It could be your family business, your secrets, or who gets a say in family decisions. Whatever it is when you keep it in the family you set up a dividing line. You rope in the people you count as your family. You close others out.
Some of it is about creating the privacy to share personal moments; family jokes, grief or elation. Sometimes keeping it in the family means setting boundaries to limit the number of people you invite to influence your life.
When the world out side your family looms large, your instinct might be to defend the barricades. Perhaps you find your partner transforms into someone you're uneasy about when they spend time with particular friends and you bristle. Or maybe it's your kids who come home wondering why your family can't be more like their mate's folks and you discourage the friendship.
The question is, when you shut others out, are you also shutting your loved ones in?
There's a balancing act between your rights and your responsibilities. How much are you entitled to decide for your family? What do you owe them? And if it's tough to negotiate this when you're all together, how much harder does it get when you part?
When you and your partner separate, when you put your couple relationship outside the family, rights and responsibilities take on a whole new significance. Suddenly daily contact is no longer automatic. Your parental 'right' to your kids becomes a way of holding on. And maybe sometimes, a way of getting at your ex partner.
And while you're grimly holding on what happens for your kids? Parents decide to separate. Parents settle who 'gets' the kids. Sometimes it's almost like they're a prize. Like they have no more 'right' to influence decisions than the family dog.
Your kids are at your mercy. If they get a voice in these arrangements it's because you give it to them. Their entitlement to help shape their life is not guaranteed.
It's right now when the boundaries of your family are blurring and bending that you might most resent 'outsiders' getting in the picture. They don't necessarily want what you want. They might limit how much you can control what's happening.
You might get mad at the interference. Then again, you might start to wonder if you're really entitled to run the whole show. What the kids want has to be part of the picture. If your kids don't get your support to get the family they want, is it surprising if they enlist the support of others?
Keeping the kids in the family doesn't have to mean keeping the family structure the same. It means parents taking responsibility for parenting, whether it's from the same house or a different one. It's about parents co-operating rather than competing to give their kids attention.
Some of that spirit of co-operation and responsibility is encouraged in the new Care of Children Act. New Zealand families have changed and the law is looking to catch up and offer the support many separating parents need.