This past weekend, the nation and the world witnessed yet another Royal Wedding with all the familiar sense of excitement and commentary that goes along with this joyful event. Yet, this wedding was different. Harry, born into royalty and 6th in line to be King married an American actress of mixed race, divorced and with a less than traditional family. Yes. This is the modern family!
It is far easier to define what we have known as a traditional family; two parents of different genders, sharing the same religion, same colour, same class. The difference was only seen when couples strayed from these expectations. Divorced families were stigmatised, mixed race couples reacted violently against, homosexuals ‘jailed’ and so on. These diversions from the norm put couples and families outside the realm of the traditional family. Saying this, the word ‘traditional’ has evolved through time and has brought about more acceptance of difference.
It is far more difficult to define the modern family. It transcends these external differences and becomes a new paradigm of thinking. Still, this can create confusion and a sense of not “being normal” for individuals and couples. We see this in our work with women deciding to have babies on their own and couples choosing not to have children. One gay couple I work with still struggles with visiting his parents with his partner and their children at the family home. From the outside, his family ‘accepts’ his relationship but the underlying discomfort he feels when they visit creates difficult and unresolved feelings between him and his parents. These issues need to be brought into the open and worked through in order to help change these outdated views.
The modern family can create problems within the family and couples have difficulties managing their own family dynamics such as divorced parents, step-parents and half siblings let alone factoring in their same sex or mixed race marriages. Making sense of unresolved feelings often send couples into conflict with one another. Harry and Megan modelled this well when her father decided to pull out of the wedding party. No dramas here, Prince Charles walked Megan down the aisle with love and grace. Of course, we aren’t privy to the conversations that preceded this!
Families are no longer straightforward and no longer look the same. These changes require us to reflect, adjust and evolve. This Royal Wedding hopefully might help make the modern family easier to accept and at some point help it move along a little faster.