As one of nine children, I’m never short of a sister to call for advice or a brother to hang out with when I’m bored. There are several perks of having a lot of siblings, but the best part is just the sheer amount of affection and support that we have for each other.
Despite the love we share, however, I’ll be the first to admit that we’re far from being perfect. With so many different personalities and opinions, we certainly have our fair share of disagreements. The truth is, no matter how ideal some may seem, all families have their own challenges. Each faces a unique set of problems, most of which are far more complicated than we can comprehend or explain from the outside.
When we experience drama with friends, it’s usually over a definable issue or situation that can be discussed and worked out. Our relationships with family, however, are more delicate and our problems with them can run much deeper. Because they’ve known us since birth, we experience an irreplaceable tie to our families throughout our lives whether we like it or not. As a result of this closeness, the criticisms and concerns we receive can feel much more personal and harder to accept than those from friends, making it easier for arguments to arise.
Still, even if we can’t control the circumstances of our family conflicts, we can control how we respond to them. We can choose, for example, to be judgmental and argumentative in our disagreements, or, on the other hand, we can choose to treat our families as we ourselves would like to be treated. No matter what the situation might be, we can choose to seek first and foremost to understand the point of view of whomever we’re arguing with — being patient when we don’t — and realizing that we ourselves are not the standard of perfection.
We all deserve respect and kindness, especially those with whom we share a gene pool. To have a family is to have a home, a place to be known and a place to return to. Our family members might be our closest critics at times, but they can also be a source of strength, wisdom and profound love, and ought to be treated with care.
As author Jim Rohn’s words remind us, “Your family and your love must be cultivated like a garden. Time, effort, and imagination must be summoned constantly to keep any relationship flourishing and growing.”
It takes time and patience to work through disagreements, and some situations might warrant the intervention of a licensed therapist or counselor and that’s OK. Again, every family is unique in its struggles and successes, so do not become discouraged if yours functions differently from others. In less serious cases, though, when we commit to loving our families and investing in their wellbeing, we can actually start to use conflict as a means to strengthen the bonds that exist and bring us closer together.
How have you successfully resolved conflict with a family member? What have you learned from it?