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Would you like to know how to deal with difficult family members as a Christian?

You are not alone. Family rifts or estrangement seem to happen more often than people want to admit, even in Christian families. Fights happen, and family members walk away, sometimes forever.

If this has happened to you, you know how embarrassing it is to tell your Christian friends you are not talking to your family, even if it seems to be for a good reason.

Many of you don’t tell anyone there is a problem. You hide it.

The truth is that Christians suffer from pride, anger, and unforgiveness just like everyone else. We are all in need of a Savior.

What if I told you there is a better way to navigate difficult family relationships so they don’t become estranged? Would you do it?

Here is an excerpt from my book Estranged: Finding Hope When Your Family Falls Apart. It discusses my seven-year family estrangement and reconciliation.

This post includes excerpts from the Introduction and Chapter 1. My mother was kind enough to write the Afterword. We both offer solutions on how to deal with difficult family members as Christians.

Of all the books on how to deal with difficult family members and overcome hurt, this one is the best for presenting both sides of the equation (adult child and parent) and practical tips from a Christian point of view.

How to Deal with Difficult Family Members and Overcome Hurt

Introduction

You may wonder why I would write a book about such a messy subject. No one in her right mind would want to talk about how to deal with difficult family members as a Christian. It could cause another family estrangement.

I agree.

It is risky, but my family has been very supportive. They have sent me information to include in my book and have proofed it several times to help guide me in the right spirit.

My mother wrote the Afterword.

I wanted others to hear her perspective too. Both sides of this topic must be addressed. I am grateful my mom has taken the time to give her thoughts on how to deal with difficult family members as a Christian.

RELATED: How to Stop Feeling Sorry For Yourself: 5 Ways to Move On

Why this one of the best books on how to deal with difficult family members

I decided to write this book because I found very little written on the subject of how to deal with difficult family members as a Christian.

When I left my family, I found no books in the bookstore close to my situation and very little online that talked about Christian families who had family rifts, or a full-blown estrangement. Yet, here I was, a Christian, reeling from family stress, and no one could answer my questions.

The books I did find about family estrangement were from psychologists who retold stories about their patients, angry women who were never going back, and others with stories but no biblical viewpoint. None of their stories were like mine.

I was looking for someone who had been estranged from family and learned how to deal with difficult family members. Possibly even someone who had reconciled when all the bridges had been burned.

I needed to hear a Christian tell me how to deal with difficult family members during the holidays, how to deal with negative family members, and most of all, how to deal with family members that disrespect you.

How Do You Deal with Family Members Who Disrespect You?

When boundaries are crossed, it’s easy to feel disrespected, especially as an adult child.

Many times, there is unresolved baggage from the past. Unforgiven hurts, broken communication, and unhealthy family systems in place that may be triggering destructive behaviors on both sides.

When this happens, things can get sticky. Even toxic.

I believe God can use my story to pull the curtain back and reveal the truth about how to deal with a toxic relationship.

There are no perfect families, mine included.  We all have to learn how to deal with difficult family members as Christians.

Truthfully, we may be the difficult ones. So, there is that to consider!

I do not want to portray my family in a bad light. My intention is for you to see God glorified in a messy situation. He alone is the Author and Hero of this story and is to be praised for all the healing between my family and me.

See also  Spiritual Wholeness: 6 Powerful Ways to Mend a Relationship

There is hope if you want to know how to deal with family members who disrespect you. Estranged will empower you to deal with your negative feelings toward family members and set healthy boundaries.

RELATED: 23 Tips on How to Set Boundaries with Family Members [Printable]

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Get your FREE CONFLICT RESOLUTION PDF to help you navigate difficult conversations with a spouse or family member.

How to Deal with Controlling Family Members

This book lists actionable steps that show you how to deal with difficult family members who may be controlling.

These tips will help you set boundaries and work toward forgiveness. The steps are not easy, but they work.

It doesn’t matter if you want to learn how to deal with difficult family members by setting boundaries or if you want to deal with family estrangement; you can move to a better place than where you are right now.

I pray my words will give you hope for your situation and help you know you are not alone. There are a lot of other people just like you who have family issues. More than likely, they don’t talk about it.

I want my story to help you see you are not alone and that there is a way out of your pain. God can use your brokenness for His glory if you let Him show you how to deal with difficult family members.

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

Chapter 1 Sick of It All

I woke up from anesthesia and heard the words, “You have Crohn’s disease.” The nurse went on: “You are probably going to lose your colon and will have a bag for an intestine for the rest of your life.

The doctor will have to take out the lower portion of your colon. It is diseased and looks like hamburger meat.”

That was not exactly what I hoped for when I woke up, but I wasn’t surprised. I was grateful the doctor didn’t find cancer.

I was sure that was what was wrong with me. But removing my colon didn’t sound much better. I didn’t want a bag attached to my side for the rest of my life. The combination of the smell, the noises, and the utter shame was more than I could handle.

I would never want to go in public again. And what about my marriage? That was even more frightening. I knew my husband would love me; however, I would be embarrassed to be intimate with that kind of alteration to my body.

I had been so sick for the last three months and was positive I would not live another year due to my 30-pound weight loss. Nothing would stay in my stomach. Everything I ate came right back out. I couldn’t even drink water without ill effects.

I was slowly wasting away.

How to Deal with Difficult Family Members at the Holidays

As I was lying in bed that day in the hospital, I knew what was wrong with me. The denial left, and my eyes were opened. I could no longer run from the real problem.

Truthfully, I was angry about how to deal with family members at the holidays and furious about not getting the respect I needed as an adult child.

Truthfully, I wasn’t just a little angry; I was filled with bitterness and hatred. I didn’t know how to deal with difficult family members at Christmas or any other time.

It was a deep, dark feeling I could no longer control. The bitterness had been simmering in my heart for years. I could no longer keep up the facade.

From the outside, it looked like I was okay. Not physically okay, but at least emotionally okay. I had done an excellent job hiding my difficult family relationships from others.

No one knew what was going on in my heart.

The truth was I was tired of living one way and feeling another. Our family had problems, and no one was talking about them. The family issues had been there for so long that it was normal. But our normal was not healthy.

Over the years, I have tried to resist the unrealistic expectations I feel have been placed on me, but I have been met with a lot of resistance.

I felt like no matter what I did, it was not good enough. I had no idea how to deal with difficult family members.

See also  How to Move On From Family Estrangement: 5 Ways to Heal Your Heart

(Check out my book Estranged to learn how to deal with family members during the holidays.)

How Do You Not Let Negative Family Members Bother You?

Right there in the hospital bed, I decided to cut off my relationship with my parents. Like most people, I didn’t know how to deal with difficult family members as a Christian.

Initially, it seemed impossible for me to walk away. That didn’t matter. I just knew I had to leave my family to get well.

At the time, I didn’t realize I had a natural tendency to run and hide when I couldn’t resolve my problems. As a child, I Ioved making secret hideouts outside or secret forts in my closet. It was my way of coping with my family drama.

Running and hiding were second nature when I became an adult. It just felt like the normal thing to do when there was no way out.

In the hospital, I came to the conclusion I was mentally and physically exhausted from trying to jump through all the hoops. I was done. I didn’t know how to deal with stressful family members.

More importantly, I didn’t know how to communicate with a difficult family member. 

After making this decision, I didn’t care what people thought. This was huge for me because I always cared about what everyone thought.

Looking back now, I realize this was a quick fix. Cutting off the relationship was not the best way to keep negative family members from bothering me.

RELATED: How to Stop Negative Self-Talk: 6 Tips to Break the Bad Habit

What Causes a Family Estrangement?

I was a people-pleaser to the core, and with that came dishonesty. Perhaps it was not on purpose, but it was there. I didn’t know how to be honest and set boundaries.

At the time, I was so sick that I didn’t care what it took for me to get well. I didn’t care if my church banned me or if my friends left me. There was no turning back.

I didn’t care if I had to run to Mexico. I was going to leave and get free of the family drama.

Honestly, I wanted to be free from the entangled relationship we had and the pain it was causing me physically, mentally, and emotionally. I needed to discover who I was as a person and a Christian outside my family of origin.

It was time to find myself outside of them and learn how to deal with difficult family members through counseling.

While people-pleasing did not cause the family estrangement, it certainly played a part. I didn’t find it safe to be honest about my feelings, so I ran.

(Check out my book for the 9 causes of family estrangement or rift.)

RELATED: The Danger of Being a People-Pleaser: 7 Tips to Be Your Authentic Self

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 Dealing with marriage or family issues? Purchase your ebook or paperback on Amazon or buy Marriage Interrupted or Estranged at your favorite digital store.

Family History

My family was well-known in the Dallas area when I was growing up. The Ventura name was synonymous with live entertainment and Italian food.

My parents owned the Italian Village restaurant, Club Village (the first supper club in Dallas), and Gringos (the first disco/nightclub in Texas). This made my parents wealthy in their early twenties.

It was a lot for them to handle at such a young age. They didn’t realize it would create difficult family relationships.

They would be the first to say fame was hard on the family. Some family members were jealous, and others were angry. I’m sure many wondered how a 23-year-old kid hit it so big.

Things like this usually didn’t happen.

There was no way to prepare for that kind of money and responsibility. My parents were pulled in so many directions trying to manage a business that exploded overnight.

For many years, the Italian Village was one of the best places in Dallas to have a good time and eat an excellent Italian meal. There was very little competition in the area, and they dominated the nightclub industry in Dallas.

Even stars from Hollywood and Las Vegas would eat at their restaurant when they were in town.

At one point, it was the only place to watch the Dallas Cowboys game on television (during a blackout), as sports bars in Texas were non-existent.

My dad’s concept was the forerunner to the sports bars you see today. If the Dallas Cowboys weren’t playing, the players would often come in and hang out in the bar area or eat at the restaurant.

See also  The Most Powerful Secret to a Long, Happy Marriage

The Italian Village was the place to be in the 1960s and 1970s.

How to Deal with Difficult Family Members

After about ten years of living in the fast lane, my dad found he was empty. He had accomplished everything he could in his field.

My father started asking God if there was more. He also didn’t know how to deal with difficult family members.

My father prayed and asked God to show him if He was real. My father was a Catholic Italian, but not a good Catholic. He only attended mass on holidays, but those little times in church pushed him to ask the question.

I think he was hoping it would be answered.

God answered my father’s prayer rather quickly. Two weeks later, my father encountered God in a real way, and it changed his life forever.

Prayer ( and many other things listed in my book) are ways for a Christian to deal with difficult family members.

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How to Deal with Difficult Family Members; family outside together

How to Deal with a Family Estrangement

My dad was making a commercial for the restaurant at a TV station in Dallas. He thought it would be funny to suggest they pray before the taping. The television station had recently turned to Christian programming. Pat Robertson, the host of The 700 Club, owned the television station at the time.

To my father’s surprise, everyone put down their work and grabbed each other’s hands. Within seconds, he was holding hands with a man and praying.

The whole station became quiet as prayers were lifted for the commercial’s taping. After my father’s initial surprise, he said he felt a warm, electric sensation run up his hands, arms, and body.

He couldn’t forget it. Eventually, it led to questions, and later, the station manager led him to a relationship with Jesus Christ. My dad became a born-again Christian.

Little did he know this would cause a family estrangement. (This was the first estrangement.)

But my dad couldn’t go back to his old life.

This was the beginning of learning how to deal with difficult family members as a Christian, but more challenges were ahead because being a Christian doesn’t automatically make you healthy.

If you want to know how to deal with a family estrangement, purchase Estranged: Finding Hope When Your Family Falls Apart as an ebook or paperback on Amazon or at your favorite digital store. 

family estrangement

Got Family Problems? There is Help and Hope!

Are you experiencing family problems or an estrangement? Do you feel 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 is one of the best books on dealing with difficult family members. It not only discusses my seven-year estrangement (and reconciliation) from my Christian family but 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.

Deal with marriage conflict

Is Your Marriage Struggling? Do You Want to Change Your Spouse?

Get Marriage Interrupted: How to Deal with Unexpected Conflict as a Couple and Stay in Love on Amazon or any digital platform. This book has humorous and impactful insights for anyone experiencing marriage conflict.

Included is biblical advice to help couples develop new behaviors and strengthen their marriage with healthy boundaries. With over 30 years of marriage experience, there are practical tips to overcome old behavior patterns and rekindle a marriage relationship rooted in God’s love.

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

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

Join the group Christian Family Living on Facebook

Continue the conversation on Facebook and join the Christian Family Living group. This is a place for Christian women to freely talk about parenting, marriage, faith, family, and culture. Being a Christian is hard! Let’s do it together. Most of all, a sense of humor is required. Got memes? Bring it on!

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Author

Julie is a wife, mom, teacher, author, and blogger. She writes about Christian family living, marriage, parenting with a touch of humor.

58 Comments

  1. Very encouraging. This can help a lot of families. So brave of you and bold to open about your family. God bless!!!

    • Gillian, I do hope that my book or this post helps a lot of families. We need our family right now because that is the only thing that is going to count when hard times hit.

  2. I appreciate your honesty and encouragement on a sensitive topic as I know it’s hard to be transparent as there’s so judgment out there. But it helps so much to hear other people’s stories.

    • Shara, this has been an incredibly difficult topic to discuss publically, but I had no one to talk to who understood. That is why I wrote a book about it. I am glad it has helped so many people. Thanks for your comment.

  3. This hits very close to home. My brother and his wife recently cut off my entire family. We’ve been trying to be supportive and figure out what we did, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. This was exactly what I needed to read right now, the other perspective.

    • Ariana, I am so sorry this has happened to you. I pray you will find true healing as you navigate these rough waters. I know it is painful, and there is no one right answer other than giving it to God. I invite you to fast and pray for a breakthrough.

  4. Wow, the book looks like its going to be great! I have a lot of hope in your story knowing your mom contributed! I’m looking forward to your book launch!

  5. Wow, this really hit home for me and what our family is dealing with. I look forward to reading more.

    • Jenn, I hope my story will help you. There is no such thing as a perfect family, just a forgiven family. You can’t change anyone but yourself. By handling things differently, it will make others change their behavior. I’m praying for God to do a work in the life of your family.

  6. What a great post topic! Most don’t want to talk about the existence of family rifts…I dealt with a family rift in the past. No fun at all 🙁 It is now better, not the same as it was before but much better! Praying that with time it will continue to get better!

    • Clair, I am so glad you have worked through the family problems. It is no fun. You are right! I pray God continues to work in your family.

  7. Oh what a topic to capture in your writing. family rifts exist everywhere and not often talked about or addressed to. Thanks for a good read.

    • Sonal, yes, I really hope a lot of people will read this book. Almost everyone has family problems these days. It is just a matter of how you want to handle them. There are positive ways and negative ways. One leads to life and one leads to the death of a relationship.

  8. Oooo so much valuable info in this post!! I’m sure so many are going to find the help they need to fix the rift in their family

    • Courtney, only God knows how to make dry bones come alive. I am hoping my family problems can be used as a learning experience for others. It is not worth it to let anger, pride, and bitterness get in the middle of a family. God wants to see us put down our swords and talk.

  9. I think that there are rifts in all families, but it is nice to read and know that things can be repaired and nothing is ever too bad.

    • Sophia, yes, I am so glad we were able to repair the damage. We were blessed to have divine intervention. It is amazing what happens when you start praying about your family problems. God is truly good. His mercy endures forever.

    • Sumit, thanks for leaving a comment. I hope reading about my family problems will help others with their problems. People don’t talk about their problems many times because it is too embarrassing. My family was kind to let me talk about how we resolved ours.

  10. I can see rifts in my family even though we still talk. This sounds like an encouraging story for those who need hope. Thank you for writing it!

    • Jodie, yes many families have a rift all the way to a break. Family problems are not unusual. We have a choice every day. We can work through them or get angry and let it fester.

  11. This sounds like a great book to read. Honestly, we are currently experiencing same situation. So I am really interested in reading this.

    • Preet, I am so sorry you are experiencing family problems. You can’t change anyone else but yourself. Work on your heart and God will work on the others. Your part may be nothing more than forgiving. but forgiveness is everything.

  12. Coming from the same background as you but I see things slightly different. We love our family as we should and in no way should we not pray for them and love them and help them through the ruff patches. But we also should not be blind or be foolish when it comes to certain situations. Pray on it and keep them in pray is what my family does when the rift just can’t be fix at the moment. And it time GOD always steps in. Congrats on the book, much success and prayers to you!

    • Chastity, I am so glad your family problems didn’t turn into a full-blown estrangement. It is hard to cross back over the chasm when you walk away from your family. Hurt feelings fester over time and can move into bitterness and anger. Thank goodness we worked it out. God is good.

  13. Wow! This is so interesting to read. And I am thankful that your mom was willing to contribute to the book on your family dynamic. That’s great!

    • Kristin, yes, I am so thankful my mom contributed to my book. There are two sides to the story. I wanted my mom to have her side put in. She was very kind to talk about our family problems

  14. Chelle Dizon Reply

    You made me more curious to read more about that book. I believe in prayers and I believe time can heal everything.

    • I hope you will get it. It is miraculous the way we came back together. I fasted and prayed God would talk to my father in a dream. And God did! It still gives me goose bumps talking about it. God is good. We all had to suffer for 7 years first. It was not easy dealing with our family problems, but God is making lemonade out of lemons.

  15. This is a great topic. ALL families have issues, no matter how small. It should be something we can be more open about. I think your book will help so many families.

    • Thank you, Sam. I am praying God will use this story about my family problems as a way to help others out of theirs. Whatever happens, I know God will get the glory for the way it all ended. He is good.

  16. This is so sweet. So many people struggle with those rifts and I’m sure the advice is much appreciated!

    • Emily, thank you for saying this. Yes, family problems are hard to resolve. But God knows how to turn beauty from ashes and bring joy from mourning. God is certainly good to bring life out of such a hopeless situation.

    • Courtney, thanks for your comment. We are hoping our family problems will bring glory to God in some way. Hopefully, our mistakes will give others hope when their family falls apart.

  17. This is such an inspiring post especially to people experiencing same problem as yours. All the best with your Book Plans.

  18. I think silence is the biggest issue. People must learn to speak up and listen. Great post and so true! Thanks for sharing.

  19. This is a really important topic to discuss. It’s not easy falling out with family, the pain’s deeper than we know.

  20. This will really help a lot of people, thank you for sharing your story. Your writing kept me gripped. Wishing you every success with the release of your book.

  21. Thank you so much for sharing this story – I really believe this post will help so many people, as it is certainly so relatable.

  22. Thanks for sharing your story, Julie! I’m so glad that people like you choose not to hold onto family secrets and keep pain hidden. It’s so freeing to share our stories! It’s also so encouraging to those still hiding in their pain. I hope that those still stuck in that kind of bondage read your story.

    • Thanks, Laura. I am hoping that by speaking up, I will help those who are too scared to say anything. That was me many years ago.

  23. It’s so true what you say, so many people have family issues but most won’t say anything, so don’t feel alone!! x

  24. This is such a great post, and I really think it’s going to help a lot of people. So many families have rifts. People are people, even if they’re family, and sometimes people clash.

    • Stacie, yes, we do sometimes clash, but I hope to help people learn how to do things differently. Being estranged is horrible. I don’t recommend it unless there is no other option.

  25. You have addressed a very important issue in your book. Sometimes forgiving those close to us is so hard. And we tend to behave better with outsiders than those who are part of our lives. But we need peace in our families if we are to maintain a credible Christian witness in our neighbourhoods. God bless you for the work you put into the book. I pray that it blesses many upon its release in Jesus’ name.

    • Edith, thank you so much for your encouraging comment. I appreciate your thoughts on the matter. So many people are splitting from their family. It is so sad.

  26. An excellent read so far. You had me gripped. I’m wondering why turning to God caused a rift in your family and what was so dire that caused you to disown your parents. It’s a page-turner in the making. Congratulations. I wish you lots of luck with this venture.

    • Poovanesh, I am glad you read the preview. I hope you get a chance to get the book when it comes out. All your questions will be satisfied when you read it!

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