Mending Family Bridges

Originally published with The Wellspring Collective

Relationships are difficult. Some of the most difficult are family relationships. Within a family are many and diverse personalities, and they do not always get along. Ideally, family members love each and have a responsibility to each other. However, many families are very “clickish”, causing confusion, discord and division that permeates the entire extended family.  Unless the person is a serial killer, “good riddance” is never a term that should be acceptable to a lost family member driven out by his or her own misdeeds, or another’s hate.

To be able to mend bridges, we need to find out what causes bridge burning in the first place. Familial relationship problems usually start with word-of-mouth – gossip. One family member starts talking negatively about another family member and it spreads like wildfire. Those words take on a life of their own, and morph into a completely new dimension as they go along. If not stopped, the injured family member may end up leaving and wanting nothing more to do with the family. It does not matter if what was being said is true or not, it is the way that it was handled that caused the burned bridge. Sometimes, our own actions are the reason. We do something that upsets the family and rather than acknowledge our error and apologize, we leave.

Of the many reasons to drive a relative to burn his family bridges; jealousy is probably number one. He or she may be better looking, smarter, have more money, or a bigger house and better car. You may be angry because your father (who has been divorced a long time) married a younger woman, and you have decided to hate her on general principle. Everybody is talking, and you join in and add your own brand of poison to the mix. You end up driving this person out of the family fold, and she severs all contact with the family. If there are children, they lose all contact with their cousins, aunts and uncles, and that close family connection.

As sad as this is, the real problem is this will not be the only time this will happen. Some families are worse than others are when it comes to preying on the weaker or more vulnerable members. So how do we stop this cycle? How do we mend family bridges? We start by ignoring negative talk about another family member as soon as we hear it. Let the person doing the talking know that their gossiping is wrong and will not be tolerated, and make sure that you do not pass on what you hear. If it is just general gossip, it will burn out quickly if no fuel is added to the fire.

If the talk you hear addresses a serious issue, talk to the family member directly instead of passing along what you heard “through the grapevine”, causing more damage. Find out how you and the rest of the family can help. It is easy to tear a person down, but it is just as easy to build them up, and much more rewarding. There is strength in a family where love and respect abound, and lies and backstabbing are never given a foothold. Never let pride get in the way of seeking out that lost family member, apologizing, and leading them across the mended bridge, and back home.



2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anonymous
    Jun 20, 2013 @ 03:48:53

    This happens to so many families. I wish they would all read this article and fix things.


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