I have a family member, a person very near and dear to me whom I struggle to have a sincere relationship with. Can anyone relate to tough relationships with family members? Of course you can, we all have them to varying degrees. The thing is, I really do love this person. She is my family, my blood. But, I have such a hard time getting close to her, developing a meaningful relationship of depth and weight with her, being myself around her.
If we weren’t related, I’m not sure she is somebody I would want to have a relationship with. We are polar opposites in every single way you could possibly imagine. From politics, to parenting, to social justice, to religion and spirituality, there is not one topic that comes to mind that her and I see eye to eye on. It’s often hard for me to even have a conversation with her because I feel like I’m walking on eggshells.
It’s not her fault, she has the right to be herself just like I do.
The thing is, I spent most of my life not loving myself. Feeling like I didn’t fit in, running from reality so I wouldn’t have to see myself for who I really was and do the inside work. Four years ago, I came to a jumping off point. I knew that if I didn’t start getting honest with myself, uncovering the causes and conditions of why I was the way I was, doing the work instead of blaming everyone else for my problems, I was going to die. That may seem extreme, unless you knew me at the time, then you know I speak the truth.
So, I dug in and started on a spiritual path. A path to self-awareness, to service to others, to a God of my own understanding. So much in my life has changed in the past four years. Yes, of course the outside stuff has changed, I live in a different house, drive a different car, but more than that, the inside stuff is no longer covered in darkness. I feel a connection to light, to a higher power. I live in gratitude rather than victimization. I have a beautiful life. I also love who I am, not in an ego-driven way, but from a place of gratitude.
But, how do you stand in your own truth AND have a relationship with someone you fundamentally disagree with?
That’s the question I have been struggling with for years now…
Throughout this spiritual journey, the Universe has put some absolutely amazing people in my life. These people are my rock. They have shown me a love unlike anything I have ever experienced. They have helped guide me on the path. These relationships are rooted in love, in supporting each other, in challenging each other do to better. I am so incredibly grateful for the village of beautiful souls that has grown up around me. I would not be where I am today without those people.
But I still struggle to have a genuine relationship with this family member.
Over the past several weeks I have been asking myself over and over, “Why is it so hard for me to have a relationship with this person? Why do I let her get under my skin so much? Why can’t I be more accepting?”
I haven’t found one definitive answer to these questions, but I thought I’d share what has popped up in my prayer and meditation in hopes that it may help someone:
It’s not her, it’s me: There is nothing I can do about her thoughts, behaviors, words and actions. As much as I want to show her the truth according to Stephanie, that is not my job. She has the right to think and feel the way she chooses. It is part of her own journey in this lifetime. Who am I to judge her journey or to step in and interfere with a growth opportunity for her? This is much easier said than done. Some of the beliefs that she has are extremely offensive to me and entire populations of people. But, I have to pause and reflect on my own life. In my own spiritual development, there have been many times where my thoughts, words and actions have been hurtful to others and my awareness of how much I was hurting others was little to none. I have to trust that God has a plan for her, just like she did for me. Faith over fear. Trust the process.
She’s doing the best she can with what she knows: The thing is, we are all doing the best we can. We are all a compilation of our life experiences, and it takes a lot of strength to step out of the societal norms and discover your own truth. It’s much easier to just go with the flow and do things the way you are told, because it doesn’t require much thought or pushback from those around you. My favorite quote of all time is by the late great Maya Angelou, “When you know better, you do better.” I have found this to be true, and you never know when the Universe is going to present you or your family members with an opportunity for self-knowledge and personal growth.
If you spot it, you got it: Ugh. This is the hardest life lesson for me, but it also is 100% accurate. Usually, when something somebody else is doing is REALLY getting under my skin, it’s because I myself have the propensity to act the same exact way if my own house isn’t in order. All the behaviors that she engages in that drive me absolutely bonkers are behaviors that I myself can easily and often unconsciously engage in if I am not doing the work to stay connected and on the spiritual path.
They say you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family. I don’t really like this saying, because I think that a power greater than me specifically put me into this family and surrounds me with different friends to help me grow and develop, to learn the lessons I am meant to learn in this lifetime. The tricky part is that not all of the relationships we find ourselves in are going to be unicorns and rainbows. Sometimes the biggest lessons in spiritual growth come from those super tough relationships. If I was only in relationships with people that think like me, I would be stagnant. Learning how to interact with those that are different from me is how I grow and begin to develop compassion.
I don’t have a magical answer for how to have better relationships with family members that you perhaps don’t see eye to eye with. I don’t think it’s that simple. But, it starts with a willingness to stop blaming others and to start looking at yourself. How can you be helpful to your family? Getting out of self and into service is where it always starts for me. It makes me feel like I am useful, it gives me purpose and it benefits the other person. Then, work to change your perspective. Instead of dreading any and all interactions with a certain someone, look at those interactions as an opportunity to develop compassion.
Do I do this perfectly? HELL NO. But, I try. I’m working to have compassion and to activate that pause button when I feel like just reacting. It’s hard. It will take time, but I’m in it for the long haul. Family is forever.
Plants for Life,
Stephanie Misanik, INHC, RYT-200