Family Estrangement

by Kim
(Boston MA)

My family does not have healthy ways to communicate and express anger or disappointment.

This results in a repeating pattern of family members refusing to talk to one another. I have sought counseling to try and develop better skills to help with my communication and frustrations. However, this seems to have made me the target of other family members.

When I've tried to use new approaches, they accuse me of not wanting to be with them and then refuse to speak to me and my children. I would like to continue relationships with my family, but don't know how long I can keep playing the guessing game of "what’s wrong" and get no answer when behavior speaks otherwise.

Any suggestions?


The people in your family have gotten negative attention with their dysfunctional behavior and they’ve become used to it. When one member decides to change the dynamics they feel uncomfortable. They want to bring the relationship back to ‘normal’.

Don’t allow it. Keep making changes, telling them you love them very much, but it upsets you when …….. etc., and you hope they’ll understand. They won’t. They will ‘give you the silent treatment’ and whatever, but simply ignore it. You’re encouraging their bad behavior by allowing them to upset you.

If they don’t want to tell you ‘what’s wrong’, don’t bother asking. When they see their tactics don’t work they’ll stop playing the game. However, you have to be consistent and keep at it. Changing behavior takes time.

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