When His Family Is The Family You Never Had
Not everybody has a relationship with their family, or at least a good relationship with their family. There are those who would call their parents and siblings their best friends, who have a really tight-knit net there, and who feel they have people they can rely on no matter what in their family. Then there are those who…don’t feel that way. There are those for whom family is complicated. I’m one of those people. When something good happens to me, it isn’t a simple transaction of calling my family, having them jump for joy, and making me feel even better about it. I’ve learned that they have a way of focusing on any potential negative aspects, and then swiftly changing the subject. I don’t feel fully celebrated. I don’t feel my ups and downs are really on their radars. But the beautiful thing about finding your soul mate is that sometimes, if you’re lucky, they become that support system for you.
They check on you after difficult events
My boyfriend’s mother calls me the moment he tells her I’m going through something difficult. Whether I’m sick, got passed over for an opportunity I wanted, or am feeling a little sad about something happening socially, she calls me to see if I need someone to talk to. Then, she texts me throughout the week to see how I’m doing.
They celebrate your victories
When something good happens to me, not only do my partner’s parents call me, they send notes, and they tell their friends about it—they’re proud of me. I can sense that they are uplifted for days by my good news as if it is also their good news. I’m not entirely used to that. I’m used to just celebrating on my own, assuming nobody else would get that excited about it.
They call, just to say hi
My boyfriend’s mom and brother will sometimes call me, just to say hello. They’re on their commute somewhere, and they call me up, just to chat, about really nothing. It’s so pleasant. It’s new to me that, sometimes, family calls just to have some company on a drive or while running errands—they call for fun rather than to share bad news or talk logistics.
They never make you feel judged
My partner’s family never makes me feel judged. They don’t suggest ways I could lose weight, suggest I dress differently, or make me feel bad for not making more money. They have a way of making me feel like they know that my intentions are good, and that I work hard, regardless of their opinions on the outcome.
You’re not used to having someone to lean on
Having people to lean on—like to really just unload on—when I’m feeling overwhelmed by life is a new thing to me. I remember, there were a few times I was going through something tough, and my boyfriend’s mom called and asked, “Why didn’t you tell me? That’s what family is here for.” It hadn’t crossed my mind that anyone else would want to take on my stuff.
You’ve learned to spend holidays with friends
I spent many major holidays with friends in the past. That was just my tradition. If I visited my family, they thought that was nice, but it wasn’t necessarily expected or enforced. Now my partner’s family calls us and says, “So when are you guys arriving for Christmas?” We are expected, and it’s nice.
The love comes with expectations, too
Of course, you only get as much as you give with family. I had such an every-woman-for-herself mentality before. Now, I’m having to train my brain to do things like call them when they’re going through something tough, and to jot it in my calendar that I’ll be away on major holidays, visiting them. I had an awakening moment of realizing I had, by force of habit, become rather self-involved.
They give you career advice
My partner’s family actually gives me career advice. The most career advice I get from my biological family is something like, “Change careers. This one doesn’t seem to be working.” But my boyfriend’s family don’t seem to think it’s their place to tell me what my passion should be—they accept what it is, and try to help me within that.
They make introductions when they can
His family even thinks actively and regularly about helpful introductions they can make for me. They’ll send me emails about someone they know who could help me with this or that aspect of my work. They’re thinking about me and my success, throughout their busy lives.
Your partner gets a little jealous
Sometimes my man gets a little jealous that I’m so close with some of his family. The truth is that, even though they’ve taken me in, I’m still spared of the icky stuff he has to deal with like some of the drama and fighting. He probably wishes he could be spared of it, too.
Your family gets a little jealous
My family gets a bit jealous. When I tell my mom I was just on the phone with my boyfriend’s mom I can hear it in her voice—that jealousy—when she says, “Oh. You two talk. How often? That’s nice.”
But it’s good: it sets a new bar
Honestly, I think it’s good my family gets a bit jealous when they hear about my connection with my partner’s family. It’s good for them to see how another family treats me. Maybe it will get their wheels turning on our dynamic.
They teach you what it means to be family-oriented
I’m learning what it means to be family-oriented and really be there for each other. I’m learning what it means when family actually comes first. Before, I always came first, and family was…an accessory. An appendage.
It’s an adjustment period
When you go a long time living for yourself—out of necessity—it takes time to train your brain to be family-oriented. I’ve learned things like, yes of course you cancel your social plans when a family member is in the hospital. I’m learning that yes of course you go to your cousin’s art gallery showing even if it’s small—it’s big to her, and she’s family.
You lean in when you know he’s the one
I was hesitant at first to really lean into having this new, second family. I was worried about becoming close and then…having to let go. In other words, if my partner wasn’t my forever person, losing this family would hurt as much as drifting away from my original family did. Plus, having any tension with in-laws is weird so you just want to make sure they’re your forever family before getting too close.