It’s the holidays and between the parties, presents, and people, I think my head just might spin around and pop off. I know that I am not alone as this is a popular holiday theme for many people that starts a little before Thanksgiving. There are expectations and pressure to play nice, be festive, and get along. Sometimes, there is a seething tension in families that can snowball and come out in a steamy explosion.
I have learned a few lessons over the years that I am still practicing that get me through these irrational holiday moments: Don’t let it snowball, I cannot control the outcome, I can love my family but I do not have to like them, I need to choose my battles, and let it go.
Don’t let it snowball
If I am dreading a holiday gathering, there is a reason. I learned a long time ago that small things can get out of hand if not addressed along the way…snowball, in fact. The key to negotiating holiday drama is to address it before the holidays. Christmas is a week away so if you haven’t already addressed the drama, now may not be optimal. You might be screwed and have to suck it up. There is always next year, right? Seriously, you can brace yourself and get prepared for the avalanche. I have learned to first recognize my own crazy. I start by asking myself, “What internal dialogue do I have? What are MY emotions?” I also ask myself, “Is my perception based on reality?” This is when I phone a friend (who is rational) and run the scenario by them. I also determine what buttons are being pushed here (chances are that the person you dread seeing knows you well enough to know which buttons to push to get you riled up). I have found that knowing my buttons ahead of time arms me to not let the small zingers get me out of my happy place.
I cannot control the outcome
Once in therapy, I was sharing how I wish my mother would have done this or been like that. I shared that as a little kid I would try to plan ahead and cover all of the bases so that my mom would X. Judy, my therapist, said, “And how did that work out for you?” My response, “It didn’t.” Judy was pointing out that I can plan all day to try to control the situation but the reality is that I cannot control someone else and what they do. PERIOD. I can only be in charge of me and what I do. I am responsible for my own happiness. What I can do is be clear in how I feel and what I want. I have found that most of my drama with folks is because I did not own how I feel or share that. I haven’t met any mind readers yet. I am learning to expect less and that my happiness is a decision I make.
I can love my family, but I do not have to like them
I do love my family. We have had words, not speaking spells, snarky comments, and a few “altercations.” No matter what though, the apple does not fall far from the tree and the same crazy runs through me. I can love my family and not like their choices or beliefs. The same is true in turn…they cannot like me too. I try to keep my own crazy in check. When I find myself in the situation where I feel that things have gotten irrational between me and my family, I often ask myself, “Is it worth it right now? Is now the right time to push this?” If the answer is “No” to either question, it is time for a break, to regroup, and figure out how to approach the situation with love AND a clear boundary.
I need to choose my battles
When I find myself getting super upset with family or friends, I go back to that question, “Is it (a conversation) worth it right now (or at all)?” The basic idea here is “Should I engage with this person?” I am learning to ask myself, “Why do I want to engage with this person? Is it because I love them or because I feel obligated, manipulated, or just because of loyalty?” If the person I am upset with is having a rare moment, then for me, it is worth a conversation (maybe in the moment or maybe when we both have had a chance to cool down). If the person has a pattern of not doing their fair share in the relationship, then I typically don’t engage (despite their best attempts to roust me and pull me back into their crazy). I am learning that I do not have to react to someone’s crazy with my own brand of crazy. I can go back to situation at a later time when there is less pressure.
Let it go
I am learning where to direct my energy. Recently, a friend was telling me about visiting an in-law for the holidays and in the conversation she said something to the effect of, “I really want to love my mother-in-law.” My response was, “No. You do not. You want to love your husband.” Some relationships are not going to be that meaningful and that is ok. Put your energy into those that are mutual and meaningful. Some relationships are totally worth it and forgiveness is true grace and understanding.
Several of our sister sites have also written about tips on how to minimize holiday drama; click on any of the links below to get redirected to those reads:
Knoxville Moms Blog, A Divorce Guide to Surviving the Holidays
Boston Moms Blog, How to Coexist with Even the Worst Mother-In-Law
Columbia South Carolina Moms Blog, Determining Who to Spend the Holidays With
Des Moines Moms Blog, When Christmas Makes you Cranky: 5 Tips for Survival
Detroit Moms Blog, Holiday Traditions in Transition
Indianapolis Moms Blog, Your Guide to Surviving the Family Drama This Holiday Season
Jacksonville Moms Blob, In-Laws: The Struggle and the Stories
Red Stick Moms Blog, How to Share the Holidays: Tips for Families of Divorce/Separation
Do you have any advice for dealing with family drama? Share with us in the comments!