My Personal Family Story
Transforming Myself, Transforming My Family
I was the people pleaser; the one who always tried to be nice.
My family was close. I have an older brother, 14 years older and a younger sister 3 and a half years younger; all of the same biological parents. I grew up and eventually got married in my mid 20’s.
Over the course of our marriage, my wife and I spend a lot of time with my family.
My brother’s wife has been in my life since I was age 3. She is a quick-witted woman who I always wanted approval from as well. I wanted to have that relationship with both my brother and sister-in-law where we would have fun together.
We have a close relationship with my brother and sister-in-law, but I was careful; I watched my words.
My wife let me know that she felt judged by my sister-in-law. She realized that no one seemed to ask her questions or show an interest. I defended my biological family as many people do.
It was what I knew and they were my security.
As a result, my wife and I would have fights over this.
Gradually I came to realize that my wife had a valid point. A turning point for me was when we attended workshop together and she brought up this family issue.
The workshop leaders had me look at my wife and say the following words: “It is more important to look good to my family than to meet your needs.” I reluctantly said those words that deep down I knew were true.
These words resonated with me and though it made my wife angry to hear it… she felt comforted at the same time because I was finally seeing the real issue at hand.
From that time on, I realized that I needed to discover the truth of what I was truly feeling.
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It wasn’t about defending my family or agreeing with my wife. It was about me finding my true voice. What do I really see? What do I know intuitively?
I began to show much more empathy for my wife.
I stopped automatically pleasing my family. I brought up what I had realized (with the help of my wife) with other family members but it was not received well. It is generally difficult for people to look at themselves objectively. It took me a long time. My family members were not ready to see another viewpoint, another perspective.
When one person starts to break out of a certain role, it puts stress on the family of origin, which is used to a certain way of being, of communicating.
Everyone slips into a role. I was slipping out of mine and it didn’t go well.
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For years, we saw them less and you could even say I became the proverbial “Black Sheep” of the family. It was difficult because I truly loved my family and felt the loss but I could not give up my truth, my voice for even the family.
On the other hand, my wife and I were more connected.
This does not mean that I never saw my family and I was clear with my wife that I was not willing to sever any relationships. They were not bad people; they just were people that did not handle the person I was becoming, as I would have liked.
I realized that during earlier stages of my transformation, I did need some (not total) distance from them to differentiate and become more of myself.
As I got more comfortable inside my own skin, it was time to be myself and connect once again with my family in a more engaged. With a solid stable sense of self as well as a stable marital relationship, what happened then was very joyful.
It seems to me as if my love for the family members without the need for their approval helped transform their relationships with me. I think that they were more ready as well; I will not take all the credit.
However, I do think that once a person breaks free from old roles and rigid ways of being, and once the person identifies with the more expanded view of whom he is, the other family members can often enjoy and grow along with him.
These days, I have that wonderful feeling of being an “I” as well as part of a “we.” I am grateful for that!
Not every family has this ending; I do understand that. Sometime the family just needs you to be as dysfunctional as they are. In those cases, you need to find another (what I call) “prosthetic “ family.
The key is to find your voice and find those people with whom you can connect and be your genuine self. It is what you and I crave and deserve.