You Can’t Choose Your Family

One of the reasons we love our friends so much is because the relationship is optional. Not working out? Bail. Or work it out. It’s your choice.

Not so much with the family. True, you can choose to distance yourself from your family and avoid contact, thereby mitigating the impact of toxic or unhealthy relationships. But they’re still your family regardless of how much you might try to ignore that fact.

Marriage is one of those grey zones where it’s optional to stay together, but not really. The commitment ceremony means that you are now legally family even if there is not a blood bond. This legal commitment increases the likelihood that both parties will stay and work it out. Staying to work it out increases the likelihood that it will actually work in the long run. In other words, commitment to a relationship increases the chances of it working. Makes sense, right?

That logic applies to family as well. That blood bond is a built-in incentive to try to work it out. These sometimes difficult relationships are automatic opportunities to learn to manage all of our relationships more effectively and holistically. They’re built-in relationship laboratories. Aren’t we lucky?

Granted, it takes two to tango and you can’t have a relationship with someone who doesn’t want a relationship. But that justification – that someone else doesn’t want a good relationship – wears thin over time. From what I’ve seen, both parties tend to be reasonable in their own way and relationships break down when we fail to respect the others’ perspective and give them benefit of the doubt. Vilifying someone else for having a different opinion or style is a formula for a disastrous relationship.

I’m enormously grateful to my often crazy, sometimes wacky family for sticking it out over the years and not giving up on our relationships. They’ve taught me to try to understand and accept others as they are, to be patient, and to find the good in everyone no matter how hard they make it. If I had given up, I would never have learned these lessons and discovered the amazing people hiding behind a difficult exterior. That includes me.

Thanks family for your commitment and patience with me! Love you!

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