to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Looking at the situation from the perspective of your family member will allow you to see an altered opinion from their point of view.

It’s easy to stick strictly with your own convictions, placing blame on the other family member out of anger, hurt, and from simply being stubborn.

But once you’re able to view the situation through their eyes, you will see things differently. You will be enlightened of how you may have hurt them, instead of focusing your attention only on the hurt caused by them.

Put yourself in your family member’s shoes and allow yourself a vision of both sides of the story.

4. Understand that healing will take time

As convenient as it would be, no one can wave a magic wand and heal all the wounds between you and your family member. Healing takes time, and the situation must be treated with gentleness and understanding.

You may move on from the situation must quicker than your family member and vice versa. Everyone heals differently through their own timeline and must be afforded the opportunity to reach reconciliation on their own terms, at their own pace.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, so don’t expect your conflict to be resolved overnight either.  

5. Break the big picture into manageable conversations

It may make sense to you to a marathon conversation, spending hours ironing out wrinkles in your family relationship. However, this tactic is exhausting and wears on both you and your family member, depleting energy and reason through the course of the extensive conversation.

Don’t try to resolve everything all at once. That means that healing conversations will have to occur over time. Give you and the other family member space between conversations in order to regroup and recharge.

Every small conversation is a step towards healing. Acknowledge that as progress and allow each conversation to build another part of the bridge of your relationship that is under construction.

6. Initiate communication

Initiating communication shows that you care enough to make the first move. You care enough to want to resolve the discord, and you’re willing to show that by establishing open communication.

Don’t be demanding about it but offer an olive branch to your family member by proposing the opportunity for dialogue.

You can’t force your family member to communicate back with you, and you can’t coerce them into resolving something they don’t care to resolve.

All you can do is take the initiative to open the stream of communication and see where it flows.

7. Establish common ground

When in conflict with a family member, sometimes it helps ease the tension by discovering common ground. You and the family member may have had similar experiences with another family member, or you may have lived through the same types of challenges and difficulties.

Find whatever it is that connects you with your family member and play on it. Remind them that you are both human, and you’ve both experienced similar things. You are sympathetic to one another, and you understand the feelings and emotions you both may have experienced as a result of shared situations and circumstances.

Common ground will establish trust. While resolving your conflict, utilize this common ground as a safe space to return to when you both need to come back down to earth.

8. Be willing to listen

Conflict resolution stems from good listening. In order to heal a damaged family relationship, you absolutely must listen to what the other person has to say.

Listening shows respect and attentiveness, two qualities that are meaningful and leave a lasting impression on the person speaking. It’s important that they feel their side is heard and acknowledged, not simply brushed aside without thought.

If you truly want to resolve a conflict between yourself and a family member, you must actively listen to what they have to say, think about their words, and do your best to apply them to the situation. This will allow you to understand there’s more than one side to the story, and it will offer you a different perspective on things.

9. Don’t be defensive

Defensiveness in an argument just results in deeper conflict. When reacting defensively, you are showing that you are angry and are only focused on defending yourself and your position in the argument.

You must let down your defenses, put down the sword, and come into the conversation with open and accepting hands, willingness to listen, and a clear mind and heart.

Don’t allow defensiveness to creep up. This will only hinder the growth between you and your family member and will lead to more issues. They will feel as though you are attacking them instead of attempting to find a resolution, and this is the opposite of what you’re truly seeking.

10. Be assertive, not aggressive 

There’s a difference between being assertive and being aggressive.

When you’re in a position of aggression, you are coming at the other person. You may use your anger to call the person names or use condescending language, you may feel big and powerful over the other person, and you may feel dominant.

However, this is an unhealthy approach for a conversation that is meant to cultivate healing and repair.

Address your family member with assertion, not aggression. To be assertive is to be confident, to believe in one’s self and one’s opinions, and to respect the other person.

When you’re being assertive, you’re stating your thoughts in a way that can be received by the family member. You’re not slamming your words into them aggressively, but you’re speaking in a manner that’s clear, courteous, and self-assured.

Assert yourself and your stance in your conversation with your family member. Allow them to assert themselves as well and maintain the dialogue in this manner. This will lead to a more peaceful and humble conversation, instead of an aggressive one leading to more damage.

With these 10 things in mind, we are able to confidently address familial issues in a way that leads to healing and resolution. 

tatted arms holding hands
Photo by Marcelo Chagas from Pexels
Eden is a 26-year-old Aries who loves learning and exploring mental health, self-love, self-care, and eating disorder recovery.

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