A friend asked me to give him some advice about getting along with his family.
He wrote: “I am going through a difficult time right now. It seems everything around me has a negative air. My parents have fought continually since I was a child, and it has always pained me.
“I just graduated and am living at home. There is a lot of negative air in the house. My mother is a really hard person to live with, but I know she can be a caring person, too. It seems I can’t go a minute without arguing with her. How can I begin to love her, and maybe even help her?”
I wrote to my friend:
Having grown up in a home where your parents were always fighting, it’s not surprising that you ‘can’t go a minute without arguing.’
It seems the issue now isn’t with your mother, but you. Before you can help her, you may need to gain some clarity in yourself.
When you were in college, did you get along well with others? Were you able to make connections? Or were your friendships superficial? In other words, outside of your family, what kind of interpersonal skills do you have?
Much of our understanding of how we should relate to people is formed by the atmosphere in our family home. It seems the influences you grew up with aren’t something you want to carry forward.
Perhaps this is a good time to find out who you really are, what you believe, and why you respond the way you do.
Even though you aren’t pleased with the fighting that surrounded you as a child, you are now perpetuating a “fighting attitude” in your relationship with your mother.
It will take a lot of energy to change these patterns. Living at home, where your early habits were set, will make it more difficult. But it will also make the need more urgent to you.
Perhaps now is a good time to get some counseling. There are also many books on relationships. But most of all, pray to God that He guide you. In your prayer, see what God brings to help you. Just start anywhere and see what doors open.
This could be a bigger project than you realize. It will be a big job to become aware of how your childhood affected you, and to choose the responses you want to set in motion for the future. But there is nothing more important for you at this time.
Meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises will be helpful, as they will help you stay more calm and centered. But I suspect that those practices will have to be supported by serious introspection and guidance from someone who can be more objective than you are.