Update: The Visit

“Why did you come?” That’s what Dwight asked me as we drove down I-10E, away from his brother’s home.

I came because I should be able to visit family without there being a problem.

I came because it’s what I do. If I’m in your city or state for business, then I let you know so that we can see one another, even if the other person wouldn’t do the same.

I came because I finally realized that it’s not anyone’s job to like, love, or validate me, so how they feel about me (positive or negative) doesn’t matter.

I came because, despite what people may think, I actually do like family.

Those are the answers I gave. But there is one more. I came because I believe part of my purpose is to work out relationships and their challenges. That’s why I write about them so much. Visiting my brother and sister-in-law was one more opportunity to work through how to be in relationship with them.

To be clear, the visit was pleasant. In fact, I had great conversations with my nieces and nephews; we even laughed and played on their trampoline.

Even though it was great, a few concepts were reinforced about interacting with family.

compromiseCompromise is required sometimes. My brother and sister-in-law are Christians. We visited on the weekend; therefore, SIL announced that the six of them would be attending church Sunday morning and we were welcomed to attend. The alternative? “You’ll just be here in an empty house if you don’t come,” she said.

Neither Dwight, nor I believe or participate in organized religion. I haven’t attended a church service in countless years. But from 11a until 1p, we listened to praise and worship songs and a lengthy sermon on the Samaritan woman (John 4).

We could’ve stayed at their home. But we didn’t for one reason. We hadn’t seen them in seven years. We came to spend time with them, and if they’d planned on being at church while we were there, then that’s where we would be too.

yin_yangDifferences make connecting difficult. The more I conversed with my SIL, the clearer our differences became. She likes rural communities; I like major cities. She’s introverted; I’m extroverted. She likes the cold and snow; I live for the warmth of the sun. She has a very quiet voice; I speak from my chest (a colleague once told me). She prefers tea; I love a full-bodied coffee. She’s conservative; I’m liberal. I could probably continue but I’m sure you get the point.

There’s nothing wrong with being different; however, it does make establishing a relationship a bit harder because there rarely seem to be common liftoff points. For example, although it was nice of her to buy coffee for me to have prior to church, it was instant. She didn’t realize this might be an egregious act to a coffee drinker. But because I was in a space of compromise, I drank it with gratitude. This brings me to the last lesson.

It’s okay not to be close with family members. It really is. Sometimes family is just family. Sometimes they are just the people to whom you are related. Sometimes family are just the people who married into your space, or you into theirs. For a long time, I thought otherwise. I believed family should be the people with whom you connect with the most. This isn’t always true, and I was reminded once again last week.

Close relationships require shared activities that allow for bonding. There are families who bond over vacations. Some families bond over holiday drinks. Other families bond over sports. I’m not sure our differences will allow for many bonding experiences. And without those, I’m not sure how the relationship can be closer.

While my visit was enjoyable, it was clear that we will more than likely remain as simply family. And that’s okay.

So, that’s the update. Let me know what you think about either of these points. Also, it’s the holiday season! Will you be spending time with family you aren’t particularly close to? If so, how will you manage?

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35 thoughts on “Update: The Visit

  1. These are some great takeaways, Kathy. Coming from a wholly dysfunctional family, it seems like the older we are getting the more childlike we become and I include myself in this. Were I in your shoes I would have been irritated about the church thing but instant coffee??? Seriously??? I get that people who aren’t coffee drinkers don’t get those of us that are but geez. I like the way you handled yourself and how you were able to see and respect your differences while acknowledging that more than likely there won’t ever be a close bond. You have great insight.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, yes, yes, Kathy! So great. It sounds to me like you experienced healing, growth and freedom with regards to your relationship with your brother and sister-in-law. I particularly love the last awareness, it gives such permission for people to be who they are and an acceptance of what’s so. ❤

    I do have one suggestion. If you have any shoulds still present for you, you may consider forgiving and letting them go. (Humor often helps too.) There can such healing in doing that.

    I love you, Kathy. I am moved and inspired by your courage and willingness to grow by working through relationships.
    Debbie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Debbie! That last sentence is really the crux of all relationships, I think. Sometimes we want people to be different than who they are to suit our needs, and of course, that’s unnecessary and unfair.

      Thanks for the extra advice. I’ve had to forgive over and over and release over and over, which I’m sure you understand.

      Thanks so much for your kindness Debbie ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Kathy! First, I like the title of your post, “The Visit”, it could be a title of a book. 🙂

    As for families, they are what they are. Sometimes loving, sometimes only a sharing of a family name. I used to work hard on trying to keep close ties or accommodate relatives in my life. Some relationships bloomed and matured, some not because they were one-sided. It wasn’t easy at first, but I accepted that and moved on.

    “…it’s the holiday season! Will you be spending time with family you aren’t particularly close to?”

    Luckily not. This is the greatest gift I gave to myself as I grew older, to declutter my life. Family and friends I have are people, whom I love and really enjoy spending time with. It doesn’t mean we don’t have disagreements but what makes a difference is that we put an effort in trying to resolve them. So, I’m always looking forward to holidays or celebrations because of that.

    From reading your posts, I think you’ve tried a lot with your SIL. I’m glad to hear you are okay in the end, “…we will more than likely remain as simply family. And that’s okay.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you’re right about the book title Khaya!

      Thanks for sharing about your family ties. It’s rarely easy to accept because we’re so trained to believe it’s just some natural connection just because we’re family. I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who took a minute to realize the truth.

      It’s funny that you would include this in decluttering your life. Sometimes we forget that decluttering is more than cleaning out our closets 🙂

      Definitely about the end. I know that I wasn’t always loving and I’ve more than atoned for that behavior and tried to establish something else. It really is what it is.

      Like

  4. I absolutely agree. Once I let go of trying to have a real relationship and twisting myself in knots about it, I realized how freeing it was. There’s an obligation to be kind and civil, and there in an emergency, for sure, but it doesn’t mean we need to be close friends.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree with all the points you made. We are constantly hearing the message that “family is everything” as though the people we are related to automatically are those who are closest to us. And that’s not always true….it certainly isn’t true in my case. I’m very close to my husband and kids, but my siblings and in-laws, not so much. Still, they are family, and so we do have a relationship and we do stay in touch.
    It’s okay to be different, and yes, when we are around people who are different, then we have to compromise. I love that you took the cup of instant coffee in the spirit in which it was given. Personally, I think the way you handled the whole weekend was great!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you understand what I’m saying here Ann. Because we’re taught that “family is everything” there comes an immense amount of guilt (if you allow yourself to feel guilty) if you just don’t feel that way about ALL family members.

      I’m also glad you see what I mean about being different. I mean, if we can’t begin a simple conversation on common ground, then how can we develop a more meaningful relationship?

      Thanks also for the compliment. I learned more about myself and these types of situations because of it.

      Like

  6. I think you did well, KE, with both your planning and your execution. I don’t know if I’d have gone to church with them. I’m with you on instant coffee being an egregious error, but I’d have done the same as you, drank it with gratitude–SIL tried, and sometimes it really is the thought that counts. I loved this sentence because it is so true: “There’s nothing wrong with being different; however, it does make establishing a relationship a bit harder because there rarely seem to be common liftoff points.” Getting to know a person starts with small talk, and that requires the “liftoff points” you spoke of. If you can’t connect on a mundane level, deeper conversations are probably a pipe dream. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I agree with you wholeheartedly.
    This past Thanksgiving I spent in my pj’s watching the Macy’s Parade in front of a fireplace. It was fantastic. Always trying to please everyone and someone is always displeased. So, I enjoyed every minute of giving thanks for the day and peace of mind.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I thought you were a tea drinker! I’m pretty much as you describe your SIL except i love coffee and herbal teas and I’m not conservative plus I love both rural and city life. I agree about family not necessarily being closest connection but I get a tinge of envy especially around holiday time when I see close families who have healthy, positive relationships and I wish I had the same…that familiarity, in jokes, people who celebrate one another, stories that go way back etc. I know families come in all shspes and sizes and configurations and I’m working on feeling a sense of abundance and appreciation in being part of a 2 person family- I want my baby to feel that that is family and it needn’t necessarily be a house full of people or even a mother + father who live together but for him to feel that, I need to shift my thinking and genuinely feel it too and not pine for that perfect family in my head. Sounds like in this visit, you simply accepted reality- well done! Oh, and why did Dwight ask that question when you left? What pre-empted it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To be fair, I do drink tea, but if I have a choice…which I thought I did lol I’d prefer coffee. I also drink coffee on vacay but had given it up during regular business hours 🙂

      Ummm you’re also not an ultra Christian who would ask me to attend church if I visited (or I hope not) lol

      I hear you about the what-ifs and feeling like you’d want a different family, especially around holidays and celebrations. I think what you’ve said is the key to what I’ve learned too. What you/we have is fine. You can also create/re-create new traditions that are just as fun as a house-full of people.

      Right. I learned it is what it is. Plus, I’m good. I have friends and family and even in-laws who do love me and are more friend-like.

      I asked him after he asked and he said he was just wondering, but I don’t believe him lol

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ha. Your relationship with coffee sounds as complicated as mine. It is in my genes though, being from the birth place of coffee and all. No, I’m don’t impose my religion on people but if you visited, I’d at least ASK if you wanted to join my all women dance group on a Monday night where sacred rituals of fun times go down. Haha I don’t believe him either, and shows he didn’t read the original post before the visit 😂 I have slowly been creating traditions, e.g. crazy home made bday cakes, sunday pancakes, saturday markets, creating stories together etc but more to come.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Glad you came to the same conclusions as I did! Although…compromise to a certain point. I don’t drink alcohol, so not even my father (sorry Dad, if you ever read this) can obligate me to drink a glass of champagne.
    As a girl I love Christmas, not for the religious part, being together with as much family-members as possible. That was before live happened, I grew up, my family too and to much different opinions ruined it for me. This year; 1st Christmas Day I intend to go on a day trip with my hubby and our dog and visit the coast in The Netherlands and have a winter-lunch. Second holiday, to make it easier for my mother-in-law (less stress) we will go with my husbands family to a restaurant and we split the check. It’s going to be the first Christmas of my niece, so will buy her a present. If other family members want to spend time…they know where to find me. I stopped ‘running after’ them 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know we’re on parallel journeys here, so I’m not surprised I’ve come to the same conclusion ❤
      Your upcoming Christmas sounds lovely and PLEASANT! And yes…I've learned to stop running after all relationships for sure.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Your points are honest. I have never married nor had children but my married girlfriends have told me many times how in-laws can become outlaws! Lots of compromise. From what I’ve observed when you marry the person you marry the family. Depending on your personality this can be difficult.

    I guess that is why God didn’t allow me to marry. I have blood family members who I have not spoken to much less visited in years nor do I have any plans to attempt to reestablish broken relationships.

    Your approach is excellent.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Depending on your personality this can be difficult” is a true statement! Our families are pretty different and even within that, I’m pretty different from my own family lol, so adding another person’s personality (because remember, this is the brother’s wife) can be another challenge. I don’t plan to re-establish anymore broken relationships either. This is it.

      Thanks for your compliment at the end ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Great introspection! I too find it challenging at times, as you outlined so eloquently, but really, it is what it is. If you hope for and work toward a two-way street, and it’s not reciprocated, at least you tried. 😊

    Very cool you went to church with them. I’m like you but I think I would have accepted the invitation as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Claudette ❤ I guess that's been my challenge. It doesn't feel like a reciprocal relationship, and I believe relationships are supposed to be reciprocal

      Church was like another olive branch lol Glad you understand this.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Thank you for your honest and open view on family relationships.
    In my experience, most families have a mix of people and ideas. Even siblings can differ
    very much. As we grow and move our perceptions of the world and our faith or non faith
    can vary. That in itself shouldn’t necessarily affect love for each other.

    I have always spent Christmases with family and will this year too. This year it will be at my son’s
    place which is wonderful. It might snow, it might rain, the sun might shine. The main thing is
    that it shines in all our hearts.
    On a lighter note, I know he makes good coffee 😊.

    Do you think we intellectually can figure out relationships? I feel we have to go with the flow.

    Miriam

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank YOU for reading and commenting Miriam! Okay, so here are some very lengthy answers:
      1) I had to learn that all families don’t share the same ideas and values. Both my parents’ sides of the families were hardcore democrats so we were on the same page there, and members ranged from Catholic to Methodist, but we never had religious disputes, you know?

      2) I appreciate your mentioning that siblings can differ very much. Because I was raised as an only child, I’ve had to learn this by interacting with other people’s siblings, and of course, raising my own children lol. I’ve been shocked at how dissimilar people can be, but I do think this is where you can first learn that differences are okay and you may love the person but not necessarily hang out with them in your free time.

      3) Your upcoming Christmas with your son sounds like it will be amazing ❤

      4) Yes and no about intellectually figuring out relationships. There are some relationships that flow naturally, like the one with my husband, children, and sister. There are others (like this one) that I've had to step back and figure out what in the world is going on? lol …and then proceed from there.

      Like

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