Years ago I saw a movie called “We were the Mulvaneys” based on the book by Joyce Carol Oates. It focused on a family that everyone thought was perfect-but it was just a shell. It had a tiny, tiny crack that was barely discernible behind its perfect exterior. But once it started to crack there was no stopping it. By the time the movie was over, the family had lost everything, including each other.
One sentence was profound, “For a long time you envied us, then you pitied us.”
There are hairline cracks in most families.Sometimes they just stay hairline and the family functions fairly well except for the occasional flare-up.
From some the crack completely opens up, wounds are addressed and healed and new life emerges. In others the crack just keeps getting wider. Is it a singular person that starts the crack? Is it circumstances? Is it trauma?
From what I’ve seen, it’s usually far more subtle. Cracks occur because one or more people in the family unit are not happy. They’ve lost their dreams if they ever knew what they were in the first place.They blame other family members for their unhappiness. All it takes is one disillusioned person for the disintegration to begin. Sometimes it’s the people who join our family network from the outside with their own “cracks”that hasten the demise.
Can a family survive and come away stronger after it breaks wide open? Some can and some do.
All families, like all people, are somewhat dysfunctional. One thing seems to be universal though. Families that work at it are the ones that make it.That means staying in contact and staying connected. It means overlooking old wounds. It means giving each other the benefit of a doubt. It means being honest and not pretending something doesn’t hurt if it does. None of this is easy. But families that survive have found a way to do it.
I’ve seen a number of families dissolve. No one seems willing to make the first move toward reconciliation. My husband, and I decided early on in our relationship that divorce was never an option and would never be used as a club. You would be surprised when you take the divorce option off the table how it changes the way you handle disagreements.
There’s a famous saying from the book by Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, where she states, “All happy families resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
If you are reading this and your family is struggling, my hope is that you and your family will find your way back to each other.There are few issues worth letting go of family.
May you and your family find ways to become strong.