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How to Love Your Family---Even If You Don't Like Them

Updated on February 15, 2008
Photo by LadyHeart
Photo by LadyHeart

Everyone has them: those family members who never fail to drive us completely bonkers. Maybe it's the aunt who, ever-so-sweetly, asks if you've put on a little weight. Maybe it's the cousin who always hits you up for money and never pays it back. Maybe it's a niece or nephew that makes Damien from The Omen look like a model child. They're your family. You have to see them. Part of you even wants to see them---until you're sitting there trying to keep yourself from flinging some of the Thankgiving mashed potatoes into Aunt Janet's over-powdered face.

So how do you deal with those family members who make you crazy?

Love them.

Does your niece or nephew make Damien look like an angel?
Does your niece or nephew make Damien look like an angel?

Three Ways to Love Your Relatives

The idea of loving when you don't love comes from effectiveness guru Stephen Covey. In his groundbreaking The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey tells the story of a man who comes to him wondering what to do about his marriage. He says he and his wife don't fight, but that the love is gone. Covey responds, "Love her." The man responds that Covey just doesn't get it---the feeling isn't there anymore. Covey's explanation? Love is a verb. If the feeling of love is missing, that's reason to actively love someone. The feeling of love can be regained, but only through the thoughtfulness, understanding, and sacrifice that come from actively loving someone. This holds true for marriages, and for any other relationship in our lives.

If you're having trouble dealing with family members, here are three ways to actively bring the love:

1. Rediscover the ties that bind. Maybe annoying aunt Janet used to buy you ice cream from the ice cream truck whenever you visited. Maybe that money-sucking cousin was the one you used to get into trouble with as a kid. Maybe you held the demon-child nephew mere minutes after he came into the world. Remember how you felt then? Use these meaningful memories to remind yourself why you love this person, even when they annoy you to death.

2. Do something nice. Compliment your aunt, buy the cousin a CD of an artist you both liked as kids, spend time goofing off with the nephew. Make a concerted effort to do something you think the other person will enjoy. This works because your energy is focused on positivity, not dread or annoyance. Serving others, even in small ways, makes us feel good. Even if those relatives act just as obnoxious as they normally do, we are able to handle it better because we feel better.

3. Be honest. This one's hard. Everyone reaches the point where the little annoyances just add up to one big headache. Telling those family members what's bothering you both gets it off your chest, and serves as a first step to changing your relationship for the better. Maybe Aunt Janet doesn't realize she asks about your weight every time she sees you. Maybe she just doesn't know what else to say to you. Explain to that cousin that you just don't feel comfortable loaning money to anyone, even family. Write a letter, say it in a phone call, or face to face away from the rest of the family. Don't be confrontational, but make a point of letting them know exactly what's bothering you.

If All Else Fails...

Try to limit visits to holidays and special occasions, and remind yourself that you don't have to see Aunt Janet until next Thanksgiving.

Family is one of the true joys of life. Each one has its own quirks, its own squabbles and issues. Each one also has its own special history, and the knowledge that among the billions of families on this Earth, there isn't another one like it. Love your relatives, and, who knows---you may even discover that you like them more than you thought you did!

Oh, the Joy of Family Get-Togethers...


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    • Valene profile image

      Valene 5 years ago from Missouri

      This is great, especially the part about love being an action and not a feeling. That can go a long way in mending relationships!

    • Brian Colborne profile image

      Brian Colborne 7 years ago from Dublin

      Loved the hub, I think we all have some very annoying family members and we try our best to get along

    • profile image

      Angel 7 years ago

      Hi Monica,

      Know that you and we all can be angels of the lord, by faith.

      Colossians 3:13

      "Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you"

      Stand firm in the words of GOD. Remember we love you and you are victorious. Keep speaking and meditating on these promises of GOD and never let the foolish poison of negative thoughts, actions, or speaking come from you. Rest assure this to will come to past.



    • profile image

      monica 7 years ago

      i have this problem.. i just hate my brother so much because he really did many bad things to me so many times since i was a little girl and now i'm 17.. one day, he seems as tryin to have a good conversation with me i think he wanted to 'repair' this broken relationship of us, but somehow there was something deep cold inside of me will never, and can never accept him any longer as i did years ago.. i hate him but i'm planning to treat him nice, but it was just so hard.. i've prayed but my ego was so hard to be loosen.. i wish i'll get help from an angel from the lord.. i wish..

    • Putz Ballard profile image

      Putz Ballard 8 years ago

      Great hub and valuable insights. We have a few of those troublesome relationships in our family. Maybe this will help me to better understand and maybe even mend a few fences.

      Robert Putz Ballard

    • profile image

      Reno Pete 8 years ago

      I just had a conversation with my mom, where after 32 years of life I realized what our problem is: She loves me, I don't doubt. But she doesn't like me. I told her it was okay and though at first she denied it, we left it like that. I assured her it was okay--a lot of people don't like me. I have extreme mental disabilities with anxiety and panic etc and am no fun to talk to on the phone. I realize this. I was trying to give her the freedom to realize that it's okay not to like me. Of course now I feel horrible and probably should've just kept my mouth shut, but it's the truth. I know she thinks I am a scumbag. My father doesn't love me or like me, so at least my mom loves me. I don't doubt that at all. It upset her to realize that there is a lot fo truth to that idea of not liking me. She thinks it makes her a bad mother I think. I told her it didn't. That I was okay with it as long as she loved me--that's what counts, I said. And I'm lucky to have a mother who loves me so much. She loves me so much that she can't accept the idea that she doesn't like me. As I told her, I don't even like me, so why should she expect to or think she has to. I hope she comes to terms with it and just accepts it. I wasn't trying to make her feel bad. I love her. I probably remind her too much of my father or something. At least we can agree on that. He doesn't like or love either of us. Of course, I end up with nothing but guilt from all of this. So here I am posting it on some random message board on the Internet. I feel guilty because I made her feel bad but I also feel that a lot of weight has been removed from my shoulders. I can handle my mom not liking me as long as she loves me. I think that's okay.

    • profile image

      nicole  8 years ago

      I know that no matter how much they yell or scream at you they love you no matter what .

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 8 years ago from America

      I needed this hub after our Christmas day with family. We have decided next year we're leaving town.

    • Kat07 profile image

      Kat07 9 years ago from Tampa

      Great advice - there's always someine in each family that isn't liked, but most likely loved.

    • compu-smart profile image

      Compu-Smart 9 years ago from London UK


    • C.M. Vanderlinden profile image

      C.M. Vanderlinden 9 years ago from Metro Detroit

      Compu-smart---very good point. I can't imagine how that must have been for you---thanks for sharing that. It's stories like yours that make me even more thankful for my family, no matter how insane they can be.

      Thank you so much for commenting.

    • compu-smart profile image

      Compu-Smart 9 years ago from London UK

      Great hub but i just have to mention that not everyone has family like myself who was abandoned by my parents at 18 months old and spent my whole life in and out of different children's homes and it would have been nice to see what it feels like to have the love of a family and the joys of family getogethers..