Lifelong relationships can be beautiful in their evolution and growth, especially when you have so many memories that you share. They can also be extra challenging. Let’s face it, who pushes your buttons better than Grandpa when he asks you when you’re going to have babies?
Note: In this post, I will use the terms “family” and “friends” interchangeably. Everyone’s situation is unique in terms of the existence or nonexistence of genetic relatives or nongenetic companions who are or aren’t involved in our lives. The saying goes that friends are the family you’ve chosen. We don’t choose our families (or if we did before entering this world, we don’t remember doing so 🤔 😉). So the following applies to anyone who is in your life for the long-haul.
There’s something about family that can immediately send us into emotional relapse so that suddenly we’re perceiving life from the eyes of a much younger Self. Have you ever experienced that? Out of nowhere, you want to throw a tantrum because Mom didn’t acknowledge how well you’re doing in your job?
The good news is that those are belief patterns and repressed emotions that can be processed in a healthy manner with a professional therapist.
(So I’m basically saying: can’t help you there. Although you might want to adopt the OAR technique to notice what’s going on.)
What I can share with you is how to maintain healthy boundaries with your friends while you’re figuring your 💩 out. This can help reduce the number of “Why am I acting like I’m 10?” moments, as well as improve your relationships.
🐘 Say “no” when you want to. Is that terrifying? If yes, why? Remind yourself that it’s ok to say no when an action or plan does not feel true to your needs.
🐘 Communicate when you’re reaching an emotional threshold. If you know you’re slowly reaching the point of no return, let the person know that you need a break or that you don’t have the capacity to handle the situation at hand.
🐘 Use “I” statements. When communicating your feelings, use “I feel” instead of “You are”. This reduces any attack/defense vibe that may be present. How do these sound and why is one easier to accept?
“The fact that you made gingerbread houses without me is so inconsiderate and selfish” vs. “I feel hurt and forgotten that I wasn’t included in our annual tradition of making gingerbread houses”
🐘 Take a deep breath or take a walk. Remove yourself from a conversation or situation that makes you want to scream and pull each other’s hair. Sometimes we just need to cool down and process separately from each other.
🐘 Approach each situation with a beginner’s mind. Be curious and open. If you feel triggered, ask yourself why. You can also journal about it and process with a therapist.
In case you’re wondering why I used an elephant 🐘 emoji to make my points – elephants have very strong familial bonds and I imagine they employ similar techniques in their herds 😆 But seriously, let’s be more like elephants.