Thursday, October 1, 2009

On Family...

They say you can pick your friends, but not your family. A simple enough axiom. However, nowadays with in-laws and ex-laws, step-kids and half-siblings, keeping it all straight can get a little complicated.

The reason for this saying, I believe, is because with friends, we tend to have common interests, common beliefs, and common outlooks on life. If we take offense at a friend’s actions, we can always terminate the friendship. Not so with family. Family, by its very nature, throws together those who may have very different likes, tastes and personalities, but with a bond. When families are broken up through divorce, sometimes there are ties that bind, most often children, but could be extended family or friends, which brings up the choice of how we handle the future.

I bring this up for a number of reasons. A product of a divorce myself, I am blessed by the paths that virtually all members of my extended family have taken. We all marry or (married) someone (at least partially) because of something good we saw in them. The paths of those involved in my circle would tend to bear that out. Doesn’t mean anyone of us is perfect, but at least acknowledges the good in people. The consequences of that choice are illustrated below.

One of my closest friends is the mother of my daughter, my ex-wife. I believe that her and my wife are friends as well. I recently expressed condolences to my ex-father-in-law for the loss of his wife, which brought at least some small measure of comfort, I’m sure. My wife’s ex-husband and I initially had issues. We have since gotten to the point where he, his wife, my wife and I actually vacation together! That doesn’t mean that we won’t have disagreements. Disputes can and will happen when you have different views on life. I recently had a falling out with my stepdaughter’s husband; we have since made amends, driven by our greater love of our wives than by our petty grievances.

Divorce, by nature, is never easy; that’s why it is to be avoided. Studies show that the pain and emotional anguish divorce causes is second only to the death of a loved one. With death, there is no second chance. In a divorce, we have a choice. With divorce, some (most, according to people I’ve talked to) people focus on their inner turmoil and lash out with hate due to the pain. There are always the offenders and the offended in a divorce situation. Some choose to perpetuate the hate, and by doing so, perpetuate the pain. It is only the ones that choose to elevate themselves above it, to put the past into the past, and have a hopeful outlook for the future, that can achieve at least some measure of peace. It doesn’t erase the past; but rather chooses not to dwell on it. Forgiveness may or may not ever come to pass, either from the offended or by the offender (for themselves).

What works for us may not work for others in similar situations. All I know is that all we have is the present. The people in our lives who are touched by the inter-relationships caused by our past deserve not to be penalized by it. Those that rise above the pain show that they love and value those people more than they value the hate. That’s not a bad thing in my book.

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