During the second part of my article I would like to focus on family as part of our social needs system. Our families are very important to us, but what happens when we get married? How much influence do we allow our extended family to have on our relationship and children? Issues and conflict within the family and extended family system can be the root of allot of conflict between couples.
We are all part of a family. As mammalian creatures we are met to be part of a group and our family is the first group that we belong to. Sometimes we come out of dysfunctional families and sometimes we come out of happy families – the fact remains that we will always have scars that accompany us to our adult years. We cannot deny the impact that our childhood had, and sometimes, still have on us. But no family is perfect, all parents make mistakes. When we become adults our choice is whether to be different or the same as our parents. Understanding your family dynamics and the impact it had on you is a wonderful and yet painful journey that we all must take. Understanding your partner’s familial background can make a big difference in your ability to better understand them. So take some time and think about your childhood. What was your parent like? What mistakes you do think they made? How did these mistakes affect you? How is it still affecting you? Answering some of these questions could shed some light into yourself.
Family doesn’t just play a role in who you are but also in what you do and what you perceive as “normal”. Sometimes it helps to question what you thought was normal in order to better yourself and your understanding of the world. We learn most about the world in the first 18 years of our lives. We learn about life, rules, boundaries, love, communication, respect and trust within our family. When these concepts are polluted by negative things, your entire perception of life can be negative. Some families share healthy and effective communication and boundaries while other doesn’t. If you did not learn how to communicate effectively you will struggle to do so in your relationships.
If you did not learn the value of healthy boundaries, you will struggle to implement them in your adult life. But you can always learn how to improve on these concepts.
Usually we move out of our families in the search for our own lives. Some people want to start their own families, while others want different things from life. But let’s assume that we all want to start our own families…how do we do that when we had a traumatic childhood. The answer, while complex, is simple – change the patterns. As children we don’t have control over our lives, but as adults we do. Make different choices and don’t repeat the same mistakes. But before you can do that you need to be aware of the unrealistic or irrational expectations that you have. Awareness is the first step to change.
The day you say “I do” is the day you decide that your partner becomes your new core family. That means that the needs of your partner and your children are more important that the needs of your extended family or in-laws. You chose this path and you need to take responsibility for your choice. You need to take care of and protect your new core family. Yes, our parents will always be important to us, and yes they might have some wisdom, but at the end of the day you need to make the best choices for your family. Be careful of allowing too much influence. Your family might not be subjective and give you the wrong advice. Families with vague boundaries are highly at risk for to many outside influences, making it very difficult to manage. Have you ever heard of the saying: “Too many cooks in one kitchen” or “Too many fingers in one pie”. These saying are true when it comes to our core families. If there is too many people involved in your issues, they will become more difficult to manage and to solve. Because we are social creatures, we will have the need to contact with our families, and that it great, we need it. Just be aware of balance and good boundaries and time spent with family can be fun.
Because our family backgrounds differ, our needs regarding family will differ. But for the family system to grow, one needs to actively spend time on it. It is important for you and your family to spend quality time together, having fun and staying connected. Never let time at work keep you from spending time with your family.
One day you might regret not spending enough time with your partner and your children, and when time is past you can never get it back. So make the best of the time that you have with you family because we never know when our time, or theirs, is up. So please take some time and just be with your family. Go on dates with your partner, play with your children and have fun together as a family – this is the most precious thing in the world. It is more important than money, or cars or your job. Your family will help you grow and support you in times when you feel hopeless or sad. Your children will learn from you and you will most definitely learn from them. Take your family out for a fun dinner or a movie – do this weekly if you can. Take time to eat meals together and to just talk to them. This way you will always stay connected and strong. Don’t let too many people influence your choices regarding your family – you and your family know what is best. If you are struck, rather seek professional help. This way you are guaranteed of an objective opinion rather that subjective advice.
“You must remember, family is often born of blood, but it doesn’t depend on blood. Nor is it exclusive of friendship. Family members can be your best friends, you know. And best friends, whether or not they are related to you, can be your family.”
Also read the other articles in the series: