6 Ways I’ve Learned To Cope With A Family Who Doesn’t Understand Me

The jokes about where you might have come from run rampant. Your mom never understood why you shopped at Hot Topic. So, she constantly dragged you to department stores. You wondered when Hogwarts would send a letter; your siblings spent all their time playing sports. Family threw around words like “different” and “abnormal.” Your grandma often said you were simply “cut from a different cloth.”

The truth is, you were just fine… but your family didn’t get you. Not even a little bit, not even at all.

So, here you are, breaking out into the real world and embracing all of its radiance. You’ve finally found people that accept you, but there are some lovely quirks that they don’t know came from growing up with a family who didn’t “get” you.

Using Sarcasm and Self-Deprecating Humor

From a young age, you learned to deflect and avoid by making jokes at your own expense. If you turned your “abnormality” into jokes, your family seemed much more accepting and often changed the conversation subject. But, when that didn’t work, sarcasm was a sure way to piss someone off and get them to leave you alone. The jabs at your own expense and the dripping irony of contempt became your shield and your sword to help you slay the dragons of the family who wanted to transform you from a warrior to a prim and proper princess.

Now, most people just think that you are hilarious and quick-witted with a sort of dark humor like Daria Morgendorffer. You keep your friends in stitches, and your coworkers either love the twisted humor or avoid you, making it a win-win either way.


Another tactical method you employed with your parents was to keep things vague. You learned all the ways to give just enough information to get them off your back without dishing all the details or sharing “the rest of the story.” White lies, beating around the bush, and one-liners all served as tricks up your sleeve.

As an adult, you’re fairly open on social media, but sometimes it’s hard to really share without sounding the alarms with the fam (because they never understand). So, sometimes you pull back out those handy-dandy skills and use them to your advantage when sharing the latest on Facebook or Twitter. The unfortunate consequence is that those “vaguebook” posts often lead to a text from your bestie, who knows something’s up. Everyone else, though? Oblivious.

Building Strong Friendships

They say it’s not blood that makes you family, and boy is that ever true for you. Since you never really clicked with your biological family, you’ve spent nearly your entire life finding other ways to make incredible bonds. As a teen, you probably spent lots of weekends over at friends’ houses or joined every extracurricular that you could possibly handle. You searched high and low for your tribe, for somewhere to belong.

With your friends now, you talk to them nearly every day. They call you things like “fiercely loyal,” “protective,” and “incredibly thoughtful.” What they may not realize, though (or maybe they do), is that you are all of those things because they are your family. Blood or not, you’d walk through fire for your friends, and they know and understand more about you than your bio fam ever will.

Maintaining “Surface Level” Relationships With Family

Some people talk to their mother nearly every afternoon; coworkers comment that their mother knows everything. You see people post selfies with their parents on social media, taking vacations with them or having them by their side during childbirth. That’s great for them… just not for you.

It’s not that you completely avoid your family, but you try to maintain a healthy distance. Phone calls might happen once a week and leave you talking about the weather or sharing that everything is “just fine.” People might not understand (or even find that weird), but the truth is that keeping things at this level prevents that constant reminder that you are “different.”

Becoming A Workaholic

High school was your first sense of salvation, and college only fueled the fire even more. You discovered that the more you loaded yourself down with projects, extra opportunities, and volunteer work, the less time you actually had to spend at home being reminded how much you don’t fit in. Eventually, the work and constant stream of things to do became a commonplace that you welcomed with open arms because it just felt like home.

What that means now is that you easily become married to your work. You find it easy to take the extra tasks, work the holiday weekends, and do anything that keeps your plate filled. Sure, maybe it’s mostly a way to avoid phone calls from your mom or Sunday dinner at grandma’s house, but the side benefit is that you are often well liked by your boss and colleagues… even if your partner doesn’t at all understand why you try to take on the world.

Moving Away From Home

What’s the best way to escape from a world who doesn’t understand you? Run as far away as you can. When you don’t feel connected to your roots, it’s really easy to pick up and leave. Whether it’s a few hours away or across the country, you embrace the freedom that the space gives you. People ask how you manage to live so far away from your family, and you try your best to laugh it off and downplay the truth because honestly, who would understand?

If these rang true to you even just a bit, know that you are not alone. In my time on this earth, I’ve come to just accept that my family will never really “get” me, and that’s ok. Hopefully, though, you’ve found your stride and your tribe and are thriving on your own two feet. Don’t be afraid to be bold and different; it’s your family’s loss that they can’t understand how completely amazing and complete you really are.

Previously Published on Thought Catalog

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash


  1. Sorry to break it to you but this just sounds like a white teenage rebellion that never ended.

    You may have done all these things to fill those voids but most people with family problems don’t have such an easy time finding a tribe.

    We don’t all stop trying to connect to our families, often inviting an endless cycle of opening and closing out hearts to painful results.

    Good for you for having your shit come together so perfectly, but really, truly being different from your family doesn’t manifest in such a neat way for most people.


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