Last month my wife and her sisters went to visit the Grand Canyon. I have to say that I am jealous as I really wanted to go! Upon her return she was showing the family all the pictures she took. Wow! All I could think was how amazing it would be to see this marvelous work in God’s creation. The average distance from rim to rim in the canyon is nearly 10 miles wide, sometimes reaching up to 18 miles wide and more than a mile deep! That is pretty far apart!
Although this is an amazing place to visit, it would be pretty awful if I felt this far apart in my relationships at home. I constantly hear of couples that feel they are so far apart, often to the point of couples ready to call it quits or parent’s to ‘give up’ on their children. This is a very sad state, however, I have been there. I try to remember that every family has their own up’s and down’s. There are some moments in a typical family where everyone is having fun, laughing and just enjoying life. However, there are also moments when all you can hear are angry words, escalated voices, and sobbing in the background because of the hurt just hurled at them by someone who is supposed to love them.
This is normal! Every relationship has their ups and downs, we just hope that their down’s are not too low. The unfortunate part of my job is that I often see people when they are at their lowest of low points. I hear family members despondent that are ready to just walk away. When your relationship gets to that low point, when you feel the great divide is just too far to cross, please do not give up.
I have learned and help many of the families I work with that during these low moments, STOP trying to fix the problem! Yes, you read that right, STOP trying to fix the problem. I don’t know about you, but when I am angry, sad or at an otherwise low point when I feel so far from my other family members, I am often not in a good enough place to resolve any issues. I can get defensive, shut down, or just say or do things I will likely later regret. However, when I finally feel close to my family again, I am at an emotionally healthy enough place to be able to work through and resolve these same issues. During these moments I tend to be much more patient, calm, and emotionally at a place to be able to negotiate and compromise.
I encourage couples often during the lowest points of their relationship to simply focus on trying to ‘bridge’ that great divide. Have fun together, do something spontaneous, watch silly videos, reminisce about the ‘good ol’ days’. I know you might not feel like enjoying times with your family when you feel 10 miles apart, but do it anyway! Laughing and smiling together has a powerful (and therapeutic) way to reduce the stress immediately, to lessen the tension between two individuals. Trust me, I know how hard this is. But, if you can get past this and focus instead on simply having fun (without focusing on the conflict)! You will begin to feel closer to your family.
Now, you may be asking what about the conflict…when do I resolve the conflict? Please understand me, I am not saying to ignore it. Rather, you are simply placing it on the bookshelf (more about this coming soon), until you are emotionally ready to tackle this issue. This time, much more productively.
At some point, when you do feel closer (or at least not angry anymore), you can take it off the bookshelf and begin to work on it. I know what I am saying is probably the exact opposite of anything else you have heard, or at least what you likely practice at home. But it works, give it a shot. Let’s begin to bridge that great divide within your family.
- Take a quick personal inventory to gage how far apart you currently feel from each of your family members.
- Consider a time when you felt closer to this family member, what did you used to enjoy doing together?
- Spend some intentional time with this family member with NO other objective, but to simply have fun and enjoy their presence.
- Fight the urge to ‘bring it up’. Place your ‘issue’ on the bookshelf until you (and the other family member) feel emotionally ready to deal with it