Holiday Life Hacks: How To Make Nice With Difficult Family Members
Photo: D-Keine (Getty Images)
If you’re dreading the holidays because dealing with your family can be stressful, you’re not alone. As a society, we’re conditioned to believe Christmas is a magical time where everything will work out. Unfortunately, this is hardly the case. There’s a reason holiday movies are so popular, they help us buy into the idea that things magically fall into place. However, what do we do when they don’t? We make the best of it, or at least we should try to.
But this level of expectation leads to a lot of disappointment when things don’t miraculously change. If you’re trying to navigate a tense family dynamic this year, you’re not alone. Although you may want to recoil from distant family or friends, here are some tips to get you through things.
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Terri Orbuch, a sociology professor at Oakland University, says, “We think this should be a perfect time, the food will be perfect, and our conversations will be respectful. But when our realities don’t match that, we get frustrated.”
We’re all working on something. When forced to deal with people, places or things that are upsetting, it’s important to remember everyone is suffering in their own way. The holidays are a good time to practice compassion when dealing with difficult people, especially family. You may want Aunt Esther to respect you for who you are, but realistically, she never will. The best thing you can do is accept this, and love her for who she is.
The “What’s Missing?” Effect
When fantasizing about our ideal holiday, we spend a lot of time focused on what we don’t have. Our idealized family situation leads us down a dark path where we end up obsessing about what we’re missing. Instead of doing this, focus on the things that do work. One of the things we must accept about family is that it is imperfect.
Yes. It’s your perception of perfection that makes things so difficult. Human beings and our relationships exist in a paradigm of imperfection. You don’t have to hold hands with your racist uncle or compromise your values, but you can put your expectations aside if the environment isn’t incredibly toxic. Sometimes, the first step towards evolving is accepting you cannot change other people, even if you love them.
Cut Your Losses
If your family is terribly toxic and you really cannot be around them, don’t go home. The emotional baggage we carry comes from these relationships. If you’re at a place where you simply cannot be around the people you grew up with, there’s nothing wrong with you.
If you feel like the drama associated with visiting your family is more than you can bear, you’re definitely not alone. Nor should you have to deal with any sort of abuse from anyone. A real step towards growth is not only knowing when you’re in a toxic situation but when you should leave.
That said, it’s important to remember: family isn’t just the people you’re related to by blood, it’s something you create. And if this is the first holiday season where you avoid going home to start your own tradition, congrats! There are always going to be people who’re looking for something to do. By coming together with them, you build something beautiful, which is what the holidays are really about.
How do you deal with family during the holidays? Do you put up and shut up or have you chosen to start your own traditions? Let us know in the comments!