How to Deal With Family Members That Ignore You

Published July 28, 2020
Sad frustrated girl feeling lonely

Being ignored by one or more family members can feel extremely painful and frustrating. While you may not ever fully understand why they are ignoring you, there are ways you can protect your emotional wellbeing.

When Family Ignores You

When a family member ignores you, it can lead you to question yourself and wonder if you're at fault. This is a completely normal response to this type of situation, as most human beings are naturally inclined towards seeking closure and minimizing emotional stress. After being ignored on an acute or chronic basis, you may experience:

  • Feeling invisible
  • Feeling disrespected
  • Feeling hurt and confused
  • Feeling invalidated
  • Feeling angry
  • Perseverating and obsessing over the incident(s) where you were ignored
  • Feeling frustrated
  • Experiencing lower self esteem
  • Experiencing symptoms of anxiety and/or depression
  • Experiencing symptoms of feeding/eating disorders
  • Experiencing symptoms of trauma-based disorders

As an adult, you may unconsciously seek out unhealthy partners or friends who also don't prioritize your needs, abandon you, ignore you, or aren't trustworthy. Take time to reflect if this is a pattern that you've encountered outside of your family before.

family members exclude you

Family Members Exclude and Ignore You

Being excluded by a family member on one or more occasions can feel exhausting, anxiety provoking, and upsetting to deal with. Being excluded is a form of being ignored and can make you feel as if you don't belong in your family. Other forms of exclusion include when a family critiques one family member out in the open or in confidence, leaving one person out of family activities, and not being responsive to one family member. Even if you don't get along with your family, feeling like an outsider can still be extremely painful. If possible:

  • Speak with the family member who is ignoring you, if you feel emotionally and physically safe doing so, and speak from an honest and neutral perspective. For example, you can say, "At the (event) I felt a bit ignored when you didn't respond to me when I asked about (insert statement). I'm wondering if you would feel comfortable sharing your perspective."
  • Set and maintain healthy boundaries. Often times those who live in households with, or had frequent interactions with dysfunctional family members may struggle with understanding healthy and appropriate boundaries because there wasn't a great example of that growing up.
  • Educate yourself about types of emotional abuse so you can better understand what makes an individual abusive, as well as the effects this form of abuse can have on those who experience it. Know that some people who behave in abusive ways are not doing it consciously, but instead have learned this pattern of behavior in childhood and may not think they are doing anything hurtful.

How Do You Deal With a Controlling Family Member?

Ignoring someone is a powerful form of control and manipulation. If your family member has opted to use shutting you out as a means to access power and control, know that there are a few ways you can go about handling the situation. Keep in mind that:

  • This is not your fault, and you are not responsible for someone else's childish and hurtful behavior. Continue to remind yourself that controlling their own behavior is up to them, and it is not because of you.
  • Often times those who were ignored as children grow up to repeat this pattern and shun, ignore, and purposefully leave out others. While painful if you're on the receiving end of this behavior, know that being ignored often times will have nothing to do with you, but is rather someone unconsciously working through early childhood trauma in an unhealthy way.
  • A family member may ignore you as a form of projection, meaning that when they feel triggered, they may attribute their vulnerable feelings to you, instead of dealing with them on their own. For example, they may blame you, and say it's your fault for feeling ignored, as a way to avoid their feelings of being ignored. This can be sparked by a triggering situation that you may not even be privy to.

Regardless of whether a family member is ignoring you on a conscious or unconscious level, it does not make this behavior acceptable, appropriate, or healthy.

When Family Ignores You on Facebook

If a family member is ignoring you on social media, think about if it is worth it to spend your energy worrying about why, or trying to engage with them to understand their point of view. Ask yourself why this is bothering you, upsetting you, or making you feel angry. Think about if them ignoring you is a purposeful act or an accident. If you do want to take action:

  • Ask your family member if they are available to speak with you and share your feelings in a concise and honest way without placing blame. For example, "I'm wondering if you had some time to chat later with me." If they agree, you can say, "I wanted to speak with you on Facebook, but it seems like I'm blocked."
  • If they continue to ignore you and it feels purposeful, or they have a history of chronically ignoring you, take back your control and set your own boundaries. Know that you are not at their whim, and you deserve to engage with healthy individuals who will respect you and engage in appropriate and healthy communication with you.
  • If your family member blocks you on social media without cause, try to reframe the situation. Even though it may bring up a reaction within you, it can be a gift in dirty paper when an unhealthy, and/or abusive individual reduces their interactions with you.

How Do You Handle a Toxic Family Who Ignores Your Needs?

If you are living in a household with a dysfunctional family, and you are a minor, know that a caregiver or parental figure who consistently ignores your needs, and/or fails to recognize your unique emotional responses can be considered a form of neglect and/or emotional abuse depending on the specific circumstances. As a minor you can:

  • Report the abuse to Child Protective Services. Keep in mind that emotional abuse without physical abuse and/or severe neglect (lack of food, clothing, shelter) is unlikely to lead to your removal from the household and that someone may contact your caregiver to do an evaluation. Consider speaking with a trusted adult prior to taking this action, as doing so can potentially lead to an increase in household hostility.
  • Set emotional boundaries and try to protect yourself as best as you can until you are able to leave the household for good. Take time to think about previous situations where you felt ignored and prepare yourself for future instances.
  • Continue to build internal resources. Remind yourself that you are worthy of love, your emotions are valid, and you deserve to be acknowledged. Even though this individual is a family member does not mean that they are healthy, and it certainly does not mean that they are an accurate reflection of you.
children listening to parents arguing

How to Deal With Family Members That Disrespect You

When a family member ignores you, it can lead to you feeling deeply disrespected. It's a good idea to practice not actively seeking out the validation of the family member(s) who are mistreating you and to work on cultivating your own form of self love, self-respect, and internal validation. Reduce your interactions with this particular family member if possible, work on noticing when they are trying to create a stressful emotional reaction within you (emotional abuse), and do your best not to engage with them on their level. Following a negative interaction with them, practice repeating mantras that remind you that:

  • You are worthy of respect
  • You are worthy of love
  • You deserve to experience healthy relationships with open communication, trust, honesty, and appropriate boundaries

Why Does My Family Ignore Me?

One or more family members may ignore you for multiple reasons. Keep in mind, whatever their external reason is for ignoring you, typically there are several unhealthy and unconscious mechanisms beneath the surface that are motivating their behavior that they are unlikely aware of. Some include:

  • Pattern of unhealthy attachments
  • Projections of feeling unseen and ignored on you
  • Way to manipulate you and create a stressful emotional response within you

Know that even if you did something you aren't proud of to this family member, you still don't deserve to be ignored. Ignoring someone is an immature reaction and a form of regressive behavior that you can often spot little ones engaging in as a means to express feelings that they do not have the language for. Adults who choose to ignore others are therefore not engaging with you as adults, but rather are stepping back into their triggered childhood years. Keep this in mind when your family member seems triggered and begins excluding or ignoring you.

Seek Help When You Are Ignored by Family

Being ignored by a family member can be an extremely painful experience. Know that regardless of their reasoning for why, you don't deserve to be ignored. If you are experiencing difficulties with self-esteem, anxiety, depression, sleep or eating related issues, or general stress, be sure to reach out to a therapist or counselor who can help you process this difficult situation, while helping you increase your resiliency.

How to Deal With Family Members That Ignore You