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September 8, 2016

Expect Less

“Being related hardly insures relatability.”
(Michael E. Angier)

One of the things that makes extended family issues so difficult is the fact of being “family.” That label carries with it certain expectations: loyalty, belonging, support, connection, love.

But our real-world experience tells us none of those expectations are guaranteed. Sometimes, our real-world experience with extended family shows us just the opposite: backbiting, stress, disrespect, neediness, abandonment.

What we sometimes fail to see is that all of the above is interrelated. The more we expect loyalty and support, for instance, we actually increase the chances of feeling abandoned. The more we expect support and love, we increase the chances of distance and disappointment.

The simple reason is this: no one likes external expectations, especially when it comes to emotions. No one likes feeling they are supposed to feel love towards someone. No one likes feeling forced to be close to someone.

The way out of this dilemma is to start examining your expectations about what your extended family owes you, and about what you owe your extended family members.

  • What if you didn’t have to visit certain family members? Would you still choose to?
  • What disappoints you about certain members? What precisely do you think they owe you, and why?
  • Who would be most upset if you simply allowed some family relationships to naturally wither away?How scared are you of that person’s scorn?

It’s a truism that you cannot pick your family. But you can pick how you choose to relate to them.

Peace begins with pause,

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