The Secret to Navigating Your Dysfunctional Family

There are two kinds of families in this world – those who know they are dysfunctional and those who are still in denial about it.

Just as there are parts to each of us, there are parts to our collective wholes as well.  My family is no exception; and together we are addicted and medicated, and we are sober and in recovery. We are controlling and manipulative and we are kind, generous and, loving. We are outspoken and we can’t get a word in edgewise. We are spenders, and we are misers. We are divorced and we are married. We are homosexuals and we are conservative Christians who don’t care much for things like divorce and alternative lifestyles.

These dichotomies make for interesting fodder when we all convene.

I am a product of divorce and as such have found myself juggling the nuances of the blended family almost my entire life. My two worlds have only one connecting factor – me. Navigating this was overwhelming growing up, especially around the holidays.  The dysfunction in my family caused me to become a co-dependent caretaker, meaning my happiness was solely dependent on the happiness of those around me. 

This was cause for tremendous stress – for you can’t please everyone. My solution was to pick and choose who to please and then put unrealistic expectations of perfection on those people for the honor.  The message being, ‘I’m doing what you want to make you happy, so I expect you to do what I want to make me happy.’ It was insanity. My efforts in people pleasing backfired every time causing great pain in my life. 

As a result, I have not always gotten along with some members of my family, having periods of time when there was little or no relationship at all.

Then I discovered the secret that would change everything. I began loving myself and putting the responsibility for my happiness where it belonged, on me.  I made this a priority over everything else in my life.  The results were amazing.

It changed my perception of how I relate to everyone in my family and beyond. Instead of making others responsible for my happiness, I made the decision to simply love them. To meet them where they were – no matter where they were –and to love them. It changed everything. Living this way brings out the best in people.  It brings out the best in you.

We are not perfect, but perfect in our imperfections.  I am no longer anyone’s rule police – I am no longer anyone’s judge and jury. I am just me, Sara sitting here enjoying you for you without the need to control you for my own security and happiness.

This has brought out the best in my relationships. It has been a key to living my best life. And at the end of the day it allows those I love to love me in return. I know I have a whole slew of people who are for me – who are in my camp – who love me the best they can. I do the same. And for that, I am very thankful.
Happy Thanksgiving….