There is a popular theory that states something like “You are who you hang out with” or “The people you associate with will define you whether you like it or not”.
We have talked about this a lot with the kids, whenever we discuss how they choose their friends and decide who they hang out with. While we can’t dictacte who our children are friends with, we can help them see what friends help them be “their very best”. They can ask themselves questions such as “Does this person influence me to do things that I am comfortable doing? Does this person encourage me? Do I walk away from interactions with this person feeling good and positive? Do I feel like I can “be me” with this person”? We have encouraged them to “surround yourself with greatness” since great is what you are (and aiming to be better)!
We also know that sometimes the answer is “No” but they still want to hang out with that person. Maybe the person is popular, or fun, or seems really cool. Maybe they don’t know why they are attracted to the person – they just are.
It’s no different for adults really. Sometimes we engage in relationships that are not really the most healthy. We may feel obligated to sustain a long term relationship. We may feel we don’t deserve better, or we owe someone, or we don’t want to look bad by cutting ties.
I have felt it a few times with people over the years. Sometimes, I knew someone “pre-divorce” and feel obligated, like I want to prove that the divorce “didn’t ruin me”. Or sometimes I met them during my divorce and they were a source of support, so feel like I want to pay them back. Or sometimes, we have children the same age, or are the same profession, or live on the same street, or are even related!
But if they don’t make me feel good? Or push me to be the best me? Should I sustain a relationship out of obligation?
Something really bothered me the other day, that really got me thinking about who I am surrounding myself with.
Blending a family is HARD. Probably no harder than other things people struggle with, but since this is my struggle, I will say it is really HARD for a family.
One of the reasons it is so hard is because of how “other people act”.
Now I know other people should not make a difference – but they do.
I can go in some situations and feel like my family is completely accepted. We have friends and family who have watched us over the past few years blend and have blended with us. There is no favortism towards certain kids, no separating the “two families”, no ignoring one group vs the other. There is a seemless love and appreciation for everyone. There is an acknowledgment that we are “one family” with enough love to go around – without having to make a big deal of who is yours biologically or not.
So what bothered me the other day was being in a situation where we were viewed and treated as two separate families. There was “Rob’s family” and there was “My family”.
And you know what? I hated it. I was annoyed. It felt wrong. It felt like “my family” were strangers or the outsiders. It felt like we had gone back in time when we were two families – that all the hard work we had put in to make us feel as one was in vain. We know that we are not the traditional nuclear family – and we are not trying to be. We are our own unique family, but we are one. I don’t really want to surround myself with people who are limited in their thinking and interacting with us. Unfortunately, you can’t make people see things differently, and you can’t change their perspectives. But I guess you don’t have to accept it and sit back and take it either.
It certainly got me thinking that maybe I need to take the advice I give my kids about choosing friends. Maybe I need to “surround myself with greatness”. Maybe I need to really make sure that the people I surround myself with are the ones that fully embrace me and my family, the ones that uplift me and support me and help me be the best I can be.
As I come to the new year and think about the things I want to focus on: “Surround myself with greatness” is one that will be at the top of my list.