Friday, January 4, 2013

Family as Life-Long Friendship

What a blessing it is in my life to "belong" to so many families. We are widely treated as honored members of "the elders" in these families. We've wiped the tears and butts of many of their babies who are now coming into adulthood. These can be tough years for marriages when the focus becomes the marriage again after so much time prioritizing children.

Most of us enter marriage and parenthood with no idea how to form honest relationships. We tend to operate on automatic impulses from our own upbringing. This is how animals have been parenting since the beginning. As we attempt to establish the values of two completely different sets of parents into our own families, we find that there are some diametrically opposed values that cannot be lived simultaneously. We tend to muddle along and one person sets the rules while the other builds resentments.

In functional families, the children have been given the strength and the tools to fight their own battles and make their own contracts with both parents. In non-functional families, all action must be cleared by only one elder. This causes division in the household, which soon breaks down into chaos. It is true that a house divided against itself will fall. Somehow, families survive, but marriages often don't thrive. Changes must be brought to bear or the marriage will simply fall apart around the children's and our own heads.

M. Scott Peck, in his book, A World Waiting to Be Born, writes about changing old systems. He says that all systems hide behind masks of pretense in order to keep harmony. In order for the societal system to change, people have to be willing to take off their masks. When the old patterns are discarded, chaos ensues. Because we are so uncomfortable with the unfamiliar, we tend to get frightened and run back behind our masks.

I believe that this is what is happening in many marriages and families, in fact in our world's society, today. We have discarded many of the old patriarchal masks and mindsets and are looking for honest ways to relate. There are growing pains which cause many to want to despair. They lobby for a return to the old familiar.

If we have a firm and achievable goal in mind, we can make our case for an end to the discomfort being a better place than the automatic actions of our pasts. Only then will the journey through chaos be worth attempting. It helps to have a committed support network in these endeavors.

Every relationship requires investment of time and energy. Marriage also requires emotion, empathy, and physical bonding. These last three are gifts of The Spirit. We must allow ourselves to be vulnerable to receiving these gifts from our partner; only then will we stop being afraid that what we give of ourselves won't be restored to us. We must be open to each other and looking toward The Holy in each other in order to become honestly bonded and unafraid to embrace mutual values with respect.

It is never too late to begin again, as long as both parties are willing to commit to a sacred contract of seeking The Holy in Holy Matrimony. What we give of ourselves in a sacred bond will return to us many fold in the form of life-long friendship.