Families can be great and supportive, but they can also be divided by grudges and estrangements—lo mejor o lo peor. It doesn’t help when your mom or tías like to turn even the smallest discussion into a pelea. If I had a quarter for every time I’ve had to say, “¡tranquila, tía!,” I would be a wealthy woman. I can usually get relationships back on track when things get messy, but sometimes it takes a deal with the diablo. Before resorting to drastic measures, keep in mind that it’s still possible to prevent that little squabble from triggering long-lasting animosity. Here are five tips for defusing family feuds.
Keep talking. If you’ve had a blowout that has caused anger and bad feelings between you and another family member, the first reaction may be to totally cut them out of your life. Usually I’m so enraged after a fight that I end up blurting out, “I NEVER WANT TO SPEAK TO YOU AGAIN!” Then I remind myself that ending the relationship is not the answer, and that it’s just going to be awkward at Christmas when I have to worry about everyone gossiping over whether or not we’re still fighting. So try to channel your inner Ke$ha—throw glitter, not shade. Be cordial when you see the other person and try to maintain contact. Try to be sincere about it, as hard as it may be.
Reach out. If there has been a feud between you and the other family member for awhile, step up and try to end it. This could be a one on one meeting or a discussion at your next family or social function. If you’re like me, you might want to make sure that you’re somewhere that makes stiff drinks in case things start to head farther south. And if you’re planning to bring along other friends or family members, make sure that they are going to be neutral influences. Otherwise things could start to look like a Real Housewives reunion episode before you know it. Making the first move is usually the last thing you want to do, but somebody has to do it!
Keep the door open. Even if you’ve started to refer to Belinda as your ex-cousin, don’t give up hope that you can’t eventually fix things. Sometimes it just takes a few quinceañeras for the tension of the feud to thaw. When I see the kids developing friendships and starting to play together, it’s hard to refuse to be in the same room as Belinda. The last thing I want is for my kids to grow up with another generation of dramatic tías.
Use all available means of communication. When I say this, I don’t mean that you should be desperate and start Facebook or Twitter shaming others. Experiment with different means of communication to try to ease the grudge, but keep it private or semi-private—a text, group text with mutual friends, or casual email every few months could be the exact remedio that you need to solve the feud. Maybe keep in touch with birthday or Christmas cards. Though don’t make anyone jealous by sending that pic from your last getaway to Cabo where you showed off the new bikini line…. I’m totes not guilty of that.
Pick your battles. If only I had learned this a few years earlier, I could have prevented the word “ex-friend” from creeping into my vocabulary. I’m the kind of person who likes to talk about the issue head on and resolve it, but not everyone deals so well with this kind of direct confrontation. Thinking back to when I was road tripping with my cousin during our twenties, I realized that she wasn’t such a fan of us shouting at each other until we were blue in the face whenever tension popped up. I told her that for me, the closest family members are those I’ve gotten into screaming matches with. And she told me that maybe talking civilly and mixing in some meditation might be a better way to resolve the situation. I think we’re both better off from it. Not everything feud is worth turning into a telenovela scene.
While I still have some work to do, I’ve started to cut down the shade and slowly eliminate the words “ex-friend” and “ex-cousin” from my social dictionary. We hope these tips work for you too to help resolve your feuds!