Saturday, July 18, 2015

Miller Family Dynamics

As a kid, I remember watching certain sitcoms or family drama films, wherein the family dynamics elevate until a major argument breaks out and everyone is mad at everyone else, and finally the lead role is either the hero or gets a second chance, and everyone is soon hugging again. I remember thinking, how ridiculously unrealistic situations like that were. Then I grew up.

I know families where situations have escalated and there has been a blow up and everyone is left picking sides. The difference between their situations and the ones on the big screen, is that they don't make up in 90 minutes. The families I know like this are now (or were for an extended time) estranged from each other. This saddens me.

As much as my siblings and I probably drive each other or my parents nuts, we've always been on speaking terms. All 9 of us. All the time.

Sure, when we were little we'd bicker and give each other the silent treatment over something stupid. But as we became adults, in my opinion, we became better friends than we ever were as children. I'm not a psychologist, nor do I play one on TV. But, I have quietly analyzed our family dynamics for years, wondering what makes us function.

#1 - We avoid confrontation. I don't mean to say we run from it, although I know there are some of us that do. {Me} What I mean, is if something bugs us about one of our siblings, we don't confront them. We figure, it's just who they are, and if they're happy with themselves and their choices, than who are we to judge? 

That being said, if there was an element of danger to one's life, such as drugs or alcoholism, we'd also be the first to rally together to help them. Even if it meant an intervention, keeping in mind an intervention is the person has to be willing to change or you cut them out of your lives. Thankfully, none of us are in that sort of situation. So, unless we're ready to cut one of the others out of our lives completely, we avoid confrontation. 

#2 - We are good at biting our tongues. Now, for those who know us, you might not believe this, because we are all pretty strongly opinionated about many things. But while we may not be concerned about speaking our mind outside of the family, we self-edit more within.

#3 - We choose our words. This doesn't mean we bottle up or suppress our emotions. We just choose not to share if we don't think it will do any good, or if we don't think the other person wants to hear it. We're pretty good at stating, "In my opinion, I'd rather..." and another might say, "Interesting. I believe..." And we just respect that the other person is crazy, er, um, I mean, has a different opinion. While some have made certain life choices others may not agree with, we all still love each other enough to respect the other person's choices. I think we figure we're all crazy to some extent about something, so live and let be.  

Recently someone jokingly said "Because you Millers don't feel" and then, "You're all just passive-aggressive." Well now, that had me thinking. I know I was pretty passive-aggressive in my first marriage. I feel I have learned a lot from that and have come a long way. As I've tried to reflect on my daily actions at the end of each day, I think for the most part, I have indeed overcome many passive-aggressive behaviors.

I am guilty of a few times I have been offended by someone, and then vented on social media (without using names). After I cooled off for about 24 hours, I deleted the post. That's probably passive aggressive, since I didn't discuss it directly with that person.

But honestly, I'd rather do that instead of confront the person. Why? Well, obviously #1 above, and honestly, because I tend to get over stuff in usually about 24 hours. I take that time and replay the offense in my mind over and over and try to see it from the other person's view. I usually make up my mind it isn't worth fighting over. It's not worth the drama. And I'm always grateful after the fact I didn't allow my feelings to get out of check. I don't think it's always good to confront the other person to fully express our feelings, because it can unnecessarily blow up into a huge argument.

It's sort of like in the "olden days" when people used pen and paper and actually wrote real letters, you'd hear the advice to write the person you're angry at a letter, but don't mail it. The process of writing it out/venting might be enough. I usually like to give it 24 hours. If I still feel bugged, I might even give it another week or so. All the while I pray about it as well. I always tell myself, if it still bothers me, I'll talk to that person. I will say that I've never had that talk with one of my siblings. If something has bothered me, I have always gotten over it. And I've always been glad that the confrontation was avoided.

I probably get this from my dad, but I've never been one to hold a grudge. There is only one person in this world that has hurt me so badly that I no longer have communication with. But that's only because that person has ignored my attempts at a reconciliation. I finally came to the conclusion the stress and frustration of trying to salvage the relationship was futile, and sadly decided to leave it alone. I wouldn't say I hate the person though. And if I saw her in the grocery store, while I wouldn't go out of my way to chase her down to say hi, I would definitely greet her if face to face.

Honestly, I truly believe it is not always appropriate, advisable, or in one's best interest to fully express emotions or hash things out, especially in social situations, or group settings, such as parties, gatherings, church, work, etc.  I think if something occurs which we don't like we can ask ourselves, "Is it beneficial to the group if I fully express my feelings right now?" I believe it is possible to temper our reaction to someone else, while internally acknowledging it ourselves.

"Make a distinction between feeling your feelings and expressing them." This is a statement I read from psychologist Dr. Gay Hendricks. So, do Millers feel? Absolutely. I know I for one feel deeply. We just don't see a need to always express ourselves fully. Especially if it might upset the other person unnecessarily.

#4 - Gentle persuasion. My Grandma Goldie was a sweet little Amish lady, who had an art for gentle persuasion. Upon hearing anyone's situation, she was never one to say, "Try this" or "You should do that." She was never one to push her opinions onto anyone else. Instead she'd say, "Have you considered trying this?" If the person was interested in hearing more on her opinion they could ask about it.

#5 - Timing is everything. Don't poke a sleeping bear. While we may not be as gentle as Grandma Goldie, it seems to me that if one of us Miller kids really thinks another Miller kid should be doing something different, we are cautious in how we proceed. Because here's a little secret. While we don't go looking for confrontation, and while we'd rather just internally acknowledge our irritation for the sake of the group, if we are caught off guard by something directed at us, the surprised uncertainty will almost always result in lashing back, (because we feel attacked) and it will probably be something we will regret saying later. We know this about each other, so we don't go poking our inner sleeping bears.

#6 - We choose not to be offended. This is easier said than done I suppose. I remember being little and getting offended at something my sister said. I went to tattle and my mom asked, "So?" Not that she was being mean, although it probably comes across that way in print. She basically taught us that if someone says something offensive, most of the time it can be ignored. She'd say, "Well, is it true?" And if the answer was "no" she'd say, "Well, all right then." If the answer was yes, she'd say, "Well, all right then." Haha. Yeah, she's pretty down to earth.

My sister said I was bossy and when I told my mom she said, "So. Is it true?" And when I thought about my actions, I answered, "yeah." Which is why my mom said, "Well, all right then." Meaning, if I am being bossy, I don't have to right to be offended if someone calls me out on it.

Another time I tattled because someone called me stupid. My mom said, "So? Is it true?" I said, "No." She answered, "Well, all right then." Meaning, as long as I knew the truth about myself, it didn't matter what dumb offensive thing someone else said. I could rise above it. Who knew "Well, all right then" could have so much power. That being said, bullying was never tolerated. But how she handled that is a whole other blog post.

We don't take things personally. If I invite my sister to come shopping with me and she's too busy or doesn't want to go, I don't take it personally. If I'm at a family gathering and brought a potluck dish and others didn't like it, I don't take it personally. If someone remarks they have a headache but they turn me down when I offer them Aleve because they don't like Aleve, I don't take it personally. If I gave someone a gift and their reaction isn't as excited as I anticipated, I don't take it personally. I shrug and think, "Well, all right then." Haha. It's hard to not take things personally, especially once you start interpreting things as such. It's very easy to assume the other person meant something one way when they did not. Once you start down that path, everything can quickly become "personal", and you will find yourself always feeling hurt or offended by that person.

In general, us Miller siblings are able to spend time together laughing and playing and telling lots of funny stories. I'm not saying we're the template to be followed for all successful family relationships. This is more or less MY analysis, or my interpretation rather, of why I think we all get along so well.
I am sure there may have been times it would have been appropriate to fully share our frustrations. But I also think if something were that big of a deal, it would have eventually come out.

I just returned home from a 2 week vacation, 6 days of traveling and sight-seeing, and 8 days of visiting with siblings. Our theme this year was "SURVIVOR. Out Eat, Out Talk, Out Play." We accomplished all of those things. I know my family had a blast. I can honestly say I do things that drive my siblings nuts. But, they love me enough to let me think they don't care.

I mostly feel sorry for the in-laws. I'm sure it's difficult to adjust to the way Millers do things, especially when we're in full-force.

It's like I told my husband, just nod and smile. Nod and smile.


greenolive said...

I think love is the key. I love my siblings more than I want to feel justified or better or right. I don't want to be the cause of them feeling pain. I wonder how it would be if we all
lived closer and were more involved in each other's lives. I hope it would be the same.

okeydokeyifine said...

Well, all right then.

mrbusdr said...

Very well said. I have had some thoughts along the same lines but did not know how to express them. Thank you, Emma

Puphigirl said...

We Millers do feel, we are just reserved. I feel, but I do find it hard to express certain feelings. There have been times when I wondered if something is wrong with me, if I am cold to others or feel detached. We did not come from a lovey-dovey, touchy-feely family. But we do love each other.

I think we avoid confrontation because we don't want to ruin relationships. We don't take kindly to outsiders who try to boss us around and are critiquing or criticizing what we do. We do use the gentle persuasion. No one likes unsolicited advice. But we share our own experiences and hope that will persuade, give insight, or ideas to others. And if that doesn't work then we may confront.

I don't think we are a gossipy family, but we do talk about one another. I think it is to figure out one another, and to see where we can support or persuade. We don't talk to bash each other.

We are a force to be reckoned with. There are a lot of us and that can be overwhelming to in-laws who come from small families. We grew up poor so we have a particular mindset. We came from LDS convert parents, so we children have had the Gospel in our lives, but we have family who don't or who worship another way. We love and respect those differences.

As kids we fought and Mom would say that one day we would grow up to be friends, of course we thought that was ridiculous. She would tell stories of fighting with her brother Jim, but now they are close friends. How did she know? We are friends and get along and outsiders or in-laws might wonder at why we do things the way we do.

Ruthykins said...

"While we don't go looking for confrontation, and while we'd rather just internally acknowledge our irritation for the sake of the group, if we are caught off guard by something directed at us, the surprised uncertainty will almost always result in lashing back, (because we feel attacked) and it will probably be something we will regret saying later." I loved how you said that. I was so close to lashing out at someone I felt attacked me recently, but instead I just shut down. I don't know if that's passive/aggressive or not, but at least there wasn't a fight or tears. I think it can be really hard for people to understand us as a group or individually. I know that sometimes I'm really judgmental and don't realize that what I'm saying will be taken in a bad way. It seems like the family must just be so used to it that nobody snaps at me. Or maybe we all secretly agree with each other.