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healthy family relationships

How to Have Healthy Family Relationships When Your Family Is a Mess

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Do you want to have healthy family relationships? Perhaps you struggle with getting along with difficult people in your life.

If you are like me, you may have even shaken your fist at God in anger because you’ve suffered through years of painful interaction with those you love never quite understanding how to relate in a healthy manner.

Furthermore, you may be confused about how to maintain peace among family members. You know you love them, you just don’t know how to get along with them.

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In this post, I am going to share how to have a healthy family relationship with those you love. Most of all, how to start unlocking the mystery of family pain and resolve your inner turmoil through forgiveness.

RELATED: The Most Effective Way to Heal Broken Family Relationships

What Is a Healthy Family Relationship?

The definition of a healthy family relationship is one in which all the members of the family feel loved, safe, and supported. Furthermore, they are able to resolve conflict in a healthy way.

If you have been reading some of my other posts, you may already know I was estranged from my family for seven years. Sadly, my family was not able to resolve conflict in a way that was loving or healthy all the time.

RELATED: Estranged: 3 Things You Lose When Your Family Stops Talking

None of us liked the way we interacted with each other, but we didn’t know how to do things differently. We didn’t have the right tools to navigate a healthy family relationship.

There were too many unresolved hurts, expectations, and bitterness after many years of conflict. Over time, it became a part of our family narrative.

The most puzzling piece to this puzzle was that we were all Christians when it happened. In fact, my family had been in Christian ministry for over 30 years. We knew better.

Perhaps you know what I am talking about. I can’t tell you how many Christians I have talked to that are either barely speaking to their family members or there is a full-blown estrangement.

Sadly, many people don’t know what a healthy family relationship even looks like, Christian or not.

Why Healthy Family Relationships Are Important

Healthy family relationships are important because it is the foundation of all other relationships. We learn how to build trust in the home with good modeling and then slowly add new relationships outside the home as we get older.

If we don’t learn what to do in the home first, it makes it much harder to navigate conflict with other people in our adult lives. We go into the world with coping skills like whining, pouting, hiding, screaming, lying, unforgiveness, or tantrums because they worked well in our home.

Our parents may have not had time to curb that character trait in us, or perhaps they did the same thing thinking it was a healthy coping mechanism. Whatever the reason, it was a learned behavior repeated from one generation to another.

Your bad behavior was part of the family system and deemed “normal” within the confines of your home.

Many of us are shocked when we hit the real world and realize those childhood coping skills no longer work with a spouse, boss, friend, coworker, or another family member. All of a sudden, your family system has turned on you.

What you thought was normal, as it turns out, is actually unhealthy. Perhaps you are profoundly confused and shocked because you don’t know what to do now.

It’s as if you found out that the grass is really green all these years when you thought it was purple.

Breaking Unhealthy Relationship Patterns

Sadly, breaking unhealthy relationship patterns is difficult because you don’t even realize what you are doing is wrong. Instead, you think everyone else is wrong.

Everyone else needs to get on board and agree the grass is purple. This will restore your balance if you force others to conform to your thinking.

In reality, you have neuropathways that have been entrenched since childhood that tell you to do things in a certain way, but the wiring is off. You are now blindly dysfunctional and are not willing to change behaviors because you don’t know how to unless you go back and rewire.

The truth is that if you don’t go back and understand the bad relationship patterns in your family,  the rest of your relationships will probably be difficult.

If you want to understand how to have healthy family relationships, then you are going to have to learn how to break an unhealthy cycle in your life. The goal is to find out where you went off track and then learn how to do it right.

RElATED: 5 Greatest Lessons You Can Learn From Suffering

healthy family relationships

 Purchase your ebook or paperback on Amazon or at your favorite digital store. 

Breaking Toxic Relationship Cycles

Breaking toxic relationship cycles requires you to go back to your childhood and deal with painful situations that happened to you. You may even have a feeling of powerlessness come over you when you think about it.

But if you want to find healing, this is where you start. As you think through the situations, you need to write down how you really felt and what you wished you could have done if you had control over the situation. You may need to process it with a friend or pastor.

And then you need to start forgiving every single thing that happened to you. It may not have been your fault, but you still need to forgive your family member. 

If you want to have healthy family relationships, this is the door you start with. I am not saying this is the only thing you do, but it is where your heart has to go so you can break your own unhealthy relationship patterns.

What you need to realize is that unforgiveness is the thread that passes toxic behavior from one generation to the next. 

If it is too painful, you may need a counselor. It is a lot of work to do if you have many situations of unforgiveness.

What is True Forgiveness?

What is true forgiveness according to the Bible? True forgiveness means consciously and deliberately releasing another person from an offense. It is unconditional and many times undeserved.

God requires us to do it even if we never reconcile.

Forgiveness is not saying what the other person did is okay. It simply takes the person off your hook and puts him on God’s hook. It is releasing the other person completely and fully to God and not seeking revenge. Even if we have to seek justice for a crime committed, we still forgive.

When we don’t forgive, we break our relationship with God because it is sin. In fact, this is the sin that perpetuates us to repeat what was done to us creating a generational curse (Exodus 34:7).

You will actually break the curse when you forgive your family members.

If you want to know how to have a healthy family relationship, forgive. You may not be able to reconcile with that family member, but it will release you to start behaving in a healthy manner. (You may need counseling if the behavior is entrenched in a pattern for many years.)

This seems counterintuitive, but it works. If you need a breakthrough in your family, start by forgiving.

RELATED: How to Forgive Those Who Hurt You and Let Go of the Past

You can check out my book if you would like more help on walking through your family pain. There is a whole chapter on forgiveness.

This book will give you my story plus actionable steps to help you get along with difficult people in your family. And heal your own wounded heart in the process.

What do you do to have healthy family relationships?

Got Family Problems? There is Help and Hope!

Are you experiencing family problems or even estranged? Are you feeling shame, anger, or rejection? Check out my book Estranged: Finding Hope When Your Family Falls Apart on Amazon or at your favorite digital store. 

This book not only talks about my seven-year estrangement from my Christian family, but it also gives solid tips to help you with your family problems. Break free from your pain. Allow God to heal you no matter what has happened in your family of origin. There is hope when your family falls apart.

Estranged: Finding Hope When Your Family Falls Apart book with a single tree on the book

Creating Family Memories Book

Get Creating Family Memories. This book will help you manage your family in a way that allows more time to be intentional with your kids.  It includes a schedule too. You can get it at your favorite bookstore.

A farm scene with a farmhouse upside down sitting on a grass field with a lake in the background.

Join Christian Family Living Facebook Group

Continue the conversation on Facebook and join the group Christian Family Living. This is a place for Christian women to share their experiences and get helpful tools to navigate the Christian life. We love to laugh, cry, and encourage each other to live out our faith one day at a time.

28 thoughts on “How to Have Healthy Family Relationships When Your Family Is a Mess”

  1. Thank you for being vulnerable with us about your family issues. So many Christians have the false idea that being a Christian means we don’t have problems, but it’s often the opposite. Sharing your story is going to give so many hope!

    1. Jessica, thanks for reading this. I have read quite of your posts and love your site. I am praying God will use this book to help families start talking and the scales will fall off their eyes. Only the Holy Spirit can do the work, be He is mighty.

  2. I loved your post! Your story is very inspirational and I’m glad that you reunited with your family. Family issues are always hard but I like your advice: “start with yourself”.

  3. Families are interesting things, don’t you think? I lived in a combined family where my step-dad adopted my mom’s four kids. It was not a Brady Bunch TV show, let me tell you! I tell my sibs now that my dad would have known how to deal with us, if we had been born “adults”. He was very authoritarian, tough on my brothers, and none of the 6 of us have many good memories of our growing up years. Yet, God is amazing. My dad is now almost 92. He has been in and out of the hospital, and ALL 6 of his kids have made sure they were a part of his care. Yet, we still can’t think of many happy memories growing up. Amazing. God bless you!

    1. Janene, God will bless you for the care of your dad. This is a way to honor him despite his behavior. God knows your pain, and forgiving him will help you not to pass the bad behavior down to the next generation. It doesn’t mean that what he did was good or right. Your pain is validated. God knows. Thanks for sharing your story.

  4. Thanks for your honesty in sharing your journey and struggles. I’m glad you were able to also write a book about your experiences to help others facing similar struggles. I think it extends beyond blood relations however, and also to relationships with other members of the body of Christ. When these are strained, the enemy always sows the seeds of mistrust and suspicion both towards other people, and more specifically towards God. I can relate to wondering whether God loves me in these times, and many of the other thoughts that typically go through your head.

    1. Robert, this is so true! It isn’t just family members. We seem to have a hard time getting along with people period. I think we have forgotten so many basic rules of courtesy, respect, and just plain kindness to others. Thanks for your insight.

  5. Thank you for sharing your life lessons with us and also I will say it’s so hard to have family issues as is so difficult to handle ! Have been there too before . I love your post .

  6. I love this – ” You don’t have to be “cleaned up” before you approach Him. He wants to meet you right where you are and start working. Let Him do the changing.” It’s so true. I love that God is not afraid of hearing our anger, frustrations and all the other emotions. He still loves us no matter what.

  7. I am so happy to see someone sharing there struggle with faith and finding there way in the end. I have had many of struggles with my faith through out my life but gods love never waivered and in the end of all my struggles my faith in him was even stronger.

    1. Lisa, I am so glad to share my struggles with others. I want my life to be used for God’s glory. I always love it when others open up about their pain and how they worked through it. Thanks for your comment.

  8. Family issues are one of the hardest relationship issues to get through. You really do have to let go and trust in God. Thank you for this, your book sounds great, I really want to hear your story!

  9. Ahhhh family issues can be so hard to resolve!!! You just have to have faith and things will all work out 🙂

    1. Courtney, yes, what we do without faith in our God. He is the one who brought me back to my family. I am so thankful for his redemption and forgiveness. Thanks for reading.

  10. When there’s a family argument it can be SO hard to feel like God loves us. I think we know deep down that he does though. And as long as we can still feel that little bit of hope, it will get us through 🙂

    Louise

    1. Louise, I have really struggled with God’s love. It seemed it was good for everyone but me. I wasn’t worthy or good enough. I have since grabbed on to the truth. He loves everyone including me despite my family issues. Thanks for your comment.

  11. We are living quite a delicate situation in our couple right now, but I have faith that we’ll solve this one as we’ve been solving all our problems since 1998. Your article has been very inspiring and thought-provoking.

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