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Why Does Estrangement Happen?

Read More About Estrangement

According to the 2017 article, "Study Identifies 8 Components of Family Estrangements", there is an increase in estrangement due to several complications within the family. Dr. Mehta, who authored the article, mentioned several factors that lead up to estrangement, including:

  • Unhealthy communication patterns; poor quality of interactions

  • Avoiding or lessening communication with a family member

  • Not seeing a family member as often; moving away

  • Feeling everything or nothing at all

  • Bad memories or generally negative feelings towards this person

  • Differences in opinion regarding whether to reconcile or "make amends"

What's Beneath the Surface

These are some of the common reasons for estrangement, but this is not an exhaustive list: "abuse, bad parenting, betrayal, mental illness, unsupportive behavior, toxicity and drug and alcohol abuse" (Mehta, 2017). The list of reasons can go on depending on someone's unique situation, leading people to distance themselves from family members for their own safety and/or mental wellbeing. In other cases, individuals may be cut off from a relationship, thus feeling lost, confused and upset.

In cases of abuse, there’s often a clear understanding for why estrangement occurs. In situations that are a bit more nuanced, however, it may be many small things that have built up over time as opposed to one major event or “reason”. According to Dr. Mehta, as mentioned previously, these more nuanced situations often occur out of a lack of specific components needed in a healthy relationship - as well as conflicting values and expectations. In instances where family dynamics are severely affecting one’s health, taking a break, setting boundaries and reassessing those relationships can sometimes be a healthier option that provides a renewed sense of clarity rather than remaining in a dark, stressful place.

However, there are individuals who desire reconciliation. A person should not endanger their health due to estrangement and should seek help or advice as soon as possibly to prevent any ongoing health issues. Whether a person desires to reconcile with a family member or decides to become estranged from their family, it should never be at the detriment of their health. Some options for preventing this include seeking out help and advice and considering what will be most beneficial for one’s mental health in the long run before making a large decision about their relationship. Reconciliation is the ideal outcome for many people and situations in which estrangement is present, but it’s important to note that all parties involved must be leaning in to one another and open to this option in order for true relationship healing to take place.