Your ability to extricate yourself from your family system and to function as a seperate person has to do with how well your parents did this. If parents balanced the closeness/seperate scale,you will learn to do the same. If on the other hand,your parents were unable to define themselves,highly reactive to one another,or emotionally detached,you will be in a similar position. Basically,your seperate identity is determined by how well your parents define themselves in their families while growing up.
If this is depressing,here’s another sobering thought.Most people marry someone who has the same level of self-definition as they do. It may not look that way on the surface. Here’s the classic belief: “I’m very dependent on my family,but I married an independent guy.”
In reality,this is what usually happens: One spouse copes with family problems by pulling away,the other,by getting stuck in the togetherness. They find each other because both of them lack a good ,clear sense of self. One is more defined than the other.They simply cope with opposite styles.The dependent person envies the distant one,and vice versa.The two attract each other because they want the other has(connection or distance).
Maturing through your teen and young adult years involves taking steps toward becoming a seperate person from your family.As you grow into young adulthood, eventually,you leave the family system and make your own way in the world(at least that is the hope). This process of leaving home is not only a physical step but also an emotional and spiritual one as well.The more you have developed a whole sense of who you are,the better marriage partner you would make.Problem emerge when the separation process gets stuck. There are two ways that could happen-either you cut off family relationships, thinking it is a good way to become independent ,or you become overly dependent and have no sense of self-identity. The “I” is missing,and you go looking for an “us.”
Here are both responses:
Some people confuse independence with emotional cutoff. They don’t talk much with their families. They have little contact and deal with family relationships by not dealing with them.These people may look independent, but they aren’t. They have not learned family connection.As a result,family members are emotionally or physically cut off. When conflict arises,family members do not deal with it.They distance themselves. When things get tense,they check out.
People who cut off have little involvement with their original families. They usually do their own thing and don’t turn to family members for support. They don’t use each other to problem-solve. Cut off is an extreme reaction to the problem of balancing the emotional and intellectual self.
The other extreme is being raised in a family in which you did not develop a sense of self because everyone has the same group think. The family message is that you are not supposed to have independent thoughts.Consequently,you did not develop your own voice. You are completely reactive to people in your family and can’t maintain a sense of self or a seperate “I.” When emotions run high and conflict comes,you stay loyal to the family at all costs.Since you don’t know what you think or feel,you tend to be easily influenced by others.
In these families,members have strong emotional bounds with each other.Loyalty to the family is demanded.People are overly dependent on one another and typically overreact to one another. There is little personal seperateness.Basically,you have too much of good thing.You are so connected that you don’t know where you stop and the other person begins. You have difficulty setting boundaries, making decisions,developing your own interests,and being alone. As you can proba guess,these set of people have difficulty in having a healthy relationships.
Making Necessary Changes
Suggestions for those who are cut off
- Try as much as possible to be more involved with your original family. Call them,talk to them,and be concerned about what is happening to the people with the people you once lived with.You don’t have to move back home or become their best friend,but make effort to be interactive.The more you try to do this,the easier it will be with your partner.Why? Because you will learn to talk,resolve conflicts,control your emotions,and extend grace- all skills you failed to practice growing up which you need to know.
- Don’t cut off when things get tense.Your impulse will be to shut down or avoid problems when they arise.Don’t do this.Don’t give yourself an out.Determine to resolve issues no matter how much you want to avoid them.
- Learn conflict resolution skills.Specifically,learn how to problem- solve and negotiate with others.You may need to become more flexible and less rigid.When you are not pleased with what’s happening or don’t get your way,learn to release the need to control.Focus more on partnering rather than opposing.
- Share activities and interests.Don’t spend all your time doing things alone.Engage your spouse in your life.Invite your family to join you in an activity.Have them over for dinner,play a game,watch a movie- begin with just an idea,and then let it grow.
- Turn to your family for support and problem-solving. Learn to allow others support you.
- If you have cut off for reasons of abuse. Don’t accept the abusive behavior.You may be able to make a new appropriate connection and zero tolerance for abuse. It is always a good idea to work with a trained mental- health professional when dealing with any type of abuse and family dynamics.
Suggestions for too much stickiness
- Find your voice. Form an opinion and express it. Try this no matter how uncomfortable it feels. Don’t just agree with someone unless you really do. People around you may not always like who you are,but that’s part of the process Speak up.
- Do things apart from others. Don’t be afraid to be alone or do things apart from the family. You don’t need people 24-7.If you do,then you need more work on pulling out the emotional stickiness .
- Set boundaries. Your main allegiance is to your spouse- not to your original family or your friends. Don’t tell them each time you breathe. Don’t involve everyone in your business.Develop a strong couple unit.
- Don’t look to others for approval. Your family taught you what they could. Now you have to decide what is right and act on it. You don’t need an approval or anyone else’s. Work on pleasing God.
- Think,and don’t let your emotions overpower you. When stress comes,don’t allow your emotions run you.Use your head to manage your emotions. It’s human to have emotions,but making decisions based on them is dangerous because they are unreliable.Learn to balance your intellect and your emotions.