Thinking “Family” Can Have Dramatic Changes on Your Life

Many of us, as little girls particularly, fantasized about our weddings and the man that would be at the altar exchanging those vows with us.  Even up to now, when I tell my friends that I don’t plan on having a wedding or that I never dreamed of one they look at me in astonishment and retort “Why not”.   Well, for some odd reason I always thought more about my role as a nurturer and mother than I did the actual wedding and the fact that I would be someone’s wife.  I mean family always, well particularly as I get older, meant more to me than the titles I would be acquiring.  As a child I always thought of myself as the nurturer of my sisters and brothers ( although most of them are older than me), and that image and those ideals became more profound as I got older.  I seriously always had ideas in my head of what my mother should be doing to be a better nurturer, a better disciplinarian, a better example or  role model for my siblings so that the family legacy was carried throughout the generations to come ( I got in a lot of trouble too, because my mother did not take too kindly to me, a child, telling her how to be the matriarch).

Having convictions about the concept of  family goes far beyond the husband-wife dichotomy, and although I do believe that the bond between spouses plays an integral part of “family”, it is more a part of the whole.   Thinking family is more a state of being, spiritually, mentally and emotionally, while the union between man and woman is typically a situation, circumstance or for some, a status.  Think about it, a marriage can, and often times does, end in divorce with both parties severing all ties with each other upon the dissolution.  However, if the mindset of the parties was “family” from the onset, then first off, the chances of divorce diminishes and second, a civil or cordial rapport have a better chance to survive once the parties have parted ways.  And especially in cases where children are involved, having an amicable relationship is not an arduous task but an absolute MUST.

Not to mention, family, in the traditional or unconventional sense, can have much more longstanding and positive effects than marriage.  But if we take that family state of mind and imbue it when we enter the marital union, then only greater things are likely to happen.   Let’s look at marriage realistically, it is a decision between a man and woman to share their lives together, many of whom don’t or can’t fathom sharing the rest of their lives together. The most they share these days is just as much as they can bear until someone else comes along or something else more exciting entices them.  (This is briefly discussed in a recent NY Times article, where the percentage of Black marriages lasting more than years is far less than those of say, Hispanic marriages.  Read it http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/03/us/03marry.html)

Let me be clear, I am not endorsing foregoing marriage, not at all. On the contrary, I am emphasizing the fact that if we broaden our horizons and see the forest from the trees, that we may be more inclined to get married and to hang in there with our marriage instead of running for cover when turbulence hits.  When I am representing either party in a divorce, where the marriage was thirty years or more, after I inquire many of them explain to me (and it is evident by how the rest of the family actively participates in the divorce proceeding) that they stayed so long for the sake of their family.  At some point it was no longer about what he or she wanted for themselves, self interests fell to the wayside from a mutual perspective because they had that family mindset from day one.

It’s not difficult nor impossible, we just need to see beyond today.  We need to reach back to our parents, grandparents and beyond and try to incorporate those values they taught us into our way of thinking today.  From the moment we exchange that first  glance with a prospective, we should be thinking of how and if he or she can assume an active role of our family.

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2 Comments »

  1. My gut reaction to your thoughts on marriage was to reject it out of hand. I believed (and still do) that the best gift parents can give their kids is the security of a strong marriage, the assurance that momma and daddy will both be here and that neither is going anywhere.

    But after I thought about it, I can say that you do have a point. In the early years of our marriage when things got tough- it does take time to “become one”, it doesn’t happen overnight- we knew that our family, our children (who came very early and back to back in our marriage) would be damaged if we didn’t figure out how to make it work.

    We learned to stop thinking in terms of “me and my feelings” and started thinking about what is best for our family. Ironically what was best for our family was what was best for our marriage.

    So I concede your point, although I do think couples need to invest a good amount of energy into keeping their separate relationship strong. The kids do leave and a strong marriage needs to endure past the 20 or so years of childrearing.


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