Ask Amy: Step away from the troublesome relations
FAIR WARNING: The first letter is a repeat of one in a column the other day
DEAR AMY: I have often heard that we must love our family -- no matter what.
Love to me means (at the minimum) mutual respect, compassion, kindness, joy and truth.
If there is someone in your family that does not have these attributes, do you have to "love" them?
I have a very large family and there are some that I can truly say I do not love. Some of them I don't even like.
With the family members I am close to, I can meet up with them and it feels like not a second has gone by since our last meeting. We enjoy crushing embraces and long, wonderful talks. With the family members I am not close to, our relationship is strained. When we are together, I always engage with them because I do care, even if I don't like them very much.
I have watched my daughters say "I love you" to seemingly casual friends, so it seems the concept of real love may have been diminished.
I am interested to find out if other families have this same situation and struggle with the concept of love -- or if they just shrug it off to keep the family peace.
What do you think?-- Suzi
DEAR SUZI: Teenage girls tell their friends they love them because for them love is an expression of ease, emotional intimacy and complete comfort. In fact, your daughters are expressing the same qualities you describe when you attempt to define love. This does not diminish the concept of "real love." I believe this sort of free-spirited and uncomplicated "friendship love" is something we adults could learn from. At the very least this is a reminder that love comes in many forms.
To address your question, no, you don't have to love -- or like -- every member of your family. What you do have to do, occasionally, is tolerate them. The situation you describe is common to just about every family I know, including my own.
Families are like any group of people -- some people are awesome, some are troublesome and some can make you feel like every family gathering is Satan's cocktail party. This beautiful and challenging complication is what keeps therapists (and advice-givers) in business.