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How To Have A "Good Enough" Relationship With A Difficult Family Member

Updated on March 5, 2013

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For years I have had a rather rocky relationship with my mother. We have had countless arguments over what I perceived to be senseless topics. She does not seem to pick battles, but rather prefers ongoing wars. We would always drown out each other's voices because we both had so much to say, yet no one ever really listened.

However, I have learned that before you can truly listen to or have compassion for anyone else, you must first have an understanding of yourself. As human beings, we ALL have feelings and egos. While these qualities can be the cause for success in certain aspects of life, they are also typically responsible for family conflicts. Both parties involved think that they are right because it is so clear in their individual minds...yet what if you could see it from the opposite point of view? Unfortunately, that's impossible, but there are ways to relate and understand much better.

In the case with my mother, it took me years (and a lot of counseling, maturing and meditation) to be able to put my ego aside. Although, the funny part was that I wasn't even aware how easily my emotions were stirred by judgmental thoughts and how my ego disabled me from seeing things in a more unbiased manner. In my eyes, I felt that I was being disrespected and attacked, thus holding on to those negative feelings and carrying the past with me into the present.

I couldn't see that I was primed to get into an argument with my mother because my attitude was so defensive from the moment we started interacting. When I changed my expectations and learned to accept our relationship for what it was (and wasn't), I found that my general attitude improved and our interactions naturally became more pleasant. That is not to say that our conversations are always enjoyable, but my new approach allowed me to look at the situation in a different light. I am now more compassionate towards my mother because I realize that she has an "ongoing war" within herself and fighting with other family members is a temporary outlet for her. It is not an easy or ideal circumstance, but there are few things in life that are. Our relationship is good enough, and to expect more is setting myself up for disappointment and frustration.

The point is that you do not control the other person involved and you usually can't change what they think. However, with an open mind, good intentions and consistent practice, you can learn to notice your own emotional triggers/thought tendencies and progress towards a more positive attitude every day. In turn, this will likely allow you to simulaneously have a better relationship with your difficult family member(s) AND, most importantly, yourself.

We tend to point fingers at others when in a verbal war because that is a much better short-term option. But how often do we point the finger at ourselves? Aren't we contributing just as much to the chaos as the other person?

It is not about who is "right" or who is "wrong." There is no award given at the end of a screaming match, because both sides are losers. The real winner is the first person who can simply be at peace with apologizing/forgiving and moving forward.

Here are some informational, beginner links that explain ego, emotions & meditation:


2) (pt. 1)

3) (pt. 2)

4) (pt. 3)



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    • Scott Houle profile imageAUTHOR

      Scott Houle 

      5 years ago from Rhode Island

      @srsddn...Thanks for commenting, and I agree with you! It just seems to make sense to me that anger cannot be defeated by anger, but rather acceptance. After all, everyone just wants to be accepted for who they are. Resistance to the reality only creates more stress and hard feelings.

    • srsddn profile image


      5 years ago from Dehra Dun, India

      I agree with you. The screaming in families is too common and end result is normally zero. Best thing is to learn to tolerate other family members and ignore as many things as you can. You would, perhaps, be termed as a better adjusted person.


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