Family quarrels and anxiety

Healthy relationships are vital for good health and well-being. There is much evidence that strong relationships contribute to a good quality of life, helping us feel happier, able to cope with stress, resist depression, and prevent illness. Disagreements with those we love can stir up a deep sense of anxiety within us. Problems in our close relationships can cause us to worry day and night, and sometimes it seems impossible to know what to do to make things right again. The purpose of this article is simply to put forward some ideas for reducing family conflict and stress.

Very few people can say they have the perfect family but, for all their flaws and imperfections, our family is a very important source of support for many of us, so it is important to deal with arguments or fall-outs in a way that encourages moving closer towards each other emotionally, rather than pulling further apart.

After a heated disagreement or a cool stand-off, it is tempting to avoid contact with the other person and, in some circumstances, this can be a wise choice temporarily. But stubbornly keeping a distance is likely to put further strain on the relationship longer-term, as each person feels more helpless to improve the situation the more time goes by. One of the healthiest ways of healing is to not avoid each other. Attend family parties and celebrations where you know the other person will be, aiming to see it as a new day with fresh opportunities.

Nothing can be properly resolved when people aren’t clear about what the issues are, and sometimes an argument masks a deeper problem. Ask yourself if the apparent argument is the only problem, or if something else underneath it is the real source of conflict that needs looking at. By doing this, you may uncover some insights into your feelings that allow you to see the conflict in a new light.

Once you have a better idea of the issue - or issues - and a clearer picture of your motivations, can you sit down together and talk? If that is not possible, can you write a caring letter? Arguments escalate when one or both parties feel uncertain of the other’s love or loyalty. It takes courage to tell another how we feel about them, but if you can start by telling the person you love them, or how much the relationship means to you, it is likely to put them at ease and smooth the path for a more honest conversation.

Rather than project blame, let them know how you wish things could have been different, and how the argument need not have happened. No one is perfect, so be prepared to own-up to any errors or oversights you may have made that contributed to the disagreement. Taking responsibility also takes strength and maturity.

Finally, try to keep your expectations realistic of how things will be going forward. Hurt feelings can take time to heal, and your relationship may not return to normal straight away. It may take time for things to get back to how they were before, but even a small improvement is a step in the right direction.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Written by Caroline Brown, Reg. MBACP, Individuals and Couples

Caroline Brown is a person-centred counsellor based near Lincoln. She has a special interest in clients with anxiety, depression and low self-esteem.… Read more

Written by Caroline Brown, Reg. MBACP, Individuals and Couples

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