How to Find Your Chosen FamilyIf the season of togetherness feels especially lonely, this might be for you.
Honestly, is there a lonelier time of year to be without a safe, stable, or supportive family? ‘Tis the season for getting hit over the head with messages about the importance of togetherness and home, from schmaltzy Christmas movies to small talk about holiday plans. To add insult to injury, you often hear the advice to lean on your chosen family instead, as if that’s something you can pick up on Black Friday.
For those unfamiliar with the concept, a chosen family is, quite literally, the family that you choose. This might be the same as the family that raised you or maybe just a few members of your family that you feel especially safe and close with. But it can also be friends that feel like family and offer the sort of love and support that you’re not fully receiving from your family of origin. Identifying your chosen family can be incredibly validating and enriching. But that’s only if you can find it. Because…how? Making friends these days is hard enough as it is, let alone meeting people with whom you’ll forge deep familial-like bonds!
All that said, it’s not impossible. It’s just not an exact science, and it definitely won’t happen overnight. “Chosen family is this unique opportunity to intentionally decide who our community will be,” says licensed therapist Moe Ari Brown, LMFT, love and connection expert at Hinge. “It depends on how you choose your friends, and how you develop and nurture those relationships.”
With all that in mind, we’ve broken down how you can work toward finding more community in your life and creating a sense of family in your relationships.
Start by reflecting solo.
I know, I know, it’s not the fun part—but before you can find your chosen family, you have to know what you’re looking for. Maybe you want a community of tight-knit friends who share an important part of your identity. Or maybe you imagine a best friend to split a condo and grow old with. Hey, maybe you’re looking for your future emergency contact. Point is, once you understand what you want out of chosen family, the better you’ll recognize the potential for it.
It’s a big question, so here are a few ways in:
Think about what’s important to you. Chosen family is often built on the basis of important shared values, says Brown. These values can be conceptual or concrete—think anything from honesty, creativity, kindness, communication, and empathy to shared traditions, travel, quality time, or even life planning.
Focus on the feeling. Brown recommends reflecting on what kinds of relationships you want to cultivate. Ask yourself: What do acceptance, belonging, and love feel like to me? How do I feel supported in my relationships? How do I want people to show up for me and how do I want to show up for them?
Look back on old bonds. Simply put, the better you understand what worked and what didn’t in past relationships, the more you know what to seek out and what to avoid in your new ones, per Brown.
Let go of ideals and misconceptions. It’s easy to romanticize the idea of a chosen family—who among us hasn’t fantasized about the perfectly compatible group of friends that sitcoms promised us?—so it’s worth asking: Are my expectations realistic, and am I looking for anything I could do without?
Find possibilities in your existing relationships. Once you really dig in on what’s important and what’s not, you may realize the potential for chosen family is already around you.
Expand your circle.
After you’ve done all your reflecting, you can be way more intentional in your social efforts. “If you happen upon your friends, say because you go to school together, that alone is sometimes not enough to create or sustain a familial sense of community,” says Brown. “But if you choose your friends in an intentional way, they could be on the journey toward becoming your chosen family.”
Go where your values are. I know, you’ve probably heard of picking up a new hobby to meet like-minded people like…a million times by now. But it’s common advice for a reason! There might not be a Chosen Family Wanted club on Meetup, but you might reasonably deduce you could meet potential friends at a board game night at your local LGBTQ center or a weekly Bachelor watch party at your local bar.
Don’t be shy about your intentions. The same way you probably wouldn’t wax poetic about love and marriage on a first date, you don’t need to announce, “I’m looking for a chosen family!” to every potential new friend. But as you get to know someone, you can still make it clear what you’re looking for in smaller ways. It can be as simple as texting, “Hey, it was great grabbing lunch! I’d love to make it a regular thing.”
Follow the green flags. You probably won’t be able to tell right away if someone is your future chosen family, so give new relationships space to evolve without pressure. If someone gives you a sense that they’d make a great friend, focus on nourishing the friendship here and now—because that’s how chosen family begins.
How to take it from friends to family.
Sometimes, you realize one day that someone has grown to feel like family and that’s that. But if you’re looking to build a deliberate dynamic, everyone has to be on the same page, whether it’s a one-on-one relationship or a group.
“We have to co-create this chosen family with our friends,” says Brown. Here are a few ways to start:
Say what you feel. You don’t have to have a huge Define the (Chosen Family) Relationship moment, but don’t be afraid to say, “Hey, I’ve really come to see you like family,” to important people in your life. That alone can open the door to conversations about leveling up your friendship.
Check in about how things are going. It doesn’t have to be too deep—maybe you want to hang out more on weekends or text less during the workday. You’ll never be perfectly in alignment, but you’ll learn valuable info about each other’s wants and needs in a relationship long-term.
Talk about the meaning of community. If you do want to dig in-depth, Brown recommends ongoing conversations about community, too. You may have a sense of what you’re looking for, but what about your friends? What does community mean to them? How do they like to connect with others? Are they seeking the same sense of chosen family as you?
Give it time. I know you know this in your logical brain, but it bears repeating: “It's OK that this takes time to evolve,” says Brown. “You're not doing it wrong if you don't form a deep, fast connection with someone.”
In the meantime…
Yeah, so we know that deep, meaningful bonds take time to build, blah, blah, blah, but who says we have to wait until then to enjoy intimacy and togetherness?
Choose community now. Just because you haven’t found your ride-or-die chosen family doesn’t mean you can’t experience a sense of community this season. “You can assume these moments of chosen family,” says Brown. “Take every opportunity to lean into the relationships that are serving you, even if they’re not permanent fixtures in your life. You get to decide what your holidays look like.”
Be your best family this year. You will find your people eventually, but for now, don’t forget that you’re family, too. “I invite everyone to think of new ways to become their own family,” says Brown. “We can get creative with what that looks like, whether that means eating food that brings you joy, creating new traditions, or going places that promote creativity, laughter, and love.”
Wondermind does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a replacement for medical advice. Always consult a qualified health or mental health professional with any questions or concerns about your mental health.