Working to resolve issues in our relationships – with significant others and family – can be great practice for learning to deal with the difficulties we face in everyday interactions. It was our family interaction that first taught us how to cope with and handle a situation. It may be dysfunctional, but that's where it started. And it be the genesis of change in how we handle things going forward.
Yes, you might not see some of your family for another 6 months, maybe even a year but letting things linger and fester only compounds the difficulty that we need to tackle. Cutting the cord of contact might seem like a good idea, but the reasons we do this mean we haven't actually cut anything except a pathway to resolution. Interesting how “resolution” shares the spotlight this time of year with “new year, new you” and “out with the old, in the with the new.”
The first step toward making progress with this is having a good sense of self. Maybe you aren't liked because of who you love, the career choice you made, where you moved – the list goes on and on – but having a good sense of self means you can choose how you respond to criticism, rather than reacting or lashing out to protect your identity. If you can move the perspective away from someone's dislike of yourself and move your perspective away from another person's focus on it, you can move a conversation in a more productive direction.
This isn't a one-size fits all solution – the concept and look of family is different in each culture. Have you stepped out of cultural boundaries with your decisions? This can be more difficult, but has equal benefits for yourself. Something for other people to think about: In what ways are you fitting the mold the family wants?
Form alliances. Are there others around you who are supportive of you? How have they carved out a place for themselves in the family? Are they still involved? These people can be great resources to help you find strength and perhaps a different outcome then they faced.
Making these kinds of changes doesn't happen overnight. There is work to do to individually and then preparing for and acting on the changes. It's important to know how you would like to see the issues resolved and how your actions move you to this goal.
The therapists at Philadelphia MFT have been trained for just this kind of work. If you are interested in doing things differently in your relationships in 2013, give us a call and set up an appointment.
This topic of the week was written by Brian Swope, MFT.