Look at any statistics on family relationships published in the last couple of decades. The results will undoubtedly point towards one conclusion; families are increasingly broken. It might not seem like such a big deal at first. After all, if two people got a divorce, for example, that’s probably for the better. First, getting a divorce doesn’t guarantee that the couple, their kids, and their extended family will be better off.
Secondly, having a broken family doesn’t just refer to a divorced couple. It also refers to families in which the parents are toxic toward each other or towards their kids. It refers to families where someone refuses to speak to a member of their extended family because of some petty squabble. A broken family can mean a million things and look different from case to case. On the outside, you might see the happiest, most united family ever.
Even if it looks like they have the perfect white picket fence home and the tightest bond, looks can be deceiving. You never know what goes in behind closed doors. So don’t expect things to be what they seem. Sometimes, the families who look like they have everything going right for them are struggling the most. But, just because things in a family aren’t going well right now, that doesn’t mean they can never be fixed. Unfortunately, too many relationships fail because people give up on them.
And it’s a fine line between giving up and holding on too tight. In some cases, family relationships need to be severed for the greater good of the individuals in that family. For example, you should never stay in an abusive relationship with someone because they are the parent of your children. But be careful not to bail out when things can still be fixed. To learn when and how you should try to fix family relationships, keep reading.
Why Do Family Relationships Break Sometimes?
Human interaction is one of the most complicated things people have to deal with. Sure, things like quantum physics are impossible. But, no matter how complex these technical fields are, they are no match for juggling relationships. All types of relationships can become toxic and end up destroying your life. Or, if you are not careful, you might end up hurting the people you care about.
And, the thing is, no one ever gives you a manual that can guide you in the pursuit of connecting with others. It’s mostly a trial-and-error thing. Plus, you are not the only element that can affect a relationship. There are always other people involved, whether directly or indirectly. Not to mention how many externalities can hurt your connection with others. And families aren’t protected from these dangers.
How The Environment Affects You
Regarding family relationships, it’s essential to talk about the environment in which the people from that family are raised. In theory, it’s easy. Two people meet, they fall in love, and their families bond, creating a bigger, happy family. Then, the couple has kids, and they live happily ever after. But things are never that easy in real life. The people who fell in love had lives before they met. And those lives affected the way they interact with others.
For example, a person abused as a kid will always struggle to connect with others healthily. So, the way people are raised affects their ability to build a healthy family. The worse someone was treated as a child, the higher the chance their future family will suffer. Plus, family relationships don’t only affect spouses. They also affect relationships between kids and parents or any family members.
It’s important to mention that many people don’t even have the right role models to learn how to build healthy family relationships. That means that, even if their environment was healthy and they didn’t suffer any mistreatment as children, they still could struggle to connect with others healthily. Not to mention that families can grow apart simply because of external factors or because they don’t get along anymore.
If your partner moves far away for a better job, that might end your relationship. Not because you don’t have a love for each other but because the distance is brutal and can break even the strongest couples. If that couple has kids, they will also feel the effects of the breakup, which can eventually lead to a broken family. If so many things can negatively affect family relationships, how can you heal broken family relationships?
How to Heal Broken Family Relationships?
1. Understand What The Issues Are
There are many heartbreaking stories of parents who haven’t talked to their kids in years and have no idea why that is the case. That could be because the kids simply decided one day to stop picking up the phone when the parents call. But often, it’s because there was never a healthy discussion about the issues in that relationship.
Maybe the parents didn’t ask if something was bothering the kid. Perhaps the kid refused to say. And this is the case for many family dynamics, not just between kids and parents. This could also be the case for a couple or someone’s relationship with any other relative.
But it’s easier to say that you need to have a talk and understand why the break happened in the first place than actually talking things out. As a result, some people struggle to communicate healthily. Something that helps is to have a mediator who can help you navigate that talk. This is exactly why there are so many therapists that specialize in family relationships because there’s a need for them.
And seeing a specialist is the safest way to ensure you can talk things through without creating any more issues. If you don’t want a mediator, try to sit down and talk things through yourselves. And make sure to actively listen to what the other person says. Then, when you pinpoint the issues, you can start working towards solving them.
2. Set Realistic Expectations
Once a relationship is broken, there’s virtually no chance it will return to the way it was. That doesn’t mean you can’t fix it. It just means that when you do, some dynamics will change. For example, say you and your partner broke up. You can get back together if there is still love there. But, sometimes, two people naturally grow apart, and there’s not that kind of romantic love there anymore.
That doesn’t mean you can’t heal that relationship. It will just look different. Of course, you can always stay friends. And, if you have kids, you can work towards having a good co-parenting relationship for the sake of your whole family. But many people make the mistake of believing that solving things means everything will return to the way it was. Or maybe they force themselves to reach that point again.
And this will do nothing but set you back and prevent you from making any kind of progress. The healthy thing to do is to set realistic expectations and take things slowly. Set small milestones to reach and gradually work towards achieving the bigger goal: fixing those family relationships. If you had a massive falling out with someone, it’s good enough to aim towards being able to have a cup of coffee together once every few weeks.
You don’t need to rush into things. And when you see that you are making progress, you can start seeing each other more often and easing into a new relationship. But always make sure that the new relationship fits both of your needs and doesn’t carry on the same toxic issues that caused the break in the first place.
3. Enforce Boundaries
Even the healthiest of relationships has to respect the boundaries of the parties involved. But they are essential when trying to rebuild a relationship. Lack of boundaries is one of the reasons why relationships fail and people drift apart. Most people don’t want to hurt the ones they love. They don’t want to risk ever losing important people.
But that happens because they ignore other people’s needs without even realizing it. Unfortunately, this often happens in relationships between parents and children. When kids are still developing, they don’t want to tell their parents everything about their life. Young kids need individuality and privacy, which is perfectly normal.
But that means they will probably not go out of their way to tell their parents about their needs and pet peeves. Ideally, the parent would approach their kid and ask about these things. More often than not, that doesn’t happen, and, as a result, people drift apart. To prevent such issues from happening, you need to enforce boundaries. But, more importantly, boundaries are vital when rebuilding a relationship.
At that point, trust is probably broken, and the people are struggling with dozens of issues. Making sure you don’t invalidate the other’s feelings or aggravate the situation in any way will determine if you can heal. And for that, you need boundaries. Of course, these boundaries don’t just appear from thin air. You need to talk things through, focusing on your needs and wants. Plus, it’s imperative to respect these boundaries at all times.
Final Thoughts On How To Heal Broken Family Relationships
Family is one, if not the most important thing in people’s lives. If you can, you must make sure that you hold on tight to those people. If your family abuses or mistreats you, get out of that toxic environment. But if something can still be fixed, you will regret it if you don’t try to make things right.
Relationships can only heal if people try to listen to each other and understand their issues. Setting realistic expectations based on those talks is also an important step. And never forget about the importance of boundaries and being respectful. Remember, family is worth fighting for.