You CAN Choose Your Family

WebMD Blog:

You CAN Choose Your Family

By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD

Some people are fortunate enough to have a biological family that provides a strong emotional center of love and support, but not everyone has that built-in foundation. If your biological family fails to be the emotional family you need, you may feel alone in the world or carry a sense of emptiness.

While this is an incredibly painful experience, you do not need to give into the futile feeling of being stuck. Too many people accept the refrain “you can’t pick your family” and then lose themselves to feeling helplessly, hopelessly alone in the world. But this does not need to be the end of your story. While it’s true that you cannot pick your biological family, you can pick your emotional one.

Imagine having friends (even one friend) who you could rely on to be there for you. You could turn to those people for support in times of trouble and to celebrate with you in times of happiness. Although you would not be family according to a bloodline or legal document, you would be the very definition of family when you consider what relatives in healthy families offer each other.

Just as in healthy biological families, the relationships in your emotional family (whether you are also biologically related or not) will not be perfect. Some might be better at helping you out with practical life issues. You might turn to others when you need support during an emotionally trying time, or when you need someone to celebrate your successes. But you know without a doubt that they care and they show you this in ways that feel good.

Emotional family relationships don’t just happen – even when you are biologically related. They need to be nurtured. While you do not need a large emotional family, and you will be better for even having just one emotional family member, different people do have different strengths. So, may want to nurture a number of such relationships.

Once you decide that you want to nurture an emotional family, look at the people around you, including your biological and legal family, friends, and acquaintances. Think about which ones are good candidates for your emotional family. When you decide that someone is (or might be), make overtures to spend more time with them and get to know them better. While these efforts won’t always lead to closer connections, it is a process that can offer the greatest payoff ever – an emotional family of your choosing that will be there for you.


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