3 Tips For Handling Family Dysfunction

Sunday, August 23, 2020
Learn how to pull away from your family's drama.


Every family has its moments where drama breaks out, but with some families, dysfunction seems like a never-ending cycle. Growing up in this type of family can be hard especially for the person who wants to make a better life for themselves away from all the drama.  

Perhaps you are married now and your husband didn't grow up in such a chaotic family. Or, you have children of your own and want to shelter them from some of the family's dysfunctional ways. Whatever is it, I'm giving you 3 tips for handling family dysfunction; not just as a life coach, but as someone from a dysfunctional family too.Stop Putting Others FirstYeah, I know what you may be thinking, "But wouldn't that make me selfish and self-centered?" Maybe, but most of the people that would think that about you are the same people who are demanding way too much of your time. I'm not saying to only think of yourself as much as I'm telling you to use your time and energy wisely. We are taught from very young to be caregivers; we are given toys like babydolls, kitchens, and nursing kits as children. So naturally, we find ourselves being groomed to care for others. Even biblically we are taught to take care of our neighbors and to love them as ourselves. However, we are not taught the proper order of things, therefore a loving commandment has now become the pain of so many women's existence. Biblically speaking there are a hierarchy and order of importance that should be placed on the people in your life. 1 Corinthians 11:3 shows us that proper order is God-The Father, The Son, Husband, Wife, Children. We must understand that extended family members and friends are not considered a priority within a proper biblical context. 

I've witnessed situations where women have caused friction and contention within their own marriage and household because they refuse to step out of the extended family drama and focus on building their own house (Proverbs 14:1). We mistakenly do not view our parents, siblings, and grandparents as extending from our immediate family unit once we form a household of our own. We still look to these people as our responsibility and oftentimes our husbands and children have to compete with them for our attention. 

Even worse, if you are the "strong" one in your family, or the one that seems to have it "all together," you become the savior of the family. Everyone calls you when things go wrong. You've bailed people out of jail. You've allowed people to live with you. You've left the house in the middle of the night because someone's car broke down, and you've "loaned" out more money than you can keep track of. Meanwhile, your home is slowly crumbling under the weight of everyone else's problems.

Here are 5 things you can do to pull yourself away from your extended family members' drama;

  1. Don't answer your phone every time they call. If you are always available, you will always be the person they call on. This is what makes you the family savior. Be busy and unavailable sometimes, even if you're physically available. Mental breaks count as being busy too.  
  2. Don't return calls right away. If you have people in your life that have made you their savior, don't return their calls right away. This will give them time to find another solution to their problem. This is a trick I stole from a leadership training I once attended. Most problems will resolve themselves within 24-hours.
  3. Set clear boundaries and stick to them. If you're busy on certain nights of the week with your children or husband don't allow others to impose on that time. If you don't want another house guest for a while so that your family can decompress, be firm about that. No one else has the authority to set demands on your time except immediate family (God, Husband, Children). 
  4. Say no. As an adult with her own family, you must get comfortable with simply saying "no." You don't have to give an explanation, just say you won't be able to do it because you have other obligations. It isn't their business what those obligations are. Just say no. 
  5. Put Some Distance Between You and the Family. I know it seems harsh to move away, however, just a few miles or a neighboring town is all you need to hear, "I'm not driving way out there."   

Learn how to cope with your dysfunctional family
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You Don't Have to Be Them to Come From Them

The first time my husband met my family it went well. I had no reason to suspect that it wouldn't since my family is generally loving and accepting of outsiders. I don't have one of those closed off families where you have to prove yourself before they welcome you. But, the first thing my husband said on the car ride home is, "I can't believe you came from that family." 

It's the same response I recently got from a friend I'd known since high school. We were reminiscing about the good old days and she told me she never would have guessed that I grew up with so much dysfunction in my home. In fact, several people were shocked to learn about some of the details of my life after reading my book Listen Up! Good Advice to Help You Live PurposeFull.  

For a long time, I believed the lie that I would end up just like my mother. I also pushed myself further in school than I would have liked to go, just to prove to myself and others that I was better than where I had come from. The truth is, I'm not better, I'm just blessed. There isn't anything special about me except for my God-Elohim's saving grace. I don't know why Yah protected my mind so that I wouldn't fall into depression like my mother. I don't know why I inhaled but never got addicted like some of my cousins. Why didn't I become a teen mother like all the women before me? Truth be told, and since it's just us ladies I'm going to keep it real, I wasn't always as careful as I should have been. 

That's why I have to give Yah praise and why I coach women like me and write this blog. There isn't anything special about us, except that He saved us and called us with a holy calling; not because of our works but according to His purpose and grace (2 Timothy 1:9). Therefore, you don't have to fall into the same dysfunction because you understand Yah has a bigger plan for you. Remember, just because you grew up in an environment that was toxic, that doesn't mean you must carry the toxins with you. Leave that mess there and work on decontaminating yourself. If you are looking for a supportive environment to do that in, join my Women Dream Builders' Program, where you'll get monthly coaching.  

What you've been through doesn't make you broken. It makes you stronger.
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Stand In the Gap and Break the Chains

During an interview, Steve Harvey said the best thing a person can do for the broke people in their family is not to be one of them. It seemed like a harsh thing to say at the time, but in trying to live separate from my family's dysfunction I understood the message. There are those who fall into learned patterns of behavior and there are those who realize there is a better way. Those who are willing to explore better options are the ones who have been called to break generational curses from their family's bloodline. 

Yes, your family will turn on you and tell you that you've changed and you think you're better than them. In reality, you are better, because you said yes to the call on your life. You said yes to serving Yah, and yes to living in such a way that pleases Him. Don't be discouraged by your family shunning you because even the Messiah was shunned in his own village. They could not see the anointing on him, just as your family cannot see it on you (Mark 6:4).

And how can we forget about our sweet dreamer Joseph whose brothers sold him into slavery because they didn't understand how the least of them could turn out to be the greatest (Genesis 50:20). When the time is right, Yah will reveal to you His glorious purpose for your life. Your family may never understand why you've chosen to break away, but those who come after you will be blessed. When you live your purpose righteously, every tongue that rises up against you, Yah shall condemn (Isaiah 54:17).


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