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Article by Wendy McCance
I have a friend that has an incredibly small extended family. Most of the family lives out-of-town, so she doesn’t have a strong internal support system. My friend has created a network of friendships that are by all means closer than any family she has. Instead of having just some grown up close friends, she has a group of families that are close to her and her children. I am lucky to have known her and her family for about 9 years now. We get together for impromptu dinners, days at the pool and evenings in front of a campfire. By we, I mean her and her children and me and my family. My kids have commented numerous times that this family feels like close relatives to them and quite honestly, that’s how we treat each other.
My immediate family lives close by. Close enough that I could ride my bike over to most of their homes. I have always had a tolerable relationship with my sibling. When we were young, we just barely got along. As young adults, we somehow found a way to become quite close. As we have gotten older and had families of our own, we have grown further and further apart. Once again we can barely tolerate each other.
What is fascinating is that if my sibling was of no relation to me, we would have never had a friendship. What bothers me is that I have a few friends that feel more like relatives than people in my own family. What is it about family that compels us to overlook words that bring us down and actions that hurt us? Why do we tolerate bad behavior because “it’s family” when we would never allow others to treat us so poorly?
I’m all for family. I have nothing against the idea of family. Unfortunately, although I desperately want closeness with my sibling, I think I have finally had my fill of being treated badly. People in my family continue to push me to reach out and resolve any outstanding issues. This scenario has played out over and over again. I am supposed to forget my own feelings and make everything better. The problem is that we have a cycle where I reach out, a talk is had, we are okay again and then within a few weeks, my sibling goes on the attack again.
People in the family know it’s useless to push my sibling to make amends, (too stubborn and feels everyone owes them). This has made me feel like I’m being bullied by people who don’t take my feelings into consideration. If I had a friend attempting to get me to resolve a situation with another friend and the other friend never made an attempt, I would question the friend who was pushing me to resolve the problem. I would ask them if they understand what they were truly asking me to do and if they understood how it made me feel? I have asked my family these questions to no avail. They look the other way and hope for the best.
The closeness you share with family and friends affects your happiness. If there is a lot of bad feelings within a relationship, you cut ties in a friendship and move on. Why would you continue to take and let a toxic situation affect your happiness. Why are there no standards with a family situation. When should you move on? How hard should you fight for a resolution? What if the same situation plays out again and again? When I see my sibling I am polite and do not show any animosity. I still hope for the closeness we shared at one point in our lives. In the mean time, I don’t dwell too much on the relationship. I take it as it comes, but continue to let my happiness trump an unfortunate family situation.
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