Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Ask Wednesday: Ask Susan

How can someone who has withdrawn from a family be drawn back into it?

By Susan C. Price

[Questions are followed by answers and then, inevitably by DID expect that...didn’t you?]

I know of several members of families who have isolated themselves from the rest of the family and seemed to become cold and hard toward other family members. I don’t know why the individuals withdrew, as no one seems to want to talk about whatever is at the root of their problems. (I am not one to pry.) But how do other members of a family deal with someone who has withdrawn? Of course, they can just let the person be. But if they’d like to try to draw him or her back “into the fold,” how might they go about it? –Jan

Dear Jan:
    So sorry, this can be quite painful and…awkward and complicated. So, no one knows what the problem is and the isolating ones aren’t telling. This seems not to be YOUR situation, but I will pretend it is. Much easier on the grammar.
    I suspect this is the time for all members of the family to treat all members of the family the same: very, very well and with great kindness and gentleness. As they ALWAYS do, right?
    If there is news to share, share it equally, happy and sad. If there is a gathering, invite all. Be the way you wish others to be in the family.
    It might also be appropriate for anyone in the family who is concerned, to say directly to the isolating ones…via voice on phone or voicemail (written poses too many problems) that you sense something is wrong and you are concerned about them (not about yourself or others in the family) and ask if there is anything YOU can do, or do differently to help. Very generic.
    Then you have to let them be, and let time help. It often can. If some are choosing to be “gone” from the family...their choice cannot be undone by others. Continue to reach out without blame. Sometimes folks grow, or their view changes...or...they realize they need you.

[We would really like more questions to answer, so send ’em in….]
Copyright © 2014 by Susan C. Price

Comment box is located below


  1. Thank you, Susan, for your usual thoughtful, level-headed advice!

  2. While I mostly agree with this, I think it runs much deeper. Given the indoctrinated disposition of many Americans (be it Religious, Political or something else) it starts with the individual. It begins with being open minded and realizing not everyone is going to appropriate their lifestyle, views or opinions around your indoctrination.

    Too often we're so blinded by these instilled views that we cannot step outside of our own pretentious positioning and realize these individuals feel ostracized because they may not share the collective view/religious beliefs, lifestyle choices etc of the family. They are unable to find joy in the gatherings or banter shared there-in. They cannot voice their opinions because of fear of ridicule or judgment.

    I'll agree that time helps alot. But time does not heal ignorance and prejudice. Only when we decide to become more open minded, stand a tad more objectively and stop thinking that "our way is the right way" only then can we reach our withdrawn friends, or family members. Instead of looking for the "problem" with them, look for the problem with you (or the collective family)

    1. I see what you're saying. Sometimes an individual in a family who finds that his or her views or values have somehow gravitated far away from the family's norm just can't abide the family anymore, maybe even after some attempts to find openings and reconciliations. In such cases, maybe it's some of the other family members who need to grow, or their views changes...or...them to realize they need the one who has withdrawn because he or she feels so different.

  3. When I I said "Instead of looking for the problem with THEM" thats exactly what I meant. Speaking from the PoV of the family and paying credence to the fact that more often than not, that is where the problem lay. With-in the family.

    1. Right! It depends on who "you" and "they" are—on the point of view. And I suspect that success in reconciliation, or at least in just getting along, depends on the individuals' abilities to assume other people's point of view for a while and see things through their eyes. That isn't easy (or maybe even possible) to do for someone who thinks that things can be only one way. And maybe not easy even when you do realize that there are alternative ways to see things.

  4. soo, gentlepersons..each person, in the family,,,needs to behave nice..listen twice as much as you talk...s why we have two ears and only one mouth, and DONT JUDGE ..right? dont ever assume that your "way" is the ONLY way..i bet that's a real challenge for some of us