How Family Rifts Happen
Pillemer says that among the primary reasons for family estrangements is divorce which often creates a long-term strain on family relations. Other reasons can include conflicts over inheritance, vast differences in beliefs and values, politics, religion, and conflicts over a family member’s sexual identity. It often happens that a family member feels let down by their relatives due to unmet expectations. Pillemer has found that families with a strong positive history of love and attachment are more likely to heal and reconcile.
The Number of Estrangements Is Rising
No real data exists to effectively track the rate of family rifts forming, however, Pillemer believes that they might be on the rise. The main reasons for this are recent cultural shifts, such as the increase in divorce rates which usually lead to family estrangements. Pillemer also believes that there is a change in perspective where many Americans, especially young people, place greater emphasis on personal well-being and have a lower threshold of what they are willing to put up with from family members be it abuse, a rejection of their values, sexuality, and gender identity.
Older people are typically more affected by family rifts and left feeling heartbroken and isolated. Working with a psychologist is advisable to begin the reconciliation process and remedy the relationship in question. Family members that have been estranged are advised to trigger the reconciliation, develop empathy for the other person, and take responsibility by acknowledging why the other person felt the need to cut them off. Respecting the other family member’s vision of what a healthy connection looks like, even if expectations and values differ, is crucial.