How do we take the subjectivity out of the word family?
I’m not so sure that is possible, but it is my belief that we can make sense of the term by assuming a more functionally-based definition. In all actuality, affiliation, conviction and even likeness can constitute a family in addition to more traditional bindings such as blood and legality.
It is important for individuals to be conscious of their own definition of family, but just as importantly, individuals must ensure they are aware of the definitions that those close to them hold as well. In some cases, it may be beneficial for relatives and close friends to have discussions regarding family dynamics, interactions and expectations.
In many instances, individuals assume some level of reciprocity regarding the feelings and actions associated with certain relationships, of which incongruity can cause distress.
My personal, function-based definition of a family considers responsibility to be the basic tenant. Responsibility of a parent to nurture, teach, coach, mentor, etc. Responsibility of a child to listen, adhere, learn, obey, etc. Responsibility of a grandparent to reinforce, nurture, support, etc. Responsibility of a spouse to support, respect, provide care, concern and objectivity, etc.
It is very safe to say that a person does not have to be legally or biologically bound to undertake these responsibilities, and it is ever more evident that legality and biology do not bind individuals to these responsibilities. Thus the subjectivity of the term family.
How do you define family? Is your family a well-oiled machine or does cordiality hide emotional torment?
Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC. He is a Certified Life Coach and a student of Marriage and Family Therapy.