When You Have A Falling Out With A Family Member, It Affects Everyone

by Kathy Black
Originally Published: 

On a Tuesday afternoon last year, everything changed between me and my sister — a sister I’d always considered to be one of my best friends. We argued via text, something we’ve never done. I know, I know. You aren’t supposed to do this, but I got caught up in it, and it was incredibly satisfying to say things I had wanted and needed to say for a while. I was too pissed off to hear her voice, and I’m certain she felt the same.

My kids and I have had a rough year with a lot of changes, and she’d been acting strange around us. She seemed irritated and annoyed, and had started micro-managing my kids and her kids when they got together. I didn’t recognize this person, so I asked her what was wrong and if I’d done something. I wanted to know because things couldn’t keep going on the way they were. It wasn’t healthy or fun for any of us.

She wasn’t the same carefree, “Isn’t it so great we live so close and our kids love each other so much” woman I had known so well. Our whole life, we’ve had a tight bond despite a considerable age gap between the two of us. She was my person, and I was hers, but lately the strain of our relationship was affecting not just the two of us, but our kids too. Our other sisters and parents were feeling it too.

She told me she felt my kids were growing up, and didn’t give her and her kids the attention they used to. I shared my side, letting her know my kids were feeling like her kids were a bit bossy lately and they felt like their aunt was always upset with them.

After that, she went for the jugular and called me a “lazy parent” along with some other hurtful, personal jabs. It stung, bad.

But I tried to make things okay. I apologized. I told her I’d do better and that I’d talk to my kids. I tried to move on after that, but for some reason, we just can’t right now.

All of this happened last year, and we’ve only spoke twice since then even though we live less than 10 miles apart. Our kids miss each other, but she’s not ready to see me, and now, I’m not sure if I’m ready to see her either.

It probably sounds petty and pretty simple to outsiders, but it’s not. When someone in your family criticizes and berates you unfairly, it feels physically impossible to pick up the pieces, brush yourself off, and proceed like normal. You know it’s affecting more than just the people who’ve hurt each other. It’s hard to move past it.

Truthfully, anger equals hurt. When you are that mad at someone and the anger sticks, it’s because you are deeply hurt. Seeing them is a reminder of that hurt, and you can’t seem to move on. And then before you know it, you are mad at yourself too because you can’t let it go.

And it’s easy for others to say a situation like this seems selfish until it happens to you.

When you have a falling out with a close family member, it affects your entire family and makes everyone who knows and loves the two of you uncomfortable.

At family gatherings, you can cut the tension with a knife. Maybe you don’t talk about it; maybe they don’t talk about it. Maybe other family members are clueless to the details, but they feel it. Man, do they feel it.

It hurts my mother to know that her two daughters are not speaking. The same two daughters who were each other’s maid of honor, who were pregnant together, who’d always have each other’s backs.

It hurts our kids, who really don’t know what’s going on. But they know it’s something because things feel weird and different, and we weren’t invited to their cousin’s birthday party. Ouch.

It’s so hard because I don’t know how to fix this without her. I don’t know how to move forward, I don’t know what the right words are. I try to dig deep, then I get even more angry and resentful about the situation because I feel like I’m doing more than my fair share of trying to get our relationship right again. I’m sure she feels the same, and round and round it goes.

Sometimes the people we love hurt us the most with their comments or actions. It can take a long time to move away from it and get to a good place again. It’s easy to say things like, “Just get over it,” or “Be the better person and forgive and forget.”

Oh, if only it were that easy, there would be no family drama, contention, or arguments between family members in this world. But life doesn’t always work that way. I wish it did. I wish we weren’t going through this, but we are here. And I have to deal with it in the best way I know how.

But since I literally don’t know what the best way is right now, I’ll be over here trying to figure it out.

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