EP 326: Navigating Unhealthy Family Dynamics with Nicole

This episode is about setting healthy boundaries and speaking our truth. Today’s caller, Nicole, grew up in an unhealthy family dynamic. Her grandmother didn’t accept her family and tried to split them up. She wants to be at peace with the situation but has not yet dealt with her anger. During the holidays, if you are the one who is breaking generational patterns, you may be called selfish or righteous. It can be a difficult place to be put in. But, I encourage you to stand in your truth.

So many families use guilt and obligation to get people to do things. If you don’t play into it then you may be told you are uncaring or disappointing. But, remember, guilt and obligation are not love. Just because you say no or have a boundary does not mean you do not love your family; it just means you are not playing into the unhealthy family dynamic.

Love itself is unconditional. You can love your family and have compassion for them but relationships are not unconditional. You wouldn’t stay in a relationship if the person lied, cheated, or took your money. And, just because someone is a blood relative doesn’t give them the right to have a relationship with you if they are violating certain boundaries. We can all have loving boundaries and have compassion for people but not tolerate their behavior. I don’t believe that just because someone has had a hard life and has been hurt, that they should have a get-out-of-jail-free card to mistreat other people.

We don’t have to let that into our lives. Just because someone has had a hard life it doesn’t give them the right to make our life hard.

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Consider/Ask Yourself:

  • Do you feel guilty if you shut certain people, especially family members, out of your life? Are you carrying around anger or resentment about how you’ve been treated by your family?
  • Are you mad at your parents for not sticking up for you inside of their family?
  • If you are a parent, what do you want to teach your child about family dynamics?

Nicole’s Question:

Nicole is considering cutting her father’s family out of her life and would like guidance on how to navigate through an unhealthy family dynamic.

Nicole’s Key Insights and Ahas:

  • Her father’s family tried to split her parents up.
  • She wants to cut her father’s family out of her life.
  • Her grandmother wants to form a relationship with her daughter.
  • She is holding onto hurt and anger.
  • She wants to be at peace with the situation.
  • She hasn’t recognized the impact the situation has had on her.
  • She played a therapist for her mother as a child.
  • Her father was afraid to stand up for his own family.
  • Her grandmother sends passive-aggressive notes.
  • She gets triggered by her grandmother.

How to Get Over It and On With It:

  • Process her emotions to move into forgiveness.
  • Do the Empty Chair process and have a conversation with little Nicole about what she needs and give her a voice.
  • Mother her inner child.
  • Let herself release her anger or write an FU letter.
  • Set boundaries and open her heart.


  • Get honest with yourself about unhealthy family dynamics.
  • Will this be the year you speak your truth? Will you have a care-frontation conversation about what is going on? Or will this be another year of people-pleasing, swallowing your feelings, and having guilt and obligation, or just avoiding your family altogether?


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When we are triggered, if we engage in an argument we have collapsed our boundary. Click To Tweet Just because someone has had a hard life and has been hurt, (it doesn’t mean) that they should have a get out of jail free card to mistreat other people. Click To Tweet Forgiveness, when we haven’t dealt with the raw emotion, is bypassing. We forgive when we let go of the judgments and misunderstandings that support a trigger. Click To Tweet

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