Recently, I’ve been reflecting on family connections – mine and others. Some families really seem to get along well, have a collective sense of humor and mutual understanding, resolve differences eventually, and stay connected across miles and generations. Those are the fortunate folks that others tend to envy.
Those “successful” families aren’t without their problems. But, somehow, they have the tools which, used carefully, with love, and mutual respect, make it mostly work out in the end. Not perfect, but also not destructive and hurtful to family members.
I’ve also been thinking about the families who struggle. The families who live with silence, anger, blame, and pain – or maybe just indifference. The families whose members don’t view home as a place to relax, feel safe, be understood in a way that doesn’t happen elsewhere. The adults, all grown up now, who dread holiday reunion times, since the old unhappy scripts seem to revive with each visit.
I’ve watched families split, cousins who were childhood pals lose track of each other, adult children become isolated from the larger family unit, close connections lost, and adult regrets for situations that arose from childhood challenges that were not of their making.
I’m convinced that what’s missing in those struggling families is the ability to communicate effectively, so that needs are met without aggression and anger. Communication isn’t just the ability to talk about feelings, to make good speeches! Effective communication can be non-verbal, must include the ability to listen without an agenda.
I’m equally convinced that change is possible. And it only takes one motivated and determined family member to start that change going. Anger doesn’t have to rule family interactions, but family members do have to be willing to hear unhappiness and pain differently and to respond with care and respect.
If you’ve been hoping things will change, and if you’re tired of the same old distance and conflicts, you could decide to be that one family member who makes a difference. But, it’s tough – and lonely – to try to make that change on your own.
I’d suggest inviting a trusted family member to support you in your new plan. If that doesn’t work, you might want to do a little reading, research strategies on line or consult with a family counselor who can help you figure out how to make those family occasions a little less painful.