Family dynamics can be complicated and tricky. If you feel like one or several immediate family members don't like you, hate you, or treat you poorly, explore the possible reasons for this behavior. You may come away with a solution or realization that allows you to better understand your particular circumstances.
Does My Family Hate Me?
If your biggest question is why this is happening?, do a little research and digging around your own life. Try to be considerate and passive when gathering information, so you don't create new issues.
Gather Facts That Confirm or Deny Your Family Hating You
Before you set off on the journey to discover why your family hates you, consider the possibility they don't. What evidence do you have to support the idea they dislike you? If someone is constantly putting you down or boldly saying they hate you, that's evidence enough. If you discover it's more your own feeling than the way others actually treat or speak to you, consider talking with a trained counselor who can help you understand why. If you find there is evidence to support your feelings, move on to the next step of discovering the root cause.
Ask Your Family if They Hate You
If at all possible, ask the people you think hate you to explain why they act a certain way or say specific hurtful things. Depending on their personality, someone who has a problem with you may give you a solid answer, or may choose to ignore you. Try asking other family members who you have good relationships with if they know where the dynamic stems from. Ask open-ended questions in a calm, unemotional manner for the most honest results.
Questions you could ask are:
- Is there a problem between us that can be fixed?
- Is there a reason you call me...?
- Can you tell me why you tend to...?
- Have I done something to upset you?
Rehash Your Past
Think back to a time when you got along with your family.
- What was different then?
- Look through old family photos to see if you can identify where the split happened.
- What major events or occurrences took place just before the dynamic began?
- If you can't remember a time where you felt loved by your family, consider you may not be the problem at all. A family member with drug, alcohol, or certain mental health issues may have their own problems they've taken out on you, and working things out with them may be difficult.
- Give your entire past a good review to see if that helps root out the cause of the problem.
Look for Clues
Many people air their grievances on social media. If your family members and history won't or can't tell you why someone treats you badly, look at their social media accounts. Scroll back through past posts to see if your name or generic phrases like "a certain family member" show up. If you've been blocked from their account, you could ask someone who isn't to let you view it. Be sure to only view the pages and not comment or take other actions that could further the divide.
After you've gathered as much information as possible, start looking into how events or actions link together. For example, if your sister started ignoring you after you got drunk and puked on her wedding dress, that could be the root cause. Your linkages may not be as obvious as this, but if you look hard enough, you should find some useful information.
Evaluate if Your Family Actually Hates You
Emotions can muddy the clarity of high intensity situations. If you tend to not get along with your family, or just generally feel hated by them, it's important to evaluate what the situations look like without emotions involved. To do so:
- Come up with an example that you feel illustrates your family hating you.
- Write down the facts surrounding what happened: the situation, the location, who was involved, and what was said or done.
- Write down your reaction or involvement in the situation.
- Note when you felt an emotional reaction and why.
- Note at what point you felt hated or disliked by your family.
Looking at just the facts and removing your emotional reaction, think about if it makes sense to feel like your family hates you. In some situations, families can absolutely be rejecting, hurtful, and hateful. But sometimes, emotional responses can cloud how situations are viewed. Try this exercise out with a few more scenarios and continue to ask yourself if feeling like your family hates you makes sense. This will help you come up with next steps regarding how you want to move forward with certain relationships.
Extend the Olive Branch
Whether you know the cause of your family dysfunction or not, working on self-improvement and extending offers for peace are helpful. You can't control how others feel about you, or whether they're willing to forgive past transgressions and start over. Focus on what you can control, like being a better communicator or a better person overall if necessary. If your family is not receptive, look for other ways to feel a sense of belonging, like joining groups or spending holidays with close friends. If you feel like being around certain family members is emotionally unhealthy for you, it's important to put yourself first and prioritize your well-being and safety.
Common Dysfunctional Family Patterns
While every person and family is unique, there are several common issues that recur in families that describe their relationships with each other as dysfunctional.
- Poor or ineffective communication - one or more people can't adequately express themselves to others.
- Perfectionism - parents expecting perfection from their kids or making sibling comparisons.
- Control - some people act out when they don't have control over a situation.
- Overt criticism - excessive name-calling and put-downs.
How to Handle Unhealthy Relationships
If being around your family is compromising your mental and physical well-being, it's important to prioritize yourself and come up with a plan to keep yourself safe. You can:
- Try to enforce healthy boundaries with your family members and let them know if you feel hurt by their actions in a calm, and well thought out way.
- Remove yourself immediately from situations that make you feel uncomfortable or unsafe.
- Opt to cut ties with those who you feel are unhealthy.
- Limit time spent with certain family members.
If your family regularly verbally or physically abuses you, it's best to remove yourself completely from the situation. Even though it can feel heartbreaking and rejecting, keeping yourself safe is of the utmost importance.
Identifying if You're the Family's Scapegoat
Sometimes family members use one person as a scapegoat. This tends to begin very early on when children are quite little. Unhealthy family roles always serve a function. In some cases, this assigned role helps the unhealthy adults, typically the caregivers, release or take out their emotions in inappropriate ways, while also maintaining a dysfunctional family pattern. For example, a child may be the scapegoat in a family where the parents don't get along, but don't have the wherewithal to work through their issues as adults. Instead, this tension is forced upon the child as a means to keep the parents connected in some way. Family roles tend to stay stable, meaning, if you were the scapegoat growing up, you probably still are the scapegoat.
Making the Healthiest Decision for You
Family issues can't always get resolved on their own. If you're experiencing unhealthy family relationships that are impacting your daily life, consider consulting with a family therapist. Individual family members can each meet separately with the therapist, who may try to bring everyone together when they feel the time is right to strengthen those bonds. Whether you decide to cut ties, or work through familial issues, always prioritize your mental and physical well-being.