When working with my nuclear families as well as my blended-family and divorced clients with binuclear families, I sometimes find myself saying, “You’re not dysfunctional. Of course you don’t get along, you’re a family!” In this age of instant gratification, we seem to be under the impression that we should maintain a constant state of family happiness.
First, that’s impossible. Happiness is a transient state that we move into and out of based on a variety of factors, including life events, behavioral choices and personality style. Research has proven that it is impossible to always feel happy. Add to that the unique complications that parenting through divorce brings, and you are guaranteed that things will sometimes feel uncomfortable.
My clients frequently run away from emotional discomfort and hide in substances, food, work or other distractions. I encourage them to directly confront the discomfort and problem solve their way to happiness. Avoiding conflict and discomfort doesn’t bring happiness, it brings numbness. So if you and your partner are arguing, find out why. If you and your kids aren’t getting along, address it. But don’t assume discomfort equals dysfunction.
Here are three key ideas for recognizing normal discomfort in a family: