“Family” by definition means people who are related to you by blood or through marriage. It includes your spouse, kids, parents, siblings, sister-in-law, etc.

My definition for “family” goes beyond tradition and includes others.

My definition includes dear friends who I trust and enjoy being around. They’re friends who have celebrated my successes and also have supported me through difficult times.

My definition also includes those I once was related to by marriage. After a divorce, do you really cut ties with all of your ex’s family members even though there was a bond? I chose not to cut ties with some and continue to nurture those relationships.

My definition also includes my pet who recently passed away. He was a huge part of my life. I spent more time with him than I do with my significant other (mainly because every day was “bring your dog to work” day for me).

From life, I’ve learned some relationships are hard to categorize. Some social media sites request you to categorize relationships. But I won’t conform to the traditional definition for “family.” The scars on my soul have given me permission to decide who I think is close enough to call “family.”

I have some family members who say, “friends come and go but family will always be there for you.” Unfortunately, my experience has shown that statement to be untrue. I have family members who have no idea what’s going on in my life. For those individuals, I say we’re “related.”

I reserve the term “family” for those who are there and make an effort to stay in touch with me. These individuals are important to me. They understand relationships go both ways.

They share laughter. They share celebrations. They share sorrow. They share many moments with me.

For me, I don’t see “family” as a classification but more of a term of endearment.

Do you use the traditional definition for “family” or have you expanded your definition? Do you have close friends you consider as “family?” Do you include your pet as part of the family?

At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter what term you use just as long as they know you value them.

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Niv Persaud, CFP®, CDFA™, CRPC®, is the Founder of Transition Planning & Guidance, LLC. Life is more than money. It’s about living the lifestyle you want and can afford. For that reason, Niv consults with clients on money, life, and work. Her approach capitalizes on techniques she learned throughout her career, including as a management consultant, executive recruiter, and financial advisor. Her services include spending plan, financial plan, divorce financial review, life strategy, and professional progression. Niv actively gives back to her community through her volunteer efforts. She believes in living life to the fullest by cherishing friendships, enjoying the beauty of nature, and laughing often — even at herself. Her favorite quote is by Erma Bombeck, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say ‘I used everything you gave me’.”