All of us have relatives. Some we have chosen and others have been chosen for us. All families have “issues” and family members who always seem to be smack dab in the center of those issues. There are people who haven’t been in touch with their family members for years and even generations. Many of us have dysfunctional relationships with certain members of our family due to generational schisms or unresolved arguments, pain or betrayal that happened years ago and now we cannot even remember how it all started in the first place. And yet, despite all of the problematic issues and dysfunctions that may have followed us from childhood to adulthood we still “TRY” to make it work out somehow, someway.
When we gather together for family functions we bite the proverbial bullet, hold our breath, and push through, hoping against hope that there’s no sudden disruption or volatile outburst between estranged family members that ruins the entire day for everybody else. In some cases, certain relatives will not attend a family gathering if they know in advance that so and so will be there. These untenable situations rise in importance and frequency as the major holiday season approaches each and every year. We recognize that family does matter, more for some of us than for others of us, but is there a limit?
As children we are told, “That’s your family and every family has problems but you have to stick together!” When we grow up we realize that we cannot control other people (even family relations) and that the only thing we can control is our own response and our own actions. We recognize that not everyone holds the same values or even respect for others as we might want to promote. This recognition can be a painful awakening when we apply it to those we call our family or refer to as our relatives. Families and the people in them are just microcosms of the larger society.
In the larger society, there are all kinds of people with all kinds of problems and issues including personality disorders, addictions and mental health concerns. Out in the world, we have diverse opinions and disagreements with all types of people on politics, religion, race, identity and social issues. It should not surprise us that we may not meld, match or mess with certain members of our own family just like the people we work with, live next to, or interact with in our collective spheres of influence. So then how do we “deal” with this when it comes to the intimacy of our family relationships, and is it really that different than what we do outside the bounds of family relations?
As adults, we are responsible to free ourselves from toxic relationships, even if we are related to the people who are at the center of those relationships. Dysfunctional people will always place their own needs first at the expense of everyone else’s needs. It becomes a self-inflicted wound when you continue to allow people to stay in your life who trample on you and your feelings, behaving with a reckless disregard for the pain they cause. You are responsible for your well-being and safety even when there is pressure to just suck it up and get through it. You need to set clear boundaries so that you don’t get caught up in someone else’s madness, or feel responsible for someone else’s life choices or the consequences those choices have wrought. In the end we can only live our own life’s story, we cannot edit someone else’s for them. Family does matter but there is definitely a limit.