Being loved by your family is one of the greatest feelings ever.
Our family is our first point of contact with the world. This small community is where we learn about ourselves and others and how healthy relationships work.
You may not notice when your family doesn’t like you, but sometimes there are subtle signs.
Sooner or later, we break away from our family of origin and start our own families or choose not to, but we still have the family there as a source of support. At least, some of us do.
Many of us are not as fortunate and must navigate our way through life without our family’s unconditional love and support.
Some people come from strained family relationships, and that unconditional love isn’t there. Perhaps some family members cannot show other members the care and support they want and need because, deep down, they have some unresolved trauma or other psychological issues.
Other family members may hold grudges for errors, mistakes, or wrongdoings in the past and show no signs of letting those grudges go. Sometimes one family member is made the scapegoat due to narcissistic parenting, where siblings have been divided to support the narcissist parent’s grandiose self-image.
Growing up and moving through your family life with such a background can be incredibly painful and make you feel lost and confused, impacting your ability to trust others.
It can even lead to the onset of mental and emotional health issues such as depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. You would think that family is the one place you can turn to for support and acceptance, but this is often not the case.
If you come from a loving, caring family, it can be hard to imagine what it’s like to come from a less supportive background. People who come from families where they are not unconditionally loved and supported are vulnerable to the mental health issues mentioned above.
Many generally struggle to feel like they belong. Of course, just because you are disliked or uncared for by your family doesn’t mean that you will experience mental health issues, but your risk is far greater than someone whose family is there for them in times of need.
This article will explore why families can sometimes not care about or dislike certain family members.
If this describes your experience, please read on because later in the article, we’ll explore some approaches you can take to keep your mental health and emotional well-being in check when your family doesn’t care about you or doesn’t seem to like you.
Did you grow up in a toxic family dynamic?
If you grew up with toxic family members, you may have learned that your wants and needs are not valid. Some family members, most likely your parents, may have indirectly taught you that your feelings are not worth caring for or that you’ll never be enough because they cannot show you consistent care.
A lack of adequate care in a parent/child relationship is never the child’s fault, yet ironically, the child usually takes on the blame. They can’t process that their caregiver, the most significant authority figure in their life, may be fallible, so the children rationalize that they are the ones with the problem.
Clinical psychologist and author of But It’s Your Family, a book about growing up in toxic family dynamics, Dr. Sherrie Campbell writes about the impact of toxic behavior in the family on our behavior, as we create our own family and relationships in adult life.
“When we are raised in toxic families, we often go through a time period, and for some of us, a lifetime of repeating the toxic patterns we were raised in with other people in our lives,” explains Campbell. “We do this until we decide we’ve had enough pain and choose to genuinely examine our patterns and stop the craziness for good.”
There are many reasons why a caregiver may not be able to show consistent care to their child.
When their behavior is toxic, they don’t consider the child’s wants and needs but instead speak, act, and behave that only serve themselves.
They may be overly critical of their child because they want them to be some idealized version of themselves. They may use that child as an emotional punching bag or even show them too much affection and emotionally smother them.
Whatever the toxic behavior is, its effects can be long-lasting.
Adult children of toxic parenting face many struggles and even health risks in their adult life because of these experiences in childhood in which they felt disliked, uncared for, or even hated.
How do you know if your family doesn’t like you?
1. They are abusive
If, as a child, a family member (or members) neglected you or were emotionally and physically abusive, then they have some deep issues and unresolved psychological problems that prevent them from being able to show you the love you deserve.
It’s difficult to have sympathy or empathy for an abusive family member – as these people engage in behaviors that rip apart a person’s core sense of safety, making it almost impossible to forgive them.
Understanding that the problem is with them and not with you may help to ease at least some of the pain they caused, but that in no way justifies their treatment towards you.
As an adult, it’s normal to think that an abusive family member doesn’t like you or doesn’t care about you, but this feeling is even more pronounced for children. Children, especially younger children, can’t yet think objectively or rationally about older, authoritative family members’ behavior.
If that family member acts in an abusive or neglectful way, the child can’t help but take on some if not all of the responsibility. They come to see themselves as inherently bad or wrong and will carry that self-view into adulthood.
Abuse and neglect in childhood can lead to psychological trauma, but not only in children who are subject to these things. Even adults can suffer from abuse by other family members.
For example, an overly-critical mother may constantly criticize her son for his lifestyle choices and lack of his own family. Her comments, judgment, and negative attitude toward him are forms of emotional abuse and can leave that son with low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety.
If you have experienced abuse from a family member, it’s essential to speak with someone such as a therapist or seek help if you’re currently in a situation of abuse.
2. Your boundaries don’t matter to them
Boundaries are what makes us who we are. They act as a permeable barrier in how we filter what comes at us from the world outside.
We can choose to use a strong barrier when we don’t want to tolerate certain behavior and a softer, more permeable barrier when we have more time, space, and energy and the desire to deal with what’s in front of us.
Suppose someone doesn’t respect your boundaries, such as your request for privacy, for respectful conversation, or no physical touch. In that case, it doesn’t matter whether they’re family or not – they don’t respect you and you’re entitled to follow through with the consequences of a crossed boundary.
Anyone who values and respects you will understand and accept your need to set boundaries and make an effort to adhere to them. If they cross them, they should recognize their wrongdoing and hopefully apologize.
They shouldn’t take your boundary setting as a personal attack and should appreciate that you were honest and authentic enough to inform them about the boundary in the first place.
On the other hand, someone who doesn’t like or respect you will not care much for your boundaries.
They may judge you or call you a name for not sharing every detail of your personal life with them. They may assume an air of authority and feel like they don’t need to respect your privacy and may even push you for details about your own life that you don’t want to share because they feel like they deserve to know.
3. They don’t listen to you
If your family ignores you when you speak or share ideas and opinions, they don’t care enough to listen. They may leave you feeling like you’re not even worth listening to. In any toxic relationship, familial, friendly, or romantic, the toxic individuals’ behavior can negatively affect your well-being. They may make you feel invalid or unworthy.
4. They don’t invite you to family gatherings
You may feel like your family doesn’t like you if they leave you out of the plans. Do they attend gatherings or family events and fail to invite you?
Do they avoid talking about shared plans when you’re around? If so, it’s normal to feel a little isolated and unwanted.
Remember that if one family member doesn’t want you at a family event, others may want you to be there. Try reaching out to a sibling or parent or whoever in the family with who you have a good relationship and express your desire to be involved at important events.
It can show the rest of your family that you’re interested in being part of family events even if one or two people don’t want you there.
What can I do if my family doesn’t care about me?
1. Understand that it might not be about you
If a family member doesn’t like you, behaves rudely towards you, or speaks about you negatively behind your back, their behavior may not reflect on you as a person. Even if you’ve made a mistake or hurt someone in the past, that family member’s attitude today is more a reflection of themselves than it is of you.
Also, that family member may have some unresolved issues from within the family dynamic, causing them to blame you for something that isn’t your responsibility. Or, perhaps, they’ve been conditioned not to like you or blame you because another family member has taught them to do that.
Narcissistic parents, for example, often create a black sheep, or scapegoat, of one of their children. They speak to other children about the negative aspects of the black sheep and over time teach them to dislike the person.
It’s sad when this happens because the scapegoat is mistreated and doesn’t get the chance to make an honest impression with their siblings.
If, however, the narcissistic parent’s behavior continues, the children may see through their behavior and eventually come to understand that the black sheep or the scapegoat was not so bad after all.
2. Don’t beg them to care
You can’t force someone to care about you. If relatives don’t show you the love, support, and affection you know you deserve, then try not to beg for it. You’ll do a disservice to your self-esteem and even your mental health.
If you have a toxic family member, someone who actively wants to upset you or make you feel bad, try to stand your ground and feel your own inherent sense of self-worth.
Becoming upset, distressed, and reactive may be precisely what the toxic family member wants, so try not to give in. Even if it turns out that they show you more attention or affection after you had to ask for it over and over, that’s not a sign of a healthy relationship.
3. Don’t play their game
‘She doesn’t like me, so I don’t like her.’ He didn’t invite me, so I’m not going to invite him. They called me a name, so I’m going to call them a name back.’
Sound familiar? A toxic family member may act in a hurtful or upsetting way, but the wise thing to do when that happens is to respond instead of reacting.
They want you to react, to get defensive or stoop to their level, because that gives them a sense of power, and possibly more reasons to justify not liking you or pointing out your flaws.
It’s hard sometimes, but as much as possible, try to be the bigger person.
4. Detach from them
You’re under no obligation to stay around and put up with toxic people, family or not. Sometimes we may feel pressure to maintain contact with family members and even let them get away with being judgmental, overly critical, or outright unfair just because they have some notion of authority.
Perhaps they think that because they’re your parent, you’re obliged to like them or tolerate anything they do. Or perhaps because they’re a grandparent, they believe they’re entitled to respect, even if they speak, act, and behave in disrespectful ways.
Again, you’re not obliged to put up with people who hurt you. It is within your right to detach from your family members if their behaviors or attitudes are problematic.
Detaching may be easier said than done, but it doesn’t have to involve complete no-contact. It can be that way if you like – sometimes we really do need to completely cut ties with people – but it can also be done by setting personal boundaries, practicing mindful self-awareness, and refusing to be influenced, triggered, or otherwise upset by what someone else does.
5. Take care of yourself
Part of growing up, maturing, and becoming a responsible, independent adult is realizing that you don’t need anybody else’s approval to feel good about yourself.
You don’t need others to say that you’re doing well or behave in such a way that guarantees someone won’t bring you down with negative criticism. Your life is your own, and you need not be influenced by people who don’t care about your well-being.
If your family members don’t like you or care about you, don’t let that stop you from liking and caring about yourself. You may come to believe that because your family doesn’t have those feelings, then you don’t deserve that kind of love, but that’s not true.
Take care of yourself by looking after your mind, body, and spirit. Educate yourself and expand your mind, eat well and exercise regularly to keep your physical health as high as possible, and take time to rest, meditate, and recharge your internal batteries to keep your spirit in good health.
In some situations in order to take care of yourself, you may need to speak with a therapist. Speaking with a therapist can help you work through your own thoughts and feelings and also challenges with your family.
6. Connect with friends
If your family doesn’t like you, then reach out to close friends for care and support. Sure, the dynamic between friends and family is different, and it’s important to be mindful of asking too much from your friends.
Still, if you have friends who truly love and care about you, they won’t mind you offering your emotional support when you’re feeling down or spending some time with you if you feel lonely.
You don’t need your family members to accept you to be a valid, acceptable, and lovable human being,
Find people who you like, who like you, and with who you feel real chemistry. These are the people who will help you grow and feel like you belong.
Some friends last for years, others for only a few months, and others for the length of a train ride.
No matter how long, though, some people can change your life. They can offer a word or act of kindness, a piece of advice, or simply share some of their energy with you, and that can be enough to light up your life to the point that you realize you don’t need to worry or even cry over people who don’t care about you.
“It’s not flesh and blood, but the heart which makes us fathers and sons.” – Jonathan Schiller
If you get the sense that your family doesn’t like you, they don’t care about you, or even that one family member, in particular, has something against you, you may struggle to feel like you belong. You may feel like you have nowhere to turn when things get tough.
If you take anything away from this article, let it be that you shouldn’t beg for another person’s care or affection, family or otherwise. You are an inherently valid and worthy person and that does not change if a family member or even your entire family doesn’t have anything good to say about you.
To help yourself overcome these feelings and look after your mental and emotional health, try cultivating healthy relationships outside of your family. Seek out friends who want to see you happy and healthy and who will support you in times of need.
Just remember to offer the same in return so that the relationship does not become one-sided.