How we relate and connect with our families plays a key role in how we form relationships later on in life.
When I talk to my clients about first dates, I always recommend that they ask about how their other half gets on with their family. Our bonds with our parents, if they’re both around, are the first we ever have.
Our families how we learn to love, argue, feel, discuss, and share. If you have siblings, it’s likely the first consistent love-hate relationship you’ll have in your life.
So why am I focussing on this? Well, neediness is not an attractive quality. It tends to scare partners away, make them feel overburdened and overwhelmed by your presence, and creates a guilt complex around dumping you.
If somebody feels like you want something from them, they’ll run a mile before even getting to know you. And, according to attachment theory, children who form a close bond with their families earlier on grow up to be happier and more social.
And, as many other blogs on here at 15 years of courses prove, happier, more social people tend to attract more partners and develop healthier relationships.
However, quite clearly, there’s nothing you can do about whether you were breast-fed as a child. That ship has sailed. But you can work on your most fundamental bonds to reduce your neediness in other areas of your life.
At the end of the day, nurturing and feeding our longest-standing and deepest relationships at any stage of our lives reduces the need to lean on others for emotional gratification.
I’m going to talk to you about how to reconnect with your family in meaningful ways and what this means for your relationship going forward.
How to reconnect with your family
I know nobody chooses their family. We all have that one cousin that grinds our gears or that slightly racist uncle we tolerate but don’t really like.
However, they are our platform. We’re stuck with them – but they’re also stuck with us. It pays dividends for your personal development to find ways of connecting with them.
You might be on great terms with most of your family but have rifts with individual members that have lasted years. While on the whole this is fine, eventually the time will come when you’re all in the room together and tensions flare up. That’s when drama strikes, tension rises, and you enact your emotional neediness on other avenues of your life, like friendships or sexual relationships.
Reconnecting doesn’t involve agreeing with them all the time – it just means being there for the moments that really count. Here are a few ways to start working on your bond with either your whole family or specific members:
- Send a text out of the blue: If you’ve become estranged with some or all of your family, chances are that you’re so wrapped up in your daily life that you can go months without speaking to them. So reach out. Even the mere gesture of reconnection will strike up an opportunity of conversation.
- Work around your differences: You might have completely different interests to your siblings or political views to your parents, and that’s fine. You’re a family, not a clone farm. If you don’t have that much to talk about, make a point of talking even more. It’ll feel uncomfortable. But, eventually, you’ll get to the meat and potatoes of your emotions and relations. And it will get easier to open up. Progress is about feeling and working through discomfort, be it with women in clubs or your dad over a pint.
- Arrange group activities: It can sometimes be easier to interface with more of your family members at once. The more activities you do together, the more you get quality time with the more difficult members of your clan – and the less difficult they’ll become.
- Acknowledge your own part in family feuds:We can inhabit arguments with family members for years, sometimes decades, without addressing the problem at the root. They can go on for so long, in fact, that we often forget how they really started or escalated. No feud is one way, and we all play our role. Pride can be hard to swallow, but the road to redemption only starts with accepting that you’re not perfect and showing an intent to get better.
- Don’t go too far the other way:Like any relationship, it’s possible to spend too much time with your family. If you repair relations with your folks, don’t then oversaturate your life with them as a way to compensate for lost time. It should feel normalised, not overbearing. Bring them back into your life in a balanced, healthy way. You still need time to be you and meet your own obligations.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help: Even the family members with whom you have more bitter relationships want the best for you. They might just show it in odd ways. If your dad’s hot on DIY, get him to teach you how to make a cabinet. Get that recipe from your aunt. Asking for help isn’t being needy, it’s taking an active interest in their skills and attributes. Don’t take liberties, but never be afraid to recognise someone’s better qualities and offer the same in return.
- Be there when it matters: Sometimes, people are angry or hostile because they’re hurting. You can take the fury and abrasion at face value, or you can see beyond it and be there when a family member is sick, lonely, or depressed. You only get one shot at having family. Those really are the moments that cement them as your emotional bedrock. Live up to them.
Takeaway – Why is this important?
A psychologist called Harry Harlow performed a study on monkeys where he allowed some to bond with their biological mothers and handed others off to surrogates.
He noticed that the monkeys who didn’t nurture their attachment to their biological mothers were more timid, less social, easily bullied, and experienced difficulties with mating rituals.
Now, while humans are more complicated – it’s far more likely, for example, that a human may have gone through the foster care or adoption system than a monkey being deliberately separated – the mechanisms are similar.
Invest in your family life, and you’ll find yourself knowing you have a pack behind you. You won’t feel the need to bombard women with text messages or get upset if they don’t call back – you’ve got your core people and that’s enough.
I’m a very strong believer that having the courage and goodwill to patch up family troubles is a vital part of the human experience.
To learn more about socialising and building a better you, check out my Impactful Connection workshops.