Family is a huge source of support. Normally it is a pillar that supports us and an engine that drives us. However, the most serious conflicts also arise within the family and the deepest wounds are inflicted. No matter how close a family may be, it is made up of different individuals who have different ways of seeing and being in the world, so it is not strange for disagreements and discussions to occur that lead to painful estrangements.
Many times, people want family reconciliation, but are afraid to address the issue that separated them, so they wonder if it is possible to put what happened behind them and move forward without addressing the differences. The short answer is: it depends.
Reconcile without addressing the conflict?
Distancing yourself from someone usually implies a turning point in the relationship. That breakup – whether physical or emotional – provides a space to reflect and rethink our position in the relationship. Psychological distance can help calm raw emotions to go beyond our own anger and pain and put ourselves in the shoes of the other.
Sometimes differences can unite us and distance bring us closer because they allow us to realize what is truly important. Being separated or upset is not pleasant, so these emotions can also encourage us to see beyond the disagreements and focus on what unites us.
However, it is not usual.
Change is hard. Many people don’t want to admit that they were wrong. Many fall into a self-referential spiral. They blame the other. Or they fuel anger and resentment.
However, it is not possible to start from scratch when we carry a backpack of resentment and unsaid words. It is not possible to wipe the slate clean if nothing has changed in the family.
If the differences that drove the rift are not addressed, there is a good chance they will resurface. If the family breakup was due to conflict, it is almost inevitable that bad memories and uncomfortable feelings will surface as interactions resume.
The 3 steps to follow before considering a family reconciliation
When it comes to family reconciliation, there are no infallible rules, but some paths help more than others to let go of resentment, assume responsibilities, forgive and strengthen ties based on respect and empathy.
1. Analyze your motives
Many people seek family reconciliation out of pure nostalgia, but missing someone does not guarantee that the problems will disappear. Affection is important. Definitely. But it is also essential to carry out psychological work to prevent old conflicts from reopening wounds.
Therefore, if you want to recover a family relationship, the first step is to examine your reasons. Why do you want to reconcile right now? Has anything changed that makes you think the relationship will be better than before? Have you changed enough? Has the other person changed enough? Or maybe they are pressuring you to reconcile? Do you feel emotionally safe close to that person?
2. Clarify your expectations
The next step in family reconciliation is to adjust expectations. What kind of relationship do you want? Do you want to limit the relationship to special occasions or do you intend to maintain closer and more regular ties? Are you looking for support? Do you want to support that person? To what extent are you willing to commit? What do you expect from the other and what can the other expect from you?
Before promoting family reconciliation, it is important that you are clear about what you want. Obviously, you will have to communicate your expectations and listen to the other person’s, so that you can find a middle ground from which to rebuild a satisfactory relationship for both parties. Clarifying what you are willing to give and knowing to what extent the other is willing to commit will mark your personal limits, which will help you avoid future conflicts and disagreements.
3. Make a plan
It is possible to start over, especially if you do it carefully and with the intention of not making the same mistakes again. However, it is important that you reflect on the need to address past conflicts. Is it necessary to do it? Can you let the differences go or will they become an elephant in the room that makes you uncomfortable?
Every family is different. Every person too. Your partner, parents, or brother may not need to talk about it, but you do – or vice versa. Therefore, think about what you will say and how you will say it. Recognize any mistakes you may have made and take responsibility for the damage you may have caused. Apologize if necessary. That will not make you vulnerable, on the contrary, it will show that you have changed and that you want to get off to a good start.
Some families don’t need words. In some cases, a look or a hug is enough to leave everything behind. But it’s better not to be naive. Some wounds are deep and certain conflicts become entrenched so sometimes it is necessary to air them out to ensure they can heal properly. In this way, family reconciliation will be stronger and recriminations will be avoided in the future.