Here are lessons I've learned about dealing with family members:
1. We are obviously genetically linked with family members, having most of the same genes. That's big. That means that on many levels we have a tremendous amount in common. We may not behave exactly the same way, but we are essentially similar. It helps to examine what the similarities are at a base level, so that we can work with them.
For instance, I come from a very intense family, where everyone wants to be right. Ouch. That can be challenging for a person like me, who hates to argue. I had to look at why I argue. Because I want to be right... like them. When I finally realized this I could step back and be objective. How important is being "right" to me? In most instances it's irrelevant who is right. When I step back I can SEE the other person more clearly. I then have the power to act instead of react and can choose how I respond or not.
The characteristics that bother us the most about family members (and others) are often the characteristics that we share. How can you tell if you share it? When the family member says or does something to you that makes you angry, you probably are seeing a mirror on some level. Look at yourself closely and work on accepting that part of yourself.
2. Boundaries tend to fall apart in many families. We get in each others face and space. Somehow the rules of outside decorum don't apply and we invade each other. Maintain your boundaries with your family. Know what you need and accept, and don't get pushed around.
For example, members of my family tend to be critical of each other. I know from introspection that I have a tendency to be critical of others and especially of myself. I accept that in myself and can mitigate some of my tendencies. I decided to stop criticizing myself (sometimes works, sometimes doesn't) and also decided that I wouldn't accept unsolicited criticism from others. I had to tell my family members that I could no longer be around them if they were critical of me. That meant being away from one or two of then for awhile, until they agreed to accept my boundaries.
I can't say they don't criticize me (or me them), but they are much better about it. If they aren't I don't put up with it and walk away, and I no longer take it personally. I've learned a lot from being around family. I can often feel compassion for them, and even amusement. Other times, I'm still learning.
The key is, know what you need. Let others know and kindly enforce your boundaries.
3. Don't expect to get along. If it happens, great. If not, accept it. For most families there's going to be friction. If you accept this going in and see it as an opportunity to grow you may get a lot out of the interaction. At first you may try being with them for shorter periods. Increase the time when you feel ready.
Also, plan on taking off - time alone - when you're with them for longer periods. You'll need time to process and recoup your energy from all the effort you put into personal growth. You'll find that over time you'll begin to change and grow - to behave better and maybe appreciate them more. You may even find you love yourself and your family members more.
4. All of the above applies to family situations where the members aren't abusive (emotionally or physically), rude or taking advantage of others. If this is the case, stay away until you know you're safe.
5. We tend to think of our families as the most important part of our world. They can be an extremely important role. However, they are only a part of your life. Focus time on your friendships with others and with your mate or partner, and appreciate the life outside of family.
I hope this answers your question. I know how challenging it can be to be around or to get along with family. I don't claim to be an expert on this. I'm still learning. I guess I will be as long as I have family.
If you'd like assistance with relating with others email me at debhill@theAwarenessInitiative.com.
Copyright Deborah Hill 2009. All Rights Reserved.