We all have a biological family: people that raised us and gave us morals and a foundation. Some people have supportive, loving families. I am lucky enough to have a family like that, who is there for me when I need them most. That’s not to say I agree with them all the time or have the same beliefs they do. We have our moments. What family doesn’t?
But what if you don’t have that and your family is just not good for you? What if they’re negative towards you and don’t value your opinions or support you the way you need to feel supported? Then what do you do? Do you try to have a much-needed long-overdue conversation about your relationship and how it can be improved? Or is there no talking to your family about these issues, because they will be dismissed?
As much as I love my biological family, I have also chosen a family; it is made up of my best friends, they are my other family. I go to them to talk about things I am stressed about, things I haven’t told my parents yet. They love me and support me and tell me when and if I need to hear it. I love them like family because they are family. DNA may determine who your biological family is, but if that family is toxic or otherwise not good for you, you have the power to surround yourself with people who love and support you like a family.
As a society I believe for far too long we thought our biological family was the only family we thought was needed. Even if they were emotionally or physically abusive you were still expected to love your family and maintain relationships with them. People didn’t realize they had the option of creating their own family, one that is healthy and deserving of our time and energy.
I also think we stay in unhealthy family relationships because we are taught that we’re not supposed to abandon them. That’s something you just don’t do. Family is family, no matter what. People thought this way for generations and some still think this way. But it doesn’t have to be this way and it hasn’t been for a long time. And this is perfectly okay. We need to normalize this and realize that what family means is up to us as individuals. Sometimes that means creating your own family, or it might mean working on and mending relationships with biological relatives if at all possible. Either way, we need to not force family.
We need to do what is best for us, even if it doesn’t work for others. So what does family mean? It means whatever you want it to mean. I believe that once we let people decide for themselves what family means and not push our ideas of what we think a family should be, we will begin to see people thriving in happy and healthy families of their own making. It doesn’t matter what your family looks like (or doesn’t look like) as long as they give you what you need. That is what family is about.