While nothing is ever entirely one person's fault, if you haven't been feeling particularly close to your mom or dad (or siblings, aunts, uncles, etc.), it could mean you're making mistakes that are driving your family away. Some common bad habits — like calling too often, venting every day, or relying on them for everything — can make it difficult to have a healthy relationship.
Of course, every family is different, so this definitely isn't one-sized-fits-all advice. If your parents are toxic, for example, they might find any excuse to stir up drama — whether you're doing something "wrong" or not. But if you once had a healthy relationship with your family, and things have felt a bit off lately, there are a few things you can do to start feeling close again.
So, let's say you've decided the current state of affairs is somewhat your fault, and you'd like to turn things around. What do you do? "Apologize and commit to change," NYC-based therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW, tells Bustle. "Tell your family your plan for repairing the situation and commit to taking steps to make different decisions."
Perhaps you'll start by calling twice a day, instead of five times. Or trying to solve a problem on your own, before immediately turning to them. Since small changes can make a huge difference when it comes to having a healthier relationship, read on for a few surprising mistakes that may be driving your family away, as well as what to do about it.
1. Calling Them Only To Vent
Most parents love it when their kids call to chat, but it can be a bit much if you do it several times a day — especially if you're just calling to vent. "If you are constantly calling your family when you are stressed or upset and need them to help calm you down, this can get tiring," Hershenson says. They may pull away because they're burnt out, or because they want you to learn how to deal on your own.
2. Asking For Help 24/7
In a similar vein, your family can get burnt out if you rely on them for help with every little thing, 24/7. "If you are relying on family for money, taking care of errands for you, or constantly asking for favors, they may start backing away," Hershenson says. While they'll definitely pitch in and help you if it's necessary, it's important not to take advantage.
3. Being A Little Too Private
There is a flip side to saying too much, however. As family therapist Carrie Krawiec tells me, it is possible to be overly protective of your private information, thus saying too little to family members who would love to get to know you better.
It's also possible to push your fam away when they come to you with news and stories, because you don't want to hear it. While not every family can or should be open and vulnerable in front of each other, opening up and listening can bring you closer together.
4. Making Everything About You
While there may be underlying issues that have caused you to be extra sensitive, getting in the habit of taking things too personally can drive family members away, too. "When we make everything about ourselves we are consistently falling into the role of feeling upset and hurt, and family will eventually pull away to protect themselves," says Colette Lopane-Capella, M.A., LMHC, LPC, in an email to Bustle. "Eventually they may just become fed up."
5. Smothering Them With Love
We've all heard of a smothering parent. But did you know it's possible to smother them right back? "It is great for the love you have for your family to be passionate and unconditional, but there is a difference between loving them and overwhelming them to the point of discomfort," says marriage and parenting expert Nicole Merritt, in an email to Bustle. "I say, smother your burgers, not your family."
6. Keeping Up Those Teenage Ways
Again, it's totally OK to rely on your family when the going gets tough. But do you still act like a kid, despite being well into adulthood? "Your family wants to be there for you, they want to support you, but if you are constantly seeking their advice, asking for favors, asking for money, and asking for help then you send the message that you have not become a responsible adult," says clinical psychologist and host of The Web Radio Show, Dr. Josh Klapow. "You come across as needy, and that will drive them away."
7. Bragging About Your Successes
While this won't happen in every family, some people can be a bit put off by a sibling or child who calls every day to announce their latest achievement. So if you've been accused of bragging about your successes, take note. "Instead of them being happy for you, you are seen as being better than them, and flaunting it," Klapow says. "Be subtle, be gracious, and balance your accomplishments with reinforcement of theirs."
8. Telling Them What To Do
I know, it's so tempting to offer unsolicited advice to parents, or to ring up your siblings and tell them how to live their lives. But Klapow tells me this so-called "caring" habit can actually drive 'em away. It's much better to let your family live their lives, while you live yours — no advice necessary.
9. Trying To Be Different
Hey, if your parents run their lives in a way that doesn't work for you, then it's absolutely OK to do things differently, to disagree, or to change your own life for the better. But Klapow tells me there's a way to do so in a kind way that doesn't start an argument, and that means avoiding throwing their so-called "flaws" in their face or making a big show out of doing things differently. All in name of keeping the peace, you know?
10. Not Respecting (Or Establishing) Any Boundaries
Boundaries are key when it comes to having a healthy relationship with your family as an adult. If you fail to set them up, things can go wrong — especially if you're wishy-washy about the rules.
"As we grow up we need to make a break with our parents," Klapow says. "It is very natural to 'regress' a bit when we are with them... to act somewhat more like a child. However, we need to be clear about what role we want to have with our parents. The more we waiver back and forth — being independent and then asking for money, not being around except when things get tough — then our parents and family don’t know how to treat us." And things can get confusing.
11. Not Making An Effort
You might think family is family, and they'll always be there. But it's way easier to drift apart than you think. If you haven't heard from your fam in awhile, take it upon yourself to call and catch up.
If you can keep a healthy balance between staying close, but maintaining boundaries, and relying on each other while also living your own lives, too, your family will be as close as ever.