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The Unavoidable Family Drama


My entire family disapproved of my marriage, to the point of my dad saying, in so many words, “No” to my husband’s request for his blessing. My brother and his family left the whole-family vacation early—in the night, without saying goodbye—after an argument. A family member accidentally sent me a text intended for someone else… only the text was about me and what it said was untrue. And now and forever, every sibling and sibling-in-law has a different idea on how best to raise children. 

Family Drama? We’ve got it.

But the reason I could mention the above circumstances is because every one of them is behind us. We have worked through those issues and forgiven each other. Except the raising children one. That will be ongoing for maybe the next 50 years. 

These people are our lifelines, our dear friends, our confidantes, our childhood memories. When we and our siblings leave our parents’ home to become adults, and certainly when we marry, we create our own new mini-cultures complete with unique expectations. And your parents’ empty-nest culture and expectations are not the same as when all their kids were under one roof.  

What do we do when we don’t meet our family’s expectations? What do we do when they don’t meet ours?

Establish Boundaries

Healthy boundaries may be in order. Sometimes, the boundary needs to be between you and the drama, giving both parties more space. Other times, the most necessary boundary is around both of you, forcing you closer together without the room to run. You might just need to press in, lock arms and work through it. 

Is It Your Drama?

In many extended families, one person’s drama is everyone’s drama. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

If it doesn’t affect you or your mini-culture directly, let it go. And don’t talk about it with other family members. My mom and I decided to stop talking about family drama, and suddenly it felt like my family had less drama. Family gossip is still gossip, and good things don’t come from it.

Ever. 

To Speak or Remain Silent?

Some of us will always opt to say nothing, but I want to challenge that. Sometimes the very best thing you can do is to say something, and to say it well.

Some of us will always opt to say something, or to say everything. I usually err on the side of saying something, and I’m learning that there are many times when the very best thing I can do is to say nothing.

When you’ve considered it and decided on the best course (without letting your own fear and insecurity have a voice), it takes a lot of courage to stick with it.

The key here is to think… before you speak. 

Above All, Forgive

Forgive. Easy to write, hard to do.

I had big frustrations and obvious hurt regarding my family’s approach to my marriage, and when they had a miraculous change of heart on our wedding day, I was thrilled but skeptical. My husband immediately forgave and was eager for a relationship. I wasn’t so sure, and when I told him one day that I was waiting for their newfound excitement to pass, he asked what it would take for me to believe it was real. He listened to my answer, and then asked me this: “What if none of that ever happens?” I had nothing to say. Was I willing to withhold my love until appropriate amends were made that might actually never happen? I was cornered. Forgiveness and love on one side, a cold heart and bitterness on the other.

I had to choose. And in that moment, I hated both options. 

If there was a one-size-fits-all approach to family drama, there wouldn’t really be family drama. It’s ugly, it’s crazy-making, it’s delicate, it’s beautiful. Here’s what we know: the drama will always be there, and the difference in the drama is you. Forgive and love, or grow cold and bitter? When you’re deciding, remember how you hope to be loved the next time you’re the drama queen. 

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