How Far Should You Live From Your Family?
Determined to find an answer to this eternal question, we asked a group of experts to weigh in.
Some people couldn’t imagine a life apart from their family, going so far as to buy a home down the block from their parents to stay close. Others wish to be as far from their family as possible. But, I must admit, now that I’m married and juggling the demands of not one but two families and social circles, I sometimes think, “Man, moving to Paris could be nice…”
Yet I also know that living miles and miles away from my family members could have a negative effect on my life. To get some clarity, I asked experts to weigh in on this age-old question: how far should you live from your family?
There are definitely a lot of positive aspects associated with living close to family members. However, the biggest reason many choose to do so is because it provides an emotional support system.
“When going through the normal ups and downs of life, family can step in,” says Michelle Moore, a licensed professional counselor, certified coach and relationship expert at Marriage Mojo. “Even if you don’t face a crisis, extended family can help with small-but-significant events such as moving or child care.”
This help and support goes both ways. “As parents age, they may rely on you to help with health-related concerns,” notes Dr. Mirsad Serdarevic, Assistant Professor and Associate Chair of Applied Clinical Psychology at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. This can obviously bring on undue stress or surprise circumstances. Still, Dr. Serdarevic notes that such experiences “can also promote a sense of meaning and purpose as one is able to help an aging parent.”
But not everyone is fortunate enough to have family members that offer such emotional support. If you’re not particularly close to your parents, siblings and others you grew up with, or you can’t rely on them in times of need, living within close proximity of your family can cause anxiety.
Kimberley Hoxie, LCSW, notes that for “families that are abusive, dismissive, cold, or combative, a definite con of living near family is staying in a dysfunctional pattern. In these cases, it is very hard to unlearn the dysfunctional behaviors of the family dynamic if you live near them. In order to change and grow in these cases, it is vital to physically move out of the dynamic.”
“If your relationship with your parents is less-than-stellar, it can be a mixed bag,” says Dr. Tanisha M. Ranger, a Licensed Psychologist and owner of Insight to Action LLC. “Living near them might give you time and opportunities to really work on repairing the relationship, either on your own or with the help of a therapist … But it will depend on your parents’ willingness to be accountable to you.”
Devoting time and energy to the situation could be more trouble than it’s worth. Dr. Ranger also notes, “It is difficult to try to cultivate a healthy relationship with people who are more focused on themselves than they are on the relationship. In that case, it might be detrimental to your mental health to live near them.”
Of course, living extremely far from your family — such as those whose profession requires them to reside in another state or even country — doesn’t mean you’ll never hear from your loved ones again. In my experience, I’ve found that living farther away forces me to be more mindful of communicating with my family. When I lived in Charleston during college, I sent more emails, made more phone calls, and made deliberate travel plans to see them. When I traveled home, I made sure to spend quality time with them instead of taking them for granted.
However, I also understand that not living in the same city or state means my family will miss out on important milestones. For example, they won’t be able to witness their grandchildren growing up, celebrate a job promotion I’d got, etc.
My family and I see each other when we can, and we enjoy the time we spend together, but we’ve developed boundaries that allow us to also enjoy life on our own. Choosing to live close to family or not is a personal decision, but understanding the advantages and disadvantages before settling down can help everyone bring a little more balance to their personal situations.