The reason grandparents and grandchildren get along so well is that they have a common enemy.
Adulting ain’t easy when it comes to relatives.
Family life is a strange thing.
People who get to know me or my family often assume (and wrongfully so) that all is roses in my family relationships.
As in all…the…time.
It’s a crazy assumption which still boggles my mind.
I mean, hey—I love my wife and kids and they love me, but it’s not all rainbow and cotton candy unicorn farts.
We have the same challenges as everyone else, and I do mean everyone.
Even the people you follow on Instagram.
Oh, I know they’re always smiling, laughing, wearing clothes that don’t have smudges or stains. Yes, I realize those pictures of Greece and Italy are amazing and that Lamborghini is pretty cool.
I don’t know if that kid is rented, or if that guy is cheating on his wife and she’s only smiling because she get’s more than half in the divorce. Oh the Lamborghini looks pretty good, but for all I know the repo man is two cars behind him, biding his time.
To be completely fair, it’s likely the photos on such accounts are done as a business. Everything is staged to one degree or another, which isn’t a bad thing. I don’t personally feel it’s wrong, just don’t tell me it’s something that it’s not.
When an account has nothing but crisp, clean, unblemished pictures of bliss and happiness, that’s not reality.
It’s a setup to a punchline or a marketing strategy.
All people have challenges in life.
When it comes to family…those challenges are multiplied!
Adulting Ain’t Easy, But Who Said It Would Be?
I don’t recall ever being told this part of my life would be easy.
Especially when it comes to relationships.
Yes, I have a wonderful marriage and I adore my wife.
Yes, I have wonderful children and I don’t always want to strangle them.
I have loving relationships with all of them, but truth be told, I work very hard at it.
…and I fall on my face a lot.
One of the more common face plants I experience is assuming I understand what’s been expressed to me. Either I didn’t listen as I should have or literally didn’t understand what was being said.
Wait, it get’s worse.
I’m so certain I did understand, my male “have to fix this” personality kicks into overdrive. I charge in like a Kamikaze bomber, when I should be more sensitive. My intent is to repair what should be, in many instances, left alone.
In the end, I hurt delicate feelings and make matters worse than when I started.
I strive to be quick to apologize and correct my actions as soon as I’m aware of them.
Thankfully, they love me and are patient.
My extended family, on the other hand, disowned me ages ago.
They don’t like many of my views and I don’t appreciate their drama.
I’m considered the ‘black sheep’ of the family by some and an unrelenting pit-bull by others. I don’t mind either title. I live my life openly on my sleeve.
Just like in my last article, Adulting Is Hard? Make It Easier With 3 Simple Steps, I learned when to make changes in my life.
Being close to people can be both a blessing and a curse—but I truly believe most of that depends on us as individuals, not the other person. We have to be confident and secure in ourselves, knowing who we are if we are to interact with surety and strength.
I used to dread meeting my relatives for Church events, reunions…and the biggest gathering of all, the Holidays. Luckily I learned how to keep it together when I was around family members, especially those who seemed to know my personal triggers.
Once I did that, something amazing happened.
…I started liking them.
Adulting Ain’t Easy: How To Keep It Together When Family’s Involved
I’m not saying everything will be rainbows when you apply these perspectives, but I do believe your relationships will get better and even grow into something you’ll appreciate.
Who knows, you may end up like me and even cherish them.
Understand That Lives Are Stories
This is both a perspective, but also a tool for you to use.
First off, everyone has a story. That’s what life is—an evolving collection of events that shape who we are, what we believe, and how we make decisions in our lives.
A good friend of mine, a historian, once told me that Abraham (as in the Bible) never sat down to eat without having his servants go out to find a stranger to eat with him. The stranger would be asked about his life story as they ate, Father Abraham listening intently to the experiences of another.
True or not I found that story fascinating and pondered on it for some time.
It dawned on me how much harder it would be for me to judge someone harshly, or to criticize them when I knew their life story. When I knew what they had both experienced and endured to get where they were at that moment in time.
Would I be more compassionate? Would I find a fellow soul I could relate to?
When I learned this about Abraham, I started asking the life stories of others, especially my own family. My intent was to discover why they were the way they were. Why they had their opinions and conclusions. You know what I found?
I agreed with a lot of them, once I knew the why in their lives. The fascinating part though was the compassion I felt for those with whom I still didn’t agree but could understand why they felt the way they did.
Be In The Present
At first, I thought this was sheer nonsense until I tried it.
Think about your personal habits when you communicate with other people.
Do you check your phone while someone’s talking? Do you text while someone speaking with you and you don’t stop, but say instead, “Go on, I’m listening?”
What about your attention? Do you ever find yourself thinking about something else while someone’s talking to you? Does your mind ‘drift’? Are you truly listening, or just trying to figure out what you’re going to say in return once the person stops babbling?
On the other hand, have you ever been focused on something and refused to be interrupted or distracted until the task was complete?
When you communicate with another person, be present.
Don’t be one of those who walks by, saying, “How are you?” then never stops to actually hear the answer.
Be the person who asks, “How are you?” and then stands at attention, full focus on the person, waiting for the answer.
The impact is amazing and several levels.
First off, you’ll stand out as someone who actually cares.
Secondly, you’ll be known as someone with both manners and respect for others—both good things.
Thirdly, and this is big—you’ll gain the confidence of those whom you converse with. People will know that their words are not falling on deaf ears.
Being conscious about being present in conversations won’t just impress others, you’ll get so much more from each and every conversation.
You’ll notice things, remember things, be able to ask questions, appreciate a persons intelligence and views.
…and if you ever notice your mind drifting during a conversation—just pull your mind back to the present and focus again.
Find The One Thing
Of all the ways I’ve learned to interact with others and build relationships, this is the one that changed my life overnight.
The struggle I’d been having up to this point was being able to love people, but not like them.
Don’t laugh, just think about it for a moment.
You can love someone because they’re American.
You can love someone because their a child of God.
You can love someone because they’re family, a member of your church or community.
You can love them for being the same race, or a different race, for being a child, an elder…and the list goes on.
…but to LIKE someone, well—that’s personal.
That’s when you know stuff about a person.
The kind of stuff others don’t usually want you to know about and still be able to look them in the eye and say, ‘I choose you anyway.’
See my challenge?
Well during my travels across the country for work, I met a lot of people. Thousands of them in fact and each one of them was so incredibility different, I started noticing things. The styles of clothes, the modes of walk, the way they talked, accents, rhythms, slang, the tones of voices, directness of attention and focus when engaged in a conversation.
In each of these cases, I was able to identify something I liked about a person.
Something that I could admire, smile about and compliment in a sincere way, right to their face.
What makes this important was that once I found something about a person that I liked, I could discover another. It allowed me to find common ground and speak in a way to bypass walls and barriers they’d place in front of me, all while being 100% genuine.
No matter what you think of a relative, there’s something you can admire or respect about everyone, even if it’s something you don’t like.
Not many years ago, there was a rather large man who was in a store, shouting and growling at people about what he hated about the store and the service.
I started laughing out loud.
A little bit too loud, actually…and he wandered over to me all red-faced and angry.
When asked what was so funny, I said, “You are. You’re such an ass and I think it’s awesome! Standing here, boldly saying what ticks you off in public—I respect that.”
He paused in shock.
I’m pretty sure he was confused as to whether he should laugh or knock me out for calling him an ass.
Gratefully, he laughed and within minutes, apologized for his outburst.
Point is, I really did admire his blunt comments, because most people who are dissatisfied just keep it inside and walk away, never getting anything resolved. This wasn’t a bad man—he was just sick of being taken advantage of.
I agreed with him.
So consider this when talking with relatives and make it a habit of finding something you can respect or like about them before you engage in conversation.
Use it as a common ground.
Be kind. Be compassionate. Be thoughtful.