Potentialities and boundaries of interpersonal relationships
It is very difficult to talk about the family because we are faced with extremely different realities when we look at history and the contemporary world,. They range, in fact, from the current nuclear families of the West and the North of the planet to the gentes [lineages] of classical antiquity and the extended families, or clans, of traditional populations, which still exist throughout the world today.
This is to mention the best known models, but there are also others characterized in a different way.
The first clarification to be made is that we do not intend to place ourselves on a sociological level, aimed at studying and analyzing the various forms of family and their distinctive features, but on an anthropological and reflective level aimed at understanding what strictly distinguishes the family from other modes of interpersonal relationships.
We wonder, that is, why in the presence of realities so distant from each other we can use to designate them, an identical term, namely that of family, or if, instead, it is not better to give up using the same concept and take into account each in its singularity.
The objective pursued here is precisely that of being able to show why the concept of family, without any forcing, can be applied to situations so profoundly different from each other.
The central category in all this reflection is that of “We” and now it is a matter of seeing what it properly means, what it implies and what gain there is in using it.
“Here it is no longer so much a question of living one for the other as of living one and the other for the We” (Joseph de Finance, A tu per tu con l’altro. Saggio sull’alterità [Face to Face with the Other. Essay on Otherness], Roma 2004). This very brief quotation can serve to direct this reflection in the direction we want to go.
In fact, the question, instead of being resolved, now seems to become more complex because we have to ask ourselves what this “We” is in which we want to identify the essence of the family. However, the solution consists in understanding how the “We” is the overcoming of individualism and egoism, for which in the relationship the subjects no longer look only towards each other, but, together, towards this new reality that goes beyond while giving them an unexpected value.
In the “We”, in the family in our case, the otherness of the other remains as such and cannot be phagocytised in a vain attempt at symbiosis that would deprive each subject of its unrepeatable peculiarity. Instead, they live a new form of existence that is not reducible to their simple sum.
In the family, gender and generational differences remain and are, indeed, what give it its richness and fruitfulness, but there is in it a unity in which the individual intentions converge, even when, as in the case of young children, there is no explicit awareness of this.
However, the survival of the “We” is always conditioned and endangered by the weight of freedom, which can always lead to fatigue with respect to the bond to which one is bound and infidelity in keeping initial promises.
In wanting to get down to concrete considerations, one can see the difference between the family and the so-called “de facto unions”. In the family, love is the principal glue, but it is not the only foundation of its existence, because it also needs to be founded beyond itself, in something that gives it consistency and stability.
In this regard, the role and function of the institution are inserted, which, in every society, has always recognized the family, giving it consistency and stability in the face of all its members.
The institution, that is, is not the one that constitutes the family, founded on the “We” of the subjects, but is the one that guarantees and protects its permanence, beyond the weakness and precariousness of feelings. In this way, the bond is no longer just a private fact, but it is confirmed in front of all the members of the social group that takes responsibility for its safeguard and promotion, as an essential cell of living together.
As can clearly be seen, the considerations we have just made can be applied to all the family realities which history and geography have given us, while a separate discussion must be reserved for those unions that draw their strength from the bond of the Christian marriage sacrament. In this case, in fact, the couple is no longer the only nucleus on which the family is founded, but the bond is essentially one of three: first, the couple, as the first cell of the family; second, God before whom the conjugal pact is established; and then, the blessing from Him.
In this case, the lability of personal commitments finds support in a higher will which sustains it and which, with the cooperation of the spouses, permits the survival of the family beyond all weaknesses and infidelities to the commitments made.
by Giorgia Salatiello