Hello everybody, welcome to episode 81 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino. We’re going to be talking about reconnecting with estranged family today, which of course is a sensitive topic that can be very hard to navigate with logic alone.
This is another throwback question I once received and answered on gregaudino.com, long before Optimal Living Advice was even a twinkle in its mother’s eye. My video's included below.
So let’s sit back, and offer some advice…
QUESTION: “Could you offer any tips for reconnecting with estranged family or when they want to reconnect with you?”
What Family Life SHOULD Be…
There ya have it. Obviously the concept of family is extremely meaningful, highly sensitive, and above all – what makes this sort of dilemma so hard – is that there are so many narratives surrounding how family life and family relationships SHOULD be.
Because of that, I feel it’s crucial to take a highly focused approach on the needs of each individual involved. And I want to stress the word “individual,” because if we’re going to break the ideas of how family SHOULD be and solve this problem unique to those involved, we must consider each party as an almost detached individual as opposed to someone who is owed something because of the history we share with them.
Start with Yourself
Let’s start with you the individual; your individual needs and emotions. Whether you’re the initiator or recipient at this attempted reconnection, ask yourself what your purpose is in this matter.
What do you need from the other individual? Do you need an apology? Do you need to offer an apology? Do you need to gain acceptance? Do you need to offer acceptance? Take time with yourself to get very clear about where you were triggered in this whole conflict.
Where were you triggered? Why did affect you the way it did? What is the void that was left because of it? And how can that void be filled? Understanding your own emotional needs is the best place to start any sort of healing process.
Next, Consider the Other(s)
Next, let’s consider the other individual that you’re in conflict with. Who are they – outside of family ties? Are they someone you would want to have a relationship with were it not for the family history? Are they someone whose values align well with yours?
If not, that’s okay.
Again, release the SHOULDS, and understand that peaceful reconnection and relationship rebuilding may not be the best thing for either or both of you.
But you can theorize, and ask the same powerful questions about them as you just have for yourself. What is it that they want from this interaction with you? What triggered them and what is the deeper meaning attached to it? The truth is that they were doing their best with whatever level of consciousness they had, just like you were. Upon swallowing this pill, how can you ready yourself to be patient with the pain that they feel as a result of the estrangement?
While this type of theorizing is of extremely great value, the truth is it can only take you so far. The purpose it serves best is to get you to stop thinking about the turmoil from your perspective and how you’ve been wronged. It enables you to shift focus on to them, see the situation from their vantage point, and consider how they feel they’ve been wronged. Ultimately, these questions will only be answered from direct communication, however, which is why the next process we’re going to cover is the interaction itself.
Everything Will Unfold Differently
Every interaction will end differently. Every resolution or lack thereof will unfold differently. Acknowledging this from the beginning can help to break some inevitable preconceived notions both parties may be having. But that being said, there are a lot of variables here that are out of your control.
A lack of control can be frazzling in a time like this, and is likely a source of the conflict you’ve established in the first place. Consider then, elements of this interaction that are in your control.
Reflect on things like what boundaries you’d like to stand by or at what time you feel comfortable having this interaction.
Be Deliberate in Communication
The most important element that is in your control, though, is the deliberateness you can have in this conversation. Be deliberate in communicating your feelings and tackling the issue head on rather than dancing around it. Putting the emotional work into reacquainting with this individual just to NOT address what needs to be addressed will only perpetuate the lack of connection you’re both feeling.
The distance between you was likely established as a defense mechanism because one or both of you weren’t comfortable or capable of solving these emotions anyway, and to interact with them again just to get caught in the same cycle in hopes that time has somehow remedied the situation will not grant you the mutual understanding you seek, let alone a truthful resolution. So be direct in what you want to say and express yourself accordingly.
The second crucial item that is in your control is to listen to them with the same deliberateness. Learn from them. Encourage them to be vulnerable with you so you can gain a better understanding of how to be patient with them as your best, ego-less self would. You may very well see this relationship and this individual from a new angle and be forced to healthily reflect on your actions and what impact they had.
Be Who You Want Others to Be
If this relationship is going to flourish and this bond is going to be recreated – or at least if you want the peace of mind in knowing that you did the best you could to make it so – you must be the person you want them to be. You must listen to them the way you want them to listen to you.
Be receptive to their hurt as you want them to be receptive to yours. If you’re unwilling to do this, you likely have been and/or are the one who is the primary cause in the failure of this relationship.
All right, folks. Again, a situation like this really requires a lot of maturity and self-awareness, ya know.
It’s easy to focus on how we’ve been wrong or victimized as it is, and that’s especially true when we’re talking family and a lot of the wrongdoing either happened in childhood, or was at the hands of people we really trusted and tried to care for or some variation thereof. Resolving family matters requires more objectivity and detachment (if we can manage it) than resolving other matters, and I hope today’s episode helps you bring some of that neutrality to your own family “skirmishes” we’ll call them.
Please don’t hesitate to send your own questions in, we love hearing from you. You can email us questions or concerns of your own at advice AT oldpodcast DOT com
We’ll help you out and answer your question on the show. Stay safe out there, everybody. Can’t wait for the next one, and I hope you’ll stop in. Until then!