I’ve been talking with the Friday Zoom crew about covering this topic for a long time, but it seems to always get pushed to the back burner in lieu of other, more urgent topics. As we launch into a new year, and begin our recovery from the busy holiday season, I thought this was a perfect time to discuss making your own family.
After all, the holidays have a way of putting all of our relationships under a magnifying glass. If we have healthy bonds, we may experience a heightened sense of closeness and joy during the holidays. But unfortunately, the holidays also has a way of magnifying all of the weak spots in our relationships as well.
Intention versus obligation
In Redefining Love, we get to choose who we allow into our inner circle. There is a whole wide world out there. Why should our families be limited only to those whom we were born to? Regardless of whether you grew up in an emotionally healthy environment or are a product of dysfunction, we all have a right to define our own family.
Making your own family isn’t about turning your back on your family of origin. It is quite possible that you will choose your family of origin to share your life with.
In Redefining Love, your relationships should be intentional. You should know exactly why you are spending time with those you are in close relationship with.
Making your own family is about choosing your relationships with intention rather than feeling bound by obligation. If you are allowing people into your inner circle out of a sense of obligation, guilt, or coercion, that is a terrible reason to expend your limited time and energy.
From a distance
Redefining Love allows you to love people from a distance. If someone is toxic in your life, it’s okay to withhold close relationship, not because you hate them (even if the other person says that is the case), and not because you can’t forgive (also a highly likely response). You respect others’ right to be at whatever place they are in any given moment. But you also respect yourself enough to recognize that you are in a different place.
You may choose to share your whole self with your family of origin, or you may choose to share yourself with only those members of your family of origin who respect your boundaries. Or, in the case of some highly toxic families, you may choose to love your family of origin from a safe distance (across town or across the country). The key is to acknowledge that your relationships are a choice. And choice is a key component to accountability.
Just as you are
There are plenty of people in the world who will accept you just as you are. There’s no point in wasting your few precious years on this earth in close relationship with people who don’t respect you.
Whether you choose to love your family of origin with daily contact, occasional contact, or from a distance, you have a right to determine where you end and others begin.
Once you have redefined love, you can distinguish between your capacity for love, which is infinite, and your physical space in the world, which is limited. There is only so much YOU to go around, so choose carefully!
Change is a part of life
In Redefining Love, your family is constantly growing and changing. People come into our lives for a little while and they are so vitally important for our growth, and you to theirs. As your life and the other person’s shifts – as it inevitably will – you may move in different directions. It doesn’t mean you love them any less. It simply means your lives have diverted onto different paths. Perhaps you’ll cross paths again someday, perhaps not.
This fluidity only works if we remain accountable. We have a responsibility to those we love, and we love everyone, whether they are a part of our family or not. Our responsibility is to know ourselves well enough to set firm boundaries for a healthy life, and to respect others’ boundaries as well. We must give ourselves permission to let go of relationships that are not serving a healthy purpose in our lives.
Forever friends as family
Each of us, if we are lucky, encounter a rare few who come into our lives as family, and they remain there for the duration. In Redefining Love, this only works if both you and the other person respects and maintains healthy boundaries, accountability, and grace over the long term.
In my experience, the closer I get to mastering Redefining Love, the more deep and meaningful connections I am able to make with others.