Four Steps to Make Your Family Miserable

Usually I write about ways to create a happy family filled with times of celebration and intimacy. However, some readers may prefer a more miserable home environment, a family that “prepares children for the real world,” a harsh world. Although I believe the best way to prepare a child for the “harsh realities of the world” is to provide a home filled with loving relationships, joyful celebrations, and gracious interactions, I don’t want to be accused of prejudice or being “too soft.” So, let me just offer some advice (perhaps, tongue in cheek) on how to make your family a truly miserable place–the kind of place children can’t wait to leave when they turn 18…the kind of place that causes spouses to fantasize of creative ways to escape.
First, to create a truly miserable home environment, make yourself number one. You know, watch out for “numero uno,” the “Big Kahuna.” Focus on your personal needs and desires while disregarding everyone else. Think about the things you want to do and ignore everyone else’s interests. Refuse to watch anything but the things you want to watch on TV. Roll your eyes when someone asks you to do something for them. Protect your seat, your time, your “whatever”…at any cost. As you practice this self-centered focus, you will discover that the second ingredient for making your family miserable occurs rather naturally. So…
Don’t waste any time; add the second ingredient for a miserable family, impatience. That’s right, practice impatience. Become impatient when family members don’t do just what you want. Start to yell impatiently when another family member sits on “your chair” or eats “your cookie.” A strong impatient attitude will serve as a springboard for harsh language and criticism. Don’t worry, let the harsh language flow from your impatience. Let it escalate all the way to name-calling and character assassination. You can use simple names like “stupid,” “lazy,” or “no good.” You can combine name-calling with criticism by saying things like “You’re just like your father” or “Why can’t you be more like ‘so and so.'” As you practice this you will find it comes more and more natural. You will even begin to lose sight of any good qualities that exist in your family members. When that happens, you will have moved your family to a new level of misery.  
Third, rather than show respect to other family members, criticize every little thing they do. This can grow out of impatience; but can also occur in response to unrealistically high expectations. With unrealistically high expectations, you can always criticize your family for “not doing it good enough” or “not doing it right.” If they make the bed, you can criticize them for the wrinkles in the sheets or the haphazardly placed pillow. When they help clean the kitchen, you can criticize them for leaving the wet dishtowel on the table. Whatever they do, always assume they didn’t do a “good enough job” and probably didn’t even try to do it right. Inevitably, they will do part of the job right. Ignore that part; disregard it. Whatever you do, do not recognize what they did right. Focus on what they did improperly, left undone, or forgot to do. Never offer thanks. Never show gratitude. If, in a moment of weakness, you thank them for doing part of the job right, you will set yourself back two steps in your movement toward misery.

Finally, do everything you can to make family members feel as though you could leave at any moment. Never let anyone grow secure in their relationship with you. This will include making veiled and open threats about leaving. “If you keep this up, I’m going to leave” or “I’m out of here” represent two direct threats of abandonment. A more veiled threat might be “I wish I wasn’t here” or “I should have never married you.” Of course, you could combine the threat of abandonment with criticism by making comments like “You’ve ruined my life. I may as well just disappear.” Whatever you do, never let them think you are happy with your current life with them. Instead, let them know how miserable you are “in this house.” (Of course, a miserable home was the goal and you may find yourself rather happy to achieve that goal…but, don’t let on.)
There you go…four steps for creating a truly miserable family environment. If you like misery, have fun with these steps. (Oh wait, if you have fun you would not be miserable. Well, you know what I mean.) If you’d rather enjoy a secure family environment filled with joyful celebration and intimate relationships, do the opposite of the four steps described above…practice self-denial, encourage one another, respect one another, express gratitude, and share your love.

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