Every Family is Dysfunctional

Each family is unique and different, with challenges, joys, and sorrows. We are all dysfunctional in that we all have problems of some sort or another.
Each family is unique and different, with challenges, joys, and sorrows. We are all dysfunctional in that we all have problems of some sort or another. | Source

Do you wish your family were different?

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There are no perfect families

No matter who we are, we are part of a family. We each were born to a father and mother. We have grandparents, and most likely aunts, uncles, cousins, and siblings. Whether they are living or not, or whether we are close to them or far away, these relationships have affected our lives in a significant way.

Oftentimes, we look at other families and wish we were more like them. We compare what we don't have to what others do, and end up on the short end of the comparison. This is unfortunate, as there is value in all circumstances and relationships, no matter how difficult they may seem.

Every family experiences pain, frustration, and conflict. To think that one can avoid these is to have unrealistic expectations. In order to deal with them, we need to communicate with one another, work towards common goals, and keep our family high on our priority list.

"...it seems that in every family, if not in every person, some physical conditions exist that require special care."

Russell M. Nelson

Pain may more may not be visible to the eye. It can be physical, emotional, or social. Everyone experiences it.
Pain may more may not be visible to the eye. It can be physical, emotional, or social. Everyone experiences it. | Source

"We are inclined to view our own personal misfortunes through the distorted prism of pessimism."

Thomas S. Monson

Every family has pain

Every family experiences pain in some way or another. The thing we need to remember is that pain is not always visible. It can be physical, caused by "disease, injury, or something that hurts the body." Pain can also be "mental or emotional suffering: sadness caused by some emotional or mental problem" or even "someone or something that causes trouble or makes you feel annoyed or angry" (online dictionary).

Pain is not determined by our socioeconomic status, our level of spirituality, or our ability to solve problems. It is a natural part of our human existence. It is something that we all have in common. Some people are very vocal in how they deal with their pain, others are very private. No matter who we are, we can find someone in more pain than ourselves.

When we start to feel sorry for ourselves and think that we have it tough, we would do well to find others who are in pain, and do what we can to alleviate their suffering. As we do so, we come away with a new appreciation of our own pain. We realize that we would rather have our pain than theirs. In fact, if all the pain in the world were put in a pile, and divided equally among everyone living, we would each have about the same as what we have now.

Every family experiences frustration

Frustration happens when we experience unresolved problems. Some of these problems come as a result of our various circumstances. Others come from things that happen that are the choices of those around us, and still others come as a result of the choices that we make.

We may see our family as incomplete, perhaps due to a divorce, death, disability, single parenting, infidelity, or the inability to have children. We look at others with seemingly complete families and think that if only we had what they do, our problems would be solved.

The reality of the matter is simply that all families experience problems, no matter what their circumstances. Thinking that if our circumstances were different, our problems would be solved is an unrealistic expectation. If our circumstances were different, our problems would simply be different. We would still have them! All families experience issues with finances, health, employment, children, education, and transportation.

Every family has conflict

There is no such thing as a family that does not have issues with conflict. When two people marry, they bring with them the habits and practices of their past life in their family of origin. This includes the way that we communicate and deal with conflict.

In his book, Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, John Gottman speaks of the communication styles that couples develop that allow them to deal with conflict. He indicates that in order for marriages to succeed, a style must be developed that both spouses use. The same is true in any family situation.

Just like mechanical parts that rub against each other until they are worn down and fit tightly together, people rub against each other as they learn patterns of communication, giving and taking, learning, and adjusting, until they find what works in their particular relationship.

As families gather for special occasions, those who haven't gone through this process are often thrown into a mix. It is necessary to overlook some things that are just not that important to keep the event meaningful and enjoyable for all gathered together. Sometimes, it is necessary to gear up for the encounters that we know we will have with those that we don't have the best of relationships with. As we do so, we allow a buffer zone that keeps us from getting hurt or offended when others show their raw edges and bump up against ours.

Families are the basic building block of society. Without them, society as we know it would cease to exist.
Families are the basic building block of society. Without them, society as we know it would cease to exist. | Source

"In our day civil governments have a vested interest in protecting marriage because strong families constitute the best way of providing for the health, education, welfare, and prosperity of rising generations."

Russell M. Nelson (ibid)

As imperfect as families are, they are still necessary

Families are the fundamental unit of society. Although popular opinion sways in other directions, no other substitute has been found to socialize human beings. Those societies that abandon the family fall to ruin. In order to preserve and strengthen our families, we all need to engage in quality communication, pursue common goals, and put our family on our priority list.

Quality communication

Communication is the way that we send messages to each other. We often think of words when we think of communication, but non-verbal communication is actually more powerful than verbal. When we understand this concept, we take care to make sure that our actions speak the messages that we want others to receive.

Non-verbal communication includes the following:

  • eye-contact
  • posture
  • facial expressions
  • hand gestures
  • head position

Each one of these items tells the person we are communicating with how important they are to us when we are in their presence. On "open" position is one which invites communication and includes eye-to-eye contact, facing the other person, responding to what is said with facial expression, hands that reach out to the other person, and a posture that leans forward to the person who is speaking.

A "closed" position drives away communication. Things such as turning the head away, lack of eye contact, yawning, folding the arms, crossing the legs, looking at the clock, or in any way acting pre-occupied all discourage others from pursuing communication with us.

Our family members are deeply affected by our actions toward them in the area of communication. What we do as their loved ones sends messages of love and acceptance or criticism and annoyance, depending upon how we act when we are around them.

Putting time and effort into quality communication includes understanding "I" messages, "You" messages, and "We" messages. See the table below for examples of these types of communications. The communication we use either builds our family or tears it down. These are the type of messages that build.

"I" Messages
"You" Messages
"We" Messages
I love you.
Thank you.
We make a great team!
I think that is great!
You are welcome.
We have the time.
I am sorry I did that.
You did a great job.
We are ready to go.
I like the way that looks on you.
You are kind.
We keep quiet.
I feel sad.
You have a great smile.
We like doing this together.
I feel happy.
You are having a tough time.
We know how to do it.
The time we spend working toward common goals strengthens the bonds between our family members and gives them the foundation they need when they must stand alone.
The time we spend working toward common goals strengthens the bonds between our family members and gives them the foundation they need when they must stand alone. | Source

"This shield of faith is not manufactured on an assembly line, only handmade in a cottage industry...Some still do not see that too many out-of-home activities, however well intended, leave too little time to make and fit on the shield of faith at home."

Boyd K. Packer

Pursue common goals

Working together toward common goals brings family members close in ways that nothing else can. Family unity comes from doing things together, whether work, play, or service. The time we are working toward a common goal builds relationships, enables communication, and give us reasons to share our love and acceptance of one another. The following family activities give family members opportunities to pursue common goals:

  • Family devotional time
  • Family prayer
  • Family meals
  • Family Home Evening
  • Family work projects
  • Family service to others
  • Family recreation
  • Family musical activities
  • Family crafts or hobbies

The family is fundamental in formulating of faith, repentance, and the understanding of religious practices. Those families who pursue spiritual goals together are more likely to pass their values and moral principles on to the next generation. Regular attendance in church services strengthens the bonds of unity in the family.

Putting our family on our priority list ensures that we will spend time with those that matter the most to us in the long run.
Putting our family on our priority list ensures that we will spend time with those that matter the most to us in the long run. | Source

Which area do you feel your family needs to work on most?

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Put family on your priority list

If our family is not on our priority list, we will lose them, it is that simple. Other things will happen in life that seem more important at the time. Our career, home, friends, or hobbies will compete for our attention. Before we know it, our children are grown and gone, and our spouses are pursuing other interests. The most common regret people have on their deathbeds is not spending more time with those they love.

Family relationships must be nurtured daily. This does not happen automatically, it takes time, planning, and effort on our part. We have to set aside our preoccupations for the moment, and live with those we love in such a way that they will know that we care for them and are concerned for their health and well-being.

Whether it is expressing affection to our spouse, holding a crying child, or helping a teenager with their homework, the time we take now will pay big dividends in the future. When the moment arrives that we need love and understanding from others, it will be there for us. The law of the harvest applies directly to family life. The seeds we sow, we will inevitably reap. If our harvest is meager, we only have to look into the mirror.

Yes, every family is dysfunctional, but every family is also unique in its possibilities. We can take our weaknesses and turn them into strengths by using quality communication, working toward common goals, and putting our family on our priority list.

Take the time to be with your family today, for your emotional health!

© 2014 by Denise W. Anderson, all rights reserved. This hub is an Emotional Survival Resource. For more on Emotional Survival, see www.denisewa.com.

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37 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

What a treasure chest of wisdom and wonderful suggestions this hub is. Well done Denise! This should be required reading for all families.


SandCastles 2 years ago

Wow, thank you for this wonderful hub!


amiebutchko profile image

amiebutchko 2 years ago from Warwick, NY

Thank you, Denise. This is a hub I will return to and read again. I think as parents, we worry that we are not doing our kids justice as we struggle to raise them amidst all their issues, and amidst our family issues. This is encouraging to me as it reminds me that the family is, yes, important, and serves to benefit our children - not damage them! Being surrounded by love... an imperative.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks, billybuc! I appreciate your vote of confidence! After reading your hub on dysfunction, I was able to get a solid direction on which way to go with mine. Take care!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

You are welcome! Family is a subject that is close to my heart. I am glad that it was helpful for you!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Yes, many families worry that they are not measuring up. In reality, they are doing more good than they realize. We have such a profound effect on our spouses and children. Every thing we do in their behalf makes life better for us and them. Thanks for reading and commenting!


swilliams profile image

swilliams 2 years ago from Arizona

You have such a loving way at understanding very difficult situations. Dysfunctional families is a hard subject to tackle because it's a part of life. We all have our problems. The ability to work things out through communication as you said can turn a weakness into a strength. Great Hub Denise!


catgypsy profile image

catgypsy 2 years ago from the South

Denise, you have covered a sensitive subject so well, as usual! I think we all need to remember that we never really know what's going on in anybody elses houses. Most people keep their problems hidden, I think, and so their "perfect" lives may be anything but! And you gave such great tips on how to handle things.


peachpurple profile image

peachpurple 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

yes, i agree with yr post. every family has its' own problems. Not everything is perfect. We just need to adjust it ourselves before it breaks down into pieces


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean

"We realize that we would rather have our pain than theirs." Thank you Denise, for promoting appreciation for our families. Making sense of the dysfunctions within help prepare us for the confusion outside. Voted Up!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thank you for the compliment, swilliams! Families are a subject that is close to my heart. When I was a teenager, our family went through some difficulties that left us reeling for years afterwards. We never know what pain someone else has until we walk in their shoes. I appreciate your feedback!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

My life has been filled with experiences that have given me firsthand knowledge in sensitive subjects! I used to think that other people had it so much better than I, then I found out otherwise! Life gives all of us experiences that tug at our heartstrings, and there are people all around us who can use an encouraging word. Thanks for reading and commenting!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Yes, peachpurple, when we recognize that adjustments need to be made, it is wise of us to take that initiative. There will always be situations that require adjustment in life. Just when we think we get it all figured out, something changes! Thanks for stopping by and leaving your thoughts!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

You are welcome, MsDora. Every family has strengths worth emulating, no matter what their situation. As we realize this, we can use our strengths to help us with our weaknesses, for we all have them! Thanks for your kind comments.


DDE profile image

DDE 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Every Family is Dysfunctional is right on and so true every family has a problem an most try to cover their battles.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Yes, DDE, it is unfortunate that we don't readily find out what other people are going through until it is severe enough that it spills over into public knowledge. Some deliberately try to hide it, afraid of what others may say or think. I've heard it put this way, "We fight our battles at home." In some cases, it is wise, but in others, people end up suffering needlessly in silence. When we do hear of the struggles others have, we would do well to be understanding and supportive rather than judgmental.


Eliza Anderson 2 years ago

I agree with everything you say. I do not wish to let you down in any way.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks, Eliza.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 2 years ago

We do all have dysfunctional traits in our families. Your message chart suggestions are excellent ways to communicate with positive results. If we just talk things out, we can accomplish much.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Yes, teaches, communication is so vitally important in the family setting. We don't realize how much we depend upon one another to get through the difficulties of life until something is not working properly. Communication is really the only way to get back on track! Thanks for reading and commenting.


Duchess OBlunt 2 years ago

at first I thought this might be a completely negative article. But you brought it around nicely with things we can do. Each of us in our own way can certainly learn from your tips. Rated up


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

I titled it that way to get people's attention, Duchess. We talk so much about family dysfunction, but it is usually pointing the finger at severe situations. And yet, every family compares themselves with others in such a way that we look at others' strengths and our own weaknesses, and think that we don't measure up. We all have problems, and realizing that we have more in common than we think, we can build on the strengths that we do have, and get over the hurdles of our weaknesses. Thanks for stopping by!


Purpose Embraced profile image

Purpose Embraced 2 years ago from Jamaica

Denise I love your hub! So true, we live in an imperfect world, and so are our families. But we must take the necessary steps to build healthy family relationships including improving communication patterns and promoting effective conflict resolution.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks, Purpose Embraced, for the positive feedback! As we take the steps needed to build our family, we will find greater peace and happiness in our lives. When all is said and done, our families are more important than anything else. I appreciate you reading and commenting.


ChitrangadaSharan profile image

ChitrangadaSharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

What a wonderful hub!

You brought out some very important facts, which should not be ignored in order to have healthy and strong bond within family members. Building strong relationships in a family needs lot of patience and constant effort. Anyone can deal with tough challenges of life, if there is family support. Family should be the priority no doubt.

Thanks and voted up!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

That is right, ChitrangadaSharan, our families need lots of patience and our efforts in building positive relationships will always come around to bless us in the end. We never know when something we have done for someone we love will be done for us. It happens in surprising ways.


CraftytotheCore profile image

CraftytotheCore 2 years ago

This is such a great Hub for many reasons. Two stand out for me personally. The first is because we have a child with special needs. So it's been my experience that most people want to avoid us. They don't want our problems (in their opinion). And what I have to say about that is there is a reason why I am the mother of a child with special needs. I think it is prudent for people to realize that moms that have children with special needs are usually the strong ones. And therefore, they have a lot to learn from us.

The other thing is using I messages are so important. I never learned that as a child. Our public school system uses that here too and it really opens a window for a child to feel self-confident. As a family we can communicate openly.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks for sharing your experiences, Crafty. Yes, those with children having special needs have to have a lot of resilience! It takes constant vigilance and creativity to find ways to meet the child's needs while balancing your own and the rest of the family's. The time it takes daily cannot be measured. You will be blessed for your efforts!


TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

TIMETRAVELER2 2 years ago

Honestly, I think you should be writing books, not online articles. This is really excellent!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks, Timetraveler! One day I hope to be doing just that!


DesireeJensen profile image

DesireeJensen 2 years ago from Edmonton AB

Such a nice read it's wonderful to see others feel family is so important :)


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks, DesireeJensen. I appreciate the vote of confidence. Family has been my life. My birth family had some traumatic things happen during my teenage years, and that lead me to a study of how successful families work. It helped me to keep my own family intact, and has been the basis for my work in emotional health.


Julie K Henderson profile image

Julie K Henderson 19 months ago

Kudos for approaching this topic optimistically and sensibly. I believe that all families have their trials, and that comparison can makes us unreasonably discontent with the family we have been given. Voted up.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 19 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks, Julie. So often we look at others and think that we just don't have the perfect family, but others do. In reality, no family is perfect. We all have our difficulties that we have to work through. The key is to focus on the good that we do have, and build from there. I appreciate you stopping by.


Julie K Henderson profile image

Julie K Henderson 19 months ago

You are welcome. I think focusing on what we do have in all areas of our lives is an excellent starting point.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 19 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

That is right, Julie. When we look for the good, as Abraham Lincoln once said, we will surely find it!


Julie K Henderson profile image

Julie K Henderson 19 months ago

I like the quote. I agree.

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