Dear Barb—The Family Dynamic

Dear Barb:

I hope you can help me with my problem.  I grew up in a very dysfunctional family, where everyone was arguing, fighting, not speaking for years, holding grudges, the whole gambit. 

About 20 years ago I decided to try to change things and bring my family together.  Initially it seemed some of the family members would come to the gatherings that I arranged, but as time went on, there were fewer people attending.  I thought maybe the problem was that I was trying to accommodate too many people.  Then I tried arranging smaller gatherings, BBQ’s and whatnot, but people would always find a reason not to come.  It seems I am the only one who wants to keep this family together and I just end up feeling hurt and let down. 

I don’t want to give up on them, but I don’t know what else to do, as it’s difficult for me to keep being rejected.  Do you think I should just give up and move on?


Hi Debra:

This is not a black and white situation.  You may be trying to create the traditional family and it’s unlikely that will happen with your family.  Since this dissention and estrangement has been ongoing, it is not going to change with a few family gatherings, unless this is something that everyone wants, and that does not seem to be the reality in your family.  It is commendable that you have tried to repair your family, but it takes more than just one person to accomplish that feat.  You need not feel rejected, they are not rejecting you, they just don’t seem to want, or need to reconnect with a family that has only been in conflict.

They may have been fortunate to have created families where they feel accepted and wanted and are happy, or they may be carrying on the family tradition of conflict and alienation in their own families.

My advice to you is to move on, spend time with the people who want to be a part of your life and let the ones go who don’t.  If there are a few family members that want to get together and be a part of your life, then spend time with them.  There is nothing you can do to change this situation on your own, everyone makes choices in life and we all have to live our best life.  If or until someone reaches out to you, I hope you can let this go.

Best of luck Debra.

Email your questions to Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality; your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.
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