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family relationships and dynamics

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I remember right before moving away from my hometown, things with my family were turbulent. In fact, things were so turbulent that I believed they were beyond repair. How will we ever forgive each other for the things we’ve said? I wondered. Will we ever overcome these HUGE differences and just enjoy a meal together? I worried. Things felt permanently damaged. But, in the middle of the turbulence, I had a move coming. I had graduated college and was moving to another city for a job. I figured, “I’ll handle this move, and refocus on that family drama when things calm down.” But, to my surprise, the drama just…vanished. For the most part. When I returned to visit my family, I couldn’t remember what we had been fighting about. I had my life. I had found my people. I was happy and busy and motivated. I was too happy to fight. And things had just…changed. If you have a wounded relationship with your family, here is why moving away from home could actually heal that.


Family errands don’t hinder your career

When I lived in town, I always felt like my career aspirations and my family’s needs were in a constant battle. I worked for the local paper at the time, and I wanted to pick up extra work and attend events the paper put on. But my parents would need me to stop by their house to walk their dog or make sure they’d locked the garage if they were on a trip. I had to make these micro decisions between my family and my career, and it made me resent my family. That just isn’t a factor when I don’t live there. Nobody can ask me to stop by and walk their dog when I live hundreds of miles away.


Family obligations don’t impede your social life

I also felt that my family life got in the way of my social life. This was especially true when I was dating. I’d want to go to a party a guy had invited me to, but my mom would remind me, “It’s your grandparent’s wedding anniversary you should be there doesn’t family matter to you?” Again, living away from them, it never has to be my family or my relationship.


Less, “You never help out!” accusations

Truly, not living in town spares me of all of those accusations of not being helpful enough. My mom will actually call me to complain that my sister who lives in our hometown (poor soul) doesn’t help my mom enough. And I’m just sitting happily, a two-hour drive away, thinking, “I’m so glad to be out of this game.”


And less fighting about that burden with siblings

My sister also can no longer tell me it’s my turn to go over to our parent’s house to help them organize the garage or do yard work. I don’t live in town. It’s never my turn, so my sister can’t be upset with me. It’s actually made my sister and I friends rather than adversaries. It repaired our sibling bond.



They miss you so they don’t want to fight

My parents just miss me so much that when I do come to town, they don’t want to fight. They don’t want to ruin the short time we have together by starting up the same old fights we used to have. They attempt to keep things civil.


They don’t nitpick at tiny details

They just aren’t geographically close enough to my life to nitpick at the details, like how often I wash my car or how infrequently I go to the gym. They don’t know anything about those things.


And you miss them, so you let things slide

I miss them, too, so the things I used to pick fights about…I just let slide. Yes, they have very different views than I do on many things, but when those things come up, I don’t say the things I used to. I change the subject. We don’t need to have those fights. We can just get along for the short time we’re together.


You don’t feel taken for granted

When I lived in town, I felt taken for granted. In a week I might pop over to my parent’s house several times to help them with all sorts of errands, and all they’d talk about is the one time I didn’t make it. There was no big, “Thank you for ALL you do for us.” And that made me not want to help them at all. Now, when I go home, I’m happy to help with a few things because I get that big, “Thank you.”


When they visit you, they’re on vacation

When they visit me, they’re instantly on vacation. They’re away from their stacks of mail and responsibilities and real life. And you know what people are when they’re on vacation? They’re in a good mood. That helps our relationship.


When you visit, it’s a celebration

When I visit them, it’s a celebration. They’re so happy to have me there that they plan a special meal. They try to cancel or postpone any boring, obligatory tasks they had until after my visit. We are celebrating being together, which we didn’t do when we were together almost every day before.


They don’t have any spies

When I lived in my childhood town, my parents had spies on me. I’d get a call from my mom after a night of drinking, and she’d say that her friend’s daughter’s friend saw me out taking several shots in a row. I don’t need those spies. And I don’t have them now.


Some things are better concealed

There are just some parts of my life that it’s best my family doesn’t know about, in the same way there are parts of their lives I don’t need to know about. When my mom calls on a Tuesday and asks what I’m doing, and I say I’m going to Taco Tuesday at such-and-such a place, she can’t put in her two cents about that restaurant. She doesn’t know it. She lives in another town.


They don’t monopolize your rare free time

It felt like my family was always clawing their way into my rare moments of free time when I lived at home. I didn’t get free time. The moment they saw I was doing nothing, they’d think, “Great. So you can help me with something.”


Or argue over how you spend your free time

We also don’t argue over how I spend my free time. Sometimes, I just want to lie on the couch for hours and order takeout. And my family doesn’t live in town, so they can’t stop by, see me being lazy, and criticize me for it. Nor can they insist I go to lunch with them if I’m free. I have taken my free time back.


Look: we don’t have to like our families

If we can all let go of this delusion that we must be best friends with our families, we may actually stand a chance at having some level of friendship with them. If you and your family just don’t see eye to eye on things, and live in close quarters, you’re bound to fight a lot. There is no other person in the world with whom we A) don’t get along and B) Spend lots of time. With anyone else, if we know we don’t get along, we just create some space. So why not with family? It could ultimately bring us emotionally closer together.

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