On Family

Most people, if asked, would say that they value being family oriented in a romantic partner. This is natural – we want people who will be willing to start a family with us, who will be good fathers or mothers to our children and who will put family before all else. Instinctively, this is what we feel makes a good partner. And that’s true.

Things are complicated when you’re young, though. When you’re 18-19-20-and on, you’re already looking for someone who is family oriented. But most people aren’t really looking to start their own families yet- they’re still figuring out how they fit into their own (childhood) families as an adult. When they think of family, their parents and siblings are still the first things that come to mind – not the prospective family that they may be looking to create soon.

People generally say that they appreciate people who are close with their families at this age – but while it might be something that they instinctively see as a positive aspect, in my experiences it’s almost never something that people enjoy seeing put into practice. In serious situations, people understand that family comes first. “My mother is sick, and I need to visit her,” will always get you excused from work, but “I can’t go out with you tonight, I want to spend time with my family” is sometimes less accepted. Being family oriented isn’t just being willing to spend “family night” with your parents/siblings, it’s putting the priorities of your family first consistently, even if it may not be exactly what you want at the time. Putting family first on a day to day basis can be hard at any point, but balancing a family oriented mindset with the demands of being a “young adult” is arguably more difficult. At the crossroads of the family you’ve grown up being a part of and the family that is yet to come, determining whether or not to put your current family or someone who may help to build your future family first is quite a challenge.

For those of us who have never had any true competition for the time and energy given to family, the adjustments necessary to accept someone into our life who in some way competes for these attentions isn’t going to happen immediately. It can be easy to push people away who we feel we may be giving more attention to than we have to anyone outside the family in the past. But don’t.

My frequently-family themed poetry is branching out to encompass the feeling of being in love. I’m starting to call home less often- but the phone calls are rich and animated. I spend almost all my time away from home- but the time I do spend at home is immensely valuable. Physically moving away from family and then beginning to build my own life independent of the people I have grown up with initially felt like an act of abandonment – a movement away from the family oriented girl I have always claimed to be. But I am learning that the beginning of this new stage doesn’t make me any less family oriented; I am not giving up my ideals because I moved to another part of the U.S. and laid the foundation for my own life. By allowing myself to develop an identity it’s separate of that of my family’s, I am increasing my value and strengthening my bond to my childhood family and building the groundwork for the possibility of a strong future family of my own.

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