I Don’t Want to Be Around My Family Anymore
Family relationships can be complicated. While many people enjoy spending time with their relatives, others feel strained, judged, or uncomfortable around family members. If you find yourself dreading interactions with your family or wanting to avoid them altogether, you’re not alone. There are healthy ways to create some distance and prioritize your wellbeing.
Examining the Reasons Behind Your Feelings
Before making any big decisions about your family relationships, take some time to reflect on what’s causing you to feel this way.
Some common reasons include:
- Differing values or beliefs: You may find your ethics, political views, lifestyle choices or religious beliefs clash with those of your family members. These differences can create tension.
- Childhood issues: Painful memories from your childhood, like abuse, neglect, or family dysfunction, can make you want to avoid the relatives associated with those experiences.
- Toxic behaviors: Ongoing behaviors like criticism, guilt-tripping, racism, homophobia or lack of boundaries can take a toll on your mental health.
- Life stage changes: As you enter a new phase of adulthood and independence, you may feel you no longer connect as you once did.
Gaining clarity around the root of your feelings can help you decide how to move forward.
Setting Physical and Emotional Boundaries
Creating thoughtful boundaries with relatives can allow you to have space while still maintaining family ties.
Useful boundaries include:
- Limiting contact: You might decide to only see or talk to family on major holidays, rather than weekly or monthly. Or connect mostly over text/email if phone calls or in-person interactions feel draining.
- Taking space after conflicts: If tensions run high around big family gatherings, give yourself permission to politely exit conversations or leave the event. Take time to process before reengaging.
- Not discussing triggers: Identify sensitive topics that frequently lead to arguments, like politics or religion, and request they be avoided during family visits.
- Keeping personal details private: Be mindful of how much you share about your dating life, health, career or living situation if it’s likely to spur unsolicited opinions from family members.
- Practicing self-care afterwards: Make a point to do activities that recharge you after time with relatives, whether it’s journaling, connecting with supportive friends, enjoying hobbies or prioritizing rest.
Exploring Ways to Heal Painful Family Histories
For some, distance from family members alone may not resolve complicated feelings tied to traumatic childhoods or ongoing dysfunction.
Additional steps that may help include:
- Seeking counseling: Working with a therapist can help you process fraught family relationships in a judgement-free space, identify unhealthy patterns, establish boundaries, and separate your self-worth from family criticism.
- Connecting with more supportive relatives: Spend 1-on-1 time with family members who treat you with kindness and respect your choices. These relationships can provide comfort without the group dynamics that may be painful.
- Exploring support groups: Peer support groups for those navigating challenging family backgrounds can help reduce isolation. Hearing others’ stories can validate your experiences.
- Checking out books: Reading about dysfunctional families, complex trauma, or estrangement/no contact can offer insight into family dynamics and how to move forward.
- Considering temporary or long-term estrangement: In abusive or deeply damaging family relationships with no signs of change, cutting off contact may be necessary for your health and safety.
Responding to Questions About Family Estrangement
If you do pull back significantly from relatives or cut contact altogether, you may get questions from friends, your children’s teachers, medical providers and people in your community.
It’s understandable to feel self-conscious fielding personal questions, but you have no obligation to disclose more than you’re comfortable with.
Helpful responses include:
- “My family relationships are complicated, as I’m sure many people’s are. I don’t really want to get into the details.”
- “We’re just not very close, but it’s what works best for me/my kids right now.”
- “I’d prefer not to discuss my family situation, but I appreciate your concern.”
- “It was a difficult decision but the healthiest one for me. I’m focusing my energy on my friends/partner/kids.”
If you do decide to open up, speaking matter-of-factly about needing distance, without over-explaining or sounding defensive, may feel empowering. But only share what you genuinely want to.
Coping with Guilt, Grief and Judgment About Family Estrangement
Walking away from family, even from an abusive or painful situation, can stir up complicated emotions like sorrow, regret, loneliness and self-blame.
Ways to navigate these challenging feelings include:
- Allowing yourself to grieve the idea of the nurturing family you deserved. Feeling sad or disappointed is understandable.
- Separating your choice to protect yourself from any judgment or shaming. You know what’s best for your health and wellness.
- Seeking affirmation from safe friends/mentors that establishing boundaries or leaving toxicity is brave and wise, even when difficult.
- Remembering the pain that drove your decision. When doubts or guilt creep in, recalling what felt unbearable can help justify your choice.
- Tuning into moments of calm or contentment in your day-to-day life. Notice when you feel relaxed, optimistic and free from family stressors.
- Trying self-compassion exercises like writing a letter to yourself expressing understanding and warmth. Combat shame with self-kindness.
Exploring Your Options Moving Forward
If you currently feel entirely done with your relatives, leaving that decisive choice open down the road may allow you more peace.
As you heal and grow, your perspectives and capacity to manage family complexity may expand.
Your options include:
- Temporary estrangement: Take a break from contact for a set period, like 6-12 months. Reassess if you’d like the separation to continue or try reengaging with firmer boundaries.
- Structured low contact: Connect on major holidays only or set guidelines for brief visits focused on lighter topics.
- Indefinite estrangement: If certain relatives are abusive or destructive, cutting them out of your life fully may be healthiest. Only consider reconnection if they acknowledge harm and sincerely commit to change.
- “Chosen family” bonds: Invest in relationships with friends, partners, in-laws, colleagues, neighbors or community groups. Over time these chosen bonds may take primacy over biological relatives.
Remember there is no “right” way to manage challenging family relationships. Give yourself permission to handle your needs however best supports your healing and personal growth.