How to mend a family feud

All families disagree from time to time, but sometimes small arguments can turn into full on family feuds. Don't let good relationships disappear -- follow our expert tips to mend a family feud.

What causes a family feud?
Photography by Parker Knight, via Flickr Creative Commons
Every family has its differences. Siblings squabble, children argue with parents (regardless of their ages), and aunts, uncles and cousins sometimes get involved. More often than not, everyone puts aside their issues and moves on. But, unfortunately, some families find themselves in all-out feuds. This can mean anything from constant fighting to cutting off contact with family members. Regardless of the type of feud or reasons behind it, many people eventually find they want to reconcile their differences.

Marion Goertz, a registered marriage and family therapist in Toronto, says it takes a commitment of time, energy, courage and resources to work through a family feud. She warns the process can "feel profoundly painful and intense as the barriers and bandages are removed and the wound is exposed to fresh air and new perspectives." But, she says, it is possible to repair damaged relationships.

What causes family feuds
According to Goertz, many family feuds come to a head over disagreements but may be about other underlying issues. They may be rooted in past wrongs or built-up frustrations that have occurred over many years. Quite often, a breaking point will coincide with a major life event or stressor; for example, a birth, death, marriage or divorce. "While [the fight] may appear to be over something that seems trivial to an outside observer, the wounds, abandonment and betrayal can run deep, coming to the surface in sometimes startling and unexpected ways," says Goertz.

Feuds may occur between two people or may force a number of family members to choose sides. They can also cause feelings of sadness, fear, abandonment and betrayal, as well as anger, rage, hatred and frustration.

How to mend broken relationships
It's important to recognize that everyone involved may see the problem and the steps to reconciliation differently, so approach reparations cautiously. Goertz suggests first meeting in a neutral space. Be flexible to plan for the next steps toward a more healthy and happy relationship, she says.

Page 1 of 2 -- Learn how to repair damaged family relationships on page 2

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