'I Hate My Family:' What to Do If You Feel This Way

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Not everyone feels a close connection to their families. In some cases, people may even feel like they hate their families. Because family relationships are often rooted in both shared experiences and shared proximity, it’s little wonder that they can sometimes be fraught.

Joshua Coleman, PhD, a clinical psychologist and author of When Parents Hurt: Compassionate Strategies When You and Your Grown Child Don't Get Along suggests that because society is so focused on forgiveness, disliking or being estranged from your family can lead to feelings of guilt and shame.

So what should you do if you hate your family? Coping with these difficult emotions may involve working on mending the broken relationships, or it may require setting and enforcing boundaries with people in your family.

Causes

The factors that lead a person to hate their family or members of their family can vary. Toxic behaviors, abuse, neglect, or conflict are just a few factors that can lead to feelings of animosity. Finding ways to better understand the causes for such feelings can help you better cope with the situation.

In a 2015 survey of UK adults who were estranged from their parents, some of the most common causes for the split include:

  • Emotional abuse
  • Neglect
  • Conflicting values or personalities
  • Differing expectations about family roles
  • Traumatic family events
  • Issues related to mental health problems

Poor Attachments

Attachment styles typically fall into one of four types. During childhood, it is important to develop a secure attachment to caregivers because it allows us to feel safe, loved, and secure about our place in the world.

But people don't always form healthy attachments to their caregivers. Instead, they may form attachments that are marked by anxiety/ambivalence, avoidance, or disorganization:

  • If your caregivers were inconsistent, you may develop an anxious/ambivalent style characterized by lack of trust, high anxiety, and poor interpersonal relationships.
  • If your parents were rejecting or dismissive, you may develop an avoidant attachment style. This can make it hard to form intimate relationships with others as an adult.
  • If your caregivers were wildly inconsistent, often alternating between being affectionate and abusive, you may develop a disorganized attachment style. This can make it hard to manage your emotions, form relationships, and feel empathy for those around you. 

Abuse or Neglect

Hatred can also arise due to abuse or neglect that you have experienced. It may lead you to hate the individual who perpetrated the abuse, but you may dislike or resent the other members of your family who either participated or acted as bystanders.

Even if other members of the family were acting out of fear or a sense of self-preservation, it can still lead to feelings of anger and tension. 

Poor Boundaries

Anger and hatred can also stem from a lack of appropriate boundaries in relationships with your family. Examples of poor boundaries in family relationships include:

  • Not treating family members as individuals
  • Not respecting the privacy of family members
  • Using manipulation or guilt-trips to control behavior
  • Disregarding feelings or emotions
  • Unreasonable demands
  • Excessive control
  • Constant comparison or criticism

Everyone has a right to their own boundaries. They are important for your own mental health and help you define what you are comfortable with, how you want to be treated by other people, and what you are willing to accept in a relationship.

Coleman notes that conflict and feelings of dislike sometimes emerge because parents sometimes rely on their children for their social needs. Rather than spending time with their spouse or friends, parents expect high levels of engagement and intimacy from their adult kids, which can conflict with an individual’s boundaries, privacy, and independence.

Differing Values

People may also develop feelings of anger or resentment when they have very different values or goals than those of their family members. These disagreements might settle on politics or religion, but they might also involve things like how you choose to spend your time, who you have relationships with, how you parent your own children, or even how you spend your money.

You may find yourself disliking family members who are not accepting or supportive of your life and your choices.

Signs of Toxic Family Relationships

When you have toxic relationships with people in your family, it can leave you feeling physically, emotionally, or psychologically threatened. Toxic family members are often at the root of poor relationships, so it isn't surprising that they might cause you to dislike or hate them.

Learning to recognize the signs of toxic relationships may help to better understand your reasons for not liking your family. Toxic people tend to leave you feeling:

  • Disrespected: You feel that family members do not respect your needs.
  • Exploited: Toxic family members often have high expectations yet do not return the favor.
  • Unsupported: These relationships leave you feeling like the people who are closest to you don’t know the real you and aren’t willing to have your back when you need them.
  • Misunderstood: Toxic people make little effort to understand you as an individual.
  • Negative: These people often bring out your worst qualities and leave you feeling negative about others or the world in general.
  • Blamed: When things don’t go as planned, toxic family members may heap the blame on you and refuse to take responsibility for their own actions.

Pay attention to how these behaviors make you feel and when they happen most often. Learning to recognize them can help you look for ways to cope.

How to Cope

How can you cope with these feelings? It can be particularly challenging to deal with the situation when you live with or have close contact with family members that you dislike.

Whether you still live with your family or if you have limited contact, finding ways to protect your space and mental well-being is essential.

Acknowledge Your Feelings

Work on accepting how you feel without judging yourself for the emotions you are experiencing. You cannot choose your family. Don't blame yourself for not feeling close to people that you do not like. Instead, work on practicing self-acceptance and then determine what you can do to either manage these feelings or improve the relationships that are making you unhappy.

Finding ways to accept your feelings in a non-judgemental way can be helpful. Accepting your emotions means allowing yourself to feel things without trying to stifle or hide the emotion, even when it is difficult or painful. By accepting emotions, you're able to find healthier ways of coping with them and lessen the anxiety, stress, fear, and sadness that often accompanies such feelings.

Consider strategies such as self-acceptance, emotional validation, mindfulness, and meditation. Therapy can also be very useful for exploring your feelings.

Decide How to Proceed

Not every relationship is salvageable or even worth preserving. There are times when a family member's treatment can be directly harmful, such as in cases where abuse is involved or where a family member is hateful toward you or other loved ones due to sexual orientation, race, or religion. In these cases, it is often essential to temporarily or permanently cut ties with that individual.

If you are still living with your family, this step often requires planning and practical considerations. Finances, housing, moving, and other factors are all things you will need to plan for if you want to create a physical separation and gain greater privacy and independence.

Mend Relationships

Healing unhealthy relationships with family members is also an option. This is a step you may take if the relationship is important to you and you feel that trust, communication, and positive feelings can be reestablished. 

This is a step that requires the participation of all of the people who are involved. Don’t allow yourself to feel pressured to bury your feelings or reconcile with people if you are not ready. 

According to research by Stand Alone, a UK organization that supports adults who are estranged from their families, having time to process painful emotions is essential. Rather than pressuring people who may be estranged, it is perhaps best to let them have the time and space to heal before attempting a reconciliation.

If you are interested in feeling better about your relationships with your family members, consider asking them to try family therapy. By working with a therapist, you may be able to improve communication and gain insight that may help you feel better about your relationship with them.

Establish Boundaries

Having a clear boundary with family members who are causing you stress or discontent can help you better exist as an individual within your family unit. 

Setting boundaries with family can be difficult, however, because it is from our families where we typically learn these limits. It can be hard to recognize an unhealthy boundary if that is all that you have ever known.

Love Is Respect, a national resource that focuses on preventing unhealthy relationships and reducing intimate partner violence explains that paying attention to how you feel in different situations can help you learn more about your boundaries.

If you want to maintain a relationship with family members, set limits on these interactions when possible. For example, you might choose to spend time with them once or twice a month. If certain topics are creating conflicts with your family, make it clear that those subjects are off-limits during your interactions.

Establishing these boundaries can help you feel more empowered and in control of your relationship with your family.

Maintain Your Privacy

Tactics such as detaching yourself from the situation or intentionally keeping details about your life private may help. If family members pry into your life or use things they learn against you, look for ways to change the subject when certain topics come up. When necessary, be direct and simply state that you'd prefer not to talk about the topic.

Make Peace With Your Choice

Every situation is different, but in some cases, you might decide to end your relationship with family members. This is a highly personal decision and is often best made if you have had some time and distance to get some perspective on your experiences. 

Research suggests that family estrangement is not uncommon. In one study, 43.5% of participants reported being estranged from at least one member of their extended family. Nearly 17% were estranged from a member of their immediate family.h

Talking to a friend may be helpful, but you might also consider discussing your feelings with a mental health professional. A therapist can help you evaluate the factors that have led you to this step and then offer advice about how to best proceed.

Research suggests that reconciling after an estrangement can be particularly difficult, particularly for adult children estranged from their parents. Between 50% and 60% of adult children estranged from a parent suggested that they could never have a functional relationship in the future.

While cutting ties can be stressful, research suggests that there can be positive effects as well. One study found that 80% of people who had ended a relationship with a family felt that it had a positive impact on their life, including greater feelings of strength and independence.

A Word From Verywell

Feeling like you don't like your family can be an extremely difficult emotion to handle. If you feel this way, developing social connections outside of your family can help you find a healthier support system and gain perspective and distance from toxic family members.

Strategies such as distancing yourself from the situation, setting boundaries, or working to mend unhealthy relationships may be beneficial for your mental well-being. If a relationship is doing more harm than good, then it is often a good idea to significantly reduce or completely cut off contact with the other person or people. 

If you are experiencing emotional distress, anxiety, depression, or other symptoms as a result of your dislike for your family, reach out to a professional for help. You might start by talking to a mental health professional who can help. Online therapy can also be a helpful option that you might want to consider.

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Article Sources
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  2. University of Cambridge Centre for Family Research, Stand Alone. Hidden Voices: Family Estrangement in Adulthood. 2015.

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  8. Love Is Respect. What are my boundaries?

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