Q. I am a single woman in my mid forties who lives alone in a large American city. I have a lot of interests and spend time reading and reflecting on my own. My siblings are married with children living in other parts of the country. I am often trying to have a deeper connection with my family members, including my nieces and nephews, even though I don’t have much in common with them. We are very cordial and supportive with each other, but we don’t seem to share our lives more deeply. When we open up to each other I feel a lot closer to them. I do my best to encourage a deeper connection. Often, my siblings get busy with their families and don’t communicate at all. At times I take it personally and feel angry or hurt. I want to find a way to enjoy them as they are and not get so upset.
A.There is a significant difference in your lifestyles and family structures. Your siblings are busy with spouses and children and probably don’t have the luxury of time that you have to enjoy interests and connect more deeply. Most parents are so focused on their kids’ lives that whatever energy is left over it is usually devoted to resting and catching up on other tasks. Do you have adults in your life who are like your siblings or family? If you’re single and live away from relatives, having such friends can be very meaningful. This way you get your needs met and have ongoing friends to develop relationships with.
When you connect with your family, you may have to think a bit differently. Rather than expecting deep one-on-one connection through conversations about meaningful topics, you may need to learn to simply appreciate being part of the family. By thinking of your time with them as community time where you are more focused on being with the group and having a very different kind of interaction than you do privately, which can lead you to appreciate your family more. Parents love it when others take an interest in their children. Some parents, in fact, will not socialize with family or friends who aren’t involved or at least interested in their kids.
When you go to events to see your family, would you like to take a close friend along with you? This could give you the kind of companionship that you most enjoy and be in a family setting with siblings and kids. Since you don’t have a spouse, this would be a nice way for you to not feel as vulnerable. Having a close friend with you could help you feel relaxed and less needy of intimate contact.
Thus, you could more easily enjoy the lightness of less intense relationships.
Alzak Amlani, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist of Indian descent in the Bay Area. 650-325-8393. Visit www.wholenesstherapy.com