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Family Ties: Knowing Why and How They Must Remain Snug & Tied!

Saira I Qureshi, MA

One of the hardest things in life is to remain fair and be successful in maintaining family ties with parents, siblings, grand parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and spouses and their families. It's sad how soon and how deeply, rifts get created among families and happier times are lost, no memories can be had to cherish in later years.  The ultimate sadness is individual regrets, embarrassment for one's actions, rightful realizations, yes, maybe, but then, even more sadness for losing one's own, even when they are alive.

Psychological Effects of Weak Family Ties

happy familyIt is known and well-established in research on and theories about the natural processes of Human Attachment and Social psychology, because they are necessary for human survival. When family ties go awry, a multitude of negative psychological effects overtake the behaviors and personalities of people involved. This includes in extreme cases: psychological trauma, tensions, bitterness, fears, anxiety, depression, frustration, resentment or hostility against each other.

Weakening family ties due to grudges, disappointments, even somewhat or altogether true, leave a lasting bad impression of the minds of the individuals or a family affecting a very broad spectrum of various aspects of their lives.  It also impacts the reputation of the family on the whole and its social status among larger family and in the community where the family lives.

As personal and private as family matters are, once they become known by people who could misuse information and further exploit family members by pitting them against each other lead the victims to becoming paranoid and suspicious. Their mindsets become very narrow because they view newer relations as untrustworthy and often suffer in building and keeping any relationships on good terms, including with their children, spouses or people at work and in their over all general social interactions. 

The end result you don't want: And then, before one can have the time to think through about it all, in retrospect, people with long-drawn family discord, disagreements and self righteous unfair and unnecessarily tough decisions, end up with lots of uncomfortable resentment, personal anger and embittered souls out of the ones they annoyed and disheartened, in their immediate or extended families. The damage is both at personal and familial levels, as well as impact future relationships with other people. This situation, eventually requires help from family counseling professionals or even legal help to reconcile and resolve issues among member of a family or two fighting families.
Four possible reasons: Reasons due to which family ties can get weakened or come under dual attack include:

1.    Actual suffered hurt through mistrust, deceit, mistreatment, assault, accusation, physical or property damage or non existent reason for picking fights due to sub-conscious desire to hurt / bother someone for no reason
2.    Mischief simply to ignite someone in the family or disturb a whole family by interfering or probing in others' personal matters
3.    Jealousy or Envy, back-stabbing & fury-causing negative comments 
4.    Cast Doubts based on no evidence and untrue

What is there to lose when choosing the high roads? Nothing, really! After all is said and done, in the past, it is but only past. Gone, done with, and over.  The only and the wise thing to be done, is simply, for all sides to make peace with each other now, clear up their hearts and minds for each other and optimistically look towards the opportunities for getting together for better times to be had. People must undoubtedly learn to grow bigger than they are, to ensure that they take the higher road and try to resolve conflicts and issues of discord, instead of inflaming or exacerbating them, even more.
What does Family discord do? Family acrimony is a really bad thing to have in one's family and among relatives. True, actions of some relatives which they wrongfully did in the past may not be forgivable, but, they can be put aside when there comes a time for making even bigger and more consequential decisions.  

Where to draw a line? Some people among relatives could always be unfair or difficult to get along with, forever, due to their own unfairness in relationship-keeping. To treat them fairly, the best thing to do is ensure acknowledgment for the basis of establishing a relationship with them, together with clear expectations and otherwise, try to avoid being in each other's faces, to prevent frequently occurring conflicts. It is never too late to identify a realization in the other person, that she/he had been unfair and then trust their word for a change in their on-going and future behavior. One only need remember that mutual trust is developed both ways.

However, in extreme cases, if there is a logical suspicion of threats and future misbehavior, untrustworthiness, and safety related concerns against family members, then the best thing to do is to talk directly to the person, who is acting or has acted in a negative way, to address all one's concerns to share how one feels about a particular person/s. As long as relatives are not maliciously conniving, cunning and really harmful, ideally, as adults, as parents, people can always try to come together and sit down and talk over their actions and reactions and try to resolve their discord to greatly ease their relationships. But, unless both sides are not honest in doing so and are not able to get to this point, nothing can transform a bad relation into a good one.
Price for Sour relations- Negative Effects on next Generations: Before anything, as time goes on, family members and extended relatives need to be really careful regarding their behaviors towards and treatment of each other, as these behaviors and treatments will have consequences of, on their children.  People must realize that they should be able to give, before expect to receive respect. Keeping age old grudges is a really negative and damaging thing to harbor against someone else.

Personal Impact: It goes without saying that our immediate and extended families of relatives, at the end of the day, are all we have to look after and look up to. If our relations are good, our ties with each other are strong and trustworthy and if we are all respectful towards each other, then everyone's own families are their community, their social support, a constant companion in both good to bad times in their lives. But, if people are unfair in handling their relationships, then huge problems can and will occur, including anger, anguish, impulse to hold grudges, curse, play name-blame games, have bitter family interactions, and not to mention one's own personal isolation.

All of this is a cost for what? Old animosities on accounts that are past due and addressing them or bringing them up again can only get two things from the other side: an honest apology with grace or an equally instigating, counter, verbal -attack.

Regaining Mutual Respect and Trust:
How can one regain trust and reestablish healthy basis of relations? Can this be possible, fully, to what extent and how?

The following four points might make sense in this regard:

1.    One can directly make a point by showing how one feels to the person, who one holds responsible for any unfairness or disrespect. This means, causing no humiliation in public behind someone's back, no cursing, no threats, no false allegations, no assaults on characters and no mistreatment in dealings, otherwise. First of all, this looks bad for the person doing all this against someone else. It shows that this person is not capable to face her/his relative in person and talk it all out, privately. And secondly, other people may not be interested in hearing all this, because they are focused on preserving their own relations. And that is fine. 

2.    Without communication, nothing is possible. Expecting the other side to be apologetic and not listen to their side of the issue, is not fair, either. 

3.    Desiring to have it both ways is not a fair thing to expect, at all. It is not fair on one's own end, because then, it is manipulation. And in family ties, there is ABSOLUTELY NO PLACE for manipulations. Thus, one needs to be mindful of this.

4.    Everyday family matters involving family to family discords or resentments are either too cursory or too sensitive to be dealt with in public, or in courts. So, there is no need to make them look like a disaster in one's life. Things like these should be resolved with sound reasoning and personal elegance.

Choice is of the persons, who are the heads of the household, in one family and all of the other families. Little things in baby steps will immensely help ensure that the relations are normalized and repaired, after some tense times pass along, and each side begins to realize that in becoming reliable, respectable family-friends, there is more to gain than to lose.

The Big Picture, what not to be lost sight of?
Above all, the over-time complex of negative effects, carry the potential to cause severe further emotional and psychological harm to everyone involved. People who are caught up in fights and tussles, leading to no communication or legal recourses against each other, run the risk of utterly losing their sensibility which could have led them a safer, more even-handed  approach to settling family feuds.   Problems escalate by further misattributions towards each other and more severe damage is done to not-involved, innocent third parties and/or intermediaries, such as children, spouses, or siblings or parents, when family fights impact their lives, negatively. Despite the fact that some offenses are not forgivable at all,  where there is a chance for reconciliation, families and concerned individuals must avail those opportunities, before all relationship will be totally lost.

It takes a healthy individual, then a healthy family, then a healthy extended family, then a community of multiple families, and then the nation comprising of so many families and communities. Finally, nations and multi-nations emerge as groups of people - individuals and families, with children, youth, working women and men, and elderly, all of whom have something teachable in their lives to share with the rest of the people. 

Finally, people should not be shy in seeking help and a third party help. It could be a psychologist, a social worker, an impartial family member (from the immediate or extended family or relatives), or a trusted friend, who may be able to help see what one might be missing in noticing and thereby take control of a worsening situation affecting  family ties.  Everyone ought to find good in each other to make our lives richer, happier and nobler in our relationships. We all know, that that's unmistakably, too precious to lose or ruin. That just might be the key for setting excellent examples in interpersonal dealings, for younger generations to learn from, remember the older generation by and uphold with pride.


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Elkind D. (1993). Ties That Stress: The New Family Imbalance. Harvard University Press.