The first people you meet and interact with in this world are your family. They raise you, teach you and mold you into the person you will become.
These deep bonds can last a lifetime and the love in a family is like nothing else.
Sadly, however, family is not a beautiful thing for everyone.
For some of us, our family environment is a place of neglect, manipulation, and unfair expectations.
Sometimes we all go through bad times at home and with our loved ones. But deeper issues that show a lack of love in the family are not as easy to bounce back from.
With that said here are 12 signs your family doesn’t care about you, followed by five action-oriented steps I’ve come up with to deal with it.
First off, a disclaimer:
I know that nobody has a perfect family…
Russian writer Leo Tolstoy put it very well in his 1878 novel Anna Karenina, noting that “all happy families are alike, but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
I’m not here to undercut families or scrutinize everything that’s not ideal in your family.
In most situations, we all try our best at home as parents, kids, and relatives. But there are family climates that can become downright toxic and situations where you end up having the distinct impression that your family genuinely does not care about you.
If you’re dealing with this then I both sympathize and relate: I’ve had issues with members of my family making me feel uncared for and abandoned.
It’s a bad feeling and it’s not easy to solve but thankfully there are ways to move forward on this issue and start mending fences.
But first, you have to identify and acknowledge the problem…
Signs your family doesn’t care about you
1) Your point of view, emotions, and beliefs mean zilch to them
No matter what kind of structure your family has, it’s hard to feel like you’re really included if your viewpoint and perspective mean nothing to your other family members.
One of the top signs your family doesn’t care about you is that they just don’t listen to what you say. And when they hear you out for a minute or two they shoot you down immediately.
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You’re not allowed to have an opinion, emotion, or outlook that’s uniquely yours. You’re expected to sit down and shut up.
Especially as an adult, this can be a very humiliating and disempowering experience.
If your family doesn’t want you to chip in with how you see things then what the hell are you doing being part of it anyway?
2) Your family crosses your boundaries constantly with no apology
I don’t know the age of people reading this but I can say that as a younger kid or even teen, it’s more normal for your parents to be a little bit intrusive.
I even had friends growing up who were expected not to shut their room doors as teens and to always inform their parents when friends were over.
Before you go calling that the family version of North Korea, consider how much worse it can get:
Adult members of a family being treated like kids. This is a real problem. I’ve dealt with it and I think a lot of us have.
Members of our family — especially older members — still treat us like their kid brother or their little boy or girl. They intrude on our personal space, our life situations, our beliefs, and our decisions.
They don’t actually care about what we’re doing or why, they care about making sure they’re still in charge and can shape us into the image they want.
3) You are made to feel guilty for stating your needs
When your family expects you to always fall in line and put yourself last they show it by not respecting your needs.
One of the top signs your family doesn’t care about you is that they literally tell you they don’t care.
For example, you may mention to your dad that you really need career advice because you’re having major trouble at your job.
Maybe you’ve been stressing a little, let’s say, and even getting visibly upset a time or two, having mini-meltdowns over the work crisis you’re having. But your dad doesn’t empathize or see where you’re coming from, he just wants you to shut the hell up.
He brushes it off and tells you he doesn’t care about your endless job issues and has more important things to worry about, like your sister’s health problems and his upcoming fishing trip.
How else are you supposed to interpret it?
Maybe it’s his version of tough love, but to the rest of us this looks a lot like just…not caring.
4) Any attempt to communicate is met with mockery or dismissal
One of the clearest signs your family doesn’t care about you is when you just simply can’t get through to them.
At home, you’re treated like a ghost.
If you live in another place your calls go unanswered and you’re treated like an afterthought.
When you do get in touch or get their attention for a hot minute you feel a sense of dismissal.
Something about your or their perception of you, seems to just strike them as not worthy of their time or energy.
And this hurts. Naturally.
5) Your family finds a thousand ways to tell you you’re not good enough
I believe that healthy criticism and even familial pressure has its place:
On personal decisions.
Just going to go a little old-school on that.
However, I do not believe in your family undercutting you and basically finding constant new ways to let you know you’re not good enough.
Sometimes this is part of a pattern. Your parents or siblings had ideas impressed into their head that made them feel inadequate and they unconsciously put it onto you as well.
They may barely even realize how negative and undermining their words and actions are to you. But like all of us, you need some encouragement and somebody on your team!
Which is why being told you’re not good enough makes you just want to curl up in a ball and disappear (please don’t do that, I like you, I promise…)
In some situations as well there is a specific member of your family who has a problem with you. Maybe bad things went down in the past, maybe they have some other issue.
Michelle Devani takes a look at that in this article, where she writes that a toxic family member will “talk about your weakness and speak disdainfully when talking about your personality.”
“Don’t be wavered by this behavior, family members that act like this are not worth your time.”
6) Your family doesn’t help at all with your career and life choices
On a related note is just the overall lack of support.
When we care about someone we invest time and energy into them, right?
If your parents, siblings, cousins, uncles, and aunts treat you like a prop how are you supposed to think they care about you?
As an abstract concept?
You’re a person with a life just like the rest of us.
One of the top signs your family doesn’t care about you is that they simply don’t seem to care what you do or the problems you’re having.
Even just basic advice seems to be beyond their reach when you would help them out in a second with your advice if possible.
It feels bad, man.
7) Your family reinforces the most self-sabotaging parts of you
Among the worst signs your family doesn’t care about you is the habit of reinforcing the most self-sabotaging parts of you.
Your self-doubt, depression, even insecurity around your weight or body type…the amount of ways you can bring a person down are endless — especially when it’s friendly fire.
We can’t be super fragile and let other people’s negativity lower us or hit us in our hearts and deep sense of self-worth.
But at the same time, it’s totally understandable that those you love piling on to mock or reinforce the exact things you’re most worried about makes you feel like shit.
How could it not?
“Signs you grew up in a toxic family include being blamed for everything — from tiny things that aren’t perfect–to everything that’s gone wrong in the family, friendship, marriage, and every relationship since the beginning of time. You’re also reminded of every mistake and humiliating thing you ever did,” she says.
8) Your family demands you help during hard times but does nothing when you need a hand
One of the saddest things about people we love is that sometimes we completely take them for granted. This can be true of family, close friends, and romantic partners.
They’re so good to us, available and dependable that we begin to treat them like passive objects and property, only calling on them when we want something from them or have a particular need at that moment.
We begin to dehumanize those we should love and care about the most!
If this is what your family is doing to you it is very painful.
If you do what you can do to help them out but find there’s nobody on the other end when you need a hand, it’s an awful feeling.
It’s like that trust exercise where you close your eyes and fall backward and get caught by waiting colleagues.
Except in this case, nobody’s there and you smack the ground.
9) Your family praises your siblings and others but ignores you
Recognizing the accomplishments of others is awesome. I love to congratulate my siblings when they do great stuff.
But if you notice that your parents and other relatives are only heaping praise on your brothers and sisters and never on you, it’s hard to not see that as a personal slight.
Don’t you ever deserve a round of applause?
It’s not a competition, true true…
But it would be nice to get some recognition now and then and not get the impression that you’re an invisible nobody while your siblings are Hollywood stars winning awards every week or two…
How else can you take this except as a sign of some kind of lack of appreciation for you?
Nobody wants to feel like a replaceable cog in their own family.
10) Your family flakes on you all the time and is completely undependable
Actions speak louder than words and if you’re dealing with family members who are flakier than Captain Crunch then you know that being let down is more than just an annoyance.
Especially if it happens over and over…and over.
Some of us have time management issues, definitely true…but if your family is specifically flaking on you and never coming through when you need them most then it can be hard to see it as anything other than disrespect.
All of us can’t make appointments sometimes or have schedule mixups. Fine.
But when it becomes an observable pattern and long-term trend you have a real problem on your hands.
11) Your family is closed off to you and rarely invites you to anything
If you’re out of the house but still try to keep in touch with family then there are things like barbecues, get-togethers, family meetups and so on that are occasionally nice to attend.
Well, for some of us.
Let’s be honest that in many cases it feels more like a burden to talk to all the relatives you haven’t seen or have your one super annoying half-brother bother the shit out of you about your new girlfriend…
However, it is nice to at least get the invite so you can not show up.
When you’re not even included or thought of as someone to invite how are you supposed to feel?
Like it’s no big deal?
I know that I’d feel like I was being shunted out of the family, and I’d be angry!
“Among the things they do not care about is that they do not tell you about family events. Or major milestones. Things like celebrating your birthday. Or not coming to see you and your children show that your family does not care about you.”
It’s very difficult and demeaning.
12) Your family never mentions your childhood or fond memories of you
I know how embarrassing it can be to have your family always go on about when you were little.
Then they drag out the pics of you making goofy faces in the kiddie pool or wearing a clown nose. Yay.
But you know what also really sucks is when they never do this and never really talk about you growing up at all.
It’s like you just arrived on the scene out of an adult factory, all preassembled and ready to pay taxes and do adult stuff.
Except like all of us you also had a childhood: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
And having it ignored like it never happened kind of makes you feel weird and unloved.
Not cool, family.
What to do about a toxic family situation
What do you do when your family has stranded you or cut off contact?
Are there steps you can take to try to reestablish ties or express the abandonment and lack of care you’re feeling?
Yes, there are, and I’m going to go through them here. I call it the five Ts, five ways to start tying your broken-up family relationship back together.
1) Tighten ties with your friend circle
If you’re lucky enough to have friends who are like family to you, then deepen your relationships with them. It will help you stop focusing on the gap you’re feeling with family.
Friends can’t — or at least shouldn’t — replace family, but it’s OK and good to sometimes turn to those who appreciate you instead of facing more negative and dismissive behavior from those who should have your back.
Another benefit of prioritizing friends for some time is that because none of us have perfect families everyone has different family issues they’ve dealt with.
Being around your friends can help you find out valuable advice and insights about how to approach family problems that come from real-world experience, not just theories.
2) Tell them you love them
Yes, it’s corny as hell, but sometimes corny is just the way to go.
Tell the dismissive, mean old buggers that you love their sorry asses.
OK, that didn’t quite come out right.
But you know: go for the whole kit and caboodle. Lay all your emotions out, hug it out, cry it out, shout it out, storm out of the room and say you’ll never talk to them again…
Wait — not that!
But seriously, just tell them you love them and that you feel like you’re invisible and nobody notices you.
Don’t demand change. Maybe they are very damaged individuals. Maybe they barely even know how to change yet and it’s going to be a slow process.
But the least you can do is just tell them where you’re coming from and let them make the next move.
“Family is the last bus stop during a trail or an emergency. Family is always family, in the sense that they always give you a special treatment filled with love. Although, family differs from each other. Some show signs that they do not care about you, while some may show it to you gradually.”
3) Try to find solutions, not problems
It’s necessary to be out front about the problems that are happening. But it’s not necessary to make them the entire focus of trying to rebuild bridges with family.
Some things in the past really might have been unacceptable and too hurtful to even talk about for long.
Your family may have let you down or mistreated you in ways which truly wrecked your life. They can say sorry, they can try to do better but they can never undo what was done.
If you’ve suffered abuse or serious neglect you know how true that is.
So if you are strong enough to come back and try to find some love still left in a family that hasn’t cared enough for you then it’s best to look for any solutions no matter how small.
The past will probably have to be discussed a bit. But if it’s the focus you’re likely to go down a counterproductive path.
4) Test out a fresh approach
Sometimes the wounds of the past can’t really be “overcome” in the kind of Oprah, textbook way people want them to be.
They exist, they will continue to exist, and everything is not OK.
One of the smartest ways to approach a family problem that just isn’t going to be resolved, such as past abuse, serious neglect, ongoing mental illness, and so forth is to test out a fresh approach.
As strange as it sounds, sometimes you can rebuild a new and somewhat positive relationship with your family by just taking one or two positive things about them and making it the extent of your relationship.
Do your parents or siblings love camping? Go on a camping weekend and bond over the campfire and walking your dogs.
Does your family have an obsession with NASCAR? Show up with some beers and watch the race, then head home.
You might be hoping for a lot more and filled with regret at what could have been, but it’s still better than nothing.
5) Talk it out
Ultimately, you’re going to make about as much progress as both parties are able to reach. You have your experiences and your views and your family members have theirs.
I’m not saying their uncaring and ignorant attitude towards you wasn’t real or was acceptable, but you’re going to have to do your best to talk it out if you want to try to change it going forward.
If your family doesn’t seem to care much about you then obviously even getting them to take you seriously and commit to a real conversation could be difficult.
Do what you can.
Worst-case? Write it in an email and CC all those suckers very respectfully and with as much love as you can.
What about “family first”?
As I wrote at the very beginning of this article, family are the first people we’re exposed to who raise us up.
I personally do believe in family first and I believe we have obligations and opportunities with family that we don’t get with anyone else, except maybe a significant other.
Your family means a lot. But their negative behavior is not your fault.
And it’s also not your responsibility to take it on or “accept” dismissive, undermining, or uncaring behavior from family members.
If they are behaving this way then the most you can really do is reach out, state your position and make a good faith effort to change the relationship.
The next step is up to your family.