What Makes A Family?


This year I was cordially uninvited from my boyfriend’s family’s Thanksgiving. He was told that his parents wanted a time for just family, and I—the girlfriend of 3 and a half years—was certainly not family. This led me ask the question: what is family?

I mean, obviously, by the definition of bloodlines, family are those who are related to us (although there are many who would not consider those related to them to be any more family than the stranger who lives 1000 miles away). But family is a dynamic idea. Children are born, people get married, and the majority of the time these new individuals are considered part of the family.

This leads to the assumption that there are two ways to become “family:” birth into said family or marriage into the family. Now, personally, I don’t quite agree with this definition. I have friends who are just as much family to me as my blood relatives, and some who are more so. However, I understand that this isn’t how everyone views family.
But marriage is where things get complicated for me. To be a part of many families, you have to marry into them. I have heard similar stories before: a couple can be dating for 3, 5, even 10 years and they won’t be considered part of the family until they are officially, legally married. This is where I begin to lose some understanding. If a couple has been dating for 6 months and gets married then the significant other becomes part of the family, most of the time without question, because they are married. But the couple can date for 10 years and this counts for nothing?

I understand that in the past, marriage was a commitment to a family, a trading of property, agreements between the family of the husband and the family of the wife. Families linked together over the marriage of their sons and daughters. This isn’t what marriage is here anymore. There is no trade of property, no signing to agree that the woman becomes the man’s property and is no longer the property of her father.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not actively against marriage (I’m not necessarily “for” it either). I just can’t quite understand how today, marriage is what is considered the be-all and end-all for family. That’s just not how I define family. Your family is the people who care about you, who support you, and who you do the same for. They don’t have to be blood related or married into it.
My boyfriend is part of my family, and for all intents and purposes my parents treat him as such. This is a respect that everyone should extend to those around them. If someone close to me brings their significant other, friend, or blood relative to my house and calls them family then I will treat them as such because in caring for my own friend I should respect who he or she calls family no matter what I think of the relationship.

This is a reminder for everyone during the holiday season. If you are uncomfortable with a friend or family member’s choice of partner or friend then suck it up. It is your job as family to support the rest of your family in what makes them happy, no judgments.