Doing Life Together

upsetJill was fed up with her mom. Her solution? Cut off the relationship so she could be her own person.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard, “I don’t want to talk to my family (substitute anyone else here). They are toxic and impossible to deal with–it’s better if I just leave and have little contact.” But is it?

The problem with this strategy is that it doesn’t work! In Jill’s case, she thought cutting off her relationship with her mom was a sign of independence. But cut off doesn’t teach her how to resolve issues. It only keeps her distant from her mom. And being distant is not independence. It is running away with your emotional baggage.

Emotional cut off is a learned pattern that follows you into other relationships. When problems erupt, avoiding or cutting off the relationship results in distance over and over again.

Cut off is an extreme reaction to the problem of balancing the emotional and intellectual self. It doesn’t teach you to talk, resolve conflicts, control your emotions or extend grace- skills you need to practice for healthy relationships.

Your ability to function as a separate person but still have an  emotional attachment with your original family sets the stage for all your other intimate relationships. If you cut off your family, you don’t develop the healthy separation you need in adult life. Healthy separation comes while maintaining connection.

So try to work through problems with your original family. When you do, you practice vital relationships skills (e.g., boundaries, assertiveness, etc.). The more you do the hard work of relationships, the better you will be as a spouse, parent or even friend.

Cut off may make you feel better in the moment, but doesn’t work as a strategy to build healthy relationships. You grow when you work within a relationship.

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