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Speak to an accredited and experienced therapist to help you deal with the fact that your family doesn’t care about you. Simply click here to connect with one via BetterHelp.com.
For most people, the idea of “family” is a comforting one. To them, “family” means loving parents and siblings, nurturing grandparents, and lovely extended family members. Basically, individuals who offer care and encouragement as well as guidance and support.
So what about families that don’t care? To those who have experienced the former, such a concept is almost inconceivable. For those who have experienced neglect and abuse from their close relatives, however, this is a painful reality.
What are some signs that your family doesn’t care about you?
If you’re living with family members who don’t care about you, their lack of care – or even downright dislike – can manifest in a number of different ways. These are some of the main ways family members can show how little they give a damn:
1. They ignore you.
You might find that your parents, grandparents, siblings, partner, or children just walk away when you’re talking to them, or ignore whatever it is you have to say. They’ll walk right past you in common space, will leave your texts on “read,” and won’t respond to your emails.
It’s like you are furniture rather than a living, breathing person, and they’ll only interact with you if they’re criticizing you.
2. Your needs and wants are neglected.
This goes far beyond not getting the right smartphone for Christmas. Rather, it’s a situation where things that are important to you are insignificant to them.
Maybe you need a ride to a doctor’s appointment but they forget about it. Or perhaps they won’t bother to leave any food for you to eat when you come home from work or school. You’re left to fend for yourself without any care or courtesy from them.
3. They don’t contact you or make time for you unless they want something.
You won’t hear a word from them until someone needs a couch moved or they want to borrow some money. There’s always something far more important to them than spending any time with you.
Even a five-minute phone call is an inconvenience. There’s a TV show to watch, or a snack that needs to be made, or a leaf on the lawn that needs to be blown away…
Basically, everything else in the world is a higher priority to them than you are, until they need you for something.
4. They consistently let you down.
Maybe they promised to babysit for you so you could have some time to yourself and ghosted you the day of, or didn’t show up for a dinner you prepared for them. Or they consistently forget your birthday.
You might have even the most basic hopes for acknowledgement from these people, but they consistently show you that you don’t matter enough to them to show you even the tiniest scrap of care and affection.
5. The only things they say to you are critical.
If these people speak to you at all, it’s to criticize or insult you somehow.
Maybe they’ll make cutting remarks about your weight or hairstyle, or even your wardrobe choices. If they visit your home, they’ll undoubtedly have something nasty to say about the decor or cleanliness.
Nothing you do is ever good enough for them, and you’ll never get any positive comments. Ever.
You may find yourself bracing every time they open their mouths because you know that something hurtful is going to come out of them.
6. They’ll belittle or humiliate you in front of others for fun.
Toxic family members may take a startling amount of pleasure in putting you down in front of others. Maybe they’ll mention something embarrassing that happened to you when your romantic partner is over for dinner. Or they’ll discuss private things going on in your life when you’re out grocery or clothes shopping.
They’ll go out of their way to make you feel small and pathetic in front of other people, and might even smirk or laugh while doing so. If you tell them that they’re being inappropriate or hurtful, they’ll tell you that you’re being oversensitive and ask why you don’t have a sense of humor.
It’s like they don’t even realize you’re a person who’s actually affected by the horrible things they say about you.
7. Everything you say or think is wrong or ridiculous.
Do your family members try to pick fights about any opinion you have? That’s a huge sign right there. People can agree to disagree on things, rather than arguing for its own sake.
Your ideas and opinions are valid and should be respected, but when family members don’t care, they prefer to cut down others’ stances in order to make them feel small.
To them, every opinion you have is stupid or wrong somehow. This can range from political and spiritual leanings to hobbies and creative endeavors. Your taste in books, music, and movies is crap for a number of reasons, and why are you bothering to be creative when you draw or sculpt like a seven-year-old child?
The mockery never ends.
8. They never acknowledge your accomplishments.
If you get 99% on an exam or paper, they’ll ask why it wasn’t 100%. When you get a job you really love, they’ll ask about the pay rate and benefits rather than congratulating you for it. You could win a gold medal at the Olympics and they’d just make snide comments about a face you made while you were doing the complicated move that won you the gold.
Some people with uncaring parents end up as intense overachievers simply because they’re aching for some measure of approval. Maybe, just maybe, if they earn a couple of PhD degrees, are amazing triathletes, master chefs, AND crazy attractive, they might receive a single kind word from their family members.
That rarely happens, though.
In fact, people who are raised in uncaring, unsupportive families are far more prone to developing issues such as borderline personality disorder or other cluster B issues.
9. They disrespect your boundaries and your privacy.
They might purposefully do things that you’ve asked them not to, from coming into your room without knocking to discussing aspects of your health or personal life with their friends. These people might even go through your things or read your texts/emails because they feel entitled to do so as “family.”
Whatever boundaries you try to set, they disregard and leap over as it suits them. And then they’ll get mad at you for being upset about it.
10. If something is important to you, but not them, then it isn’t important at all.
There may be topics and causes that you feel passionate about, but if they don’t care about them, then they’re unimportant or stupid.
Or, even worse, they’ll mock or torment you about it. For example, an animal rights activist or vegan might find photos of abused animals taped to their bedroom door. Or an environmental activist’s family members might smirk as they purposefully throw cans into the garbage instead of the recycling bin, just to antagonize them.
Whatever is important to you is fuel for their vitriol.
On rare occasions, if you end up being passionate about something that’s important to them as well, then they’ll mock you for copying them, or compete with you over anything you do with regard to that cause. (More on this a bit further down).
11. They refuse to acknowledge your love language.
If you’re already familiar with the 5 love languages, then you’ll know that people offer and receive love in a number of different ways. When family members care about one another, they put in the effort to recognize and support one another’s love languages, even if they’re different from their own.
In a family that doesn’t care, these preferences are summarily dismissed. Your preferred love language might be word-related, in that you feel loved when you’re told how much you’re cared about, or receive written letters or cards. Meanwhile, their love language may be gift giving.
As a result, you’ll know they don’t care about you when a) you don’t receive love in the manner you prefer, and b) you don’t receive any gifts from them. Furthermore, they’ll likely make fun of you if you offer them a written card instead of an expensive gift, not caring that you’re expressing your affection in the best way you know how.
12. They don’t care about what’s going on in your life.
They never ask how you’re doing, and never check in to see if you’re okay. If you try to tell them about things that are happening in your world, they’ll either change the subject to something that’s going on with them, or give other indications that they’re clearly not interested.
Furthermore, if and when you go through difficulty, they really don’t put in any effort to make sure you’re alright. Your house could burn down and they wouldn’t bother calling (or even texting) to see if you survived the blaze, let alone offer any help with sorting anything out after the fact.
It’s like you barely exist in their universe except as a nuisance. Like a mosquito.
13. Your difficulties are brushed off as being dramatic or insignificant.
If you try to talk to them about problems you’re facing, they might tell you that you’re overreacting or that your issues aren’t real or significant enough to bother you. They might even laugh and say “I wish I had YOUR problems” before launching into all the stuff they’re dealing with, which of course are far more important and devastating than yours.
Furthermore, if you try to express to them how their neglect or mistreatment is hurting you, they’ll laugh it off and make fun of you for it.
14. They gaslight you on a regular basis.
Your family member(s) might treat you horribly, and then tell you that they didn’t actually say or do the things you remember them doing. They’ll try to convince you that you’re remembering things incorrectly, or imply that you’re “crazy” for even thinking such a thing.
Depending on how toxic the family dynamic is, they might even band together against you so you end up questioning your own memory (and sanity).
15. Any apologies are backhanded or fake.
If and when one of your family members does apologize for some wrongdoing, it’ll be insincere, backhanded, or turned around.
For example, instead of saying they’re sorry for having hurt you, they’ll offer the non-apology of, “I’m sorry you felt that way.” This implies that the issue was with your emotions, rather than their words or actions against you.
Alternatively, they might say, “I’m sorry I did X, but I wouldn’t have if you didn’t do ___.” Again, it puts the blame on you, thus allowing them to abdicate responsibility for their hurtful behavior.
16. They break or change their promises.
An example of this would be something like your parents promising you $100 if you stack firewood for them, then offering you $50 when you’re done. They might justify reneging on their side of the deal by saying that you did a bad job, when in fact they don’t respect you enough to keep their word.
Or your sibling might say that they’ll help you with a website, only to tell you later that they’ll only do it if you do X for them first. Everything is conditional, and parameters can change at any moment.
17. You’re excluded from events or not told important information.
Did you go back home for a visit to find out that your childhood dog was put down and nobody bothered to tell you about it? Or maybe you saw photos of a big family get-together on your sibling’s social media page, but you didn’t get invited to it?
There are few signs of a lack of care as blatantly obvious as being intentionally excluded from family-related events or issues. You might be the last person to find out that your grandparent has cancer, for example. Alternatively, you could be the only family member who isn’t asked to be part of your sibling’s wedding party (if you’re invited to it at all).
If you weren’t invited to something and found out about it later, they might just brush it off with, “Oh, it was a spontaneous thing and we didn’t want to bother you,” or, “it was just a few people who got together – nothing for you to make a big deal out of.”
It’s hard to believe that when you see public photos of dozens of your relatives dancing at a formal event though, isn’t it?
18. They compete with you.
Maybe you have an older sibling who has to one-up you in every endeavor. They have to be better than you and then rub it in your face. Or your parents will either compare you to themselves, or attempt to outdo things you’re interested in.
Everything becomes a comparison or competition, with them doing all they can to ensure they maintain a position of power over you.
In really unhealthy family dynamics, some members might even try to be competitive with you toward your partner or spouse. It’s not uncommon for a sibling (or even a parent) to be inappropriately flirtatious with someone else’s romantic partner just for the sake of proving to themselves that they’re somehow better/more attractive than you are.
It’s an awful thing to experience, but a clear sign of what they think about you. And that’s not much.
19. They sabotage your joy or success (or even the potential thereof).
This person might say that they’ll give you a ride to a job interview you’re really excited about and then bail the day it’s booked so you’re late, or miss it entirely. Naturally you won’t get the job, which will likely offer them some measure of amusement, and they’ll then turn the failure on you for not having a backup plan.
If you get engaged, they’ll put down your chosen partner or imply that the marriage won’t last long. When and if you have children, they’ll likely criticize their appearance or achievements. These people will go out of their way to try to be hurtful, pulling the rug out from any breath of joy you might take.
20. They try to control or dominate you.
Some parents take the whole “while you’re under our roof, you’ll do as we say” much too far, and try to control every aspect of their offspring’s life while they live at home. Then, if and when the kids move out, the parents will try to guilt trip or manipulate them into behaving a particular way.
If you don’t behave the way they want you to, then you might end up with the silent treatment, or other family members contacting you to give you crap for causing upset in the family dynamic.
You may be threatened with things like having financial support taken away if you don’t do what they want. Some family members might even threaten to tell your employer or partner secrets about you that can put your position or relationship in jeopardy.
They’ll stoop to startlingly low levels in order to make you do what they want.
21. You aren’t allowed to be your true self without negative repercussions.
One of the worst things that an uncaring family will do is refuse to accept and support you as you are. If you don’t fall in line with how they envisioned you’d turn out, you’ll be insulted, guilt tripped, and/or downright abused. This could range from sabotage and small acts of cruelty to physical blows.
Maybe you’ve made some major life changes such as becoming vegan or changing your name (even your gender), but they refuse to honor or acknowledge these changes. They’ll keep calling you by your former title (deadnaming) because “that’s the one THEY gave you,” or try to slip animal protein into your food because they think it’s funny.
They might refuse to pay for your education unless you go into a field they approve of, or they won’t contribute to your wedding budget if they don’t like your chosen spouse.
They might even refuse to help you with your children if you don’t induct them into the family’s religion, or choose names that they don’t like. Some toxic family members have even been known to call their grandchildren or nieces/nephews by names they like better, simply as a measure of dominance and control!
Why don’t they care? What’s wrong here?
Have you ever had a housemate or colleague whom you just didn’t like? Maybe their personality was completely opposite to your own, or you just couldn’t connect to them for some reason.
That happens within family units too.
Just because you’re related to folks via blood or adoption, doesn’t mean that you’re guaranteed to get along with them. These people are individuals with their own thoughts, ideas, preferences, and leanings. If you and these people wouldn’t get along if you met socially, it’s not surprising that you won’t get along within a family unit.
Sometimes, a family member who’s too different or doesn’t conform to certain expectations gets labeled as the “black sheep.” Basically, this means that they don’t belong with the others and stick out like a sore thumb. Some black sheep are accepted within the family unit as being eccentric or novel, but most of the time they’re ostracized instead.
For a lot of people, love isn’t unconditional. Even if it’s “family.”
Of course, it might be that members of your family have personality disorders that make them cruel and mean and uncaring. They might be narcissists who treat you as the family scapegoat while others get treated with kindness (albeit fake kindness).
If might even be that some of your family members do care. Or, rather, they would like to show care, but are prevented from doing so by one particularly vocal and controlling person, often a parent. The ones who do care don’t show it for fear of the wrath they may face from the toxic family member.
How to cope and come to terms with this mess:
Every difficult situation requires a slew of coping mechanisms, and this is no exception. The concept of a family unit is so ingrained in our psyches that being without it can be quite devastating, unless you have a framework to lean on as you move forward.
Here are a few examples of how you can move through this:
Find a good therapist.
Seriously, this tip cannot be stressed enough. Dealing with all the emotions involved in this kind of situation is almost impossible to work through alone. Sure, there are a lot of great self-help books out there that may help you, but a good therapist is worth their weight in gold here.
You will undoubtedly need guidance and support as you negotiate your way through all the emotions you’ll feel here. A therapist you like and trust can be your rock as you establish yourself on a new life path.
We recommend the online therapy service from BetterHelp.com – through their website, you’ll be able to talk to a therapist via video, phone, or instant message. And it’s all done from the comfort of your own home.
Click here to learn more about BetterHelp.com and the services they provide.
Stop trying to make anything work with your family.
Imagine holding tightly onto a hot coal because you want to feel warmth. Rather than warming you, however, that coal is burning you quite horribly. You’re standing there, crying in pain as this ember blackens your skin and sets your nerves on fire, but you want that warmth so terribly that you keep clinging anyway.
As soon as you realize that it’s causing you sincere harm and will only keep on hurting you, then you can drop it to the ground. And do you know what happens when you finally drop that coal? It stops burning you immediately.
Sure, the pain will still linger for a while as the burn heals, and there will always be some scarring, but the source of that pain is gone. This means that it can’t keep on causing more damage.
Same goes for holding onto the idea that you’ll ever be able to get the love you need and want from your family.
As soon as you come to terms with the fact that that it’s never going to happen, you begin to heal. You’ll turn your focus and endeavors into a new, healthier direction, and the hurt will begin to lessen immediately.
Let go of the “victim” mentality and turn past hurts into strength instead.
Many people hold onto their pain and trauma and make that hurt an integral part of their personality. They don’t just allow their experiences to define them – they build it up so that their entire lives revolve around their negative experiences. Many also use these traumas as excuses for their own poor behaviors later in life, e.g. “I’m this way because my family didn’t love me.”
It sucks that many of us didn’t get the love and support we needed from our families, but that doesn’t mean that we ought to wallow in that forever. Rather, we can turn it around and use it as a springboard to cultivate a lot of personal strength.
The so-called “family” members who mistreated you provided you with excellent examples of the kind of person you never want to be.
They weren’t there to support you through things? Well, you learned to be remarkably self-sufficient, didn’t you? I bet you learned an extraordinary number of skills on your own that your peers didn’t, simply because they had relatives to lean on instead. You’re an incredibly resilient, knowledgeable, loving person who has SO MUCH love to share with those who actually deserve it.
How to move on:
At this point, many people might feel lost and wonder where to go from here. There’s a lot of pain, frustration, and confusion to work through, and the technique(s) you use to move on will depend on what kind of relationship you want to have with these people as you move forward.
Accept what you have to work with.
One of the best things you can do to move on is to accept things the way they are. This expands upon letting go of the victim mentality mentioned above.
While you might wish that things are different, they really aren’t going to be, no matter how much effort you put into this project. You could of course torture yourself by trying to be someone you’re not, masquerading as the type of family member they’ve always wanted. Unfortunately, you’ll get exhausted and depressed by that attempt, and it’s unlikely that it’ll work anyway.
This is how things are, and no amount of therapy, self-denial, acquiescence, or cajoling can force others to have feelings for us.
Determine how much time and effort you want to put toward a relationship with your family.
Whether you choose to keep your relatives in your life or not is entirely up to you. There’s no universal law stipulating that you have to continue to spend time with those who damage you, and the idea of a perfectly loving, supportive family is only a fairly recent one.
If you want to maintain some semblance of a family life with these people, then it’ll be up to you to put the lion’s share of effort in here. Call, text, write, or visit without expecting any kind of reciprocation in turn.
They might come around when they see you putting in the effort, but they probably won’t. Consider this an act of love on your part, if it’s important to you to keep the home fires burning.
Surround yourself with people who actually love and support you.
Some people are fortunate enough to be born into a family unit that is loving, supportive, and nurturing. Those of us who aren’t as fortunate have to create a family of our own. This is what’s known as a “chosen” family, and is just as valid as one that shares DNA or adoption records.
Author Charles de Lint encompassed this concept perfectly in a book entitled Moonlight and Vines:
“The family we choose for ourselves is more important than the one we were born into; that people have to earn our respect and trust, not have it handed to them simply because of genetics.”
Find your tribe, and weave your own family web.
These are the people who’ll stand by you throughout life – not because they have to out of some sense of obligation, but because they sincerely love you.
Still not sure how to cope with the mental and emotional effects of the way your family treats you? Speak to a therapist today who can walk you through the process. Simply click here to connect with one of the experienced therapists on BetterHelp.com.
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