Family Relationships

Our most basic instinct is not for survival but for family.  Most of us would give our own life for the survival of a family member, yet we lead our daily life too often as if we take our family for granted.  ~Paul Pearsall,
Ph. D., author,lecturer and keynote speaker. 1942-2007

If you read yesterday’s post you will know that I had all the family, with the exception of my son-in-law, here in the evening.  Sitting and watching the interaction between the members made me think of relationships in families and how we all fit into the jigsaw that is a family.

Jig saw pieces

© Nese Basaran |

Of all the relationships in our lives those with our family are the most difficult to manage with equanimity.  My dictionary defines equanimity as “Calmness of mind and composure” while Roget’s Thesaurus offers “Balance, poise, good temper and coolness”.

So why do we have more problems interacting with family members than with strangers?  Well, firstly family members know us with all our faults and imperfections.  they know our arrogance, our fears and foibles and our reaction to certain stimuli.  Maybe at times, they even use these stimuli to manipulate us.

Does a child win when mother in desperation, gives in to an unreasonable demand?  Of course he does and having learned what pushes the button, tucks the knowledge away for future use.

Our family members have seen us at our best and at our worst.  They are difficult to deceive.  They know us.  They see through our “face for the world”.

We all have rules by which we live and the rules that govern our relationship with our family are a set apart.  What do you expect from your family?  Do you expect the television version of happy families?  Are you old enough to remember the Partridge Family or the Brady Bunch?  Were we expected to believe that this was the norm?  Unfortunately, I think many did.

A family is made up of a number of individuals each having his or her own rules as to how a family should act.  Fathers and mothers make rules for their children.  They model their own behavior on these rules, and expect their children to follow them.  In turn the children develop their own rules, usually based on the model set by the parents.

But what happens when others are introduced into this tight knit family unit – son marries, daughter becomes engaged to be married.  Here are more people with their own rules, values, faults and imperfections (although the faults and imperfections may not be immediately obvious).

Then grandchildren are born.  Their parents set rules and boundaries by which they will raise their children and on which they expect their children to base their own lives.  In today’s world, where many families have both parents working, grandparents are having an increasing influence on grandchildren’s lives.  They then have to juggle their own rules and values with those of the children’s parents.  I suggest this is not always easy.  And as the grandchildren grow and set their own rules and values the mix becomes even more complicated.

So it is clear that family relationships need more attention than we usually give to them.  For most of us it is a given that the family is there.  We may say “If I need them I can call upon them and they are there for me.”  But is this enough?

How about your family relationships?  Is it time you sat down with the family members and discussed how you each see your place in the family structure – grandfather, grandmother, sons and daughters, their spouses and children.  And in today’s world there are often even more levels of this relationship.  If one or other party has been divorced, or a spouse or partner has died and a new person has been introduced into the family, the structure will change.  What of his or her values, rules and own family as you try to integrate them into your  family?

Is it time to have conversations with individual members of the family?  Perhaps there is a sibling or son or daughter with whom your relationship is not as it should be.  How can you change this?  Often just taking time to sit down together undisturbed, talking about your feelings can bring out the desired a change in the relationship.  Be open and honest with each other but not judgmental.  It is often very difficult to leave out the judgment critic.  Remember you each have equal rights to voice your thoughts and feelings.  Listen to the other person; it’s very likely you will learn something.

You will have to set some rules for this engagement.  Maybe it needs to be in an independent space, neither person’s home or office.  A coffee shop during a quiet period would be ideal.  Just as long as you are both comfortable with the location.  Then set the rules and boundaries.  This should not be the opportunity for a slanging match or verbal abuse.  It is not meant to become a battle field.  Before the meeting think “calmness, balance, poise, good temper etc”.

So it’s worth a try.  You have nothing to lose and much to gain.  Then when you see it work with one person try it on any other family with whom you think you have a problem.

Then take it out into the world.  We know that nothing happens without action.  This can be the first step.  Our world certainly needs some peace and harmony.  Perhaps you can begin an ever increasing circle of peace and harmony.


My rainbow

23 responses to “Family Relationships

  1. Family; the most difficult and loving entity in our lives… I love this post and will be forwarding it to family. 🙂


  2. Too many of us have a propensity to push buttons when around people with whom we are intimate when a little tension brews making things escalate that usually would be laughed off.


  3. Thank you for this excellent post. I am currently having a l ot of trouble in my relationship with my daughter and her husband. We need to sit down and talk about it rationally.


    • Thank you for that comment. I found when I had a problem with my son it was cleared up by quiet conversation between the two of us.
      Hope it works out with your daughter and her husband.


  4. Excellent suggestions. It amazes me how many families are dysfunctional in one way or another. My brother and I are the only ones left from my original nuclear family, and thankfully, we are very close. I’m also fortunate to have great relationships with our three children and their spouses. They don’t live anywhere near us, though. I wonder how the dynamics would be if we all lived close to each other? Incredible rainbow picture, by the way.


  5. Thanks Susan. My children and their families don’t get together often as they are all so very busy. But I do love having them here.
    My sisters and I have great relationships with each other, but then we do live in separate continents and it might be different if we lived closer. somehow I don’t think so and know that I am particularly lucky with my family.
    I am no photographer as you probably guessed. The point and shoot kind and that rainbow was truly a fluke.


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  7. I guess I feel very lucky for not having any difficult family relationship drama. One of my favorite quotes about family is…
    “The family – that dear octopus from whose tentacles we never quite escape, nor, in our inmost hearts, ever quite wish to.” ~Dodie Smith


  8. Yes I too am lucky. As I said to Marie above, that when I had a small problem with my son, rather than wait for it to escalate we sat down and discussed it. It worked for us.


  9. You’ve written a lot of wisdom there, Judith.


  10. Some great points here to take into consideration……I think some of my family AND me could use some of this advice. Thanks for this great post! 🙂


  11. Fantastic rainbow! May that signify the peace we all long for! Thanks again for a great post.


  12. Family: can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em. My uncle, who was like a father to me, turned the family upside down when he re-married after my aunt passed away. It’s pretty complicated, so I’ll spare you the details. However, he and I communicated our feelings to one another in a non-confrontational way. Since then, we have no contact with one another but we are comfortable in knowing where each other stands. So, the end result wasn’t the most desirable but better than not trying at all to understand each other. I guess you could say that we agreed to disagree.

    Good advice, Judith!


  13. Thanks for the comment. I am happy that the parting was amiable but sad that it didn’t work out the way I guess you would have liked.


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  15. Hi, Judith!
    In our family, we’ve found SPACE is what we need most, as we all are different personalities and get on each others nerves. Although we love our family members, seeing them a handful of times (some even just at holidays) and that’s just fine with us. Otherwise, we can’t help but pick at each other. Some are strains on us, always needing help or something wrong and others they act as if we are straining them. We’re much happier living our own life and visiting each other occasionally. That makes the visits more fun and something special. For instance, my mom is enjoying seeing the grandkids for a couple of days, but it’s been months since she came to see them. About 1/2 year! It’s a nice visit, but if it were weekly (every day?) her rules are way too stringent! It would drive us crazy! 🙂

    Lake Forest, CA USA
    **Down 10lbs in 2 weeks! Wahoo!


    • Hi Sandi. We were always fortunate that even when our children were growing up we had space. It was alwayds possible to get away from each other and that is important.
      Now they are grown with children of their own and as a family we rarely all get together. The only time it has happened this year is as I described in the blog. I don’t really get involved in my children’s lives unless I am asked to and we are all most comfortable with that.
      Thanks for the comment.


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