“Bite me!” is what I want to say, but since I’m staring into the face of my mother, I can’t. Well, I could, but it wouldn’t end well. Then again, fighting with family never does.
I know you’ve been there too. You’re frustrated, at your absolute wit’s end and all you want to do is scream, rage, or let rip a string of curses that would make a trucker blush … but you can’t because you’re dealing with a loved one. We’re not talking about a fight with your boyfriend or spouse, we’re talking about sibling fights, family feuds, and all-out grudges. How can you confront a loved one without causing a familial rift that nobody can bridge?
Fighting with Family 101
Pick Your Fights
Not everything that bothers you (and there will be plenty of things that bother you) is worth disrupting the family dynamic for. It’s important to know what is most important to you and only get up in arms when that is challenged. Learn to let the little things roll off your back, and for the love of all things sacred, don’t hold grudges about them, either. The only person you hurt by holding onto all those little hurts is yourself. Some things you can let slide, others you bring up and then let go, and a few things you really stick to your guns on. Know when to do those and you’ll be ahead of the game.
Pick Your Words
I like to lead my conversations, no matter how angry I am, with “I love you.” Most times, though, it is followed by, “I love you…but I don’t like you right now.” It’s okay to not like somebody so long as they know you still love them. The truth of the matter is that you are family, and that isn’t about to change any time soon, so you have to find a way to get your point across without alienating them for life.
Think about what you need to say, what you want to get across before you call, text, or email them. Too often we say things in the heat of the moment and regret them later. There are consequences for your words and while family, in theory, should always love and forgive you, everyone has their limits. Don’t say anything that you can’t live with and remember to save the low blow insults for the stranger who cuts you off in traffic.
No Middle Man
There is nothing worse than being dragged into the middle of a family feud. It’s uncomfortable, awkward, and there’s really no way to get out a winner. If you have a problem with somebody, handle it on your own. Recruiting other family members, asking them to pick a side, or using them for insider information is just not fair. Not only do you run the risk of alienating other family members, but they’re sure to resent you for placing them in a no-win situation. It’s your argument and you need to be adult enough to handle it on your own.
Know When To Stop
You’ve said your piece and you know that you’ve been heard. Hopefully, the problem resolved itself and all is well in the world again, but maybe it isn’t. Despite what we want to happen, people don’t always change just to please us. Occasionally, they are stubborn and you’re fighting a losing battle. Know when to stop vocally waging war. I’m not saying you can’t still be upset with them, but being vocal and causing further tension isn’t getting you any closer to a resolution anymore. It’s okay to agree to disagree, or just not speak, and go on with life. Do not be the person who holds a grudge and makes every family dinner, holiday, and event miserably uncomfortable.
Say You’re Sorry and Mean It
Hopefully you fought, remembered that blood is thicker than water, and have gotten over your argument. If the fight is over, be gracious enough about it to say that you’re sorry, and mean it. There is a difference between the sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek “sorry,” and a true “I’m sorry.” Saying you’re sorry doesn’t mean that you’re going back on what you felt or where you stand, but rather that you’re sorry you hurt them, that you fought, and that it had to come to that. You don’t have to take back your view to acknowledge that you don’t like fighting with your family.
Fighting with family is never fun; it’s always complicated. Whenever possible, it’s best avoided. It’s not always possible, though, so if you do argue with family, make sure you do it with as little collateral damage as possible. Your objective is to be heard, resolve the problem, make sure you can still smile across the table from each other at dinner, and say “I love you” and mean it.