Within families that get along well, relationships are interdependent. Here is how it works. Everyone relates to everyone else based on each person’s needs and interests. All family members are seen as important and each person receives consideration. Within an interdependent family, each relationship depends on the others. In this sense, family members are interdependent.
At a less effective level, family relationships are supportive. This means family members do not try to adjust to each other but do try to help and support each other. They will be sensitive and helpful when it does not require unusual effort or changes in their ways of doing things.
At a higher risk level, family relationships are protective. This often occurs in families where alcoholism or violence are present. Think about TJ’s relationship with his mother.
Family members learn to stay out of the way as much as possible and play the family game. The main rule of the game is not to upset things and to do what they can to protect each other. The protection is, of course, from the alcoholic or family member who becomes violent. Recall TJ’s trying to protect his mother when Leroy was assaulting her in the kitchen.
At the highest risk level, family relationships are fragmented. There is not a family in any normal sense. People go their separate ways and try to stay out of each other’s way. This is what happened in TJ’s family. First, Pam left and then TJ was pushed out. When he was younger, his mother tried to protect him; and over time, family relationships for Pam and TJ became fragmented. Once the children were out, the adults could maintain their relationship.