I’ve had a rough week.
Maybe it’s the astrological triad, the tail end of Mercury Retrograde, the stormy weather.
Whatever the cause, it has been a tearful and tumultuous ride.
A family member said some things that were aggressive and painful. When I explained how much I had been hurt, he didn’t understand me at all.
“Well, that’s what it’s like in families. You can get away with treating each other badly. That’s how everyone does it.”
And this is not the first time I’ve met with this confusion. Over my lifetime, many people have hurt me with their words and then struggled to understand why I was so devastated.
After all, they’re just words, right?
No, actually. Not to me.
Family trauma is The Big One. According to the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS), trauma to one family member affects the entire family.
This is my own experience too. Whenever I hear members of my family arguing, I feel my fight or flight mode switch on, ready for anything.
I don’t feel safe, I don’t feel comfortable.
Of course, some forms of conflict are inevitable and can even be a positive thing—especially in the workplace.
But where do we get off thinking that it is “normal” and “easier” to treat family members worse than we would treat a stranger?
When did we get so lazy with our energetic direction of love and respect?
When I hurt those close to me, I also suffer. Do I want any of us to suffer?
Coincidentally (if you believe in those) on the day of this conflict I was reintroduced to the concepts outlined in the book The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. His free test is useful in determining how a person views acts of love or aggression, sectioning them into 5 “languages.” The test can be taken for ourselves and even for our children.
So why do words hurt me so deep?
My top love language is “Words of Affirmation.” When someone is unnecessary rude to me through verbal or written communication, it hurts me more than a physical beating.
So far, I am the only one in my family with this preferred love language.
By identifying my own love language, I was able to help resolve the conflict by helping my family members to understand what hurts me and why. Most importantly, it’s helping to teach them how to love me in the deepest way.
Knowing this stuff has given me the ability to remove some of the excuses for unmindful, trauma-causing behaviour in my relationships.
“It’s easier to treat family badly.” Bullshit.
“I don’t have to put as much effort into my family relationships.” Bullshit.
“They will forgive me and love me anyway.” Bullshit.
“It doesn’t matter so much if I’m rude at home, my partner won’t mind.” Bullshit.
“I don’t have to try.” Bullshit.
“It’s up to them to know how to treat me right.” Bullshit.
Knowing how I operate is my responsibility. Communicating my needs is my responsibility.
Loving my family to the best of my ability—in the way they best understand love—is also my responsibility.
And that works both ways. We are each exactly 50% of a relationship, no more, no less.
I have now asked all of my family and friends to take this test and share with me their top love language so I can be conscious when I interact with them. I am sticking the results on the fridge in my share house and I am going to do the test a couple of times a year to see if I’ve changed.
As my favourite all time quote says:
“In the end, only kindness matters.” ~ Jewel Kilcher
And we can all use more of that.
Author: Crystal Davis
Editor: Renée Picard
Photos: from Unsplash.com, via the author.
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