When we get together with our families for the holidays there can be tension in the room. It is not uncommon for there to be someone present that we don’t like or that we aren’t happy to see.
Sometimes when we have a relationship with one person, we have to be in relationship with people they are connected to —people that we might not otherwise interact with. It might be our mother’s brother or our cousin’s mother, or some other relation. We will not always like everyone, even if they are blood, and we should not set the expectation that we have to.
Here are some guidelines for managing situations when we have to share space with people we don’t like:
Be cordial. You don’t have to be friendly but you can be polite.
Take space. Allow that person space and give yourself space.
Greet them with compassion. Don’t go into the situation expecting the worst of them.
Don’t let things become bigger than they need to be. If people don’t agree with you on certain topics, you are not going to change their mind over the dinner table.
Recognize that if you are hosting a gathering at your own home, you have a little more power over the situation than if it is in someone else’s space. When you’re in your home, you can set boundaries around topics you are unwilling to discuss. However, if you are going to someone else’s house, you are agreeing to play by their household rules. You can’t go into that situation expecting them to change their rules for you.
Leave conversations when they are not healthy or productive. You can say something like, “I would prefer not to talk about that,” or “In the past when we’ve had these conversations this hasn’t gone well. I don’t think this is the time to revisit this topic.” It’s ok on the holidays, and on any day, to let people know when there are conversations you’re not interested in having.
Know when to leave. If you are going to someone else’s home, you don’t have to stay all day. You can come up with a visitation strategy that works best for you. Honor your energy. When something is happening at your home, don’t be afraid to let folks know you’re tired, or ready to have some time to yourself.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Just because family members are asking you to do things or expect certain things, doesn’t mean you need to fulfill every holiday request. Really consider your capacity and what works for you.
Use past years as an indicator of what can and can’t happen at your holiday gatherings. Don’t assume that this year will be different when nothing has actually changed.
The holidays are not the times to process all of the things about someone’s personality that you don’t like. Holidays are mostly about tradition and routine, and are not generally the venue for massive changes within the family dynamic.
It is also important to remember that you don’t have to attend every family gathering, and you don’t have to extend invitations to every family member to be in your home. Be really thoughtful about who you would like to share space with over the holidays because on any given day people will be themselves, whether that day is Thanksgiving or New Year’s, or just Tuesday. If you don’t want that energy around you, that’s ok.
Curb Your Enthusiasm. I don’t know what it is about Larry David but he has just gotten funnier and funnier. This season is hilarious. I am in awe of this 70 year old man making this great TV show. I want to be like Larry David when I grow up. You can watch Curb Your Enthusiasm on HBO.
Insecure. This is the final season, and it has been full of storylines to talk about and process with friends and family. It has been really good so far. You can watch Insecure on HBO.
In part two of my conversation with Lauryn Evarts Bosstick and Michael Bosstick on The Skinny Confidential Him and Her Podcast, I shared how to develop healthy boundaries with family and friends, have hard conversations, and live guilt free with honesty and integrity.
What is most challenging for you around the holidays?
Which family members do you have problematic relationships with and which ones do you enjoy being around?
Do you know your tap out time when it comes to family gatherings?
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