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Family Matters

It didn't even need to go there. That's why I hate going to these family get-togethers. Somebody always has to say something stupid, and of course, I have to call them out on it. I just wanted her to know that constantly "joking" with me about my weight, financial status, and life choices, just wasn't okay anymore. Like girl... just cause you're miserable in your own life doesn't give you permission to take it out on me. Then on top of that, when I get annoyed, everyone wants to talk about "Well, you know how your cousin is!", as if that's the get out of jail free card. Instead, that's the exact problem. I DO know how she is, and I'm old enough now to stop accepting it. If people can't be respectful, family or not, I don't want them in my space, period. And although I know that this is my right, I can't act like the severing of a relationship, with someone who I consider more like a sister, doesn't create a whole different level of pain. Steph was there when I learned how to ride a bike, and when I had my first crush. She was there when I won my first award, and when I crossed the stage to graduate. She's seen me grow and evolve from the beginning. To lose that closeness with someone who I feel knows me best, is absolutely devastating. But to suffer in silence, while she begins to strip away at my self-esteem one snide remark at a time, also feels devastating and unbearable. I shouldn't feel the need to have my full emotional armor on when I'm around my "family".



When it comes to our family members, the relationships we have with them are often deeply rooted, and very impactful on who we become as people later on in life. Our relatives can often be our first friends and the first people we are taught to trust. Over the years, memories are built with them which can help to establish longlasting bonds. Many times, we see our family members at our homes, places of worship, or other places where we feel comfortable and safe. As a result, it is common for people to associate their family members with the feeling of safety and security. Although this is not the case in every situation, the idea that family is supposed to be your support team no matter what, and love you unconditionally, can lead to high expectations and repeated disappointments. Unfortunately, it can also lead to us accepting certain treatment that we would not accept from someone who wasn't related to us.


When relatives do not live up to our expectations of providing love, safety, and support, especially from a young age, we may grow to think that this is an acceptable way to behave towards people we say we love. Some of these behaviors may include speaking in an abusive way, disregarding boundaries, or exhibiting negligence. Whatever the behavior, it can inspire confusion within us about what is acceptable and what is not. In the end, when we enter into other relationships, our perspective on healthy vs. unhealthy interactions can be warped. For example, if a parent gives their child the silent treatment when they are upset with them, rather than communicating the issue, the child may grow up thinking that this is the most effective way to handle conflict. Even more so, if a child grows up being forced to give people in their family a hug, even if a family member makes them uncomfortable, the child may grow to believe that they have no autonomy over their bodies. They may also conclude that physical boundaries are okay to be broken by people who claim to love them. All of these misconceptions can lead to problems when trying to establish healthy relationships with friends and lovers, and will more than likely need to be unpacked in a therapeutic setting.


Regardless of the situation, if we feel that being around certain family members does more harm than good to us, loving them from a distance should be viewed as a viable option. We should not feel obligated to engage with, or tolerate, toxic behavior. To this end, instant reconciliation does not always provide the best solution.  However, oftentimes we let people in our family, who value the appearance of peace over the actual presence of it, convince us to look past certain transgressions.  Because of this, negative emotions can be left to fester, only to resurface in areas of our lives that we least expect.

On the other hand, there are certainly times when remedying the situation is possible and healthy. Nevertheless, in order for this to occur, there must be several factors present. These factors include accountability, active listening, agreeing on expectations, changed perspectives, and changed behavior. To fix the issue, everyone involved must be able to take accountability for the role they played in the initial conflict, or the escalation of it. Keep in mind though, there are times when one party IS solely responsible for a conflict, in which case the other person may be considered a victim. In these cases, the victim does not owe the other person a chance at reconciliation, especially if they feel their boundaries have been irreversibly crossed. But in most cases, each person should be able to figure out how they could have acted differently to obtain an alternative outcome. Just as important, all parties need to agree on/ respect any new boundaries put in place in order to move forward in a healthy way. Most importantly, once agreeing upon what the relationship should now consist of, all parties must be determined enough to behave accordingly. If not, the cycle of dissension will only continue. 


Just like with any relationship, the relationship we have with our family should mirror the way we would like to be treated as a human being in general. If it does not, we should not feel guilty about deciding to distance ourselves from it. Additionally, the time for responding "well that's still your family" in the face of toxicity and disrespect, has long passed. As we progress, we must come to terms with the fact that sometimes growth is born out of difficult conversations. By choosing our own wellbeing over the desire to appease our family, we create an opportunity to connect with them on an authentic level. Family wounds can often hurt the most, but with the right balance of love and accountability, it is possible to bring about healing and wisdom for the future. 


All Power And Love To The People,

Shani

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