January 4, 2017

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Difficult Family Relationships – A Survival Guide

BeLoveCurious Founder & Relationship Therapist Helen Rice offers some simple advice on managing difficult family relationships to Psychologies journalist Martha Roberts.

In the article, published in the January 2017 edition of Psychologies Magazine, Helen considers the traits and temperaments of loved ones who can be ‘Controlling’ or ‘Victims’ in the family and provides some helpful strategies for managing them – and yourself- when they’re acting up. Other commentators also give their advice on some other familiar faces; the ‘Tyrant’, the ‘Drama Queen’ and the ‘Denier’.Psychologies Magazine Jan 2017 Cover - Difficult Family Relationships

The article makes an extremely important point – that although it can seem that the  ‘difficult’ family member is always the main focus for the present drama or dissent, it is far more likely that it has been co-created, with others in the group equally playing their part.

Helen says “As a relationship specialist, I think of a family like a single organism or a complex system with interconnected parts. Each person acts and reacts to every other person in a mix of subtle and overt ways, both deliberately and unconsciously. Surprisingly, how each of us acts and reacts in a given situation will be mostly pre-determined by our given role in the family. Think of it like being given a role to play in a TV soap opera or a gritty real-life drama. Each person finds their role to play early in life and this becomes more ingrained over time. That’s why you’ll see the same person behaving in the same kind of ways in similar situations over and over again, and why our own habitual ways of acting/reacting are so difficult to change. Interestingly in the search for a romantic partner or even at work, we can encounter people who remind us of a particular family member and find ourselves reacting in those very same familial patterns whether we like it or not!”

There is good news though. It is possible to find more successful ways of getting along with one another and bringing down the final curtain on your endless soap opera. Managing difficult family relationships starts with managing yourself and your reaction to them and then seeing how everyone else begins to change around you!

Some General Do’s & Don’ts

• Don’t make excuses for your own bad behaviour. Own it
• Do set boundaries – be aware of your emotional needs and acknowledge that you have a right for these to be met
• Do talk openly about relationship problems
• Don’t settle for less than you want in a relationship
• Don’t make yourself responsible for others’ hurtful words and actions
• Do model effective behaviour – be the change you want them to take on
• Don’t give up on them or offer a label
• Do seek out professional help when things get too difficult.

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