building new family relations one coffee at a time #aa #na #slaa #alanon #oa #recovery #familysystems

June 28, 2014 § Leave a comment

I just came from morning coffee with Brother4 and Brother4Wife. We are definitely breaking new ground and growing new relationships. So much to talk about, so little time.

First, I have clarity about something that has perplexed me throughout my adult life. What is my relationship to my in-laws? When I fall in love with someone, do I also fall in love with their family? What about my family members and the loves they choose? Do I also love their partners because they are loved by my sibling or parent? From hard experience I know that I cannot shut out the partner of any of my family members. It cannot be done without damaging my relationship to that family member. So what is my relationship with these in-laws? It appears to be much closer than I realized.

I am recalling my recent trip to visit Ex-BrotherinLaw and Ex-BrotherinLawWife. Ex-BrotherinLawWife is dying of cancer and I took my sons on a weekend expedition to visit. At the outset of the trip, I had considered Ex-Husband and his in-laws as not part of my family, but part of my son’s family. I figured I was doing something respectful by making the trip, I cared about Ex-BrotherinLawWife and I felt compelled to visit, perhaps for the last time.

What was revealed to me during that trip was that these people are still my family. Even Ex-Husband is still my family. I choose to keep my distance from him because I do not feel safe anywhere near him, but he is still family because he is my son’s father. I realized I still felt a great depth of bond to Ex-BrotherinLaw and Ex-BrotherinLawWife. That bond extended to their grown son and his wife. When I visited my son’s grandparent’s graves, I felt a wave of grief at their passing, as I got in touch with the reality that they are my family. They always were my family. When they had passed on I had lost family members.

I think these bonds of family are much more powerful and sustaining than I had previously realized. When I resorted to escape fantasy as a teenager and young adult, my thoughts and actions were symptomatic of the depth of pain I was experiencing at the loss of kinship with my family. It wasn’t that I wanted to move to the north woods and subsist on natural plants and animals alone. It was the only thing I could imagine that I could do with my life because I no longer felt part of my family. And because my family was not talking about the catastrophic events that had befallen us, I interpreted this silence as a form of not caring about me, about not caring whether I was part of the family or not. The pain of thinking no one in my family cared whether I was in the family or not was so strong that I consumed book after book about surviving in the wilderness. Even to this day I have camping gear close at hand, in case I need to make a run for it.

I was able to talk to Brother4 and Brother4Wife about my thoughts and feelings about being a member of a family that does not show any interest in me but expects me to show up at family events and act as if nothing had happened. I was able to tell them about the mental and emotional anguish that invitations cause me, when another family event looms on the horizon and I have to figure out if I am going to attend or not. How my mind goes through extreme contortions and gymnastics trying to figure out whether I should go or stay away.

It was great to spend quality time with these people and realize how much closer we are than any of us had realized. It felt like we forged new bonds and relationships. It was pretty simple. We went out for coffee and walked the dogs. But new family relationships were born.

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