A few years ago I decided to end all contact with my family, and I have not seen, heard or or spoken to them since then. Brought up on beliefs that were based on love and on the notion that family should, and will, always be there for each other I had created an illusion. For years I wanted to feel the connection of unconditional love, to be part of something akin to a modern day Walton’s family. The reality was that it was never existed.
There seemed to be constant disconnect between us and rather than being able to offer a hug or to say I love you the reality was that it was hard work just to be around them. I was constantly on edge, and cautious, I did everything I could to minimise disagreements between us, keeping quiet just to keep the peace as I knew that if I spoke up we would just cause problems.
Over the years there were lies, manipulation and so much hurt through what I saw as betrayal and for the most part I don’t even think they knew they were doing it. I told myself that all families have degrees of dysfunction, and that our family was no different and so I kept forgiving and kept going back for more in the hope of obtaining their love and approval. What I failed to realise that this was something I only experienced with them.
Then one day I just decided that enough was enough. It was leading up to Christmas and a series of events led to a disagreement for which I had never been able to give my view of events and instead other members of the family were able to freely offer their version which was duly accepted without question.
It was then that I realised that the reality of what I had tried to create over the years was over. I could no longer go on pretending our family was just like everyone else. I am not saying that it was easy and I was scared that I was doing the wrong thing but the reality was They had never been there for me, and they never would be. I had effectively lied to myself over the years to protect my fantasy and keep them in my life. But it had reached a point where I could no longer do it. So what have I learned.
Belief and Guilt
Initially I was riddled with guilt and it was hard particularly on what are seen as key family dates during the year such as Christmas, Birthdays. But as the years came and went the guilt began to recede and I came to understand why I had fought so hard to live out the lie. One of the problems was my belief that family were always there for each other when the reality was that they were there for themselves and I became part of the family when it was either convenient and or out of necessity. That was the cause of my hurt and my guilt so rather than looking to forgive them and their behaviour as I had previously done, I chose to forgive myself for not being brave enough to stand up earlier.
Re- Define What’s important
I also changed my definition of what family meant to me . My family were no longer defined by blood but by love and friendship. My family now became the friends who had been there the whole time through thick and thin and who you could count on when things went wrong. Yes we may occasionally disagree with each other but our love for each other was never in question. Key dates were also re-defined and yes, Christmas and Birthdays are special but so is every day and that I try to make sure that I my new family know that I am here for them whatever day it is.
Authenticity and Acceptance
So much of the world I had created around my family was simply not real and they were never who I thought them to be. It was difficult to accept that the people responsible for my well-being were also responsible for my suffering whether intentional or not. I have had to accept that truth and move on with my life. The reality is that the idea of the perfect ending with them is now over. However, I know in my heart of hearts that I tried for over fifty years I tried to make it work. In the end, it just wasn’t enough and I now accept that. I don’t see it necessarily as having lost my blood family merely that I have redefined them for what they really are.
Instead, I have created loving relationships around me where I am setting out on a new horizon and where I have redefined my world by recognising what is important to me and to create a new family based on friendship, trust, love and compassion.
It has been like the weight of my own expectations has been lifted from me. I try to live in the present with my new family and just be. There are no great expectations, no dreaming of the Walton’s, just being comfortable with who we are, where we are and knowing that we are there for each other.