Just recently I spent some time with my family. The idea for the getaway was to take some time and develop our relationships amongst each other as a nuclear family.
We went away for seven days and nights and stayed in an rental home. It was glorious. We played in the pool together, ate too much, stayed up too late, had lots of conversations, read, slept in, played games and watched movies together. We love being together.
We also love being with our extended family. We invited them over a couple of nights for dinner and an evening swim in the pool. We had an awesome time!
In our time together with my immediate family and my extended family, I noticed a kind of distinction between our times. The distinction I would like to make is that between family togetherness and family closeness. I think this is an important distinction to pay attention to when building and maintaining familial health.
I plan to keep this post short, however, I could easily expand this concept into a chapter in a book. Here we go.
My extended family loves to come over, and vice a versa, we love to visit them. We love each member of our extended family and can easily take a vacation time and spend all of our time together. This great, I want to make sure that is clear. I love family and I love my nuclear and extended family members.
What I am attempting to draw out is the distinction between the values of family togetherness and family closeness. There is a very nuanced distinction here that I believe is critical to pay attention to.
I am using the term “family togetherness” to describe a type of family community building that happens when families gather and spend time together. The highest value and priority with family togetherness is, well, being together.
I am using the term “family closeness” to describe the development of emotional intimacy between family members in a nuclear family. The highest value and priority with family closeness is the deepening of relational roots between family members.
My anecdotal experience has led me to believe family closeness and family togetherness can easily become competing values. This does not always happen, however it happens more often than not.
People seeking to develop a deep sense of community or connectedness in their families will often work toward gathering together more frequently and will add events, activities etc. in order to build a cadre of memories that they believe will be or become the foundation for familial relationship. This is probably the most common expression of a person’s desire to be “close” to their family.
However, I do not believe experiences and activity achieve this. Yes, activities and experiences build family members. I believe that without a doubt! I also believe the intentionality necessary for the development of closeness (intimacy) amongst family members must be a higher priority than that of “togetherness” alone.
You need both.
You need both the communal aspect of family to build memories and primary level relationships that become the connective tissue of your family… and the intentional times of closeness that take you into the secondary and tertiary levels necessary for family closeness.
There are ways to achieve both modes of interaction (togetherness/closeness). I will work on that on another post.
This post is designed to get you thinking about the differences between how you relate in and around your nuclear and extended family.
Lots more to say on this another day. If you want more musings like this from me, sign up on my email list on the homepage of my website for more stuff in the future.