What does “family” mean to you? (Part 2)

Stephanie Brun de Pontet
Brun de Pontet

Part 1: Defining family
Part 2: Investing in family

As I indicated in my post earlier this week, Jay Hughes’ notion of the “family of affinity” has long struck a chord for me as a great definition of “family” writ large.  Over the years, I have developed a truly extraordinary family of affinity – some friendships originating in childhood or college, others forged through extensive shared experiences in adulthood, all sustained through effort and commitment on my part and theirs.

Though this circle of friends deeply enrich my life, the older I get, the more I strive to invest as intentionally in the more “traditional” aspects of my family system (parents, children, partner, cousins, siblings) as I do with my closest friends.  For many of us, the family with whom we have more formal or biological ties can sometimes be the part of our family circle we take for granted.  The truth is our sister will always be our sister, so we may not put in the same effort to stay truly connected.

The expression: “you choose your friends, but not your family” implies that family is an accident of fate so not something over which you have much control. But what if we turned that expression on its head? What if we did choose our family? Or at least acknowledge that we choose how we relate to our family as adults and give consideration to whether or not we are relating to them the way we want. Are we being as authentic with our parents and siblings as we are with our friends? Are we investing the effort in these relationships with the same kind of intention and simple time commitment?

Family members who work together may have more opportunities to spend time and “stay current” with one another, yet business responsibilities sometimes crowd out the family relationship.  I have heard many clients say that they don’t really socialize with family because they spend “enough” time together at the business.  While that may be true as a measure of time, interacting professionally is a different way of relating than simply being a family and sharing the nurturing and loving bonds that ideally come with those relationships.

Do you feel you truly know your siblings, parents, cousins or adult children as well as you would like?  If you cannot point to three substantive ways they are different today than they were 10 years ago, you might not know them as deeply as you could.  Also, do you feel they know your hopes, dreams and fears – do they see how you have evolved over time?  If not, what could you do to remedy this lack of understanding?

The simple truth is all relationships need to be nurtured.  As you prepare for Thanksgiving, take a moment to reflect on how you are investing in your family relationships and challenge yourself to go deeper with your “kinfolk.”


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