8 Ways to Stay Stuck and 8 Ways to Move Forward in Family Relationships

I’ve come to learn that most of us whirling about on planet earth don’t acknowledge the impact that anxiety, worry and frustration have on our ability to make continuous progress in our endeavors to build healthier habits around food, fitness, tranquility, an empowered mindset and our spiritual practices.

We get off track in our food habits or exercise regimen or meditation practice, etc. and we just chalk it up to being busy, life happens, stress and overwhelm are the norm, or we’re simply lacking willpower.

What if one of the main drivers (what’s really going on) is we’re dealing with an internal battle that’s causing us to have sleepless nights and disrupt our mood and ability to focus, all because of one or more family relationships that aren’t going as planned or desired?

What would happen in those relationships if we were courageous, willing to stay true to ourselves, trust our gut instincts and speak up with our authentic voice (you know, accept or rejection the invitation and/or say the thing you actually want to say…with kindness of course, but firmly and without apology or justification)?

Wouldn’t family relationships be so much easier to navigate?

Gone would be the “suck it up buttercup” and “just deal with it” or “what can you do, that’s just how he/she is” thoughts we hold, and the corresponding behaviors where we abandon what’s healthy for ourselves and instead listen to the misguided voice in our heads that say things like “hey, ungrateful…yeah you…good people say yes and just do it, it’s family after all!”

Even when everything in you screams NO, don’t do it, you ignore your inner wisdom.

Can you relate?

So the really big question, why do we go against ourselves in the name of family?

There are a number of reasons why, but the most common and most deeply rooted in my opinion are the beliefs we were taught and that we still hold about what our roles and responsibilities are as a family member.

Think for a minute the types of slogans you heard growing up that you still believe:
--Family first
--Blood is thicker than water
--I smile because you’re my sister, I laugh because there’s nothing you can do about it (for sister, insert any family member and it still applies)
--You can always count on family
--Friends come and go, family is forever
--If momma says it’s good enough, then it’s good enough for me

What if all of this is bull$h*!?

Ask your adult self, are the beliefs you hold helpful or harmful when it comes to your most difficult family relationships? If you had the courage to change them, how much better would your life be?

Let me flesh some of this in by way of example.

This past weekend we celebrated Mother’s Day in the good ‘ol USA. Momma’s and apple pie – what a wholesome recipe for a blissful day eh? What could go wrong?


Mother’s Day can be quite stressful for many. There is a lot of hype and expectations tied to it and often the undercurrent of conflict and tension that has been brewing between mother and children comes to the surface on this day.

Even when you, as the adult child, can anticipate there’s going to be challenges or tension or even a battle royale for the ages…more often than not you still go through with the “traditional plan” to spend time with mom and the predictable negative outcome results.

I faced this possibility this past weekend. My relationship with my mother has changed dramatically since I got married nearly 5 years ago. With marriage, lots of things changed in my life, including the amount of time I had available to spend with my mother and my tolerance for her less attractive behaviors that I used to simply brush off and allow under the catch all “that’s just how it goes; how she is.”

I couldn’t recognize years ago (pre-marriage) that allowing the behaviors that I instinctively didn’t like or felt manipulated by or obligated to put up with were a problem. I guess in many ways, they worked for me, and her, because it didn’t require us to change. Instead, we just had periodic dust ups and arguments, followed by apologies and making up…wash, rinse, repeat.

Back then, I had a ton of excuses for why I didn’t speak up and say how I really felt, when I felt I was being manipulated or treated unfairly, and it came down to believing those childhood slogans about what good daughters do for their moms and my fear of being cast aside.

Sometimes I believed my excuses were valid and other times I simply ignored the warning signs my soul was sending me.

A couple years ago, I heard Brendon Burchard, a personal development guru say something like: “avoidance is a great strategy to prevent discomfort, but a guaranteed long-term strategy for suffering.”

BOOM! That hit me hard because I knew it was true.

Avoiding being true in my relationship with my mom, and to myself, cost me.

It cost me most deeply by eroding my self-trust – these last 5 years have been a battle internally filled with doubt and what if’s.

I faced the reality that on hundreds of occasions I turned away from my gut instincts (my soul messengers) and facing that caused me to be disgusted and frustrated with myself.

It cost me by shattering my mental serenity on too many days to count because of fear and worry over an uncertain future in our relationship – would there even be one?

And whoa howdy, the many meltdown crying jags, too many. *Thank you husband and friends for being there for me in those moments when I had the courage to ask for help and let you in*

This is the impact it’s had on me. I can’t say how it impacted my mom because the few attempts I made to have conversations about it didn’t go well, so I gave up trying.

And I’m still moving through this phase. It’s.Not.Over! But I have hope and moving forward in the journey.

This past weekend I was filled with worry and unsure how things would go, yet I was still following through on “the plan.” Luckily, in this roll of the dice, things did go well and there wasn’t any dust up; there also weren’t any direct conversations about what’s been brewing between us.

So upon reflection of these past 5 years, I can see where I got stuck (and still do from time to time) and what I’ve become clear about that will help me move on, evolve and develop a more authentic and healthier relationship with her and myself.

8 ways I got stuck and have made this process so much harder for myself:

  1. Holding on to the hope that things could be as I imagine if I just tried harder
  2. Not being able to let go of the things outside of my control
  3. Unwilling to accept we’re all doing the best we can even when it doesn’t appear that could possibly be the case
  4. Having expectations of how a mom should be
  5. Wavering on behaviors I was willing to accept and tolerate…those pesky boundaries – when you waver, they don’t exist!
  6. Judging myself and condemning myself for not being able to fix the situation (and then judging myself because I was still stuck…still after all this time!)
  7. Letting the fear of abandonment grip me so tightly I felt I would suffocate
  8. Responding defensively as a tactic to elicit what I wanted (hint: backfires)

8 things I know to be true for me right now and are helping me to grow and get stronger (hopefully this list will help others who go through difficult family or other relationships by shortening the time spent being stuck):

  1. I am capable of letting go of things outside of my control and I’m willing to be uncomfortable in that process.
  2. Saying no to requests is just as acceptable as yes, depending on what is best for my mind-body health.I do not need to apologize nor justify my answer.
  3. We really are all doing the best we can within our own reality and our capacity to connect with one another.I trust this to be true.
  4. Life really does unfold how it’s meant to be and I don’t have to understand why; I simply need to trust and keep taking actions that are in alignment with my beliefs and values (the one’s I’ve chosen as an adult that are true for me)
  5. Relationships change over time and that’s ok.Sometimes they end, and that’s ok.Sometimes they end and then resurface later on in a new way, and that’s ok.Holding on to how it used to be when things were good, it’s futile!
  6. Here’s a certainty: some people will not understand me or like me, even a parent, and that’s ok; I like me and that’s all that matters.
  7. I’m open to learning, accepting personal responsibility for my actions and enjoying the journey even when it’s hard or scary and uncertain.
  8. Gratitude is the antidote to fear and regret because it causes me to stay in the present moment rather than the past or the future.When I’m here, right now, I’m safe and all is as it should be, because it is what it is.

We all know that change is a constant in life. We can fight it or embrace it. I now choose to embrace it with gusto because to do otherwise is choosing to struggle and live in fear.

I didn’t come to this conclusion willingly, I was dragged to it. One of my dearest friends ever recently sent me a gift in the form of a magnet with the message “Let Go or Be Dragged”. I look at it everyday and while we joke that I’m not good about letting go, I’m getting better at it and I’m thankful for that.

Let Go or Be Dragged my friends, it really is a choice.

Letting go of beliefs and slogans that don’t work for me or are counter to my internal compass and instincts – while not always easy, it is always rewarding.

I hope this message helps you with any difficult or changing relationships you have in your life now or in the future.

Have a comment? I’d love to hear from you.

Can someone else benefit from reading today’s blog – would you be so kind as to share it with them?

In good health,
Coach Rusti Q

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