Copyright (c) 2008 Mary Ann Copson
Here's a simple question that came up in Personal Coaching session:
"My husband and I have been married for five years and his family is still a mystery to me. I?ve tried everything I know to develop a closer relationship with them. I call his parents at least once a week, set up outings and dinner dates with them, and invite them on our excursions. All to no avail. They simply don?t seem interested. I think that close family relationships are important and I?ve told them how much I would like to get to know them better. And still their response is lukewarm. Should I just give up?"
Research shows that when we feel emotionally disconnected from those with whom we are in relationship, our emotional brain becomes aroused and we move into flight or fight mode. This means we respond only in terms of defense and attack. The results are not good for our relationships and it throws our physiology into chaos.
Nothing affects the emotional brain like the quality of your relationships. Women are relationship oriented - Relationships mean a lot to women. A good relationship can give you increased energy and support a positive outlook. A troubled relationship can wear you out. The health and wellbeing of your relationships entrains your emotional brain, which in turn governs your physiological health.
When you are engaged in disconnected, turbulent, or emotionally unfulfilling relationships, your moods and energy can become drained, negative, and unsustaining.
By contrast, relationship peace and connection can lead to better health and well-being, more vital energy and more positive moods. By almost every measure those who have close and rewarding relationships do better than those who have turbulent relationships.
Often times in relationships we are looking to the other party to be an equal part of turning the relationship into something that meets our needs. But before we even get to that point there is a lot of our own internal work that can be done and often needs to be done before we can experience the kind of relationships we want.
In a situation like you are experiencing the first place to look at would be the whole issue of your need to have close family relationships. It is so important to be aware of our needs and then to find a way to get those needs met. Asking for what you need from friends and family can be wonderful and successful tactic to help get those needs taken care of. But, there are pitfalls in that process.
You may be asking your husband?s family to fulfill a need of yours that they are not capable of fulfilling ? particularly in a way that is satisfying to you. If you have a need for close family relationships, you have to match up with someone who likes to give close family relationships. It makes no sense to keep coming to the tropics when you want to be snow skiing. They may be doing the best they can but simply not be able to do what it is you need.
If you have a need for this experience of close family relationships and your in-laws don?t seem to be able to meet that need ? find another way. Perhaps it would be more fulfilling for you (and less stress on them) if you fill your need by developing close relationships with other members of the family.
Also, it is a useful insight to discover what is underlying this need. Maybe, these close family relationships make you feel connected and secure in a caring network. If that is the case, there are many means to experience this type of connection ? become a Big Sister or get involved in a local charity organization. Once you discover the essence of your need there are many ways to get that need met.
Could be that your in-laws are already experiencing a close family relationship with you. Maybe their lukewarm response is their idea of a close family relationship and it could help you if you found out what their ideal family interactions are like. Some people can feel totally connected to friends and family and not see or speak with them for months. You all might be in agreement on the basic outcome of the relationships ? it is just that the ways and means that don?t mesh.
Maybe they don?t like doing the things the things you like to do ? find out what their favorite things to do are. Sitting home and watching TV might be their preference and they aren?t so fond of dinners out and excursions to new places.
There is a quote by Gandhi that says, ?Be the change you want to see in the world.? This is wonderful advice for a relationship. Often we come to a relationship seeking something outside of ourselves. If we want intimacy in a relationship we can not be waiting for the other person to be intimate. We have to be intimacy ourselves. We have to develop our own experience of intimacy so that no matter who we are relating to we are able to experience an intimate connection with them. The experience comes from our own dynamic and we merge and expand that experience in the presence of another ? but we don?t depend on them to make something happen for us. We become the experience we want to have in a relationship.
Unfortunately ? or is that fortunately?- you can?t change anyone but yourself. Taking the focus off your husband?s in-laws and putting it on the only place you can change ? yourself ? will put you back in the driver?s seat and leave you in an empowered position. The need you feel for close family relationships may be your call to become connection, intimacy, or support. As you grow and develop these characteristics, of the essence of close family relationships, you will not only fill up your need but also generate those characteristics in the world and attract them to you.
Good luck and have fun.
?When we know that the cause of something is in ourselves, and that we (ourselves) are one of the few things in the universe that we have the right and ability to change, we begin to get a sense of the choices we really do have, an inkling of the power we have, a feeling of being in charge of our lives, of our future, of our dreams.? - John Roger and Peter McWilliams
Copyright (c) 2008 Mary Ann Copson