Family relationships are on many people’s minds during the holiday season as sounds and images of happy family celebrations dominate the media. Anyone whose experiences don’t live up to the holiday hype may find this difficult or disappointing, but those feelings may be felt even more acutely among those involved in family rifts.
I have done a significant amount of research on ambivalence and conflict in families, which led to a five-year study of family estrangements.
At the outset, I was surprised at how little evidence-based guidance exists on the frequency, causes and consequences of family estrangement, or how those involved cope with the stress of family rifts. There are few studies published in academic journals on the topic, as well as limited clinical literature. I sought to fill these gaps through a series of interrelated studies and have presented and described my findings in my 2020 book “Fault Lines: Fractured Families and How to Mend Them.”
My findings suggest that estrangement is widespread and that there are several common pathways people take on the way to a family rift. Also, people who decide to try to close such a rift have discovered a number of different routes for getting to reconciliation.
To get an idea of how much estrangement is going on, in 2019 I conducted a national survey that asked the question: “Do you have any family members (i.e., parents, grandparents, siblings, children, uncles, aunts, cousins or other relatives) from whom you are currently estranged, meaning you have no contact with the family member at the present time?”
Over a quarter of the respondents – 27% – reported a current estrangement. Most had a rift with an immediate family member: 24% were estranged from a parent, 14% from a child and 30% from siblings. The remainder were estranged from other relatives.
This study was the first in the field to focus intensively on individuals who had successfully reconciled after years or decades of estrangement.
By carefully analyzing their detailed accounts, my research team identified a number of strategies and approaches that worked for them:
- Focus on the present. Many interviewees reported that the history of the estranged relationship was inseparably interwoven with present circumstances. In some family rifts, the past almost entirely overwhelmed the present moment. As a result, many people interpreted relatives’ present actions as signs or symptoms of underlying, decades-old pathologies. Nearly all who successfully reconciled reported that one key step was giving up attempts to force their interpretation of past events on the other person. They abandoned efforts to process the past and instead focused on the relationship’s present and future.
- Revise expectations. Often respondents said that family values held them back from reconciling, because the other person had violated their standards for proper family life. Reconciliation involved modifying or dropping past expectations and abandoning the urge to force the relative to change.
- Create clear boundaries. Interviewees reported that making the terms of the reconciliation as unambiguous as possible was key to moving beyond old grievances and patterns of behavior. Even people who had severed ties because of intolerable behaviors were able to create clear, specific, take-it-or-leave-it conditions for one final try to repair the relationship.
- One positive finding of my research is that those who reconciled their rift found it to be an engine for personal growth. Reengaging with the family – after careful consideration and preparation – was almost never regretted. However, it was a highly individual decision and not for everyone.
Full story at theconversation.com.
I ceased communicating with extended family members who are Democrats years ago. There’s simply no common vision nor worldview to make for a meaningful relationship. They are “other”. We are polar opposites.
Polar, might there be something in common between your common kinship or even common humanity? Love (even) your enemies? Are you making yourself “other” by so identifying them? I pray for some degree of reconciliation and a blessed Christmas, year-round and eternity for you and your family.
You can love people by giving them space and giving yourself space. Then there is peace. Everyone is happy instead of annoyed. They are not enemies. They are just not people he wants to have conversation with.
if somebody is crushed by his lack of communication, it is their responsibility to let him know. If he is fine and they are fine, what is the big deal?
I am sure this has a lot of great information in it. Focusing on the present and just offering it up got us through visits and phone calls with family. One family member in particular is so abusive that the coping method the whole family used was to tolerate whatever they dished out until they leave or pass out. There are substance abuse issues and emotional instability as well.
In hindsight, I wished that I made stronger boundaries but that is very offensive in our family. We finally had to stand up for ourselves and now they are mad at us and won’t talk to us.
It is a relief but I am always anxious every time the phone rings.
Norman Rockwell’s America is an ideal we should return to. I can only hope…
Norman Rockwell would be into BLM and LGBTQ if he was alive today. Prison reform and especially mental health issues, like school shootings. My opinion.
But I know you are talking more about his Saturday Evening Post art.
Estrangement is a huge problem especially when it involves youth being ejected from their family, either literally or when parents make it a living hell for their kids who feel home is no longer safe for them. Even though LGBT youth make up 4 % of their peer group, 40% of homeless youth are LGBT. Per this article, “ Revise expectations. Often respondents said that family values held them back from reconciling, because the other person had violated their standards for proper family life. Reconciliation involved modifying or dropping past expectations and abandoning the urge to force the relative to change.”
So we have to accept the downward social spiral to immorality and social chaos just so others don’t get their precious feeewings hurt?
Maybe progressive elites should bear the blame for indoctrinating kids with propaganda that makes them rebel against their family’s values and against biological norms, producing the estrangement. Without progressive brainwashing of kids in schools there would be many more happy families and happy children.
Such an idiotic statement. Parents who even begin to bring politics into family situations don’t deserve the honor of having children in the first place
“Reconciliation involved modifying or dropping past expectations and abandoning the urge to force the relative to change.” This is the scam LGBT syndicate… this is same crowd pushing pedophilia under the new term of Minor Attracted Persons, soon to be normalized, bet on it. Lord have Justice.
no bohemond, LGBT people are not pedofiles at least no more than their straight brothers
Read the article of the 11 year old boy dressed in drag dancing in a gay bar while older gay men threw him cash and tell LGBT syndicate isn’t part and parcel made up of pedos.
Here’s one report of the allegedly trans boy dancing for pedos: https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/11-year-old-drag-kid-dances-in-popular-nyc-gay-club-as-patrons-toss-money-a/
Thanks for the article Fred. I would be among those gays critical of this for all the reasons the article says. But I would not say that the guys who through money made them pedophiles. People throw money at the feet of musical performers on the street and into baskets at piano bars but that doesn’t mean they want to have sexual with the piano player. Still, minors don’t belong in bars or in sexually charged situations, and the money aspect is almost certainly a situation of exploitation.
Tell that to the 82% of the victims of Catholic priests, who were teenaged boys. (Source John Jay College report commissioned by the Church.)
bohemond, so it can go both ways. Parents can reject gay or trans children but children can reject gay or trans parents too. But also the change desired could be stopping: the use of foul language, alcohol or drug use, use of porn, selfishness, verbal abuse, insults, cheap gifts or gifts meant to send a message or gag gifts, bad manners, refusal to work, groping, joining a religion, dropping a religion, violent behavior, getting an abortion, getting pregnant, marrying someone, divorcing someone, politics, sports, criminal behavior. Like I said, it can go both ways. It can also be sibling estrangement. Or extended relatives.
This isn’t new enough to blame “progressive elites”.
Progressive elites are a blight on the human race.,.
“If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword.
For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s enemies will be those of his household.
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.”
If your sin drives your family apart that is not good. But if you are rejected by your family for following the Lord, that is expected. Some families want you to put them ahead of Christ.
Me, you have said it all. If one tries to stay out of taking sides on divorces, etc. one often has to separate oneself from certain family members — at least for a while. Doing it with love and charity is the catch.
As one of my deceased, faithful Catholic friends once said, “Divorce is catching.” She was right. If we help destroy other people’s marriages, someone will surely try to or will destroy ours. She was married to the same man all her life. May she rest in peace.
“Values and lifestyle differences: Disapproval of a relative’s core values can turn into outright rejection.” Yep, sounds familiar. I haven’t spoken with a niece for six months because she’s been indoctrinated into believing “gay is okay,” and I refuse to agree with that. I’d rather lose the relationship than compromise my stance or, much more importantly, go against God’s Eternal Word.
What if you are the only person that she will ever know that does not believe “gay is OK”? I think you need to really study the Church’s teaching. Being gay is a condition. Having any sex outside of a sacramental marriage is forbidden to Catholics as it is sinful. that is what you should focus on because that covers every situation. I would stick to the basics. do not argue. do not try to change her mind. Just be the best person she knows. Be the kindest, gentlest, most compassionate, loving, generous, humble person she will ever meet.
I do not think that is an obligation and I do also think that “bad company corrupts good morals” I Corinthians 15:33. So I have thought better of what I posted earlier.
Probably your instincts to avoid her for now are right.
In many, if not most families there are squabbles, I am one of seven kids and the only family member I could get along with was a younger sister. At age 93, I realize that all the family fights were a waste of time. At this stage of my life, I forgive everyone and choose to pray for them and tell them that I love them. I have enough sense to let God be their (and my) judge.
You’re an inspiration! Thank you!
I remember my 93 year old grandfather who said “I don’t have any enemies. I outlived them all.”
Issues like COVID vaccinations, the border and Trump have divided our family. Thankfully, it seems we’re all committed to loving and respecting one another in spite of those differences. We have a grace-provided advantage, however, in that all are (still) practicing Catholics.
I think the picture is called “Christmas Homecoming.” It doesn’t look like he brought enough gifts for everyone.
What has been really difficult for me, in the post-Vatican II era, is attending church functions and holiday parties, in which there may be church lay members, even in high positions, who disagree with Church teachings. And to later find out, that some of the priests who were at those social functions– were later terminated, with convictions of pedophilia. And there were always lots of kids, at those social functions, too! Not good– especially, at Christmas or Easter party celebrations! Also– not fun to see a gay lay leader introduce his boyfriend (or “husband”), or a cohabitating couple say they support Planned Parenthood– and one of them works there! Even worse– if a lay leader who openly “lives in sin,” or actively promotes it– receives an honor for service to the Church! Bite your tongue…think about Good Manners, and also, think about standing up for Our Lord’s teachings… now, what?? And the clergy just ignores the whole thing. You’re stuck! Miserable!
So don’t go. And don’t blame it on Vatican II because Vatican II had nothing to do with pedophilia or cohabitation or any of the rest. There were sinners at those functions before Vatican II and there will be sinners there after Vatican III.
No, read carefully. This happens to be the “Vatican II era,” as a timeframe.
Sadly, I have heard rumors lately, of fewer parishioners returning to our local churches, less and less financial contributions during the Pandemic, layoffs or shortening of hours of church employees– with possible future church mergers– or, sadly, church closures, and selling off church properties… very sad! Some priests have been saying, that they wonder if some parishioners will just never return to church, and just stay home, and watch TV Mass. Or else, give up on the Catholic faith. Well, I wonder if all the Church scandals, lack of moral and spiritual discipline, and lack of good catechesis, have demoralized or discouraged many Catholics? And I wonder if they worry about their children, too– especially, due to the pedophile priest scandals?? Or, I wonder if they figured out places that meant more to them, to support, with financial contributions? Was their church supporting them and their families, to begin with?? Or– perhaps lots of Catholics have been leaving SF since the Pandemic started, emptying the churches.. Hopefully, half the SF Catholic population is not sick and dying, in the Pandemic! Well, we now have fewer parishioners, and less contributions, financially. Wonder what that could mean, for the future??