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Things That Only Friends Who Used To Live Together Can Relate To

Things That Only Friends Who Used To Live Together Can Relate To

Living with someone can be a logistic nightmare, and you can never really tell what you are in for, even if you move in with a great friend. There’s an entirely different dynamic at work – one that neither of you have explored before – and if you manage to click on one more level it creates a deep bond of trust and respect that very few things can compare to.

Having had the good fortune of sharing a home with a long-time friend for a while, I can honestly say that are certain things that you can only understand if you’ve spent a lot of time cooped up in the same apartment with someone you know well. There are too many little details to cover in a single article, but here are ten of the most memorable things that stay with you and change you.

1. Moving in together is an adventure you’ll fondly remember for the rest of your days

Moving in with a friend is a huge lifestyle change, and even if you are both easy to get along with and do things by the book, there can still be a lot of stress involved. However, as they say, the strongest steel is forged in the hottest fire. A little bit of adversity is what will ultimately help you become a more capable, mature and responsible person, and the things you and your roommate had to go through will always have a special place in a corner of your mind.

2. Going your separate ways is almost like a divorce

This might sound a bit over the top, but when you really think about it, you see that it makes a lot of sense. You go over a few basic steps in both divorce and when moving out:

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  • There’s an emotional mix of excitement and sadness
  • You go over detailed list of your stuff and try to split it up fairly
  • You feel anxious because you know you’ll have to get used to a new roommate all over again
  • The prospect of living alone makes you a little anxious
  • It’s an end of an era, and you feel compelled to go out with a bang

The whole situation is stressful – much less than divorce, but still – everything feels weird and there is plenty of uncertainty in your mind, but you can’t wait to give your new life shot. Luckily, you’ll have Skype to help you get through that initial shock.

3. It’s hard when no one gets your random TV show references

There’s nothing I loved more than to have someone laugh at my incredibly obscure reference, or at my attempts at a joke that borrowed themes from several shows that no one seems to watch. My roommate and I had a penchant for quality British television, but, for some inexplicable reason, no one else knew anything about them.

Oh sure, they’ve all heard of “that doctor guy, the one with the blue phone booth,” but I gave up trying to explain it to them after my fiftieth consecutive joke fell flat. I guess we all have some guilty pleasures, but it’s no fun when you can’t share it with someone.

4. People can be vastly different, yet complement each other’s characters perfectly

I would’ve never thought it possible, but I actually managed to get along great with a musician. It may not seem like much, but even though I have a creative mind and enjoy art, I never really thought about music in terms other than music that I like and music that I don’t like, party music and relaxing music. However, it turns out that you can dissect a song quite thoroughly and talk for hours about scales, genres and so on.

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My roommate taught me quite a few things like that and he was great at haggling, while I, in turn, helped him learn his way around a computer, how not to turn all your white laundry pink and generally dealt with minor fixes around the home. A grumpy techy and a laid-back artist sound like a pairing straight out of a comedy show, but you find that you can help each other out in areas that the other one is not really good at. You’d be surprised how easily you can get used to someone after living with them for a while.

5. There is now a permanent yardstick based on which all future cohabitants will be measured

The bad thing about hitting it off and getting used to living with someone is that it’s easy to get set in your ways. This means that you’ll have a certain way of doing things and anyone that comes to live with you afterwards is going to have habits that will annoy you, simply because they’re different then what you’re used to.

If your roommate liked to keep everything squeaky clean and never really asked for help unless you offered it yourself, it’s easy to think that someone who likes to make a list of chores and assign everyone something is actually a difficult and bossy person. You end up saying things like, “Well, so and so never gave me grief about the little stuff, and we got along just fine for years.”

6. You really get to know a person when you’ve both hit financial rock bottom

Being fresh out of college, my friend and I had a substantial debt to pay. Even though we were lucky to get jobs that were interesting and paid well soon after finishing school, there were times when we had to really buckle down. We’d burn through most of our money within a couple of weeks, and then subsist on cheap pasta, pastries and whatever was on sale for the rest of the month. It’s then that we both learned a lot about each other that we never knew about before.

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First of all, my friend took charge by doing some research and suggesting that we should take a new route – start saving up and consolidate student loans. I’ve never found the guy to be the financial savvy type before, or one to take matters into his own hands come to think of it, but when he presented me with tons of details and showed a willingness to do what it takes, I knew that this was something he had in him all along.

He just never had the chance to take the initiative before, because he never had someone else depend on him. The fact that we weren’t screaming at each other all day and complaining showed me that some people give their very best when they are at their worst.

7. Even years down the road, you can get your point across with a single look

A side-effect of spending a good part of each day with someone is that you gain a near telepathic ability to communicate without uttering a single word. It’s usually when you’re with a bunch of other friends that this ability truly shines – someone says something awkward or tries too desperately to be funny, and you just shoot a sideways glance at your friend, whose eyes are already rolling. It’s these priceless little moments that you end up missing the most.

8. You bore everyone to death with your roommate stories at every get-together

After a few years, there will be tons of little disasters, funny moments, heated or dangerous situations that only seem funny after a bunch of time has passed. It’s quite natural to want to reminisce once you meet up with an old friend who you shared all these exciting moments with, and quite few boring ones as well, but those around you won’t really appreciate it. Others will often feel excluded during your long-winded stories of what life was like back in the day, but you just won’t be able to help yourself.

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9. You catch yourself doing the same things that you used to tease your friend for

During the first few weeks of living together, I used to tease my friend about his unhealthy obsession with turning off all the lights in the apartment except the one that was absolutely necessary. It just seemed like something a secluded vampire hermit would do, but I recently caught myself running around my home and switching off lights because the TV provided more than enough light and there was no need to waste electricity.

I remembered my friend, let out a few mumbled cuss words and laughed. On the other hand, I heard that he now puts butter in every meal and double checks all the doors and windows as a safety precaution before going to bed, so some of my annoying habits must have rubbed off on him too, and worked out well for him.

10. No matter how hard you screw up, you’ll always have one number you can call

In the end, the most rewarding thing about living with a friend is that once you’ve earned a deeper level of trust and respect, you know that there will always be someone who feels like its their duty to help you out when you’re in need – no matter how much trouble you’re in or how insignificant a problem may seem to someone else.

I can count my good friends on the fingers of one hand, but if push came to shove and I needed to talk to someone at three in the morning or needed to bury a body, I know who’d answer the phone and remember to bring work gloves so we wouldn’t get blisters while digging.

I’m sure anyone who’s been in a similar situation will agree when I say that even though there is a certain sense of freedom you get when living on your own or with a partner, living with a true friend really opens your eyes to a lot of things. You learn a lot, not only about the other person, but about yourself and people in general as well. Just don’t let the nostalgia get to you, and stop teasing your ex-roommate about those dishes she broke when she was drunk or that weird girl he brought home from the club one night.

More by this author

Vladimir Zivanovic

CMO at MyCity-Web

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Last Updated on November 11, 2019

Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

A dysfunctional family is more than disagreement or constant arguments. Anything from plain neglect, to abuse and even verbal and physical violence is the everyday experience of those who are part of a dysfunctional family.

You know how this looks:

  • Parents constantly comparing children.
  • Siblings in conflict because of tolerated bullying.
  • Domestic violence.
  • Adultery…
  • And many others.

For all the members, this will mean emotional pain and even trauma; which, in case it doesn’t get resolved, will have a detrimental effect on the individual’s personality and development.

Needless to say, the younger members are the most vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean the parents are out of danger, as most commonly the parents play the roles of abuser-codependent, and in some cases, both parts inflicting pain on one another.

Most like to think these problems stem from deep-seated issues, and that therefore it’s pretty much impossible to deal with them.

This is only true for families not willing to do what it takes, for if only a single member is determined and knows how to do it, the whole family can do a lot of progress.

In this article, I’ll break down for you the basic steps of fixing a dysfunctional family. Although it may seem hopeless, it is possible to turn things around.

If you have ever felt in this position, or if you know somebody who is, this article is for you.

How to fix a dysfunctional family

In a few words the solution for a dysfunctional family lies in dropping the ego, focusing on the solution, switching blame for responsibility and doing the work as a unity, for the good of the whole family.

And this will accomplish things you once only saw as a dream.

Dropping the ego? Switching blame for responsibility? Doing the work? What does all this mean?

It’s simple. In a nutshell, it’s that which will allow you to turn a dysfunctional family into a functional one.

Let’s take a look at how exactly this can be done. And near the end we will also talk about what you can do in a dysfunctional family with cynical traits.

Dysfunctional families where not only problems are well-known, but also nobody seems to want a fix or openly decide to perpetuate the harmful behaviors. Such as the case of abuse and physical violence.

There is also a solution for these, it’s just not what you are expecting…

Dysfunctional… Or just average?

Most families are dysfunctional, though at varying degrees of dysfunctionality.

The milder cases, are just marked by “typical” comically-shrouded bullying or lack of interest in other members’ development or wellbeing.

You can know a family is dysfunctional if their interactions are anything different than cooperation, solidarity, care and support. But let’s get more specific…

A dysfunctional family is one in which members directly or indirectly suffer emotional and/or physical harm inflicted by other members of their family. Most commonly, perpetrated by the parents.

Even harmful actions as “passive” as neglect, which is inflicted by inaction rather than action, signifies a dysfunction within the family.

Dysfunctional families have conflicts such as:

  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Lack of interest and time spent together
  • Sexism
  • Utilitarianism
  • Lack of empathy
  • Unequal or unfair treatment
  • Disrespect towards boundaries
  • Control Issues
  • Jealousy
  • Verbal and physical abuse
  • Violence and even sexual misconduct or abuse

You may think a dysfunctional family has very little or nothing to do with personal productivity, but you would be wrong in thinking this way…

If a person is not emotionally well, she will not be able to perform as desired, as the emotional harm that has been inflicted will hinder everyday performance in the way of inability to concentrate, lack of mental clarity and low levels of inspiration, motivation and discipline.

Having a functional family does exactly the opposite: It creates productive members with no emotional baggage.

How to turn it around

When you’re part of a dysfunctional family you know it. You can quickly identify in other members the behaviors and conflicts that create the dysfunction.

But just in case you’re having trouble telling functional from dysfunctional I will tell you the following:

One of the easiest ways you can recognize if you are in a dysfunctional family is to survey your won feelings.

We often overlook this, but have you stopped to ask yourself how you feel?

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As cheesy as it may sound it really sheds a lot of light on the subject.

What behaviors, actions and attitudes in your family you wish were better?

Do you think certain behaviors and actions from your family marked you in the past?

Sadly, we cannot go back to the past to correct it. But we can do a lot in the present…

Correction is possible

In order to fix a dysfunctional family, you must start by putting an end to the behaviors and actions that are affecting you.

Verbalize it.

All members of the dysfunctional family have one issue in common: They don’t put a stop to the harm.

Whenever you feel your boundaries being overstepped there is just one single word you have to remember: STOP.

This is the door to a better, more functional family, because after this, comes the fix.

But first you have to identify and make others know where exactly lies the problem.

So go ahead and fearlessly start with “Stop”, followed by your expression of dissatisfaction.

Putting it to work in real life

In real life it would be something like this:

“OK, stop! Every time you belittle me I feel you don’t care. I need attention and respect, and it is your responsibility as my family to provide them to me”

Or:

“Stop. When you compare me with my cousin it hurts, I feel like I don’t matter and that’s not ok. I ask you to stop doing it.

Or:

“Please stop. When you start yelling all respect is lost and it turns into a battle of who can do it louder. Don’t raise your voice and let’s work this out the way humans do”.

As you can see, here you start by putting a stop to the toxic behavior when it arises. And afterwards you verbalize why it’s wrong and what needs of you need to be fulfilled.

This is what you have to remember:

1-Stop.

2-Why it’s wrong?

3-What you need.

And this will also work well in case you need to do it for another family member.

It’s a family thing

A dysfunctional family cannot be fixed by one member alone.

Yes, a single member can initiate progress and be the leader of the change. But in order to completely become functional all members must contribute to the solution.

In other words, you will need cooperation…

So don’t be afraid of asking for it!

Approach your family member and ask to be listened.

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We sometimes feel our needs are “not that important” or we simply believe they won’t listen. But thinking like this would be like being defeated at an unfought battle.

You will be amazed by how much people listen when you voice your needs, especially if it implies showing yourself open, vulnerable and in need.

It’s not a free-for-all battle

In order to get your family to cooperate, first you must fix your individual relationships with every member of the family. Remember: Relationships are always between two people, and two people only.

No matter how complex, the quality of a multi-member relationship (like a family) will always depend on the quality of the individual relationships.

Once you have straightened the relationship with every member of the dysfunctional family you will be able to better communicate with other members and help in the betterment of their individual relationship.

And this is where we will talk about the fix itself. The one I mentioned in the introduction…

The method

1. Drop the ego

Wherever there is conflict there is ego.

You cannot fix a relationship where there is ego, because the ego will want to win. Always. Yours and the other person.

Ego craves control and satisfaction, and in many cases, to establish dominance.

What does this have to do with a dysfunctional family? Everything. Ego will interfere with every plan you have to fix it.

It will make people suborn and defensive. And it will also make them drop responsibility. This is why, the first step is to drop the ego.

After you make sure you are not going to allow your ego to interfere you must work to make the other person do the same. How? By speaking from the heart…

Tell the other person how important all this is to you.

Tell the other person that it’s not a matter of arguing, but just working things out together.

Point out how it is not possible for you to do it alone.

And ask for sincere attention without any desire of opposition, because what you are doing is by no means in the hopes of harming the other person, but just to better the relationship and stop the damage being dealt to you.

You will have to point out the mistakes you need corrected, that’s for sure. And that leads me to the next point…

2. Not blame, but responsibility

When talking about others’ mistakes we often use an accusatory tone. And that’s natural, it’s what things should be like if ego was not present.

But since we are all creatures of ego, this immediately brings the shields up. And then unsheathes the swords…

When we blame others they automatically enter a defensive state, and this only leads to a failed negotiation.

What you need to do is to shift from blame to responsibility. And even that will have to be done carefully!

Instead of telling them off or demanding change or complaining, calmly point what the problem with their behavior is.

As much as this feels contradictory, also make them feel understood. You know how difficult it is to accept a mistake, so just make them feel it’s no big fuzz… which does not mean it’s ok, but it takes tension off.

You will do something like this:

“Hello dad. Can I talk with you for a minute? I really need to tell you something.

I have been feeling pretty sad lately and I know this is something you do care about.

You see, whenever I talk about my accomplishments you mention something else that makes my achievement pale in comparison.

I know you don’t do this intentionally and I know you might have not realized this until now, but I want to let you know this really brings me down.

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It would mean a lot to me if you could stop doing it, and it would help better our relationship, because this has already forced me to distance myself from you. And I don’t want that, I want a good, healthy relationship with you”

What happened here?

We started off with making it something important, something that needs both time and attention. Then we openly show ourselves vulnerable, just as we are.

We also mention why he should listen, and shove our feelings there again, because they are important.

We describe the issue with no attachment and with no hostile intention. It’s just a description.

And then we take the blame off. Just before we assign responsibility without actually saying it.

You are not blaming him directly, but you are pointing out the inevitable fact that his actions are causing a dysfunctionality. He is now responsible for changing.

This is what “switching blame for responsibility” means. What comes next? Doing the work!

3. Doing the work

What would any of this mean if, in the end, nothing changes? Exactly, nothing!

This is why you must follow up with every change that needs to be done.

Do so in a manner that is not hostile. Bring it up in a casual manner, and emphasizing how you both reached an agreement and how that is important to the family.

If the person doesn’t follow up don’t hesitate to bring it up again, and tell them you feel disappointed that your honest try at it was not listened.

It may even be a subject in itself, and therefore the need for another conversation.

“When you go back to old habits it shows that you didn’t really care about what I said. But back in real life you just reinforce how much contempt you show towards me and my feelings.

I talk with you because I care. Because although it would be easier for me to just distance myself from you I rather do my part in nurturing this relationship.

But there is just so much I can do, if you refuse to do your part I can do nothing else.”

You need very clear and positive communication in order to make this work.

Love is all you need

You must remember that in order for a dysfunctional family to become functional, all the work needs to stem from love.

That is the single one requirement for all this to work: Love.

And what happens if it simply is not there?

What happens if, nobody is willing to do what it takes?

What happens if a member of the family refuses to change and is happy with the harm he or she is dealing?

There is only one thing you can do:

To break away.

Let’s be honest, people, especially adults, are very difficult to change.

There is a Jewish proverb that I love, which sums it up like this:

“We spend the rest of our lives trying to unlearn what we learned before we were 7”

If you find it very hard to change the very traits that make your family dysfunctional or if it’s simply impossible, you still have a card up your sleeve…

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Although nobody likes to beak away from family members, we must remember we have a responsibility with ourselves as individuals, before any relationship with anyone.

You have the responsibility of making yourself happy and free. Because you matter as an individual, regardless of any relationships you have, be it family, friendship or romantic.

Putting distance

So in case you are dealing with a family member who is simply unwilling to change take both physical and emotional distance.

What do I mean?

Learn, first, to take their damage in a detached manner.

Don’t let it hurt you further. Instead take a deep breath and distance yourself emotionally.

Don’t be attached to feelings such as “Why doesn’t she love me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?” or “If he wasn’t like that my life would be perfect”.

Simply refuse to keep participating in the emotional downward spiral and accept, even if it’s painful” that there is nothing you can do. Accept that even without that relationship you are whole, you are worthy of love and respect.

They are their responsibility and you are yours. So decide what is best for you.

Realize it only comes down to two possibilities:

I keep the relationship and therefore accept the abuse. Or…

I choose my peace of mind.

And don’t let your mind fool you. We often think that since we all are imperfect, we must take the good and the bad behaviors of people. And we are especially forgiving towards our family…

Well, guess what? We are also responsible adults who are aware and must own to their acts. Never excuse abuse or violence or transgression towards you or anybody else.

Choose your happiness and if possible, also distance yourself physically, as it will increase your peace of mind tenfold.

How to prevent it

There are two key concepts you must bear in mind in order to prevent the dysfunctionality of a family:

  • To be completely aware of one’s own mistakes and not allow them to impact others and…
  • To make sure our SO’s are also on the same channel before creating a family (i.e. having children)

Dysfunctional families are the product of irresponsible paternity, for the decades-long unresolved emotional conflict ends up surfacing in the family inevitably, and it will for sure harm those who least deserve it: Innocent children.

You may notice we went from talking about family, to talking about individual relationships, to talking about you. We went from “them” to “us” to “me”.

Why? Because in the end you have the power to fix a dysfunctional family. To correct the mistakes you have in yours and to prevent dysfunctionalities if you don’t have a family but plan to create one.

Priorities and clear thought

You may be part of a dysfunctional family, but that does not mean you are powerless or that you have to suffer the consequences.

You learned today how it’s all a matter of priorities and thinking clearly.

You learned that, if love exists, everything is possible. You learned that even when there is no love and no fix for your dysfunctional family, there are still things you can do. It’s a matter of choosing your peace, because you deserve it.

Everything will be better if you apply this knowledge. If you talk to that problematic family member. If you help them see the harm they are doing. If you make sure they do change and treat you the way you need to be treated…

If you choose yourself over that toxic family member. If you refuse to justify the harm that others can do to yourself. If you realize the most important relationship you have is with yourself.

And lastly, that you also have to be aware of your actions and be open to criticism. Because we might be unknowingly harming others. And that would be us creating a dysfunctionality. Don’t allow it to happen.

Dysfunctional families are not impossible to fix. It just takes love, cooperation and responsibility.

But if you tried and those elements are not present, just choose yourself instead.

Featured photo credit: Xavier Mouton Photographie via unsplash.com

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