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November 1, 2018

How to Manage Family Relationships

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Relationships come in all sorts of arrangements and the way you relate to your family members may mirror and affect the way you relate to intimate partners. Today, on The Morning Show, Jess addressed viewer questions related to family relationships. Check out the video and summary below.

Charles from Calgary asks…

My brother is so jealous of everything I do and I’m sick of it. He blames me for his situation and is never happy for my successes. Lately, he has even been taking my stories and accomplishments and making it out like they’re his own. Imitation is not the greatest form of flattery IMHO. How can I get through to him?

When a sibling or family member is jealous, it can get irritating, but I want you to consider that your irritation pales in comparison to the way he’s feeling. It’s possible that he’s feeling insecure, unworthy and worried that he doesn’t measure up. Those feelings are much harder to manage than irritation, so can you move from a place of empathy first? Can you remind yourself that his jealousy is his own suffering and he’s probably struggling?

As for blaming you for his situation and lying to seem more like you, first I suggest you consider how your behaviour may reinforce any negative feelings he may have — toward himself and toward you. And then, consider asking him why he holds you responsible and why he’d impersonate you with stories and accomplishments.

And lastly — and no one likes to hear this — when you feel someone is jealous of you, I always suggest that you consider whether or not you’re also jealous of them. Often, jealousy is a two-way street. Don’t laugh it off without really considering if you’re also jealous — perhaps of the way your family treats him or another aspect of his life or personality. If you can open up about your own jealousy, he’s more likely to consider talking about and addressing his jealousy (even if you don’t use the specific word jealousy).

Shawna from PEC asks…

My 40-something sister and brother always get in blowout fights when we get together and they try to force me to pick sides. Thanksgiving was a disaster with shouting and door slamming. I don’t even want to see them at Christmas, but I do want my daughter to see their kids (her cousins), so how can I make sure we don’t have a repeat of Thanksgiving?

The fact that you’re planning for the holidays so far out is great because it gives you time to practically and emotionally prepare for the get-together. And while you’re looking out for your siblings, I hope you’re also looking out for your own emotional health — and providing a space for your daughter to ask questions and express how she feels about the contentious relationship she’s observing.

I usually suggest that when you’re spending extended periods of time with family members with whom you experience tension, it’s helpful to plan activities. Perhaps you plan to toboggan, ice skate, hike, craft, decorate cookies or volunteer together as a way to enjoy shoulder-to-shoulder as opposed to face-to-face time.

This, of course, is a temporary solution and it’s important to remember that you’re not their therapist or mediator. They have to work out their own issues and you don’t have to pick sides. If you’ve ever seen a therapist, perhaps you can suggest that you attend a session with them and acknowledge that you also play a role in the tension; rather than making it all about their conflict, suggest that you’d find it helpful as well.