2 Steps to Improve Strained Relations

Family Love

We’re coming to that family time of year. It’s a time when we gather together to celebrate, eat and drink too much and generally have a fabulous time.  And it’s also a time when we find ourselves getting together with people who may very well rub us up the wrong way – family members, who for one reason or another, we always find ourselves at odds with, who we’ve managed to avoid for most of the rest of the year.

Wayne Dyer once said that your friends are a way of compensating for your family. And there’s no doubt about it – families can be hard work. We often find ourselves in the midst of arguments or full-on shouting matches at a time when we should be enjoying the company of those we love.

So what can we do?

Well, here’s a two-step process that might help.

Pick one such person in your life (the one that annoys you the most!) and think about them. How does it make you feel when you think of this person? What is causing those feelings? Are you judging this person? Are you thinking they should be living their life in a different way, maybe more like you live yours? Should they perhaps be embracing your values, instead of those that are clearly directing their lives in a way you find unacceptable?

How do you feel about this person? Do you love them? Many people will answer, “Well, of course I do! I’m supposed to, aren’t I?” After all, they’re a relative – a brother, sister, mother, father, etc. How could we not love these people? In fact, we find ourselves still loving them despite any terrible things they might have done.  And while we may love them, we might not like them very much. We might not want to see them or be around them because they don’t fit in with our ideals, and we can’t handle that.

But it’s annoying, grating, isn’t it? We want to both love and like this person, and yet because of how they choose to live their life, we just can’t accept them, can’t even force ourselves to be around them. They just make our blood boil!

Okay, on to the steps…

Step 1

I hate youTake a piece of blank paper and a pen and write down all the things you don’t like about this person, everything you disapprove of, that just makes your blood boil. Let it all out there on the page. Go ahead and do this. The value of such exercises is not in reading about them, but in actually doing them! So don’t continue reading until you’ve done this!

Now that you have that done, read back what you’ve written and as you read it, consider what all those things might be trying to teach you about your own life. What messages does it have for you? Really force yourself to answer that question.  If that person’s behaviour was designed to teach you something valuable, important, what would that be? Take some time to think about it and write your answer down on another sheet of paper.

What did you come up with? Anything enlightening?

Step 2

losing loved ones in christmasOkay, now  when you think of your chosen person, ask yourself what kind of relationship you would like to have with them. What do you want your outcome to be? Set aside for a moment the petty judgments that cause you to feel a certain way about them and just focus on the love you have for them, and what kind of relationship you want with them. Close your eyes for a moment and do this.

Now consider this question: Would you attend this person’s funeral? Imagine for a moment that this person has passed away. How would you feel about that? Would that soften the edge of your disapproval, melt away your judgment to some degree?

Just imagine that you’ve lost this person forever. Take a moment, and another blank sheet of paper,  and write down the answers to these questions: How would it change the way you think and feel about them? What regrets would you have? What things would you say to them that you will now never get the chance to? And if you could have them back again, even if only for one day, what would you do? How would you spend that day with this person?

I’m willing to bet that you would not spend that day arguing and fighting over the petty things that cause us to judge one another, or disapprove of each other’s lifestyle.

Well, the good news is that your chosen person has not passed away, and you do get the chance to say all those things to them. You do get to spend a day with them, as many days as time and opportunity will allow, expressing the love you have for them in as many different ways as you would like.

Focus on What’s Important

winter playing in the snowYou don’t have to judge them.  You don’t have to disapprove of them. You don’t have to write them off your Christmas list because they do and say things you disagree with. You don’t have to let any of that stuff upset you at all.

You can, if you so choose, simply focus on the love you have for that person. And when you have an opportunity to see them, you can choose to express only that love, and not the petty judgments and disapproval.

Think about it like this: the reality is that this person is just a human being, like you, trying to make their own way in the world, doing the best they can with what they have available to them. Their values and beliefs are different from yours. Do they also judge you? Do you consider that fair? No? Then is it fair for you to judge them?

The point is that you get to choose how you will deal with this person in the future. Will you continue to judge them, argue and fight with them, allow them to make your blood boil? Or will you just accept them, perceived flaws and all, love them, and hope they will do the same for you?

It’s up to you. You can’t control what they do and say and how they live their life. Nor should you try to. All you can control is your own actions and your own response to what they do.

If your answer was yes to the question, would you attend this person’s funeral, then make a point of visiting them while they are still alive and letting them know how much you love them.  Our time here on this planet is brief, and it can end unexpectedly in a split second. Don’t let judgment, disapproval, and potential regret guide your life. Let love guide it instead.

Tell us about your struggles with family members and how you have coped. We love hearing from you. So go ahead and comment below.


Dante Petrilla at The-zeit.com

Dante is an AUNLP certified life coach and NLP Practitioner, member of the American University of NLP, and also a Global Sciences Foundation member

Dante Petrilla has been studying the success literature for the past decade and used the techniques and skills he learned to turn his own life completely around. He transformed himself from a depressed person to a happy person once he learned to direct the focus of his thoughts and emotions. Dante is also a writer who enjoys writing in the personal development area.

Dante is an AUNLP certified life coach and NLP Practitioner, member of the American University of NLP, and also a Global Sciences Foundation member. He is currently studying to become an NLP trainer.

He is also the author of Debt Freedom, Change Your Beliefs, Change Your Life, and How to Lose Weight Fast, all of which are available on Amazon.

10 thoughts on “2 Steps to Improve Strained Relations

  1. Pingback: Sunday Currently Volume 8 | Readings for the Adamant Life
    • Many thanks for reading and commenting. I know exactly what you mean, and how difficult such issues can be. What’s great about it is that once you’re armed with the knowledge that it’s you who controls your thoughts and feelings, what events will mean to you, how you will respond to those events (and people), you can change the meaning from a hurtful one to an empowering one. I’ll be the first one to say that I went through hell with my dad as I was growing up. But I wouldn’t change one moment of it. It used to be my excuse as to why nothing ever went right in my life, why I was doomed before I ever even started anything. But I’ve changed what it means to me. It’s the major motivating factor that drives the great desire I have to help others. Without that painful past, I wouldn’t have that desire, wouldn’t be doing what I do today. I’ve found that if something is tough, painful, awful – if you acknowledge it, accept it and find a way to use it, it can become a huge source of power in your life.

  2. Too many times we want people to act the way we think they should, but we are seeing things from our perspective. Understand our reactions toward them are judgments on our part is a great way to realize that are responsible for a part in the strained relationship.

    • Absolutely. It helps if we try to put ourselves into the other person’s shoes and try to see things from their point of view rather than only considering our own. Many thanks for reading!

  3. I am sorry for your loss and pain as well. I will focus now on helping others in my own way as you are trying to do.

  4. I just lost my 39 year old brother this week. Our relationship was never how I wanted it. I wanted to be close but it just wasn’t that way. Sometimes one person is trying and the other has too many other things going on in their life that they need to attend to. I accept this but, people, life is simply too short. I thought if I gave him space to live his life and I took a little break then we would naturally come back together, but he took his own life, not because of me but because of many events leading up thru his whole life. Now what? Now nothing. If you can try the above steps, it’s definitely worth the effort but it takes two to tango so hopefully the other person is making an effort as well, otherwise, I don’t know anymore…I only know that we are not here forever.

    • I’m very sorry for your loss. At the end of the day, all you can do is your best for someone else. You can meet them half way. They have to be willing/able to come the rest of the way. If they don’t or can’t, that’s not your responsibility. In a way, I can understand what you’re talking about. My father slowly killed himself by stopping his meds and drinking excessively for the last few months of his life. I saw what he was doing, resented him for it, and decided to simply switch off and have nothing more to do with him. Then one day he was gone. I had the chance to express the love I felt for him, but didn’t take it. I never said the things to him that I wanted to say. And that was all on me – not him. This is largely why I wrote this piece. If there’s someone in your life you love who you’re at odds with, just forget the pettiness and focus on the love. Knowing this won’t bring your brother or my dad back, but it will hopefully allow others who haven’t yet lost their loved ones to see the value in expressing their love.

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