Family Feud: Rebuilding the RelationshipsApril 5, 2016
It can happen to the best of us, the most loving of families, the most tightly knit relatives, and the results can be heart-wrenching and devastating—a family feud. Whether it starts small and quickly escalates into dramatic fireworks or if it's a slow burn fueled by years of hurts and disappointments, a family feud can ruin a family for generations to come.
However, there is no need to let anger and frustration take possession of your heart and your closest familial relationships. Close proximity, shared history, and holding on to grievances from the past often create the spark that lights the family feud aflame. When you find that your family is set ablaze take these steps to help you rebuild the relationships.
Examine and Analyze the Situation
Turn to a trusted source for guidance and unbiased perspective on the situation. Use this time as your chance to determine if you can or should repair the fractures or if it's healthier for you to move on without the support of toxic family members.
Extend an Invitation
Once you establish that it's healthy and safe for you to reconnect with your estranged family members, you need to extend the olive branch and invite them to the table of reconciliation. When at all possible, do this yourself in a respectful manner that gives everyone else a chance to think it over and respond. Be cautious not to involve other family members—you don't want to create more problems by asking others to take sides.
Meet on Neutral Ground
If you've extended the invitation and it was accepted, try to meet on neutral ground, such as a coffee shop, restaurant, or park. The public setting may help everyone be on his or her best behavior as the discussion goes on and it prevents anyone from having the home field advantage or feeling trapped.
Stop, Listen, Apologize
Now that you've extended the invitation and settled on a neutral meeting place, the real work can begin. Use this opportunity to listen to the other side and make your apologies. It can be hard to swallow that one's self may have played a role in the family feud, but let's face it—it's a sad fact of life that none of us are perfect and even fewer of us are at our best when we're feeling hurt or angry. It may even be appropriate for you to air your understanding of the situation and grant forgiveness so that your family can begin to heal.
Spend time reconnecting with your estranged family members in a way that respects boundaries and encourages new bonding experiences. You can even go as far as putting a gag order on talking about the offending issues for a certain amount of time to allow everyone to rebuild relationships and move forward past the hurt.
There will be times when the rift of your family seems impossible to repair, even to mend. These are the times when it's most important that you give reconciliation an honest attempt with good intentions. This effort will help you move forward with peace knowing that you did your best to bridge the divide.