Family is one of the things that makes life worthwhile. They can be such a source of joy, happiness, comfort and encouragement, love, and life.
And while the family is a huge blessing to many people, it can also be a source of great hurt and pain, particularly the highly stressful and toxic relationships we have.
This stress and toxicity can be brought about by conflicts within. One thing you have to understand is that friction in the family is quite normal. Everyone goes through arguments and disagreements with other family members and relatives. In most cases, these are easily resolved, and members kiss and make-up and carry on.
However, other circumstances aren’t as easily resolved, especially when confidence and trust are broken.
The Stress Brought about by Family Disputes and Issues
These unresolved conflicts not only affect those who are directly involved but other family members as well. These can bring so much pain and division within the family and produce a very awkward atmosphere during family gatherings.
Past and ongoing conflicts are like elephants in the room that everyone is aware of but don’t want to address or talk about. You can feel the tension in the air before and during the gathering, and sometimes, the feelings linger even after the event.
Things can sometimes get really bad, especially where money and inheritance are involved, that even a trust attorney intervening is not enough to settle the conflict.
If left unaddressed with no apologies, heart-to-heart talks, or any other form of resolution, the barriers between parties will continue to stand, and trust will still be compromised, not knowing what to expect the next time run into each other. This causes both parties to become paranoid and misinterpret each other’s behavior. This assumption of the worst does nothing to improve the situation. In fact, it only makes things worse.
Assuming that the conflict has gone on for quite some time and everyone involved has moved on and are civil towards each other, the pain and mistrust remain.
3 Ways to Ease Conflict at Family Gatherings
When at family gatherings and there are family members in conflict with one another, how do you handle the situation and diffuse a potential blow-up?
Stay polite and civil. A family gathering is not the right time and place to bring up past hurts and issues. Talking about past hurts and pains is hard enough because it involves revisiting the past, and when past offenses are brought up, the tendency to feel attacked is very likely to occur.
Whether you’re directly involved in the conflict or not, the following can help you maintain a pleasant atmosphere in any family gathering despite the obvious friction.
Do your best to resolve the conflict.
It’s hard to go on about your business knowing that you have unresolved business with another person. You can ignore it or pretend not to care, but if the one you have friction with is someone very close and dear to you once, no matter what you do, the pain will always sting.
Perhaps enough time has already passed, and it’s time to bury the proverbial hatchet. It will take a lot of humility and will power to do, but if you choose to swallow your pride and initiate, you’re already on your way to healing and recovery.
Learn to release forgiveness and let it go.
There’s something magical about learning the art of forgiveness. Just so we’re clear, let’s establish that forgiveness does not necessarily mean that you’re allowing the person to hurt you in the same manner again.
Forgiveness is just merely releasing all the bitterness and resentment you’ve kept bottled up for the longest time. Understand that bitterness eats you up from the inside and consumes your entire being. It makes you hurtful of others. It turns you into a toxic person. It poisons you and slowly takes the life out of you. If you continue to live with resentment and anger in your heart, you cease to live and merely exist.
Learn to forgive the other person completely. Forgiving them is not releasing them from a prison in your heart, but rather it is your release from the prison you made in your life.
Keep your distance.
If you cannot do the first two at this time, maybe because the wounds are still fresh or you still can’t find it in your heart to forgive, keep your distance so that you don’t get triggered or provoke the other person.
Now, if what was done to you was completely abusive — such as the nature of the offense is criminal — and there’s no hint of remorse or repentance on their part, cut off your contact with them. This is the last resort, but if you need to do this to heal properly and move on, don’t even think about it. Your health is more important at this point.
No matter how you choose to go about it, it is never easy to handle and resolve a conflict. But if you get to the point that you could talk about things and settle your differences, healing can now take place.