Or not? It used to be self-evident. I visited my grandfathers and grandmothers house very regularly. On Wednesday, my mother’s’ parents always came to pick me up and they brought kibbling with them. In the weekends I saw the parents of my father. Especially during the holiday season I saw them very often.

I saw the rest of the family during our visits to my grandparents or on birthdays. I used to look  forward to see them. The conviviality, everyone together and playing games with my cousins.

The divorce

When my parents separated, the family got a lot bigger. The partners of my parents both had a fairly large family and I also liked to come there. I thought of everyone as family, even though I was not related to them. Unfortunately, I was often fighting with my mother’s partner. Quarreling about the smallest things, slamming doors and a self-willed me. But with my step-sister, I got a nice, good relationship. We became real sisters. I thought of her as my little sister, even though she is only one year younger, and I was proud every time she had achieved something. Like finishing  primary school or winning a gym competition. We sometimes had fights, but that is part of it.

Moving  out

When I left the house at the age 18, it became a lot quieter at my mother’s house. I could suddenly get along very well with her partner. I started to consider him as part of the family.

I saw my step sister less often. We went our own way, but I never forgot about her. I stopped going along with my parents to all birthday parties, so I saw the rest of the family less often. Nevertheless, the relationship with my grandparents kept on very strong. Except from the time I was in a very bad relationship, which ended in domestic violence. This year I had (almost) no contact with my family. The only person I still saw was my mother.

I missed my father very much that year. Especially during his 50th birthday, I could not be there. If I got the chance to do it all again, I would have done it very differently, but because this is not the case, I had to forgive myself hoping that my father could do this too. Fortunately that relationship has been restored and our relationship is better than it ever was.

Nowadays

Nowadays I think differently towards the concept of family. And especially the unconditional love that is attached to this concept. There are a number of people in my family, blood relatives, for whom I would walk through fire. I had a number of collisions with my father’s parents. With regard to myself (they did not want me to break up a relationship, because they believed I should fight for it) but also with regard to my father. They do not even know about my father’s sickness! Unconditional love does not apply for these people. We are almost strangers now. And no matter how much pain it causes, it is better this way. I talked with them about it and this made it easier for me to accept. If they die now it will still be difficult but, I will not think “what if …” anymore. We think differently about relationships and they do not accept that I do not visit them every week. Fortunately, I built up a rich life for myself, with good people. They could have been a part of it, but it did not turn out well so now it is time to move on.

Outside the blood relatives

I also have family, who deserve unconditional love. For example my stepparents. They are always there for me, just like my parents. My partner, his parents, brothers and sister are also part of it. Every Thursday we eat at my in laws’ house with the whole club and it really feels like home. No obligations, just cozyness. And the best part of it is that we do not have to cook ourselves!

But also some friends feel like family. Family that I chose myself. How nice is that? I know that I can always count on them. That they are there for me if I need them and they know that I will be there for them too. Now I know that family does not mean unconditional love at all costs. Sometimes it is better to let go, even though it might be difficult. I am much more peace with myself and got more love for others, who certainly deserve it twice as much.

The song of the week: Cannonball song by Lea Michele. A beautiful song that describes the relationship between me and my father’s parents.

Love, Renee

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Renée

Expert in PTSD, burnout, personality disorders and eating disorder. Even if I only help one person by sharing my story, I am happy!

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