If there’s one thing I have learned in the course of my life, it’s this: family members are a diverse group of people. You wouldn’t think so since everyone is related, but you’d be surprised. Whether you are in a nuclear family or a stepfamily, relationships with family members can be complicated when personalities are varied.
When I married my husband, we each brought children into the marriage with us – all girls with differing personalities and potentially conflicting opinions. We were six people under one roof with no two sharing the same temperament. Our newly merged family was made up of introverts and extroverts, clean freaks and slobs, high-schoolers and preschoolers … and a whole lot of estrogen!
As a new wife and stepmom, I wanted to learn as much as I could about my new family. I wanted to know what made them tick. Little did I know that I was about to embark on an adventure that would not only help us all understand each other better, but was instrumental in binding us together: I was going to get a PhD in my family.
Learning New Love Languages
In order for me to be an effective learner, I knew that I needed to understand everyone in my family. I read “The Five Love Languages” by Dr. Gary Chapman to discover how my family members felt most loved. Between the six of us, all five of the love languages were represented. So, I became fluent in all five languages.
I decided to start with my husband. As spouses, we are called to love and honor each other (Ephesians 5:33, NIV). In honoring my spouse, I needed to understand his fears and doubts in order to avoid pressing the wrong buttons and keeping conflict at bay. I also wanted to learn what made him feel the most comfortable so that he would know it was safe to be vulnerable with me in our new marriage.
I continued obtaining my “degree” by studying our kids. I had three stepdaughters and one biological daughter that I needed to understand as well. Proverbs instructs us as parents to train our children the right way to live (Proverbs 22:6 NCV). Because I had taken time to understand each of my stepdaughters and build a relationship with them individually, they were open to receiving instruction from me. As they grew into young women, my husband and I became more of advisers, but only when we were asked. Had I not taken the time in the early years to better understand my family, I doubt I would have the relationship that I enjoy with them today.
Over the years, I invested time into each person in my family according to their primary love language and watched how they responded. I noticed that when I connected with them in a way that was deep and meaningful to them, they responded to me in like. Pretty soon, I was building deeper relationships with my family. This took a long time to accomplish, but it became part of the foundational footing of who our family would later become.
A strong foundation in Christ is imperative for any family. Being anchored to God’s instruction enables a family to weather storms that may arise. Following Christ’s example of sacrificial love and understanding how each family member ticks helps us love our family better. God created each member of our family, and we all are image bearers of Him. He designed each family member purposefully and specifically to glorify Him. By appreciating our family for who each member is – as well as embracing our differences – we bring honor to God and portray His vision of family.
Getting a PhD in any subject is no easy task. It takes time, perseverance and commitment. However, it is possible for everyone to get a PhD in their own family. It’s never too late to start discovering what makes your family tick. What are you waiting for?
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