Family is everything to me.
It is the beginning and the end of who I am, where I come from, and where I want to end up in life.
So having my husband be on a completely different page than me when it comes to what family means is hard. Beyond hard. It’s fucking heartbreaking.
Jared and I come from different families. I mean, obviously, or that’d be incest and that would be wrong and skeevy and gross. But, more specifically, we come from different types of families.
Not better. Not worse. Just different.
And I mean that when I say it. I don’t always understand the way they do things (just as I’m sure they’ve scratched their head at my clusterfuck family a time or two) – but that’s not a judgement of bad or less than. It just is. Different, I mean.
And that’s fine – except that one of the core values that we differ on is… well, a core value.
My definition of family is pretty inclusive. On my mother’s side you have an only child who made up for the lack of aunts and uncles by welcoming every stray that wandered into Thanksgiving dinner. She built a family unit from scraps and cemented it with a fierce loyalty and tendency to overshare. On my father’s side you have a Catholic sprawl that’s as binding as the mob. It doesn’t matter if you’re born in or marry in – once you’re in, you’re in. And you’re all the way in, whether you like it or not.
I don’t want to define family for Jared or for his family, because its too personal and there’s no way for me to be objective. It’s not fair for me to speak for him or for them.
The only thing I can say is – it’s his family.
It’s his and not ours. It’s them and not us. It’s his side and my side and only through children shall the two intertwine.
It’s not that there’s no love there. They love me. I know that. And I love them. I hope they know that. I know that they would use the word family to describe me just as quickly as I would use that word to describe them. But when we use that word, I get the sense that it means something a little bit different to each of us. There’s a line, or something, that stops just short of that full embrace that I’m used to.
When Jared and I were first married, I struggled with that. I struggled hard. I wanted the big sloppy kisses and full frontal hugs and the total immersion of what family meant to me. I took anything short of that as a personal rejection. I cried and I bitched and I agonized for years over why things weren’t the way I imagined they should be.
Eventually, I learned to let go of how I thought things should be.
I learned to see the value in the way things were and appreciated the love in whatever form it came in.
I accepted that different was not better or worse.
At least, I thought I had.
But something happened yesterday that ripped open those old wounds for me, and brought them squarely to rest in the middle of my own home. In the middle of my marriage. In the middle of my family.
I’m not going to go into details because some things are personal. Some stories are not mine to tell. Some things are not open to discussion and observation by Internet strangers (no offense). What I will say is that, in a nutshell, I didn’t agree with the way a family matter was handled. Had it happened in my family, it would have been handled differently. And, in this case, I’m absolutely convinced that different would have been better. But, I took a deep breath and I stepped back and I resolved not to get involved any more than I had to.
It’s none of my business, I told myself. Even though the mere thought that family lines made it none of my business made me want to throw up.
It’s not your place, I reminded myself.
And it’s not. Those relationships between my husband and people he’s known his entire life are not mine to meddle in. I’d throw a five alarm fit if he tried to interject himself into any of my relationships. And, in this case, his thoughts and feelings and relationships trump any thoughts or feelings or relationships that I might have.
I get that.
But I was still upset. I was upset in my little corner because regardless of someone else’s definition, my definition dictates that that was my family having an issue, too. Whether they like it or not, whether they realize it or not, those are my people, too, damn it. And the fact that I wasn’t going to “get involved” didn’t negate that I had an opinion.
And I shared that opinion with my husband.
I told him I was upset. I told him why I was upset. I told him why what was happening violated everything I knew and held dear about what family was supposed to be. I asked him how he felt about it. I asked if he was upset. I asked because I was concerned and I asked because I wanted to know if he had the same values and beliefs about family as I did.
And he shut down.
And shut me out.
It was like a heavy wooden door swung shut in my face, closing me off from the family business. Except it wasn’t just some random family in that secluded room any more. It wasn’t even a distant, extended family. It was my husband.
It was my family shutting the door on me.
It was, this time, my family – in the most intimate sense of the word – telling me I wasn’t wanted or included.
It was my husband drawing the line in the sand that said “this far, but no further”.
I felt something crack inside of me. The great divide that I’d imagined for years resting just outside my front door was suddenly right in the middle of my living room. This was no long about not feeling like one of them, this was about us. My us. Our us.
I hung up the phone and cried. Jared texted me to explain that I was being a selfish ass, basically. And then he texted me to explain that we shouldn’t even be fighting over this because it wasn’t important in the grand scheme of things.
I don’t think he has any clue what I was fighting for in the first place.
I’m not happy about the way this “family matter” was handled. But I’m sure as hell not going to start a fight over it. Not with them and not with him, because that would be stupid and selfish. And because whether I like it or not, that’s not my place. Not out there.
But here, inside my family, we don’t have those lines. Here, inside these walls, we don’t have yours, mine and ours. Here, inside this family, inside this marriage, we all have a place and a voice and a stake in what goes on. It’s safe in here. It’s inclusive in here. In here is where I know I belong. In here, it is my business.
That’s the only way I know how to survive out there.