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I Had a Dysfunctional Family, Does That Mean I Will Have Dysfunctional Relationships?

Updated: Jan 29, 2023

Young woman sitting on stine bleachers contemplating her relationships with her family and friends. Learn to recognize dysfunctional patterns of behavior with Relationship Counseling in Denver, CO.

Did you grow up in a family where there was constant fighting, the absence of any emotion, or a combination of both? Did you grow up with plenty of examples of how relationships shouldn’t be? This may leave you concerned about how the dysfunction in your family impacts your ability to have healthy relationships of your own. At Lone Wolf Psychological Services our skilled team specializes in understanding these aspects of relationships and is here to help.

What is A Dysfunctional Family?

A dysfunctional family is characterized by constant conflict, unhealthy behavior, lack of boundaries, neglect, and abuse. If you grew up in a family that made you feel like nothing was ever good enough, like you needed to earn your caregiver’s love or rare moments of intimacy, you might fear that your future relationships will be dysfunctional as well.

So... if you grew up in a dysfunctional family does that mean you will have dysfunctional relationships?

The quick answer is no! Just because you grew up in an unhealthy environment doesn’t mean you can’t learn how to be in healthy relationships. You can take matters into your own hands and create relationships that feel safe, warm, and secure. However, you are not starting with the same foundation as others who had safe loving families, and it will take intention and work!

What can I do to make sure I create healthy relationships?

First, Recognize What Kind of Environment You Grew Up In

Afamily lying on the bed with their feet uncovered representing the strong family relationships that can be formed with the help of Relationship Counseling in Dever, CO.

  • What did you learn about relationships from your family? Are others unreliable, unsafe, or absent?

  • What did you learn about yourself as a loveable person? Are you unlovable? Are you only loved when you are a caretaker or a people pleaser? Are you only loved when you are achieving?

  • How did your parents show love and affection if at all?

  • What are some of your parent’s attachment wounds from their own childhood?

Now, these are very tough questions! They are the first step to learning some of your family’s unhealthy cycles and how generational trauma has been passed down from your grandparents, to your parents, and to you. If you want to break the cycle, you first have to recognize it!

Families Are Never All Bad or All Good

Also, families are never all bad or all good. Whether your family has an extremely unhealthy cycle or just some unhealthy traits, there is a lot you can learn! And, you can also learn from some of the good! Ask yourself, what made you feel loved and cared for in your family? Even if it was rare or just glimpses, you can decide what you want to take from it!

Gain Understanding with Relationship Counseling

Working within Relationship Counseling helps you to understand, identify, and explain the type of environment that you grew up in will help you recognize the family dynamics that you are used to, which will help you figure out which dynamics you liked and which ones you want to leave in the past.

Second, Recognize Patterns in Your New Relationships That Are Similar to Your Family’s

Two gay men reconnecting after breaking the cycle of dysfunctional relationships with the help of Relationship Counseling in Denver, CO.

Once you’ve started to recognize your family’s patterns and your triggers, you can start to apply them to your own relationships. The best way to learn about your relational self is through being in a relationship with others!

For example, you may have been closer to a loved one after a fight because you were receiving attention, and you didn’t feel ignored and unloved at that moment.

“At least they care enough about me to have an argument with me”

You may then find yourself creating conflict to find intimacy and validation in your current relationships because that is how you are used to receiving love from others.

Recognize Past Dynamics to Break the Present Cycle

Once you can recognize how past dynamics play out in new relationships is when the work really starts! Now, it’s time to break the cycle. Think about ways in which receiving love might be healthier. For example, telling your loved one that you care for them, putting boundaries when necessary, or improving communication. The work now is to find another way of receiving or showing love for one another, instead of using those unhealthy ways you might be used to.

Third, Seek Healthy Relationships

Group of young people listening to music on the beach and dancing representing healthy relationships that can be formed with Relationship Counseling in Denver, CO.

Growing up surrounded by unhealthy relationships will teach you a lot of bad relationship habits. One of those habits is seeking and feeling comfortable around others who share your family’s brand of dysfunction. These types of relationships can further your unhealthy patterns and beliefs about relationships. If you have friendships that make you feel crazy or negative about yourself there’s a good chance you are seeking friendships that feel familiar to you because they are similar to your family dynamics.

Create a Loving Community of Healthy Relationships

The best way to start to break this cycle is to seek friendships where you feel loved and cared for. Your friends should make you feel like you are wonderful, fun, smart, and loveable. Once you have created a community of loving friendships that have built up your confidence and shown you the love you deserve, you will be surprised by how quickly you spot unhealthy romantic relationships.

Breaking the Cycle of Dysfunction Takes Time but The Rewards are Worth it

Breaking dysfunctional family dynamics is a long and difficult process. Please be gentle with yourself while you heal past trauma and create a new future for yourself. Seeking help through reading, podcasts, and Relationship Counseling are all great ways to learn and grow. Remember that healing any kind of trauma takes time, compassion, and support from others.

Is Individual Relationship Counseling in Denver, CO Right for You?

Do you find yourself struggling to connect with the people you care for most in life? Do you struggle to break out of toxic relationship cycles with family, friends, or significant others? If you do, Individual Relationship Counseling might be right for you. Our therapy services in Denver, CO are here to offer guidance in better understanding yourself so you can form healthy and lasting personal relationships. Below are a quick set of steps to follow in order to begin your journey.

  1. We encourage you to get to know a little bit about our therapists, their specializations, and their credentials. Get to know our therapists here

  2. If you think Individual Relationship Counseling is for you, reach out to us! You can use our online therapy scheduling form found on our home page.

  3. Begin the exciting journey of understanding yourself and start building better relationships!

Other Denver Counseling Services

Not only do our therapy services in Denver, CO offer Relationship Counseling, but we also offer a wide variety of services for individuals or couples at any time in their relationship journey. Relationships can be challenging at the best of times and we understand the need for individualized services to meet you where you are currently at. We pride ourselves on providing caring, insightful, and productive Couples Counseling, Divorce and Break-up Recovery Counseling, Kink and Non-Monogamy, Attachment-Based Therapy, Trauma Therapy, LGBTQ+ Counseling, and Premarital Counseling as well. We also offer Self-Help Resources to help supplement your therapy or to better prepare for upcoming therapy sessions!

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