What Is A Broken Family Relationship & How To Fix It

By Jessica Anderson|Updated June 22, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Lauren Guilbeault, LMHC
”Within a family, empathy is of utmost importance. Many times members of a family hurt each other not out of deliberate enmity but due to not understanding their loved one’s point of view. You can heal these previous family ‘hurts’ with help from a counseling professional.” - Aaron Dutil, LPC

The idea of a family is one that always sticks together regardless of the situation, but that is hardly true in practice. Families are going to have disagreements, fights and even become estranged.

We are family members, but we are individuals, too. Sometimes, our beliefs divide us. Other times, our personalities don’t line up, and we have a conflict because of that. Sometimes, our family member does something we just don’t like. Other times, you may have been pulled away from a family member as a child, and now want to reconnect with them now that you are older.

Then, there are times where nothing bad happened, but you just drifted apart from certain family members, and now want to rekindle that old relationship you used to have.

Estrangement happens all the time, and for various reasons. Sometimes, all it takes is an apology to make things right. Other times, it takes more effort to repair a relationship. Sometimes, the relationship may not be repairable, or it may require too much effort to repair.

In this post, we’ll talk about why broken family relationships happen and what you can do to fix them.

What Causes Estrangement?

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There are many reasons why a family member may become estranged from you. Here are some of the top reasons:

  • Differing beliefs: In a perfect world, we would respect one another’s beliefs, but that’s hard in practice. For example, if your parents are extremely religious and you’re not, it may cause divide. This is especially true if that person’s religion causes them to not communicate with non-believers. It’s also true if the parent keeps wanting the child to be a part of the religion, and they choose to not respect the child’s right to disagree.
  • Abuse: This is one of the most understandable reasons why someone would separate from a family member. If the parent is abusive, the child will likely want to stay away, especially when they grow out of the parent’s care.
  • Disagreements about one’s spouse: If a family doesn’t support their relative’s marriage, that relative may choose to create a healthier life with their spouse by distancing themselves from their unsupportive family.
  • Overbearing grandparents: If a grandparent is overbearing in advice or action while their child raises their own children, they may feel that space from the grandparent is necessary.
  • One person refuses to apologize: Family disputes can cause trouble at varying levels, the largest being estrangement. This is fairly common with actions that one relative considers wrong, while the other refuses to apologize or even acknowledge the wrongdoing.
  • Some people just drift apart: After long stretches of time apart, it can be hard to reform the lost connection.
  • Boundary Crossing: Every person has boundaries. When these are firmly established and a relative continues to cross it or threatens to cross it, estrangement can occur.

Should You Repair a Relationship With Your Family?

You are not obligated to have a relationship with a family member just because they’re your family. In some situations, they are irredeemable, and it’s best that you stay away. You wouldn’t repair a relationship with a lover who did you wrong, so why would you repair a relationship with an abusive family member?

However, there are some cases where time has healed the wounds, or your family member is a good person, but you two just had a disagreement. Here are a few signs that you should consider repairing a relationship.

  • Time has healed some of the wounds, and made you think more objectively about the situation. In the past, you may have become emotional when you severed all ties with your family member or vice versa, and time has allowed you to look back and wonder if you should speak to them again.
  • You have fond memories of them that outweigh the bad. While nostalgia can be blinding, good memories shouldn’t be tossed. Perhaps, you even want to make new memories.If this is true, reaching out to your relative can be a good idea.
  • You are willing to forgive the family member for what they did. Forgiveness can make the other family member feel comfortable with talking to you, but you need to make sure your forgiveness is genuine. When your forgiveness is genuine, the repaired relationship will be able to be meaningful as well.
  • The family member is in poor health. If your estranged family member is ill or nearing the end of life, you may feel better if you repair the relationship before your chance has been lost. This can be challenging since a time restraint may be in place, but if you feel you will regret not reaching out to them in the future, it can be an important task.
  • You have put yourself in the shoes of the other family member. There are times when the opposing family member is completely in the wrong, but there are other times when you aren’t so innocent, either. Sometimes, you may have done something wrong as well or may have entirely been in the wrong. It’s hard to admit that you were at fault as well, but if you were, admitting it is okay and a sign of a strong person.

These are just a few factors to consider, but ultimately, it’s up to you to decide. Do not feel like you have to repair the relationship if you aren’t ready. If you feel like it’s time, feel free to begin seeing your relatives again.

How To Repair A Relationship

There is not one right solution that fits all relationship challenges. However, you may be in search of some advice to get yourself started. We’ve gathered a few tips for you below:

Be Realistic

When you reach out to reconnect, try not to make assumptions, whether good or bad, about how the meeting will feel. Remember that you are doing your part by reaching out when you feel ready, and that you will not lose anything by trying.

Try A Letter

Letters are personal and heartfelt. They show that instead of sending a text message or email, you took the time necessary to sit down and put your feelings down with a pen and paper. They also give your relative some time to really consider your request and plan out their response, as their answer is not required as quickly as that of an electronic message.

Start Slow

When you’re trying to reconnect, try not to jump right into the difficult conversations. Consider saying “Hello,” and simply catching up on life beforehand.

Meet Publicly

To avoid conflict, try to meet on neutral grounds. A public meeting place can bring about lighter conversation, so the two of you can get to know each other once again without immediate arguments arising.

Think About How You Want To Handle The Past

Before you meet, consider how you feel about the events that have happened in the past. You may need to discuss them for closure, or you may feel the desire to put them in the past to build a healthy relationship in the present time. Make these choices before you reconnect, so you know what to expect and how to move forward with the relationship.

Set Boundaries

Boundaries are important in every relationship. If you do not want to speak of a certain topic, such as religion, create a line right away that both parties promise not to cross. You may also consider setting boundaries to protect yourself, and make sure you are not hurt again (if you were in the past).

Seek Counseling

Looking For Ways To Heal Broken Family Relationships?

If you are still having trouble reconnecting with your family member after several attempts, you may feel it is not worth the effort. However, it is likely that you could make progress in your relationship if you had a neutral third-party guiding you along the way. A great way to move forward is with a family therapist.

Going to a therapist means that you’re willing to repair the relationship, and want a professional to repair it in the best way possible. It shows that you are truly committed to letting your estranged relative back into your life, even if past efforts have not gone so well.

Studies show that family therapy is actually the most successful tool in resolving family challenges. A therapist can look into your relationship and your past from an outside view, and provide you with both the ability to talk to each other in a calm setting, as well as a guided discussion that leads toward conflict resolution.

If you have a busy schedule, or if it would be difficult for you to attend in-person counseling with your family member, consider an online option. ReGain has mental health professionals who can speak to you from the comfort and privacy of your own home (or wherever you have an internet connection). Below are some reviews of ReGain counselors for you to review, from people experiencing similar issues.

Counselor Reviews

“Yumi is amazing and a perfect fit for us. Just having one video session help our family so much in so many ways. He responses are on point and we value it greatly. I can’t thank her enough for all she has continued to do to strengthen our family. I would recommend her to the world that’s how amazing she is.”

“I had left my family when I contacted Regain with the hope of salvaging a completely broken down relationship. Bradley was allocated to us. Bradley made one step at a time, said the right things at the right time and just seemed to get in tune with us to understand what was required in order to help resolve our relationship. He worked with us about once a week at the start then going more to once every ten days in the latter part of the counseling for about six months. We have managed to resolve our differences and are looking forward to a prosperous future in a healthy relationship. Bradley has given us the tools required to make sure we can quickly identify and know how to resolve any problems arising in the future. We couldn’t recommend him more. Thank you so much, Bradly and ReGain!”


Having a broken family relationship can be so challenging. However, help is available. Whether you would like to mend the relationship that is causing trouble in your life, or you would like help moving forward without this family member, a mental health professional can provide you with an unbiased ear and the support you need. Remember that you are strong enough to move forward, and that seeking help will allow you to grow toward a happier, healthier life.

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