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Jameela's July 2013 Column: "Unconditionally Yours?'

 

When people talk about love, it’s mostly the one they share with lovers and friends. But, the most poignant love to me, is the one that comes from another F – family. Family relationships are the ones that hold me together – and yet, they’re also the ones that have torn me to pieces.

I don’t know anyone who really has a truly functional family; it’s a bloody hard dynamic to pull off. Forget the blood-group ties, you are still just people, with different opinions, personalities, and quirks… all confined within one space. We are emotionally involved and expected to stand by one another through thick and thin. It’s a lot of pressure. It’s true when people say, ‘You can’t choose your family.’ It’s not like a friendship where your like-mindedness attracts one another. You choose to support each other for as long as it works out, and then, if/when you outgrow each other, you’re entitled to a dignifi ed separation – usually in the form of drifting apart and perhaps un-friending on Facebook! But, with family, you’re stuck with what you’ve got. You are bound together forever, with the sort of commitment that makes even marriage look frivolous.

They say all should be forgiven in the name of ‘family’. But I’m sorry – this is bullshit! Yes, I do think there is a total sanctity in the fact that you have access to unconditional love from the people who have witnessed your most pivotal events. But this does not mean it is ever OK for one to abuse this dynamic. If you are on the receiving end of treatment you would never tolerate from a friend/boyfriend, but it’s coming from a relative, you have every right to step away and protect yourself. Bullies come in all forms.

I myself have chosen to handpick my family from my friends. They love me and treat me with respect and care, because they choose to, not because they have to. It’s OK to not get on with your parents/siblings/cousins. You are different people, on di erent journeys, with different priorities. It can be soul destroying to force a bond that exists purely within DNA.

If you are one of the lucky few who has grown up in a good batch, then relish every second. But if you aren’t, don’t blame yourself, don’t su er just for the sake of it, and don’t for a second think you’re alone. Your ‘family’ can be found in the weirdest of places.”

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