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Are You Fighting With Your Family?

Updated: Oct 29, 2021

Are you having a hard time understanding, cherishing, and appreciating your family members? Together we can find out and come to see the situation from the viewpoint of others in your family. If you are fighting with your family you might consider family therapy. Family therapy does not consist of “fixing” the “problem” person so everyone else can feel better. Instead it's a way of learning how to interact more harmoniously, healthily, and productively. Family problems take the whole family to create, and to resolve.

What Happens in Family Therapy?

Family therapy is somewhat different from individual therapy. It is more dynamic, interactive and collaborative. Sometimes you might feel anxious about participating, but fear not! No one gets put in the “hot seat” and no one is singly responsible for problems that happen in relationships. I assist you and your family members in figuring out what is going on, where the problems originated, and how to create stronger bonds so that when disagreements occur, you can all discuss it in a productive and helpful way. When you're fighting with your family, that can feel very calming and reassuring.

Woman fighting with a male family member
Are you having arguments with your loved ones?

Family Fighting that's Over the Line

Sometimes when you're fighting with your family members, there is not going to be a successful resolution in that moment, for a variety of reasons. For example, people who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol cannot be expected to make sense while they're drunk or high. Therefore, talking to or arguing with a person who is intoxicated is an exercise in futility. The person's memory of that incident/conversation gets erased by the effects of the drugs or distorted by the drugs. If possible, wait for a time to talk when all parties are not intoxicated.

One thing to consider in your relationships is whether toxic fighting is going on. This type of fighting doesn’t help anyone – in fact, it hurts much more than it helps. It is characterized by the following:

o Threats and violence. When people throw things, break belongings, threaten to hurt, or physically hurt the other person (or pets or living things), no one is safe. This can create traumatic bonding within the family, which can make it hard to do what's safest and best for all parties involved. If you are committing the violence, you need to get help to stop the violence, such as anger management or trauma therapy. If you are the recipient of the violence, it is unsafe for you and you are being traumatized on a regular basis.

If children are present it is traumatizing to them as well. Things are so out of control that a reasonable, productive conversation cannot take place.

If you are in a relationship with someone who does this, or you do it yourself, you need to contact an agency that helps with domestic violence. Here are some local resources:

o For survivors of domestic violence: Call the Antelope Valley Domestic Violence Council, 24 hrs a day, at 661-273-8255. They have comprehensive services including a shelter, outreach programs, and low-cost counseling. Also, the National Hotline is 800-799-SAFE (7233). They have many services as well they can refer you to. If you need a shelter in the area and are not sure if there’s space available, please call 211 and they will let you know which shelters have space that day. Please get help immediately. It won’t get better on its own!

o For people who have used physical force against their loved ones: The High Road Program in Lancaster, at 44382 Date Avenue. They have a program for both court-referred and non-court-referred people including education, individual and group counseling. They can be reached at 661-942-2241.

Asian man ready to fight
When the fists come out during a family discussion, game over!

o Insults, slights and put-downs. People call each other names, swear at each other, and insult each other’s intelligence or character. A friend of mine once called this “character assassination” and that’s a good way to describe it. It’s verbal violence against another. People get upset and angry – I get that. But name-calling is beneath you, and it needs to stop.

o The Blame Game. When tempers get hot, and egos get threatened, it can be very tempting to see the problem as completely the other person’s fault. (The exception to this is when one person physically hurts the other person without any need for self-defense). We sometimes lose perspective and need to be completely right in order to still like and respect ourselves.

The problem is, it rarely is 100% one person’s fault. There are often things that we can take responsibility for in an argument or disagreement, and it’s important and helpful to do that whenever possible. No one wants to be the bad guy all the time, and there are usually things both partners and other family members can do to help make the situation better, once they see their part in the problem.

Man hitting boy; photo by Jakayla Toney

o Stonewalling. Taking a break when you recognize that you’re too upset to talk is a good idea, but there are some folks who can’t handle conflict at all, and basically stick their heads in the sand like ostriches when disagreements arise.