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“Family love is messy, clinging, and of an annoying and repetitive pattern like bad wallpaper.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
“The family is one of nature’s masterpieces.” – George Santayana

Families are a group of people who have shared history together. When families spend time together it helps us have the opportunity to accept the inevitable differences. Families can practice conflict in a constructive way. Of course families don’t always follow the healthy path in relationships.

Most families get into trouble with either too much distance or too much over involvement (co-dependence or mush).

Over involvement is often cultivated in families. Families use anger to exact obedience & manipulate. I want to make you stay the same as me, instead of respecting the differences and learning to communicate. Remember that problems are often embedded in what we take for granted.

Pittsburgh is a lovely city. It is true there are more kind people here per square mile than in other cities. Unfortunately, Pittsburgh’s weakness is that too many grown adults will follow their parents advice on who they should date or not date. Families should allow more room for grown children to follow their own inner convictions even when they are different.

Grown children will live at home & it’s not because of economics. They are afraid to “betray” their family by moving out & then they don’t embracing their own life’s journey. They will get lost in their parent’s idea of the best path.

Children need both roots and wings to grow. Many Pittsburgh parents are terrific at the roots part, but haven’t learned about enough about wings.

Parents in Greensburg (45 minutes away) will unfairly view a move to Pittsburgh as a betrayal of the family. Really, they are frustrated with being too far away to know everything happening in their children’s lives. This is called enmeshment, not enough separation and differentiation. Families must learn to respect changes in boundaries because a grown child is no longer in high school.

families,what is family,family,definition of family,family life,families In the words of Laura Perls, “Taking care of people as if they are infants is not taking care of them at all.” Ask yourself are your children protected or only prohibited? A movie that demonstrates confluence in a Hispanic family that must come to terms with a daughter going to college instead of getting married and working in the family business is Real Women Have Curves.

As much as we love our children it’s important to support their independence to meet and greet the world on their own terms with their own mistakes and successes.

The reason the incest taboo is so consistently upheld across almost all cultures is because children need some reason to leave home. If all of their needs are met: food, shelter and sexuality, then why would they leave? Celibacy is for nuns and priests who choose it, not for grown adults who will miss out on a pleasurable part of life.

A word of advice to grown children who are allowing themselves to be trapped: Try to give yourself some perspective by being more objective about your parents and then you can be more objective about yourself. Stop trying to please parents who can’t be pleased.

Remember that disagreement has an important function in every relationship and learn to tolerate your own anxiety about disagreement. Stop pleasing everyone else and losing track of yourself.

Split Energy in Families vs. Healthy Dynamic Energy in Families

Sometimes in listening to people describe their families you can tell that mom has chosen one kid and dad has allied with the other.

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One remedy for this family would be for each parent to spend individual time with the kid they are not aligned with, to build energy back into the dyad and for mom and dad to work at repairing their own relationship.
A healthy family has energy going between every dyad.

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This is why it is important that young couples with babies don’t neglect the husband/wife relationship.

Disagreement is an important element in healthy families. There cannot be intimacy without the fight.


“When children have permission to care about all the adults in their lives, it adds richness and variety to their existence.” – Dr. Emily Visher

Stepfamilies require each family member to juggle a greater degree of complexity. Be careful of the fantasy most stepparents begin with; “I’ll rescue these kids and be the parent they want and need.” Kids must be aware of divided loyalties. It is okay to love and care for each adult without feeling betrayal.

Becoming a family is a long process that requires a great deal of patience and generosity. Both adoptive families and stepfamilies become heroic in learning how to share with a greater number of people than the “normal” core family.

The complexity requires appreciating each family member’s struggle. Stepfamilies can polarize so easily. Kids often need a big chunk of time to sit on the fence before they can embrace the transition of accepting new people in their lives.

It’s crucial when kids do move closer to a stepparent that it not be interpreted as disloyalty to either of the biological parents.

Stepfamily: Living, Loving, and Learningfamilies,what is family,family,definition of family,family life,families by Elizabeth Einstein is highly recommended.

In-Laws & Families

“Healthy in-law relationships are a wonderful blessing in any marriage. Unhealthy in-law relationships can be a continual drain and irritation.” – Drs. David & Jan Stoop

These are the most difficult relationships to be successful in, because you have not chosen each other. As a result, the differences become more pronounced. These relationships can only be successful if the differences are respected and even welcomed.

It’s important to educate your partner that their loyalty needs to shift to a new priority. The new family you are creating requires your primary loyalty. While parents are important, their desires can not take over and define what’s right or wrong for the new couple.

It is the couple that needs to explore and define their new priorities together. It’s important to feel like a team and that you can count on each other.

Your family of origin must learn to share, no ifs, ands or buts about it. There is no rule handbook of how things are supposed to be. Sharing your beloved children with their new love, means you learn as an in-law to take a back seat. Try to do this with as much grace as possible.

Thanksgiving can be divided up into the meal & the dessert, Christmas has Eve & Day to divide up, if both sets of parents live nearby. So if you as a couple decide that parents need to call before they decide to arrive, then that new way of doing things deserves respect whether the in-laws like it or not.

A Wife’s Guide to In-laws: How to Gain Your Husband’s Loyalty Without Killing His Parentsfamilies,what is family,family,definition of family,family life,families

What Do You Want from Me?: Learning to Get Along with In-Lawsfamilies,what is family,family,definition of family,family life,families by Terri Apter

Movies about Family Relationships

families,what is family,family,definition of family,family life,families The Fighter (2010)
Mark Wahlberg plays a man struggling with a choice about listening to his wife or his mother. His mother is played by Melissa Leo who won best supporting actress as she leads her son to failure.
For a review on my blog

families,what is family,family,definition of family,family life,families Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
A delightful movie about dealing with dreams & illusions. Very satisfying characters and funny.

In America (2002)
Immigrant family copes with moving to America. The relationship between the father & the neighbor teaches us how little we know people & how to see others more accurately. Jim Sheridan is the writer & director of this movie. The father struggles with his shame of not providing for his family.

cry,crying,to cry,why cry,cries,crying tears,cry“Man’s cry is to reach his fullest expression.” – Rabindranath Tagore

Crying is another way of giving up. Crying also honors what is important. Both of these are true.
If you are crying and feeling helpless, review the victim role described on the relationship triangle page. Former U.S. Representative Patricia Shroeder of Colorado has a favorite saying about taking action: “You can either wring your hands or roll up your sleeves but you can’t do both at the same time.”

Experiment with your body and see if you can sit up and feel your backbone. Your backbone and your guts are a physical source of courage.

The “I can’t live without you” crying is different than grief. “I can’t live without you” is a phrase that still insists on what you want. Crying over loss is feeling bereft and honoring what was.
Reframe the crying that accompanies PMS as a gentle reminder to think about you instead of only others. Ask yourself what’s missing in your life to make things work better for you. Crying may be exaggerated but is one way to get your attention focus back on the self, especially for those who caretake others too lopsidedly.

Getting stuck in crying is dangerous. One of the signs of being mentally healthy is movement through your feelings. Feelings are not meant to be a paralyzing swamp.


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“It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” – Joanne Kathleen Rowling
Restore your range of life’s possibilities. Think of life as improvisation through choices, since life is built on choices. Fear constricts choices. Parents, in an effort to protect, will often prohibit choices. Avoiding choices keeps your place in the world too small.

People who get stuck in shame or were humiliated growing up will have a tendency to restrict their choices so that more bad things won’t happen. Procrastination is often a way to avoid the responsibility of choices.

Remember that we live in a culture of fear, as illustrated by Michael Moore in the movie Bowling for Columbine. Why do we need to have the right to own an AK-47? The answer is to defend ourselves in a culture of fear. Increase the range of how you see yourself by recognizing more choices. If you are serious, ask yourself how to be more playful in your life.

Recognize that you have choices available and define yourself in new directions. It’s so easy to make a list of eight things you don’t like about yourself—now ask yourself what would be the opposite of each. How might you go about acknowledging and making these eight characteristics real (in small steps) in your life?

Choices are definitely improved by a healthy dose of imagination. Television is only one culprit in the disintegration of imagination in our culture. What a chuckle in the movie The Italian Job when characters kept commenting on Edward Norton’s lack of imagination. Asking clients who their heroes or heroines might be often produces no response. We don’t even think about this anymore. Heroes and heroines offer opportunities, pictures of how we might imagine ourselves.

If you suffer from a lack of imagination, then begin with choices that spring from your curiosity. Making meaningful choices means giving yourself permission to fail. Anything worth doing is worth doing badly. Making mistakes in choices is how we know we are human.

If you have a dilemma, such as: Should I leave him/her?—know that without a doubt if you can give yourself enough time, choices will make themselves. Stay with the process of truth, don’t avoid anymore, and you will know the answer. Following the path of the easy way is wasteful (and always is a part of the trap in addictions).

choices,choice,best choice,i choice,choices Chautauqua Institution is our favorite vacation location where learning and lectures are a part of relaxing. There was a four-seat gray bench in front of the art gallery at Chautauqua. Every seat is labeled either choice or chance. I believe that they are inextricably bound together. Make the choices that chance offers you because that may be the path to your passions.

The more narrow your world is, the less likely you are to find your passions. So embrace possibilities and pursue experimenting with all the different parts of who you might become.

It can be useful to think of some choices as self-defeating and to step away from those choices such as:

#1. Loneliness and not doing anything about it.
#2. Procrastination to avoid the responsibility of choices.
#3. Obesity which affects life energy.
#4. Saying “Yes”, when you really mean “No”.
#5. Indecision as a way of avoiding the hard path an authentic choice may require.
#6. Defensiveness instead of learning more about yourself.
#7. Trying too hard to please others and losing track of yourself.
#8. Substance abuse or excessive fantasizing which leads to coasting throughout your real life.
#9. Silence on a dying sex life instead of solving the obstacles to rekindle the vitality.
#10. Unrealistic expectations of yourself or others that creates constant disappointment.

There are life enhancing choices also to pursue:

#1. Embrace awkwardness and making mistakes as crucial to growth.
#2. Try new things, take risks, practice courage.
#3. Be more authentic with people you love.
#4. Know what is important to you and work hard at those things.
#5. Excercise, floss your teeth, and eat more fruits and vegetables.
#6. Reduce consumerism and materialism.
#7. Decide to be warm and affectionate with others.
#8. Write an old fashioned letter instead of an e-mail.
#9. Bring back spontaniety to your life.
#10. Consider greediness can be a fine appetite for life.