You want to think that you can say anything at any time to the people who know and love you the most. Your family. You’d like to think that you can remove the filters and shed the armor that you throw on for the others in the outside world, and you’d like to hope you can be yourself with the people who know you the best and love you the most. Your family. You’d like to think this, but don’t.
For some reason, every wound is as raw as the day it was inflicted when you’re with your family. Let’s say your baby sister is having man troubles, and you want to help her through it, like genuinely. So you say something simple and honest like, “Why are you making time for somebody who clearly doesn’t want to be with you?” Only, your sister hears, “You aren’t worth any man’s time, and you know it!!!” The reason she hears these words—even though you didn’t say them—is because back in high school you dated the only boy she ever loved, and she thinks you stole him from her, even though you didn’t, and now she will hate you forever when men are involved. Whew! So, even though you said something straightforward that a girlfriend or even a co-worker could hear loud and clear, and respond with, “Wow, yes you’re right! Why am I giving that man so much of my time? Thank you for pointing that out,” your sister can’t. There’s too much history. You are TOO close, and therein lies the rub.
Because you have something called “context” with your family that you don’t have with outsiders, this means you need to truly think about HOW you speak to your family even more so than you would a stranger, your boss, or your nail person. Context is that wound that hasn’t healed. Context can be a killer.
Another example: I have male cousins. Sometimes, because they’re men, I want to say stuff to them and be all hard like I’m one of their boys. Nope. Don’t do it. Men are emotionally sensitive too, and they occasionally need a respite from the harshness that can come from their fellow dudes. So, if your cousin comes to you and he’s all, “I hate my job, my girl left me, and my dog died,” think twice about how you want to answer him. Use this moment to think about what he’s telling you, why he’s coming to you specifically, and what he needs in this moment. By taking those quick steps, you’ll avoid inflicting a new wound or pouring salt in one he already clearly has. In this case, don’t bring in outside context, but stay inside the comforting family zone.
Think about this: I do my best to treat people the way I want to be treated. This includes my family. Yes, I want to be able to walk into my momma’s home, throw my shoes off, be myself, and say what I want. But, I also want that space to remain safe for me. I don’t want to feel like someone is going to say something hurtful to me. I want family to take those few moments of togetherness to think of our history and context together, and not say something crazy about the new lipstick I’m trying out when they KNOW I am S-E-N-S-I-T-I-V-E about the size of my lips! Or comment about how my hips seem to be spreading or why I seem to be spending more time at mom’s house than at my own, when they know I’m on the struggle bus with my weight and my man.
With family, watch your words and your tone and your timing. It can add up to more moments of joy together. And in the end, isn’t that what we’re all searching for with our families?