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Moment Of Clarity

Why Forcing Family Relationships Backfires

My husband and I often talk about culture-based rules for family engagement. For those of you who are unaware of my family makeup here it goes: I’m Korean, Black and Jewish and my husband is Mexican and Catholic. So, we have lots of discussions about what is “normal” and how we are in dire need of creating a new “normal” for our family.

In our conversations, we often talk about forcing relationships with family members simply because they are related to you. After several years of back and forth and a recent blowup, we have jointly settled on allowing relationships to develop naturally over time.

While I would have relished in the “Jinnie is always right” moment a decade ago, I now relish in something much deeper and fulfilling. The fact that it doesn’t matter who’s right.

What we learned from the experience was worth its weight in gold: to allow and respect each person’s right to make their own decisions based on their own experience.

As we extracted our lessons, we clearly saw why forcing relationships is unhealthy and what allows for the development of a healthy family relationship. We are sharing them below and hope you find them to be helpful.

Why forcing family relationships backfires:

1) People aren’t ready. At the beginning of relationships, people need extra time to digest the new people and experiences. Trying to make everyone get along, love, and accept each other at the start of a relationship does not allow each person to digest what they feel and think about what is happening.

2) People haven’t had time to decide for themselves the level of engagement in which they are comfortable. A lot of people are force-fed relationships simply because they are related. When this happens, you set the relationship up to fail because any challenges that arise later are exacerbated and fueled by resentment and confusion.

3) Resentment builds and it builds quickly. Since people are positioned to disregard or not connect with their intuition regarding a relationship, anything that goes against being happy, loving, and accepting is fertile ground for resentment. This makes it harder to forgive and move on and actually tears people apart for longer periods of time.

Building blocks for healthy family relationships:

1) Make introductions. Simply introduce people to one another and tell them how they are related to each other.

2) Release expectations. Refrain from insisting that people accept, get along or behave a certain way simply because they are related. The truth is not everyone will get along … and that’s OK. People actually get along better when they negotiate the type of relationship they will have instead of being forced into one that’s unnatural.

3) Encourage conflict to be resolved at an individual level. Healthy relationships are built on respect and respect begins with two people working things out.

4) Discourage gossip. What can I say? Some people just don’t feel good about themselves unless they are enjoying someone else’s misery or stirring up the pot. Needless to say, most people who enjoy their life, stay away from the loose lips of the family and rightfully so.

5) Encourage open-mindedness and respect. As people mature and evolve, the way they see and experience the world will change. Allow yourself to be open to change. While you can hold onto your own values, to stay closed-minded, self-imposing, and loyal to the way things used to be will force you into isolation and bitterness.

My husband and I hope this was helpful! We’d love to hear your stories of how forcing a family relationship was either healthy or unhealthy. We’d also like to hear any suggestions you have for building healthy family relationships!

Jinnie Cristerna, LCSW

Do you have a question for our “Moment of Clarity” JET Therapist, Jinnie? Email us at digitalpitches@ebony.com. We’ll be sure to keep it anonymous and confidential. 

Jinnie Cristerna, affectionately known as “The High Achievers Therapist”, works with talented people to help them release emotional pain and psychological roadblocks so they can achieve their personal and professional goals. Specializing in clinical and spiritual psychotherapy, heart centered hypnotherapy, vibrational energy, meditation, and RoHun.  Sign up for Jinnie’s High Achiever newsletter here or join her on Facebook and Twitter!