The ideal family?

I always thought that it was best for couples with families to stay together and that it was important to work things out in a relationship.

So what happens when it all goes horribly wrong? When everything disintegrates? I’ve come to realise life isn’t always black and white, there are a lot of shades of grey.

Bryan and I had a lot of ups and downs early in our marriage, a lot of needless “trying to change the other person”. We seemed to go round and round the same circles until a crisis forced us to look at our marriage. We decided that if we’re going to stay together then it had to be good.

We looked ahead and thought “what would it do to our children? What would our future look like if we weren’t together?” We decided that we both wanted to work it out, we had too much to lose. It does help if you both want to change.

So began the journey of sorting through the issues. We had counselling together as a couple (it took a few try’s to find the best one for us) and I went on my own too. We seemed to have got caught up in the busy-ness of life, getting involved with schools, community activities and building a farm business. We somehow lost sight of the “couple” that we were. We learnt to look after each other more, appreciate the others talents (we are complete opposites) do loving acts of kindness, (love is a verb) sort out our past baggage, which we all have by the way, and start again.

Remember why you fell in love. We went on dates and we had to learn to forgive and let go of our past mistakes and not bring them up again when it’s so easy to do so in the heat of the moment. The early 40’s is a bad age for being bored with your spouse or partner too, so be aware of how easy it is to turn away from your family. I like the words in the song of Celine Dion, Think Twice – “Look back before you leave my life, be sure before you close that door, before you roll those dice….”

It took us two years of working it all out. We can both say it was worth it. We still have to work at it every day. We say “I love you” every day. We thought it might help our children know you can work things out.

It didn’t quite work out like that. The lives of our two middle children Anna and Scott were altered in a very cruel and heartbreaking way. First with the murder of Scott in 2010, then the arrest of Anna’s husband Ewen for the murder and other crimes. It was not a life we imagined for our children and grandchildren. Everyone was at sea, tossed about and with no land in sight. How would they all survive?

So these great ideals of mine were shattered beyond repair, but I have come to see and experience that just because the family unit is broken it doesn’t mean you can’t survive and have a good life. Our family now has different dynamics, the wider family of aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and a caring community have stepped in and helped us to navigate our way through the storm.

An event or disaster doesn’t have to define us. We have the choice to grow from it and have a greater depth of understanding and empathy for others. I am so proud of our children that none of them are bitter or consumed by what has been done to them. They have challenges for sure, but they can get through them. We can all help each other through love and encouragement. We all cheer on our little people and make them feel and know they are cherished and of great worth. They will be alright. We are now all very sensitive to any one of us hurting. So we watch out for each other more. I am thankful for that.

So look at your family life. Really see what needs changing. Don’t settle for mediocre or bury your head in the sand. Chart a new course. You never know what’s around the corner and what strength you will need to get through. The stronger your relationships are the better you will be able to handle the challenges that come your way.

“If we didn’t have storms, we wouldn’t have to build a better boat.”