4 Tiny Ways To Build A Life You Love After Dealing With A Life Of Family Dysfunction

The happy life you deserve is waiting.

Living a life you love after family disfunction Vlada Karpovich | Canva

Standing at a generational junction, you look back on where you came from and wonder, "What's my dysfunction?" Disconnecting the trauma from living in a dysfunctional family might take a bit of help since you didn't arrive there on your own.

Here are 4 tips for building a life you love after dealing with a life of family dysfunction, according to YourTango experts:

1. Identify the pre-existing conditions of your current state

Understanding how toxic elements of family dysfunction you might still carry is key. Am I controlling? Judgmental? Emotionally disconnected? Often, when there has been family dysfunction, we need to keep strict physical, emotional, and mental boundaries with family members so we can stay in our healthy space. If you get triggered by family, healing is needed before you can build your ideal life. Letting go of dysfunctional family dynamics opens the space to create a life you love without apology, permission, or need for justification.


Carolyn Hidalgo, Executive Soul Coach

RELATED: How To Untangle Unhealthy Family Dynamics — Without Cutting Anyone Out


Which one do YOU resonate with MOST? Share in the comments!

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2. Have the courage to ask for what you need

One of the skills you need to build to have a happy life when you come from a dysfunctional family is to develop the courage to figure out what you want and need and to ask for it from the people you love.


As a trauma specialist with over four decades of clinical experience, one of the most common traits I have found in people who have grown up in families with physical, emotional, or other abuse and neglect is they have learned not to ask for what they want. One of my patients, who came from a family where the children were physically abused said, “Ask??? Do you want me to ask for what I want? When we asked for things that’s when we got it!” She made a fist and punched it into her other hand to be sure I got her drift.)

You may have been punished for asking for things. You may have been taunted and tricked when you asked for things. In families with a lot of neglect, you learned not to ask because there was no point in asking. You wouldn’t have gotten what you wanted anyway.

In families where you had no trust your needs would be met, it now feels too dangerous to be honest about your longings.

Now, your life is hampered — Your ability to advocate for yourself feels broken, and you can't risk being rejected or hearing “No“when you voice your needs. You erroneously believe you won’t be able to cope with rejection or disappointment in your current relationships.


The problem is having true emotional intimacy in your life now, with people you love, depends on mutuality, interdependency, and connection, asking for and granting favors and wishes, whether from a partner or a friend.

Think about your fears of asking for what you want. Make a fearless inventory of how you make yourself invisible in your relationships. Build up some coping strategies and resources to soothe yourself when you ask and are disappointed by the response you get. But keep on figuring out what you need, and keep on asking for it kindly and constructively. You’ll get much more of what you need, feel more seen and loved, and have a much richer and more fulfilling life.

Aline Zoldbrod, Ph.D., Author

RELATED: The Simple Way To Have A Loving Relationship That Lasts Forever


3. Let go of the past

Letting go of the past is the hardest and most rewarding step of this process. You can't repair the past, but you can build a happier future for yourself. Choose to move forward and cherish every drop of goodness that flows towards you. The more you replace bad memories and toxic people with beautiful new memories and kind people, the more you will heal from the past and find joy in the life you have today.

Dr. Gloria Brame, therapist, author

RELATED: Why You Need To Let Go Of The Things You Cannot Change

4. Quiet your saboteurs

When it comes to your dysfunctional family dynamics, and you are angry about what happened or try to avoid or fix them, then you are still enmeshed. The ways you react could be habits you created in childhood based on negative emotions. These internal saboteurs may make you feel safe in some way but are based on emotions such as fear, anger, resentment (and all the rest).


To build a life you love, you can learn the top ways you sabotage yourself and your relationships (such as Avoider, Pleaser, or Controller) and then learn simple strategies for building new "Sage" habits based on positive emotions. What if you could navigate your life with more curiosity, creativity, joy, or peace? When you quiet your saboteurs and live more and more from Sage, your life will change.

Marilyn Sutherland, Relationship & Communication Coach

RELATED: How to Respond When Someone Asks, 'Am I Ugly?'


Success at building a life of love after family dysfunction Maridav via Shutterstock

Letting go of dysfunctional family dynamics takes some effort to disentangle the unhealthy dynamics you learned so you can survive. Now you are out of that dysfunctional dynamic, so you can permit yourself to ask for your needs to be met, let go of the past in whatever way works for you to quiet the saboteurs in your mind, and finally have the chance to heal. The happy life you deserve is waiting for you.

Will Curtis is a writer and editor for YourTango. He's been featured on the Good Men Project and taught English abroad for ten years.