25 Guaranteed No Stress Ways to Deal with Difficult Family Members

Updated: Feb 9, 2023
By Happiness Hassan
ways to deal with difficult family members
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Family can be a source of strength and a source of stress at the same time. However, you could always draw strength from your family by applying ways to deal with difficult family members whenever family members’ attitudes seem to cause conflicts in the home. 

Living and being a part of a family is mixed with drama, sad moments, and happy moments. Unfortunately, there is always one family member who you can’t get along with due to their disrespect, ungratefulness, toxic attitude, hurting manners, or controlling behavior. 

It’s easier to avoid such a person if there are your extended family members, but it becomes really difficult to navigate the situation when those involved are your parents, spouse, or siblings. At such moments, you would have to confront the situation the right way. 

In this guide, I will help you understand those ways to deal with difficult family members that are getting hard on your nerves.

Ways to Deal With Family Members That Hurt You

1. Be Direct About How You Feel

If you keep silent or endure harmful behaviors from a family member it means one thing to them; you’re comfortable with the Ill-treatment, whereas you’re trying to avoid a conflict. 

Silence is not one of the ways to deal with difficult family members, rather, you may have to speak up about their behaviors, expressing how you feel by using tips for effective communication. 

If that family member hurts you unconsciously, they will be quick to apologize and make amends without feeling offended or insulted. 

But, if it’s on purpose, they might respond with anger because you have gained a voice for yourself. In such cases, you might want to consider other ways to deal with family members that hurt you.  

2. Don’t Take It Personal

Family members who hurt you either through words, or actions don’t have your best at heart. So, instead of letting their actions cause you pain, avoid taking it personally or fall into the trap of thinking something is wrong with you. 

Those fond of hurting others might have grown to have that as their attitude and hurt others consciously or unconsciously without knowing it. So, don’t let their words make you think less of yourself—ignore them and stay true to yourself.

3. Distance Is Helpful

One of the effective ways to deal with difficult family members is by giving them space. There is nothing wrong with staying away from someone who constantly hurts you. Instead of enduring or hoping they get to change their attitude, take some time off.

You could go spend the weekend or a few days at a friend’s place, at another family member’s home you feel comfortable with, or at a resort. Giving them space will help you unwind and prevent depression. 

4. Be Different

“People who are hurt tend to hurt others”. Am sure you have heard that phrase before. However, don’t be among those who get back at others for the wrong done to them. Seeking chances for revenge only increases the pain you feel inside.

Don’t let the attitude of those who cause you pain make you change your attitude toward the negative. Show compassion even to those who hurt you when you have the chance to; it leaves them wondering about their bad behaviors.

Those who hurt you weren’t born that way and might have developed such behaviors due to their experience, environment, or situation they find themselves in. 

5. Set and Enforce Boundaries

Showing compassion to those who hurt you doesn’t mean you let your guard down and let them hurt you repeatedly. Be direct about what you can tolerate from those family members and don’t be afraid to set consequences. 

“I feel bad about myself every time you use abusive words to address me, if you don’t stop, I will have to walk out on you or stop answering you or hang up the phone”

Don’t be afraid to stick with whatever boundaries you have put in place as it is often one of the ways to deal with difficult family members many find difficult to enforce.

6. Don’t Try to Change Them

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you could change those who hurt you. Oftentimes, it doesn’t go right and you will end up hurting yourself more when they don’t change. 

If those family members who hurt you do that due to the situation they might be going through or show signs that they are emotionally damaged, then you can render help to them by recommending a therapist who would better help them process their attitude. 

7. Forgive and Let Go

If you feel resentful or bitter at the sight, thought, or presence of those who have hurt you, you might need to forgive and let go to be happy again.

You need to heal from the pains your experience might have caused you, and it all begins with forgiving them and letting go of all they have done. Living with regrets or revengeful thoughts only makes you depressed and unhappy—you can’t live at your best that way.

It might be difficult to let go, but if freedom from mental and emotional pain is what you desire; forgive and let you!

Ways To Deal With Family Members That Disrespect You

1. Take Charge of Your Emotions

It is hard to know exactly the ways to deal with difficult family members that disrespect you at every slight opportunity without you retaliating back. 

Yes, it can be annoying and hurting to watch someone disrespect you, but lashing back with disrespect only makes the situation worse. You need to learn how to recognize and control your emotions to handle those family members that disrespect you. 

2. Communicate Your Feelings

Ignoring disrespectful comments or jokes helps let the other person know you aren’t comfortable with what is being said. Sadly, some family members wouldn’t get the message and keep repeating such disrespectful attitudes. 

If you find yourself trapped with such a family member, it’s time to communicate how you feel using the 7 C’s of communication. Be direct, and respectful, and use the “I” statement.

This way, that family member is clear on what you perceive to be disrespectful and the relationship can grow without secret grudges.

3. Look Out For Triggers

Disrespectful attitudes often arise from responses to situations, or conversations. You might want to look out for triggers that make a certain member of your family disrespect you. 

Perhaps, they get tense and lash out with harsh words when certain topics are discussed. You might want to avoid conversation on such topics or change the topic of discussion.

Likewise, a family might get disrespectful when having a bad day or going through emotional problems, then you would need to avoid them or stay calm at such moments.

4. Set Boundaries

Your happiness should be your goal and not living in depression or pain due to what someone said or did. 

Setting boundaries is one of the helpful ways to deal with difficult family members that deprive you of peace and happiness. 

So, don’t tolerate any form of disrespect, or pretend it doesn’t matter, whereas you’re hurt Inside. 

Be assertive about your boundaries;

“I am going to walk out on you if you keep telling jokes about my body shape”

5. Check Out For External Influence

Oftentimes, those who disrespect you might be under the influence of substance abuse like alcohol or hard drugs. Hence, they disrespect you without even knowing what they are doing.

This isn’t an excuse for bad behavior and they are responsible for their actions. However, if you notice this is the case, ignoring whatever they say is the way out of this. In other words, you shouldn’t take their actions personally and avoid them when they are under the influence of substances.

6. Keep Your Distance

If the extent of the disrespect is getting on your nerves and such a person isn’t ready to change, then keeping your distance is necessary for your mental health. 

You might have to disengage from things that bring the both of you together and keep silent if the mutual ground is unavoidable.

If such a person disrespects you as your extended family member, then you might have to cut ties with such a person if they aren’t ready to change. Avoiding is one of the ways to deal with difficult family members who frequently disrespect you. 

How to Deal With Stressful Family Members

1. Relax and Disengage

Pressure and demands from family members can be overwhelming and leave you in stress. At such moments you’re upset which you have every right to be, however, making decisions during a moment of stress breeds further family feuds. 

In contrast, practice stress management techniques which include taking a deep breath and disengaging from whatever you might be doing at the moment to relax a bit. 

2. Hack the Conversation

If you find yourself in a conversation that makes you tense and you can’t excuse yourself, then you must be smart to hack the conversation. In other words, change the topic into something else. 

However, hacking the conversation doesn’t imply you disrespect the other person or turn the table against them, it is not one of the ways to deal with difficult family members and mount up more stress.

3. Excuse Yourself

Instead of acting out your emotions when you’re stressed by what is happening around you, it’s best you simply excuse yourself from the atmosphere. 

You could excuse yourself politely out of a stressful situation by telling your family members that you would get back to them later.

You could always get back to solving the problem when you’re calm. Excusing yourself allows you to think through what’s happening and make better decisions. 

4. You Don’t Have to Always Agree

If you don’t speak up about how you feel when you’re overburdened by responsibilities and demands, you’re paving the way for more stress. 

Be willing to communicate how you feel, you don’t have to agree with whatever demands are placed on you at the expense of your convenience. 

Perhaps, dad asks you to fix the door, mom also asks you to go shopping for groceries and you’re currently busy with other important stuff, you don’t have to agree to suspend your activities. 

So, while you don’t get disrespectful, you can speak up and let them know you’re engaged and would get back to their demands in a few hours. 

You must learn how to stop being a people pleaser at the expense of your well-being and that includes your family members.

5. Develop a Strong Sense of Self

You might lose grip on other aspects of your life when your family becomes a source of stress to you. At this point, you begin to question your ability, and self-confidence and you’re likely to get depressed.

However, having a strong sense of self makes it easier to go through this phase of your family without breaking down. In contrast, you will be fit to handle your family problems by applying practical ways to deal with difficult family members. 

How To Deal With Controlling Family Members

Nobody likes to be ordered around or manipulated, it breeds grief, hurt, and low self-esteem.

It gets difficult to cope with controlling relationships when your manipulators are your close family members and you can’t avoid them completely. 

However, you’re not alone, controlling family members are common in families and these are some of the ways to deal with difficult family members that choose to manipulate you. 

1. It’s Not About You

If you find yourself in a controlling relationship with family members, you might be quick to believe that you have done something wrong to deserve such treatment. 

But, those who control others do this to gain control over their victims for their selfish benefits and make you feel it was all your fault. It is not about you but about them. So, never give in to self-pity, or guilty traps or think less of yourself because you’re being controlled. 

2. Express Your Views

Now that you know it’s not about you, be bold and assertive to express your views. Don’t be afraid to tell that family member how you feel about their controlling behavior.

Communicating how you feel about the controlling attitude of a family member is one great step to breaking free. This sends a signal to them that you’re not ignorant of their plans to manipulate you and as such, they will feel embarrassed. 

Those who love to control others let go of their victims who oppose their manipulative schemes.

3. Avoid Getting Into a Fight

Your manipulators may not agree with your views and might feel attacked and respond with anger. However, stay calm and don’t fall into the trap of engaging in a fight or retaliating to their harsh words. 

Engaging in a fight escalates the problems. Instead, prove you are different by keeping calm and silent, and if possible, excuse yourself from that conversation. 

4. Guard Yourself

Refuse to show your vulnerability when you observe a family member has controlling behavior. If you let them know your weakness, they get to use it against you. 

Guarding yourself fiercely by setting boundaries that limit the access of controlling family members to you is one of the core ways to deal with difficult family members.

Feel free to give them some space for some time if that makes you happy and free from their oppressive grip. If you feel down or overwhelmed and need to talk to someone, you should speak to those who support you and want your best. 

5. Put Your Health First

Those in a controlling relationship are vulnerable to mental and emotional disorders. It’s best if you handle the situation with mindfulness which enables you to be aware of the situation without getting depressed. 

Don’t get stuck with a controlling spouse or family member, when the situation is taking a toll on your health. In contrast, don’t hesitate to contact a therapist who will offer your professional help to better handle the situation.

Also, don’t wish for a controlling person to change or try to fix them, if you push harder, it can take a toll on your health too. The best you can do for a controlling family member you care about is to recommend they go visit a therapist. 

A therapist is in the right state of mind to help such a person process their feelings and further guide them on how to break off from a controlling attitude. 


It’s difficult to change the attitude of someone towards you, but you could always change the way you respond to their attitude. Therefore, you can choose to respond positively to family members who seem to be getting on your nerves by applying the ways to deal with difficult family members explained in this guide. 

When situations are getting out of hand with family members don’t pretend you have it all together, while you die silently. Instead, seek professional help for yourself and also recommend one for a difficult family member. 

Frequently Ask Questions And Answers

How do you respond to a toxic family member?

Toxic family members are common in families and you’re not the only one trying to handle the situation. Here are the best ways to respond to toxic family members:

  • Communicate how you feel directly
  • Excuse yourself from the environment involving them
  • Set and enforce boundaries
  • Associate with a supportive network

What are the signs of a toxic family?

Common signs you have a toxic family includes:

  • They’re abusive
  • They make you feel depressed and frustrated when around them
  • Fond of criticizing and blaming you
  • They control you
  • No love among family members but constant quarreling and fighting

How do you ignore a difficult family member?

Ignoring a family member isn’t always easy to do without appearing disrespectful. But, in cases where ignoring is the best option to deal with the situation, you can simply avoid contact with them by giving them space.

Also, you can politely excuse yourself from gatherings where they are present or keep silent as though you have nothing to say in a conversation involving a difficult family member.

How do you know if a family member dislikes you?

The core signs a family member dislikes you include;

  • Frequent disrespect
  • Treats you harshly
  • Wants to control you
  • Hurts you constantly/intentionally
  • Abuses you

Is it OK to cut off toxic family members?

It is ok to cut off toxic family members, if the relationship with that person is taking a toll on your health hence, is not worth sustaining anymore. 

People around you influence your progress in life and as such there will be a  time when you would have to make tough decisions about difficult family members such as keeping your distance and cutting ties with them.


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