How to Navigate Life with Demanding Family Members

All families face personality clashes, strain, and conflict from time to time. If someone in your family is demanding or difficult to interact with, their behavior makes interactions tough for everyone. A demanding parent, grandparent, aunt, or uncle can put a significant strain on a married couple’s relationship if the couple doesn’t have a game plan for navigating that relative’s demands.

Demanding family members can create unnecessary drama for everyone–something most people want to avoid. Planning a calm, loving response to neutralize stress is important so that you, your spouse, and the rest of your family can enjoy a healthy, thriving relationship.

Wondering how to cope with a demanding family member? Read on.

Make a game plan ahead of time.

If you know you’re going to be dealing with demanding family members, it’s wise to put your heads together and make a game plan ahead of time. Here are a few things you should decide:

  • How are you going to address this relative’s demands?
  • What position will you each take in order to keep the situation as calm as possible?
  • How do you need to respond to them if they create tension between you and your spouse, or within the family?

Be a united front.

No matter what, you and your spouse need to present a united front when dealing with demanding family members. When spouses aren’t united, it’s easy for a third party to slip in and triangulate the relationship or a specific situation. Keep communication with your spouse wide open. Talk to one another if or when this family member approaches you with requests.

Be non-committal when this relative begins making demands or becomes forceful with you. Here are a few things you can say to neutralize the conversation:

  • “Thanks for the idea; we’ll think about it.”
  • “I’m not sure what we’re going to be doing yet, but thank you for the suggestion.”
  • “I appreciate your concern. We agreed we won’t be making a decision until we discuss it together first.”

Be flexible where you can.

Are there particular requests or preferences that your relative is invested in, but you are not? Is there something you can comfortably give in to, in order to keep the situation peaceful? Can you present options to them, rather than a hard yes-or-no answer?

Your demanding relative may simply want to feel more involved in family decisions, events, or celebrations. If there’s a way you can get them involved without necessarily handing over control, think about what that might look like. Are there elements you can compromise on? Is there a win-win situation you can create that will make them happier?

Remember, you can’t make everyone happy.

Emotions tend to run high when it comes to family decisions and events, particularly among individuals who are demanding or have high expectations. Most people are invested in maintaining and cultivating happy emotions and feelings of joy, so it’s distressing for a member of the family to be unhappy.

Talk to your family member together if possible, and let them know what your expectations are for smoother interactions. It’s important to do this in a loving way, with patience and grace. Consider how Jesus might respond to the situation you’re in, and let those answers inform your next steps.

Love Like That, is a great guide to loving like Jesus did. Whether you want to show greater love to your family, friends, coworkers, or strangers, this book will help point you in the right direction. Get your copy here.

Do you have family members who make unreasonable or excessive demands? How do you navigate the situation as a united front? Let us know in the comments.

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