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Start Mending Your Family Fences

We are hot and heavy in the middle of the holiday season. These days can be full of joy and wonder or they can be days of despair and loneliness. This latter part is what I want to address. There are many people who feel that they don’t have anybody they can go to for the holidays.

Sadly, the holidays are the most common time for us to lose men to loneliness. Most often the separation is because of pride. Yet it also is out of fear and embarrassment. There may be somebody who we hold in high regard that we have let down.

There are many different reasons why a man may be alone for Christmas. Often the people we push away are those we need the most. They are not so much, friends as they are family. Yet for whatever reason, we often forsake those closest to us.

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It is so odd that we turn our backs on those who are supposed to be the closest to. Then again it is because we are the closest to our family that we often feel a sense of betrayal because of one small infraction. Yet there are times that there are huge amounts of damage done. Abuse is one. I often question if as much “abuse” really happened as opposed to someone feeling like they were miss treated. AM I excusing abuse? No, but I wonder if it happens as much as people like to claim. Yes, there are instances of horrible physical emotional and sexual abuse that goes on. That is not what I am talking about in this post.

I am talking about hurt feelings. Maybe a family doesn’t accept a boyfriend who is fresh out of prison or maybe the youngest sibling got what could be perceived as preferential treatment. These often petty and trivial forms of “abuse” where the victim gets their nose out of joint more than there is any emotional mistreatment. I am talking about the families who as a whole simply didn’t’ treat you the way you wanted to be treated. Therefore you turned your back on them. Maybe there were painful exchanges of words said. Threats were made. Maybe there was money owed and there was a disagreement as to how much or even if the money was to be paid back.

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These are the messy parts of the family dynamic. Though you have seen plenty of movies with the perfect family, I can tell you that they do not exist. Your parents are not the know it all they like to tell you they are. Yeah, they may know you but their actions are often meant with the best of intentions. We know that the road to hell is paved with the best of intentions. Parenting, if you don’t know, is the ultimate example of whistle a few bars and we will fake it. Decisions are made your parents may have forgotten to change out that tooth for a dollar bill. Maybe they didn’t have a dollar bill to give. Sometimes parents flat out screw up and we as kids make our minds up that we have to worst parents on the face of the earth.

If we owe them money they may remember that you owe $500. Then turn around and forgive the debt your little sister owes. It isn’t because they love her more but it could be that they see that you have the ability to make the money to pay it back, or they don’t think your little sister is ever going to be responsible enough to pay her debt back. The full details are hidden from your eyes and you are busy playing mind reader. Do you want to know a secret?  It’s going to smart a bit but it is for your own good. You are horrible at reading minds.

Yet because you think you can see into the hearts of your parents and sibling you develop miss informed prejudices. These prejudices cause walls to be built and those walls keep out those who are actually very important to your life. All because you believe yourself to be the mind reader, so stop it.

Why is family important?

Families are important to not only you but you are important to your family. Yes, you, I know they don’t act as they care, but in reality, they do. Remember you are not as great of a mind reader as you believe yourself to be. There are several reasons as to why you want to have your family.

They are your connection.

Your family members are your most direct connection you who you were when you were young. They will remember what you were like when you were 10. They will also remember who you were like when you were 15 all the way up to the point that you cut off contact. Your family can help you find yourself. Especially if you are trying to figure out what your path is. What is your passion? Ask your family members, ask your cousins, ask your aunts and uncles what you liked to do before you discovered girls. They can often remember details about you that you don’t remember. Maybe you forgot but then again it could be a detail that you shoved into the back of your mind. You forgot about a detail of your dream and it needs the key that your mom or dad happens to remember.

It helps to know your past so that you can aim for the future.

Traditions

Families often have some interesting traditions they may make the kids wait till Christmas day to open presents while others allow for one gift to be open on Christmas Eve. When I was a kid, we opened our gifts on Christmas Eve after having Christmas at one of my grandparents’ house. We would then go to the other grandparents’ house on Christmas day and would spend the full day opening presents and eating. Then when I was married and had kids our Christmas Eve event was pajamas, a movie, and a game. So, we would sit around playing games and then watch a movie.

Those traditions are sacred to kids and they are also sacred to adults. Some traditions are passed down from generation to generation. While others are special to only your family. Yet whatever your tradition they mean something to everybody involved.

Unconditional love

Ok, this one depending on the grudge you are holding can be a bit difficult to swallow. I understand especially if you had something like your mother give you to your grandmother for raising. That can be hard and might even be traumatic. Yet look at the alternative. Why did she give you to your grandmother? Was it because she didn’t love you or because she loved you so much that she didn’t want you to have to suffer in the environment she was going into? Maybe she has a self-worth problem and she wants you to have the same wonderful childhood she had. Perhaps she knows she is living with an abusive man but believes she deserves that abuse and so she chose to spare you the horror and trauma of that environment. Now does that sound like unconditional love?

Ok, I understand as we were growing up, we were shown that we had conditional love. If you want to feel loved you may have had to get good grades, or maybe because you didn’t eat your spinach your parents yelled and hollered at you. That is very conditional love. Either you do as your parents said and they would give you what you perceived as love. Yes, that is very conditional love. Yet as I mentioned before emotions are only felt by you. You the feeling you were getting was your feelings. You may have been responding to the event of your parent’s behavior so your “love” that you were or were not receiving. You are not a mind reader, you can pick up clues but you do not know what is in the heart of your parents and we have established that we can’t read other people’s minds to save our lives.

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There is a positive side to everything and yeah it is hard that your mom gave you up and she looks like she turned her back on you and your siblings that could be the truth but I bet there is more to the story that you don’t know. Your mom may have some very selfish reasons yet you won’t find out until you act the grown-up. You may be waiting for the family to make the first move and they are waiting for you. If you want to experience the unconditional love you have in your life. You have to make the first move.

As I said earlier parents do some dumb things. They are only human they do stuff that is viewed as terribly selfish to others but in their mind, it is like cutting off their own arm to save the family. We can know the full details unless the family talks. The breakdown of communication is one of the biggest challenges a family can face. I have seen parts of my family crumble because of a lack of communication. There has been distrust formed and hurt feelings. Yet I am finding out that the people I thought were the most disappointed in me and didn’t want me turned around and found out that there was still love there. That is unconditional love.

Longer Life

A family can also help you and your relatives live longer. The human has 6 needs to for them to feel whole and complete. These needs are

  • Certainty
  • Variety
  • Significance
  • Love
  • Connection
  • Growth

We mentioned love, and I talked about the connection in episode 2 of the new podcast. The family dynamics can also bring you the other 4 needs. You can be certain that there are people who actually love you. You may have a beef with one or two. Yet there are cousins and extended family members that light up every time they see you. You may have a niece that is just as rough and tumble as any boy and loves to spend every waking hour with you. We have the certainty that she will scream your name and come running the moment she sees you. This also gives you a sense of being significant. This is often why your parents and grandparents meddle in your dating life they need to feel that they are significant in your life and they want the best for you. So you might listen to their knowledge. They have seen a girl similar to that girl you brought home for Thanksgiving and they know what she is really after and it is not your bod. Your family has some significant knowledge.

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How many people do you have in your family? I have 4 sets of family. There is my dad’s side, my mom’s side, my step mom’s side, and my wife’s side. You look at each of those there is a lot of kids who have made a lot of their own families. Each of those families has so much variety. They have different world views and societal experiences. Your family has much of the variety to help you fill your life with purpose.

Then there is growth. With each new experience, these family members can provide knowledge and insight into hurdles you may be facing. Your family is one of the best masterminds you could ever encounter. With that mastermind, you will grow. You will mature and you will have the knowledge of several generations with you. Your family can provide you with the purpose and responsibly you need. With those purposes, you can live a long and happy life. The key is to get over the hurt you have perceived from the family and mend the fences.

Mending Your Fences

OK Fine, you will be the grown-up and you will take the first step in reconnecting with your family. Awesome, so what now? How do you approach coming home?

Make a phone call

The easiest way to start is with a phone call. Just open a line of communication. It will be awkward. There is no other way for it to be. You will ask the ordinary questions you expect people to ask. You may even get some questions from those overexcited that you are talking to them again that are going to be a bit painful. You can just let them know that you are not ready to talk about that topic yet but know that you will have to address that question down the road. You can’t avoid it forever. Yet the phone call is a great way to start and you can graduate to personal visits when you are ready.

Set boundaries

Now, this is a challenging but important part of re-establishing a connection with your family. That is you have to have boundaries. When those boundaries are set they are to not be crossed. You don’t give a warning you do what you said you were going to do. This is hard because it can make people upset at times that you are not going to put up with their manipulations. If you are like me you don’t like to rock the boat too much. Yet there are times and places for everything and if a person goes over a boundary you have to say, “I love you but I said you are not to say rude things to about my spouse so I am going to go and we will try again next week.” Then you have to leave even if you just showed up 10 minutes earlier.

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If you don’t hold that boundary they will see how far they can take it. Now many people will understand the line but you have to tell them the first time what the boundary is and what the consequence is if that line is crossed.

Now there is a phenomenon called Diapered Butt Syndrome. The people who you may call the grownups are old enough to have diapered your butt so they know more. Often they still see you as the toddler so when you set a boundary they may want to try to step over it. So yeah your parents and grandparents my test your boundary a bit more. If you show them that you are resolved in holding this line it will only take a couple of tries and they will start to respect the fact that you are an adult.

You will have to get uncomfortable

If your visits get to be more common your channels of communications are going to allow for deeper and more probing questions. So there are eventually going to be questioned asked that are going to be very uncomfortable. You are going to have to answer why you’re left, because whether they know or not they will want to know your side. Therefore you will have to start wading into the uncomfortable waters of your past. Yeah, there will be scars that are reopened. There may be hurt feelings again. If there really was abuse, that topic will be addressed. Be ready for others to try to justify their actions. It is human nature to not want to face the discomfort of an accusation. So you will have to be a matter of fact and let silence happen, or emotions to flare up.

If folks or you do have emotional responses, then allow it if you are not in danger. Just because someone’s voice raises doesn’t mean they are yelling though. They could be impassioned with what they remember. Even yelling isn’t going o hurt you. It may be a bit distressing but it will not do you any harm. The emotions people are feeling are their emotions so because they show anger or frustration that is their emotions and their emotions are creating the action. You have the power over your emotions and so you are able to act any way you want. It is a matter of thought.

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As people have their say and past events are readdressed there can be an understanding and with the discomfort, new growth of family can start. The act of mending emotional fences can be tough and the discomfort can range from unpleasant to sad or angry or any other emotion around. Why you left the family varies. But you are able to come home and do recommend that you try. There are people who want to see you and need you in their life, and surprisingly you need them in your life too.

So for the holidays, call up your Mom if you can. Or touch base with that cousin you were close with. Start small, you don’t have to knock that huge wall down all at once. Brick by brick you can dismantle it at your own pace. Then before you know it you have those important to your world back in your world. You want to do it before it is too late. Your parents and grandparents are not going to be around forever and there is a true sense of loss when you can’t say “I’m sorry for being a jerk” because you waited too long.

Therefore go start with a phone call. Start mending your fences. Your family needs you as much as you need your family. That dynamic is as important to who you are. You can find peace with your family but do that you have to start with that call. So though it is uncomfortable so go ahead and make that call.

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About Bryan Goodwin

I like being able to help people find their "why" and achieve the personal freedom they desire. Besides writing for Relaxed Male I also am a life coach. By helping men find the leader that is found in each and every one of us. I do this by encouraging men to get outdoors and find the balance they are missing. Realize that they need to be in contact with the outside as often as they can. It is not only good for them but for their families and relationships.

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