Family life today is very much a matter of getting along with other family members. Family relationships are very important, and I’m often asked how to get along with other members of the family. I can’t say that I’ve mastered the family conundrum, but, I have some intuitive insights that may help you to navigate these often turbulent waters.
As a personal life coach, family is always a focal point. In family life today, our family members are often our greatest and most difficult ongoing teachers. We are obviously genetically linked with them, having most of the same genes. That’s big! That means that on many levels we have a great deal in common. We may not behave exactly the same way as each other, but we are essentially similar. It helps to examine what the similarities are at a base level, so that we can work with them.
For instance, I come from a very intense family, where everyone wants to be right. Ouch! That can be challenging for a person like me who hates to argue. I had to look at why I argue: because I want to be right… like them. When I finally realized this I could step back and be objective. How important is being “right” to me? In most instances it’s irrelevant who is right. When I step back I can SEE the other person more clearly. I then have the power to act instead of react and can choose how I respond or not.
Here are some lessons I have learned about dealing with family life today:
1. The characteristics that bother us the most about family members (and others) are often the characteristics that we share. How can you tell if you share it? When a member of your family says or does something and you get angry, you are probably seeing a mirror of yourself on some level. Look at yourself closely and work on accepting that part of yourself.
2. Boundaries tend to fall apart in many families: this is very common in family life today, when people are more likely to get in each other’s face and space than in the past. Somehow the rules of outside decorum don’t apply in families, and we invade each other. Maintain your boundaries with your family. Know what you need and accept, and don’t get pushed around.
For example, members of my family tend to be critical of each other. I know from introspection that I have a tendency to be critical of others and especially of myself. I accept that in myself and can mitigate some of my tendencies. I decided to stop criticizing myself (sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t) and also decided that I wouldn’t accept unsolicited criticism from others.
I had to tell my family members that I could no longer be around them if they were critical of me. That meant being away from one or two of them for a while, until they agreed to accept my boundaries.
I can’t say they don’t ever criticize me (or me them), but they are much better about it now. If they aren’t I don’t put up with it and walk away, and I no longer take it personally. I’ve learned a lot from being around family. I can often feel compassion for them, and even amusement. Other times, I’m still learning.
The key is to know what you need. Let others know and kindly enforce your boundaries.
3. Don’t expect to get along. If it happens, it’s great. If not, accept it. There’s going to be friction in most families: it’s practically certain due to the variety of problems that arise in family life today. If you accept this and see it as an opportunity to for you to develop, to grow, then you may get a lot out of handling the situation. At first you may try being with them for shorter periods, and increase the interaction time when you feel ready.
Also, plan on taking some time alone when you have to be with them for longer periods. You’ll need time to process and recoup your energy from all the effort you put into personal growth. You’ll find that over time you’ll begin to change and grow – to behave better and maybe appreciate them more. You may even find you love yourself and your family members more.
4. All of the above applies to family situations where the members aren’t abusive (emotionally or physically), rude or taking advantage of others. If this is the case, stay away until you know you are safe.
5. We tend to think of our families as the most important part of our world. They can play an extremely important role in family life today, but it’s important for you to understand that they are only a part of your life. Focus some time on friendships with others and with your mate or partner, and appreciate life outside the family.
I know how challenging it can be to be around or to get along with other family members. I don’t claim to be an expert on family life today, but I’m still learning. I guess we will all be as long as we have family.
Deborah Hill’s intuitive coach.