Getting closer to the family has been a long-awaited and enriching experience for some people and a crisis for others. Don’t get discouraged if you belong to the latter group and you feel anxious, annoyed, or helpless. These feelings prove how valuable your relationships are. We have discussed this issue with Maria Shvets, psychologist of the HSE Psychological Counselling Centre.
Remember that your family is experiencing similar feelings. Their lives have changed dramatically, and they need to adjust to the new reality, too. It is no one’s fault that it hasn’t been easy. This situation can be used as an opportunity to make your relationships stronger.
Five questions to discuss with yourself
Remember that those in your household are in the same situation. So here we have a family whose members are accustomed to different paces of life and who now must meet on common grounds. Everyone is suffering from something they have been deprived of, and we can only imagine how deeply this may be affecting others.
The current situation is a good opportunity to realize what is going on in your relationship and how it may influence your life. Think of both the negative and positive aspects.
Violation of privacy
Suppose you managed to gain independence after leaving your parents’ place to live in another town, where you learned to be self-reliant. Now that you have moved back, you may find yourself unable to control everything. Moreover, your parents’ care may seem even more annoying. This is due to the overall level of anxiety, as more often than not we prefer to ignore our fears and seek control and predictability in other people’s lives.
If this causes you discomfort, try to estimate the amount of care which is acceptable for you and explain to your parents that, while you appreciate some of their attentiveness, some of it makes you feel uncomfortable and puts you ill at ease.
You may witness and feel dragged into others’ complicated relationships: this is what family psychology calls a ‘coalition’. Dysfunctional coalitions are alliances of some family members against another member, and most often they are arranged vertically—kids may align themselves with their mom against their dad, a grandmother may align herself with her granddaughter against the girl’s mother, etc. Each member of the coalition pursues his or her own secret emotional ends. These relationships are rarely enjoyable, they are tiring, and they create feelings of guilt because of the harm caused to the person this coalition is aligned against.
The key thing in these circumstances is to realize your own role as a member of the coalition. You need to understand why you’ve joined this alliance and how you think you will benefit from your position. This will facilitate open communication with each of the coalition members.
If the level of trust in your family is quite high, try discussing each member’s perspective on the situation. It might be enough to withdraw from the coalition to break the existing deadlock. For example, as soon as you stop taking your mom’s side in her arguments with your grandma, you will see the dynamics of the argument change, and the argument may soon cease altogether.
Lack of interest in each other
Some families have run out of things to talk about, which means they can only discuss external problems: politics, the economic crisis, coronavirus, etc.
Think about what is interesting about your family members and what you would like to learn about them. It is often enough to take the first step and look at your family member from a different perspective, not as a person you know inside and out and whose every move you can predict. We oftentimes live not with real people, but with our own expectations, pains, and fears.
Things you used to avoid may be good occasions for getting together:
In a romantic relationship, it may happen that you get lonely when your partner or spouse becomes more distant or immerses themselves in their work or studies. This will most probably hurt and upset you. We often become resentful or distant and expect our partner to notice and become concerned. Alternatively, we ask for more attention, make demands, or make accusations. You may feel frustrated because you have tried everything but haven’t been heard, and you may doubt the strength of your feelings.
In this situation, you need to realize that you are particularly frustrated and upset about the loss of love. This plays out in your imagination in catastrophic scenarios, increasing your feeling of abandonment and demonizing your partner in your eyes. However, you should understand that your fear is just one of the possible scenarios, and not the reality. Try to describe the situation through the facts: if the partner hasn’t phoned or texted you, it doesn’t mean he or she has abandoned you.
When you have a talk with your partner, you should start by asking how things are going with them before you describe your emotions. You may describe what you feel in the form of suggestions: tell your partner what you expect from him or her so that you can set aside some quality time with each other. Think of new ways to support each other.
After you make sure that the problem is not rooted in your love going cold, structure your life so that you can keep yourself busy, too. Do something useful and feel productive.
Dina Zafesova, a psychologist of the Psychological Counselling Centre, talks about why we procrastinate and how to resist the urge to put things off
Illustrations: Maria Eremina