For some of us, the family provides what everyone needs – family members are usually loving, supportive and accepting, people. For others, though, there is no healthy connection with the family they were born into; it is not that unusual to find that one’s values, goals, or choices differ from those of one’s birth-family.
As we grow older, we find that creating a network of friends and confidants can very often give us the closeness and security that was lacking, or for a host of reasons, is no longer available through family relationships. While it may very possibly be true that often you are the one to blame for a bad family relationship, life is too short to associate with people simply because of blood ties or because you feel an obligation, particularly, if those people are hurtful or judgmental.
Some people have reported that considering friends, associates and others as ‘family’ might seem disloyal to the birth family. But others, in frankness, report that their own families have been dysfunctional and unsupportive, or things have become irreparable, and they find the need to seek closeness and support in those they are not related to – their ‘found’ family.
Finding or forming your family does not mean you always need to distance yourself from your biological family. It simply means you can interact with them freely when you and they feel like it – not out of some compulsion or obligation.
We would be fortunate to have friends that make us wonder how we ever lived without them; the kind you can count on in rough or stormy times – and equally important – be right beside you to celebrate occasions and accomplishments. We all need the kind of people around us who will be direct and risk displeasing you, who will not play silly psychological games, who will boost your energy when you are low. And for whom you will do the same.
Loving friendships, and found family ties, though not necessarily a 50-50 balance deal, involve thoughtful reciprocity.
This does not mean that in found families everything moves smoothly. There are misunderstandings, betrayals, complicated relationships all thrown in. It’s somehow knowing that the element of ‘have to’ is missing that propels us to realise that we really have a choice in making things work; or in a worst-case scenario, ending a relationship with less of the burden of guilt and taking sides that accompanies birth-family rifts.
The key word is really ‘choice’. In biological families, we don’t have a choice. Sometimes things work out beautifully, and other times, it’s quite the opposite.
Deep friendships can become ‘family’ connections in terms of the ways in which we support each other; sharing major life events, making a commitment to each other. A lucky few have both kinds of families that are wonderful to be a part of. But others who have suffered because of the dark side of family relationships need to know that they can find a set of people who will accept and support them lovingly.
I find it interesting that we even need to call our circle of friends a ‘family’. It reveals to us the need we all feel for a place and for people from whom we can draw confidence, find acceptance, peace of mind, a realistic sense of ourselves, and are able, with their involvement, to actualise our fullest potential.