How to Deal with Unbearable Family Members

Thứ bảy - 27/04/2024 01:08
Sometimes family members can be difficult or downright unbearable at times. No family is immune to having challenges. Learning to deal with your parents, siblings, cousins, in-laws, uncles, and all those other relatives can be hard. By...
Table of contents

Sometimes family members can be difficult or downright unbearable at times. No family is immune to having challenges. Learning to deal with your parents, siblings, cousins, in-laws, uncles, and all those other relatives can be hard. By setting boundaries, you'll feel more in control. Staying calm and reducing your stress will also help you feel less anxious. Protect yourself from negative family members. Accept what you can, and let go of what you can't.

Method 1
Method 1 of 3:

Staying Calm

  1. Step 1 Recognize that their bad mood may have nothing to do with you.
    It's not about you when someone says something mean in your general direction. Some people are rude and negative to lots of people and family. While that's no excuse for their bad behavior, it may give you peace of mind that not everything that makes someone upset has to do with you.
    • Some family members may be struggling with difficult situations, such as a loss of a family member or friend, a failing relationship, failing a class, losing a job, a recent move, not having enough money to pay the bills, or something else.
    • Others may have a long-standing history of depression, anxiety, or anger. They may have difficulty with controlling their mood and regulating how they feel or communicate.
  2. Step 2 Keep the conversations neutral.
    Sometimes relatives can become unbearable when the conversation turns to stressful or emotionally charged topics. Religion, politics, and money can all lead to stressful and opinionated arguments.[1] Avoid the mess of trying to "win" an argument.[2]
    • Keep the conversation positive or neutral. Don't start making accusations or bringing up negative things from the past.
  3. Step 3 Redirect uncomfortable conversations.
    For example, let's say you have an opinionated uncle who likes to talk about politics, and you differ in your opinion from him. Maybe you're all seated for dinner, and he just wants to speak his mind. Maybe he's offended a few people in the room. Learning to redirect to a different and less emotionally charged topic will help you and everyone to keep the peace.
    • First attempt to redirect the topic to something else that your difficult family member enjoys, such as sports, movies, or TV.
    • Find a topic that your unbearable family member can have an interest in talking about without offending people.
    • Try something like: "All this talk of politics reminds me of a play I saw once... Uncle Jerry, didn't you recently audition for a community play?"
    • If your uncle is being blatantly rude, see if you or another person at the table would be willing to talk with him in the kitchen. This will likely stop the conversation in its tracks.
  4. Step 4 Find something to like about your unbearable family member.
    Ultimately finding ways to connect with your family members rather than finding reasons to hate them will be more beneficial for everyone.
    • Identify at least one thing that makes this family member not-so-terrible. It may be as simple as you like an outfit they're wearing or the type of food they like.
    • Say something like, "You look great in that sweater. Where did you get it?" Or, "What did you think about the last Rolling Stones album?"
  5. Step 5 Reduce stress in the moment.
    Some great stress-busters, like exercise, can help you calm down, but you may not always be able to go for a run or hit the gym every time you get annoyed with a family member. Find ways to center yourself in the moment, such as deep breathing. Take a deep breath, inhaling for five seconds and letting your belly fill with air. Hold for a moment, then exhale slowly. Do this several times and you will feel yourself begin to calm down.
    • Other ways to deal with the person in the moment include finding an excuse to leave the room, using distraction (TV, dog, food, etc.), and reducing stress with laughter.
    • Reader Poll: We asked 367 wikiHow readers, and 54% of them agreed that the best way to cope with feeling upset or irritated around your family is to take breaks from spending time with them. [Take Poll]
  6. Step 6 Deal with stress...
    Deal with stress in healthy ways. While you can't control the actions of other people, you can do your best to keep your mind, body, and spirit in check. Learn to cope with unbearable people by making sure to set aside time for yourself. Consider these activities:[3]
    • Exercise. Go for a walk or run. Get outdoors. Take a hike. Ride a bike. Go to the gym. Go for a swim.
    • Do something creative. Write in a journal. Play music. Draw. Build something.
    • Be with friends and your community. Find group activities that interest you.
    • Meditate. Do stretches. Practice yoga.
  7. Advertisement
Method 2
Method 2 of 3:

Setting Boundaries

  1. Step 1 Communicate what's bothering you.
    [4] Sometimes you may feel uneasy about speaking up for yourself or others. But it can be important to address what's bothering you rather than bottling it up or repressing it. You don't want to let negative feelings fester and then turn into arguments and fights.
    • Learning to be open with what you're feeling can help others to understand the situation better. Sometimes they may understand, and other times they might not. While you may not change them, they may be able to see things a little different if you are open with them.
  2. Step 2 Approach the issue when you're one-on-one.
    Avoid making a scene in a large group about what's bothering you. Private conversations are best if there is a difficult or uncomfortable situation in order reduce possible embarrassment on either side.
    • For example, let's say you're at a family picnic and your cousin is playing mean tricks on some of the younger kids. First ask to talk with your cousin for a minute alone and ask them to stop. If they don't stop, find a supportive adult like a parent or grandparent that can help to discipline your cousin. Avoid having this occur in front of the family group.
  3. Step 3 Use "I" statements to keep confrontations from feeling like personal attacks.
    [5] Avoid blaming or focusing on the negative traits of the family member. By using "I" statements, you deflect the focus to how certain actions lead to certain reactions.
    • Consider saying, "I was feeling hurt when you said that I'm terrible at making breakfast." Then set the boundary by requesting what future behavior should look like: "In the future, please keep hurtful comments to yourself."
    • Or say something like, "I felt upset when you yelled at me about tying the trash bags without using the twist ties. If you want me to do it differently that's fine, but next time just ask me instead of yelling." Avoid saying things are generic in their negativity such as "you're OCD" or "you're crazy."
  4. Step 4 Focus your time on family members who are supportive.
    While you may feel stressed, anxious, or upset by the behaviors of unbearable family members, avoid dwelling on their negative behavior. Focus on what you can control — your own actions. Take your mind off of unbearable relatives by reminding yourself of those who support you.
    • Reach out to other family that you see less but have enjoyed being with. Make plans with them or talk with them over the phone.
    • Do you have a kind grandparent? Talk with them or visit. They may have wisdom about how to deal with difficult people.
    • Lean on family that you trust about the difficulties you're facing with a challenging family member.
  5. Step 5 Rally other family members together to handle the unbearable person.
    If a family member is continuing to be obnoxious to you and others, find an authority figure in the family. You don't have to feel alone in dealing with an unbearable family member.
    • For example, your brother may not listen to what's bothering you, but he may listen to your mom, dad, or grandfather.
    • Even if they don't live in the same city or state as you, comforting relatives may be able to assist if there's a crisis or an ongoing challenge with your unbearable relative.
  6. Step 6 Distance yourself.
    Find ways to limit your interactions with family members who make you feel upset or anxious. This may be especially important if you see them daily or weekly. Learn to be polite when you want to distance yourself. Stirring drama may make other family members uneasy.[6]
    • If the relative you want to avoid is a parent or sibling, it may be more difficult to have distance if you're living with them. Find ways to create private space at home so that you don't feel bothered by them. For example, if it's your sister who's bothering you, find a different room to be in when you're relaxing or doing work.
    • If the relative doesn't live with you but visits frequently, find ways to be occupied with other things when they visit. Do something outside or with other people if they are at your home. Find spaces that make you feel more comfortable so the interactions are limited.
    • If the relative is someone you see only during the holidays, this may be an uncomfortable time when you see them, but remind yourself that you don't see them regularly. You may be able to sit with other relatives more, or excuse yourself when your relative is particularly unbearable.
    • If you're visiting at your relative's home, find ways to excuse yourself from the room, or interact with others at the house more. If you're an adult, it's your choice whether you want to stay and visit with someone who is rude and mean. If you're told to visit as a child or teen, talk with your parents or relatives about what makes you uncomfortable. Be open rather than keeping quiet and upset.
  7. Step 7 Ensure the safety of children.
    While each family may have different parenting styles, it is important to protect your own children and those of others who may feel unsafe. Safety does not just mean physical safety but also emotional safety. Some unbearable family members lack insight about boundaries when around children. They may use vulgar language or act inappropriate. They may lash out at children because they have difficulties in their own lives. Here are some things to consider:
    • Approach the person who is acting inappropriate and ask for them to stop. For example, let's say there is an aunt who uses vulgar language to talk about people she dislikes and her sex life. She may not realize it's inappropriate to talk about that with six year olds in the room. Request to speak with your aunt in a different area of the room about her language. If she continues to ignore your requests, and she is in your home, then consider asking her to leave unless she is able to act appropriately.
    • Provide a safe environment if things are getting out of hand. Let's say you and your two children live with an unbearable relative who spends all his time drinking and acting obnoxious to others. Maybe he yells at you or the kids for seemingly the slightest things. If you can't talk with this relative about his behavior, you may need to find a way to have the relative live elsewhere, or find another place for the children to stay safe. Don't let bullies and manipulators take over your life. Focus on staying safe.[7]
  8. Advertisement
Method 3
Method 3 of 3:

Protecting Yourself

  1. Step 1 Be assertive...
    Be assertive. Don't let others blame things on you or use you as a scapegoat for a problem. Be polite and direct about the facts of the situation. Avoid immediately blaming them or being defensive. It can sometimes be tough to be direct, but if done in a clear and matter-of-fact way, it may help you to feel less like a victim.[8]
    • Speak calmly and maintain eye contact.
    • Be aware of the setting when having a direct conversation. Avoid asserting yourself in a large family gathering. Ask to speak with the relative in another room or privately.
    • Focus on the topic at hand. Avoid bringing up the past or other things that are bothering you. If the relative goes off on a tangent, redirect them back to the original topic.
    • Try to start and end the conversation with something neutral or positive. Avoid making the conversation too harsh.
    • Say what you need to say and accept that the situation may not change after that. Be willing to let go of the topic if it's going nowhere.
  2. Step 2 Set consequences for unbearable behavior.
    If the family member is continually acting inappropriate, and they are unavoidable, find ways to establish consequences. This will likely work if they are intruding in your space or your home. Don't be guilt-tripped into accepting their bad behavior.
    • In the heat of an argument, you may get emotionally charged when trying to address consequences for bad behavior. Try to only talk about consequences when you are calm. Don't threaten in a nasty way. Be clear, calm, and direct.
    • If you're younger than them or under 18, consider finding an adult or parent to help with setting consequences.
    • For example, let's say you have two cousins who continually come over to your home and ask you and your family for money. Maybe you feel intimidated by your cousins. They are loud, domineering, and guilt-trip everyone. Talk with your family about what is going on and decide on the consequences of what will happen if they come over to ask for money. Get everyone on the same page that the cousins are not welcome if they continue to come over for money. Then you or another family member must explain to them that if they continue to ask for money after being told no, then they will be asked to leave.
  3. Step 3 Accept that you can't change other people's behavior.
    While you may want to be able to "fix" someone or convince them that they're wrong, this may feel like you're talking to a brick wall. Some people are willing and open to change, while others are not ready or able to admit when there's something wrong. [9]
    • While your family member's actions or words may cause you stress, getting back at them or trying to tell them that they're wrong may not make things any easier. While telling them "no" or explaining that they are not welcome due to their behavior may put you and your family member on non-speaking terms, sometimes having a little distance can help.
    • Focus your time and energy on the people and family members who recognize their own faults, are willing to admit them, and see the importance of change.
    • Accepting that someone won't change does not necessarily mean that you approve of their behavior. You don't have to support them with your time, money, or talents if you feel that they are difficult or manipulative.
  4. Step 4 Seek help outside your family.
    While advice from family members may be helpful, it can also be wise to seek support and advice from others who may have an outsider's perspective.[10]
    • Talk with friends or the family members of friends about what you're facing with your own family.
    • Discuss with teachers or mentors the difficulties you're having.
    • Seek out the support of school counselors or counseling centers in your community. A therapist can assist with coping skills and teach you how to assert yourself.
    • If you're working, see if your employer has an employee assistance program. They may offer free over-the-phone or in-person counseling sessions to deal with difficult people and relationships.
  5. Advertisement


  • If the situation between you and your unbearable family members involves emotional or physical abuse, consider ways to get help and stay safe by talking with your school or a counselor. If this is a life-threatening situation, call 9-1-1.
    Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • For information regarding child abuse (abuse of anyone under 18 years of age), contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-422-4453 or
    Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • For information regarding domestic violence or emotional abuse (regardless of age or gender), contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or
    Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

Total notes of this article: 0 in 0 rating

Click on stars to rate this article