Deja vu — old familiar feelings, flashbacks, increased heart rate, and even, the mind scrambling over options of how to have a different trajectory perhaps.
We all get it. And when it comes to that family member who appears to be going on a predictable groundhog round, we groan inwardly, sigh heavily or even rant to another member who is familiar with the story and the struggle. Not again.
Helping a stranger, usually, a once-off affair is so much easier than putting up with family who has hurt us, taken us for granted, and continue the same painful trajectory despite all of our interventions and intercessions.
There are some ‘small returns’ here and there — a ‘thank you, some growth, a shared laugh. But the repeat patterns begin to tear at the fabric of familial love and goodwill.
I used to feel deeply disappointed when I hear people distance themselves and worse, write off family members. I refused to call anyone a black sheep. I believed with all my heart that change is possible.
Now I am not so sure.
Boundaries are of course needed.
Some draw the line at finances. That feels to me to cheapen the relationship because while it is useful, money does not in itself really change anything deeply.
Others say ‘enough’ when advice dispensed is not taken.
Then some go for the ‘strike 3’ option of limiting the rounds of attention and help. Some even block the family member. And in some cases, where it may have worsened into behaviours that harass, intimidate, or threaten, the police may even need to be called in.
My story thankfully isn’t in the last category.
But time and tussle still wear us all down.
After more than two decades of watching a family member go through emotional and financial combustion, dragging spouses, children, and the rest of us through frustration, anger, disappointment, and heartache, I learned that if I were not to give up, I need some serious answers from myself first:
What outcomes do I hope for? How realistic are they?
Why would those outcomes matter so much? To what degree can I influence the…