Beyond Family Conflict

family is everything

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How many dramas can you count in your family?

By dramas, I mean those petty differences that grow to full-out rancor.  You know, the kind that leave you not speaking to someone or not wanting to, dreading holidays and birthdays, possibly wanting to pull somebody’s hair (if not your own), perhaps moving across the continent.  You know, something notable.

You hear the stories all the time.  It seems that no family is immune. Everyone has someone they just cannot get along with or won’t get along with, for whatever reason.

blog nasty people

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Some people seem to thrive on creating havoc, generally for reasons that seem arbitrary and unfair. Some unfortunate families are even cursed with more than one such instigator. To everyone’s dismay, these flawed characters create flawed relationships that uncomfortably reach beyond just trying to remain civil with the perpetrator.  All too often the damage incited is irreparable, which can adversely affect family dynamics for generations.

This sort of discord is such a common phenomenon that by now you’d think there would be websites called Adopt a Family or Find a New Daughter-in-Law.  

I recently met a mother who told me about another woman who was making her daughter’s wedding planning a living hell. The troublemaker turns out to be her daughter’s future sister-in-law; so, two women marrying two brothers. Already both, the woman I just met and the mother of the future grooms, have taken up armor against the accused malcontent, while dubbing the ill-fated husband-to-be as complacent–“whipped,” in the typical way that many men who marry such vixens get labeled.  You can already see where this family is going even before it gets started (insert OMG emoji).

In the news this week, the deceased singer Whitney Houston’s only offspring, Bobbi Kristina Brown, continues comatose from rumored domestic violence by her not-quite-legal spouse, while in a nearby hotel Bobbi Kristina’s visiting relatives broke into a bloody brawl that left one family member needing stitches.

In another news story this week, Rosie O’Donnell is leaving The View again–this time amid rumors of a second divorce with teenagers and a small child needing her at home, along with reported strife between O’Donnell and co-host Whoopi Goldberg. Some people just can’t catch a break (or give one).

Beyond the obvious reasons, I am not sure why so many women consistently sabotage one another–or how they have succeeded to do so through the ages.  Yet, as a stepmother and the only daughter in a family of married and divorced siblings, I unhappily acknowledge that family drama is no stranger to me.  In one way or another, it seems we are all heirs to some measure of family turmoil.  Some families even have men creating the drama–it’s really not gender-specific.  People lash out.  People create harm.  People get hurt.

breathe blog

As one of the grown-ups now in my own family, I think of the children who know and understand little about the chasms that lurk behind and around them.  Surely someone must think of the children.  Family strife begets family strife, and usually all we are teaching our children by our own conflicts is how to argue, how to hate, how not to get along.  We all must have boundaries, of course, but we also can’t exactly ignore the scores of children who do not know a grandparent, an aunt or uncle–their own blood, because of something someone said or did at some occasion now a distant memory to all.

Why do we complicate life, when it could be so simple, so easy?

When trust is forever broken by the egregious behavior of one misguided, self-centered, out of control lunatic, everyone ends up feeling at least a little crazy.  So how do we compose ourselves and maintain normal when the cray-cray comes to call?  The answer, it seems, has to be one of focus.

focus blog

“Align your focus with the solution,” yes–but sometimes, as many of us have learned, the knot only becomes more gnarled the longer we try to untangle it.  Those of us who have tried our hearts out know that strife does not end simply because we want it to.

The focus, then, and true cause for celebration must reside in those family members capable of participating in a healthy way.  When someone in any family honors the dynamic simply by cooperating–by welcoming and even accepting new family members and personality differences; by averting trouble instead of causing it; by not being divisive and petty and small, but instead by contributing in a positive way–they become an actual hero in that family.  Note:  A family really can never have too many heroes.

Think about it.  What one does, says, contributes, and encourages makes all the difference.

Where in the great family paradigm do you fit?  Are you a lover or a hater?  A contributor or a complainer? A gossip or a supporter?

Are you misunderstood, misread, respected, or avoided like the plague?  If so, by whom–and why?

One of the important factors toward emotional well being is to know your place; another is to honor your own personal beliefs.  Are you true to yourself?  Can you be true to yourself without disrespecting others? In the following quotation by Zig Ziglar, where has your family journey left you?

family post blog  zig ziglar

If you could, what change would you bring about in your family?

What hope are you yearning for on the road ahead?


As we each endeavor toward a greater good, every family success is worth noting.  In my next post, I will share with you the grace of one of my favorite family members.


 © Debra Valentino, all rights reserved

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