Setting Healthy Boundaries with Family

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egadsDo you struggle with difficult relatives? Is there someone in your family who always manages to take a shot at you, or manages to find some way to put you down at every family gathering? Do you dread family functions because you start becoming anxious days before, and you just know you will be used for target practice yet again?

I am often asked if it is okay not to attend such functions, or to distance from a family member who is rude or hurtful. Sometimes it is difficult, especially if the person is a parent or a sibling, and one feels a sense of obligation.

The bottom line is that it is not okay to be bullied, even if it is a parent or sibling who is doing it.

The first step is to inform the one doing the bullying that you are not comfortable with it and it has to stop. Describe the specific kinds of behaviors or comments that are hurtful or inappropriate. Indicate that if it happens again, you will simply pack up and leave. Then do it.

You do not need to involve others, or get them to take sides. It is enough to state that you are setting some healthy boundaries for yourself and will no longer allow yourself to be bullied, criticized or judged. Very soon everyone, including the one bullying, will understand those boundaries, and likely will respect them.

If, after all this, your boundaries are not respected, then yes, it is absolutely okay not to put yourself in an unhealthy situation. If a person needs to keep at you, you are not going to be safe around them. As a child you may have had to put up with mistreatment, but as an adult, you do not.

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