Advice Column: Communication breakdown in the family


Dear Caroline,


I write in hope that you can help me with a problem concerning my family.

I am twenty years old and am attending university. I have found that meeting new people and having a slice of independence away from home has led to a few difficulties over the last year.

Firstly, I am struggling with the religious beliefs that I have been raised with. I no longer identify with the strict religious practices that have made up my daily routine since childhood. This has led to the break-up of my relationship with my long-term girlfriend, who is herself deeply religious.

Secondly, I wish to travel and take some time to explore the world after my graduation. I have worked hard for numerous years to save the money needed in order to fund such a trip. I do not wish to head straight into a full time job, which has always been the vision that my family have had for me.

My family as a whole do not accept the life choices I am undertaking, to the extent that they refuse to communicate with me. It has gotten so bad recently that I was told not to attend a family wedding, which was deeply hurtful.

I have tried over the last few months to reason respectfully my feelings, however they just do not wish to hear what I have to say, dismissing my new ‘‘attitude’’ as a disgrace.

I wish to have a healthy relationship with my family as I go through my adult life, but they have made me feel that this is impossible moving forwards. Do you think they will ever accept me for who I am? I am running out of ideas as to how to make things right again.
Thank you for your time,


Dear Kamil,

As you have experienced up to now, salvaging a communication breakdown amongst family members is no easy task. Especially when it seems that your actions to reach out have been entirely dismissed.

Given that religion is in itself intimate and deeply personal, it is often a cause of disharmony within families who share opposing perspectives. Yet, in spite of the negative responses you have received, it must be remembered that whether you wish to uphold a practice of faith or not, is entirely up to you. Whatever you decide, you must trust that you have your best interests at heart. This also lends itself to your decision to break up with your long term partner. You mentioned that you did so over differing religious viewpoints, but I suspect it was also because your needs were unfulfilled. As an adult man, if you wish to spend the money you have earned on travelling, then good for you. It feels like you are taking positive steps and necessary changes for your happiness. I think that it is wonderful that you are questioning your feelings towards your faith, towards your relationships and your wants for the future.  You have a full life ahead of you and it sounds to me like you are on a path of self-discovery. I am just so sorry that you are walking this path without the current support of your family.

Shame is a core emotion that can affect us deeply. The hurt that you experienced when being forced out of the wedding feels unfair and gravely undeserved. The sad truth is that living a life on your terms can often prove difficult to the people close to us. Try as you might, they either fail to or refuse to understand. In situations like this, it can come to feel like you are the villain of the story, the bad guy who has caused all of the fractions and chaos and drama. Along with shame, guilt can begin to creep in. Remind yourself that this is not the case, that you have done nothing wrong and that you have nothing to feel guilty about. It sounds like you have carried yourself with dignity up to now in your efforts to see this problem through constructively and with patience. Maintain this approach. 

For some peace of mind, keep the communication door open to each of your family members and do so always.  As soon as you are able, choose forgiveness. Forgiving your family for their actions will allow you to let go of the stress and the pain that you have no doubt been wrestling with. Even if a long time passes and the situation remains unresolved, do not give up on them. All that you can do at this time is make it clear, whether it be by an email or a letter if they refuse to meet with you in person, that if ever a family member wishes to reach out or reconnect, you will be willing to talk it through, respectfully, calmly and free from judgement.

I hope that your family will adjust their stance and that you find your way back to one another. I hope that one day, they will tell you how proud you have made them. Yet know that if not Kamil, you are strong enough to walk this path of self-discovery alone. Remind yourself that you have done everything you possibly can to repair what is broken. Be ever mindful that it is not your attitude that is the problem, but rather theirs, collectively. 

Self-acceptance is the key to your happiness and growth moving forwards.  You are absolutely right to prioritise this. Wishing you contentment and adventure for your journey ahead. Embrace every moment.



Caroline Holbrook

MSc, BA (Hons), Pg Dip

Working out of her Albion office Caroline, a qualified

psychotherapist and counsellor, loves helping people

struggling with stress, anxiety, grief and relationship issues.

Do you need advice?


Call: +230 5844 4744


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