The Family: A Crumbling Institution

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Welcome Back Toronto Caribbean Readers. I am happy that you have joined us for another learning experience. This week I want to take a look at what is happening to the families in our community. I am currently taking a class on the family; I decided to do this because I wanted to better understand the dynamics of families. As many of you know, I work within the families on a daily basis, and I am entering into family homes and becoming a part of their dynamics. I know that if I have a better understanding as to how others interact, I will be able to do more in the way of providing guidance.

Canadian sociologist Robert Bymhas stated, “The family is not a crumbling institution. What is happening, however, is that people are freer than they once were to establish the kinds of family arrangement that best suits them.” (Vanier Institute of the Family, 2010) Over the recent years, we have seen an emergence of many different family types: mixed families from different cultures, mixed families from former marriages, gay couples and their children, the list goes on. This emergence has caused for a change in how we approach families; there is definitely not a cookie cutter method to understanding and providing guidance for these families. For most, it is trial and error which can be costly, both financially and emotionally. This article will look at how to stabilize a relationship and make the best of what can sometimes seem like a horrible situation.

One thing that I have learned is that communication is the number one reason that a relationship will either fail or be successful. I want you to think about the interaction that you have with your partner or spouse; would you say that you communicate effectively? It appears that longevity has a lot to do with the pattern of interaction that is established at the beginning of the relationship. That means that if from the start there is miscommunication, dishonesty and hidden agendas, that will follow you throughout your relationship. If your communication is open, transparent and respectful, there is a better chance of having these communication patterns follow you throughout your relationship.

Another important aspect of communication in relationships is expressiveness. Expressiveness is defined as the ability to show one’s feeling; being expressive can increase satisfaction between individuals. This type of behavior can bring out the best in your partner and these feelings, started early, can extend many years into your relationship. Partners who are emotionally healthy have higher levels of empathy, interpersonal skills and can more accurately interpret the messages that their partner is sending. What does it take to be emotionally healthy? Well, one important factor is that each individual must have taken the time to heal from their previous relationship. They say that it takes half the time that you have been with someone to get over someone. That means that if you were with someone for ten years, it can take up to five years to actually be over them. Now, it may seem unreasonable to ask someone to wait five years to date after separating, but I stress the idea of being patient and taking the time to sort through your feelings. Love is a tricky thing, and everyone is different; we all have different resilience levels, so it is a matter of being honest with yourself and not jumping into something just because you feel lonely.

Couples with a high level of communication are less likely to have problems and more likely to solve those problems by respectfully expressing their position and fighting fair. Nonverbal communication may be more important than what a person says. If a person can read his or her partner’s nonverbal messages, the quality of their relationship is probably high. It means that they have taken the time to learn their partner; they know what buttons not to push in order to bring a quick resolution to whatever problem is occurring. Effective communication depends on continued use of maintenance strategies; these strategies are utilized during high stress situations including when one’s partner is tired, cross or otherwise negative. Having this type of sensitivity towards each other helps promote resilience and creates a climate where relational satisfaction can grow.


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