family friendly…

I took a weird way into this relationship I’m in, it took me 36 years to get there and I jumped into it with a man who had an ex, and three kids, and a very close family besides.

I am from a different kind of family, which I find it difficult to describe, but when I was 18, my parents divorced and moved to opposite ends of London. Fast forward a couple of years and my brother left the UK and headed for Australia with barely a glance backwards. For my childhood, our family home was at least one hour from our Grandparents and aunts and uncles, so we never had that childhood where you grow up around cousins, see your grandparents regularly, or get the kind of family orientated lifestyle that others take for granted.

Don’t get me wrong, I never missed it, but I now notice some side effects of that upbringing that may stand out more, when placed side by side with Handsome and the way he was raised…

Now my family all love each other dearly and I count my aunts, uncles and cousins as some of my favorite folks in the whole world, but we don’t talk or see each other much, which makes it all the more sweet when we catch up. Added to this, I have been overseas for 6 years, and now count my friends among my family. Plus, I talk to my Mother most days and I rely on her as a true friend and confidante. We have definitely had our falling outs, but in general, and certainly since I was 25, we are as close as close can be.

But the real point of all this is to then lead you into the tale of Handsome’s family and my initiation into it. For almost all of my adult life (and some of my childhood) I have lived outside the bubble and intrigue of family relations, living most of my family life via the telephone or on twice yearly visits and preferring to rise above the usual family strife that affects your average person. And I have loved living my life that way. Being on your own and deliberately setting yourself apart from the nitty gritty of your family’s day-to-day gives you absolute freedom, to travel, to work far too much, to give all your attention to friendships, but what you lose is that sense of belonging, home and familiarity that is the absolute life blood of most people’s lives.

I came to realize I was missing out on something when I was in my last year in Qatar (I did three years in total). I even talked to a therapist and one of the main questions I asked was “why do I choose this life I lead?”. I knew I was missing out on something, I knew working long hours and every weekend brought me nothing but recognition at work and that it contributed nothing to my personal health or emotional wellbeing. I knew that I was avoiding relationships with men, but also starting to separate from my old and trusted friends, but I wasn’t sure why.

I literally chose my next work assignment on the basis of achieving a better work life balance. My next assignment in Africa included a paid trip home every 2 months and as it was a new project, it was unlikely that I would be required to work every weekend or late into the night. I needed breathing room, and I took it.

Africa changed me completely. I felt it as it was happening. I was still ambitious, but I was also interested in what I would do outside of work. I bought new clothes, I tried to smarten myself up, I wore some makeup. I met interesting and cool people and on those paid vacations? I went to the US, New Zealand and Kenya. I did things for me and when I needed a break, I took it. It was like new life breathing into these old bones and then I got sick. I have always been on the heavy side, but suddenly, I felt sick every day, sick to my stomach and I couldn’t work out what was wrong with me. I carried on working, my boss kept asking if I was going to puke on his desk, but I never did, I just felt bloody awful. Turns out I had typhoid, which never quite got far enough along to kill me, but was very helpful in allowing me to drop two dress sizes! And I kept the weight off.

So there I am, not feeling sick any more, looking quite good in my new clothes, with a renewed interest in life, a brilliant job in Africa and some great friends and an unbelievable lifestyle. Two years on and I was a world away from that miserable, overworked, overweight girl in the Middle East.

I didn’t meet Handsome at this point, I had known him for a while, but it was at this point that I became ready to accept a man in my life, and he was the man. And that meant being ready to accept everything that came with him, his ex, his fantastic girls, his lovely close family. But you know what? I wasn’t really ready. I had no idea what comes with having a man permanently by your side. I had no idea what it means to become part of a family that you don’t really know, and that you have to get to know really, really quickly.

I had never experienced this feeling that this was the man you were meant to be with permanently, so by default, you were going to be with his family permanently too. His Mother, Father, brother, sister-in-law… now part of my family. Part of the reason Handsome wanted to live in the area we chose was because it was central to his family and he would get to see them more often. I suppose I never considered what that meant. In my family, we didn’t rely on each other in the same way. When I moved house in the UK, I moved everything by myself. When Handsome is moving furniture, he calls his brother over to help. When it’s someone’s birthday, the whole family gets together for a meal. In my family, we aren’t ever in the same country at the same time. On special Holidays, it’s rare that any of us will be together. In Handsome’s family, holidays aren’t holidays unless they are spent with the whole extended family.

I truly value every new experience that being with Handsome brings me. He makes me a better person in so many ways. And as I embrace this new family and everything great that has to bring, it cannot help but improve on things with my existing family too. We are already talking about all meeting up in Hawaii one Christmas and my Mum has suggested she come over here for Christmas Day this year. I just hope she can make it here for the fourth of July too!

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