Thursday, May 17, 2012

All Family Matters

Families come in many shapes and sizes and no matter how complicated the situation, one person willing to develop skills in communication and emotional literacy can improve the quality of relationships for everyone. 

Divorced with 4 children, David remarried and built a new life with a younger wife and their 3 young children.  In his 50s he was repeating the lifestyle he'd had in his 30s - but this time with a heavy burden of guilt.  He was struggling to have quality time with his older kids as well as having the energy for his younger family life.  His solution was to throw money at the situation: holidays, financial hand-outs, dinners, anything in the hope that he could make everyone happy.   He was exhausted and running on empty.

David blamed himself, his ex-wife preferred to do the same and their kids felt bad no matter what because they had lost the heart of their original family.  Both parents have remarried and whilst there was much to be enjoyed with the new 'blended' families, there was also unexpressed loss, resentment and feelings of guilt.

Forgiveness is the only antidote to guilt and is a process built through emotional intelligence. Guilt keeps life, people – and love - at arm’s length, but learning to communicate about difficult subjects, becoming aware of and honouring painful emotions, laying down weapons of blame, withdrawal and denial creates a safe space for forgiveness to germinate. 

David was courageous enough to explore his emotions with understanding, empathy and a willingness to learn.  By doing so he not only improved his relationships, he regained energy, inspiration and a renewed zest for life. 

His older children felt safe to share their hurt, beliefs and hopes with him.  He and his ex-wife now work on being in a parenting partnership for their children – rather than scoring points off each other.  His wife and younger family are happier because he is more engaged in their lives without feeling he is betraying his older children. 

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