We fuss, we go out of our way to make the holiday (whichever one you host/celebrate) special, we look forward to it as we curse the stress caused by making the effort, and finally, we gather.
We likely have a pleasant day only to gossip behind our relatives’ backs (did you see what she did?!), or we get in a row in real time, right there in front of the buffet.
Getting together with family is both wonderful and horrible. I hope to arm you with a way to look at sticky moments in family relationships, so you can navigate them better and maybe even have the best holiday gathering to date.
RULE #1: We are never arguing about the thing we are arguing about!
Let’s say there is a disagreement about what time to eat. Sounds trivial, I know, but it’s often the trivial that brings up all kinds of family discord. People get snippy or mutter comments under their breath. You can feel the tension. What are you fighting about? What time to eat? NO! Under that trivial detail is unspoken resentment about something else.
You may be afraid of conflict or not up to having a big ‘talk’, but I promise you that fire will keep getting stoked by the smallest of things until you do.
RULE #2: The root of all mishaps is unmet needs.
As I said, you are not resentful about the choice of tablecloth or who was seated next to whom. You have a need that’s not being met. Think about it. What is it?
Are you not being heard, seen, considered?
Are you fighting for control?
Are you not feeling valued or welcomed?
Are your feelings not being considered?
Are you holding on to an old grudge? (that’s an ooooold need not met)
I realize as I write this that this article is bending female because most men don’t care about this stuff, but guys, you have your moments. Do you feel slighted by someone? Not respected for all you know or contribute? Do you feel unappreciated? (There we go, some more “guy-like” issues, if you’ll forgive the generalizations.)
RULE #3: Focus on the Future, Not the Past
Sure, you may have to give examples of when you felt slighted or hurt, but to have the best outcome to your conversation, keep redirecting it to how you would like your relationship to be in the future. Point out what you need and hope for and what that might look like in the future instead of pointing fingers and putting blame on the actions of the other person. Try to build a new future together if that is indeed what both parties want.
For example: I feel that what I say doesn’t matter when I speak because I’m often interrupted. I’d like to be able to have my full turn even if I cause you or anyone else to become impatient with me. That would go a long way to feeling valued. Can we try that?
RULE #4: Once you talk it out, you have to LET IT GO!
As the lyrics to the Frozen song say: 🎶 “Let it go. Let it go.” 🎶
If you can’t let it go after speaking the truth, then you are not done yet. You have more truth to get out.
If you go home and you are still staring down the rabbit hole of blame and “disgruntledness,” you have to take another crack at it. Work it out once and for all.
Sometimes, it may be, that no matter how hard you try, family nonsense will not get resolved. You are then faced with a choice: Focus on what’s good and get through it, or stop going to family functions. (Oh the drama THAT would cause!) You have to decide what’s most important to you.
Look, we don’t choose our family, but we can choose what’s best for our soul. You decide.
Happy Holidays to you all!