Can’t we all just get along?
As much as we love our families, they drive us nuts sometimes. I definitely do not have all the answers but I can share some of the things that have helped me over the years. You may find some of these suggestions seem to contradict one another. All I can say is “it’s a dance”.
1. Give them what they want.
I’ll start here because it makes most people cringe. Most of the time we think we’re already giving them what they need from us but what we’re actually doing is holding as much back for ourselves as possible. Energetically this withholding is palpable to your friend/family member. Try and stand back and see what it is they’re really looking for. They may not be able to tell you they feel unloved or overlooked or whatever it is.
I have a person in my life that loves cards. I finally discovered that this was a key thing for them and that not receiving one from me on special occasions was like broadcasting that I didn’t care. Of course I care, and I do like cards, but once my family life started getting really busy, sending and receiving cards was no longer on my radar.
Now that I know this, I make sure to send cards. They are often late even though I bought them ahead of time but I will let the person know a card is on it’s way and that I haven’t forgotten.
I’ve also learned to bring small gifts when I visit and I try to touch base more often and stay up to date on life events. I know I could still do a bit more and I’m sure it would be greatly appreciated. This simple thing has made a significant impact and I’ve reaped the benefits of so much more joy and harmony in our relationship as a result.
2. Be honest.
I’m loving this approach in many areas of my life. Here’s an example that’s not from my family, but that I worked on with someone else. It goes something like this: “I’m really struggling with something and I don’t know how to say what I’m feeling. I’ve been trying to find ways to deal with this on my own but I’m stuck and I think I just have to come out and be honest. I’m having a lot of anxiety about Christmas this year. It’s such a special time and I’m so excited to have everyone around but when there’s arguing and competition between you and your sister, my stomach ties in knots and I just want to go and hide in a corner. I’m sure it’s difficult for you as well. Is there something we can do to make our time together more enjoyable?”
This is not about making anyone right or wrong. It’s not about justifying anyone’s behaviour. It’s only about you and how you feel as a result of the situation. You don’t have to fix anything or anyone, but you also don’t have to stay quiet and suck it up either.
Sometimes it might be enough to say “This isn’t working for me, can we try something different?” and sometimes it’s helpful to let the person know what happens in your body, like your stomach being in knots or your heart racing. Maybe you can’t sleep at night because you’re trying to find a solution all by yourself. They may know you’re upset but they may not understand the extent of your response to the situation.
3. Say “No”.
Ugh that’s a hard one for me and it usually sounds more like “I can’t do that but I can do this.” When our kids were younger, we had 2 families to visit on Christmas day plus our own festivities at home. That meant I was cooking for three events and washing up after each of them. It wasn’t fun for me and it meant that we were always on the move just keeping up with the schedule. Being the first kids in each family to have children it was up to us to find a new way of doing things. The routine changed a bit from year to year but eventually became something that was fun, relaxed and manageable for all.
The last few years we reserved Christmas day just for us at home. If we felt like wandering over to Grandmas house we were always welcome but it wasn’t planned. Instead we would plan to play games or go sliding. And, when we do go to either family, we are able to enjoy it to the fullest.
4. Survive and move on.
That sounds grim but resisting an unpleasant situation usually makes it worse. I could reword that and say, “Be open to enjoying yourself anyway.” Here are a few things I do:
5. Stay home and do your own thing if you really must.
Ask yourself what would be really enjoyable for you. Make something new up if you have an idea. You are allowed to break with tradition even if it’s just for one year or for a couple of engagements during the season. What would make this season meaningful and special for you? What have you been missing? What have you never tried?
Finally, I’d like to share that our family has benefited greatly from one person who has taught us all that it’s ok to say no. Sometimes health concerns teach a person to care for him or herself first which might mean cancelling dates, leaving early, lying down or just staying home. We have learned it’s nothing personal and that we can all carry on and enjoy ourselves. Strong family traditions are so wonderful when they work, but there are times when they are made more important than individual wellbeing. Let your family know how much you value them and make an effort to show up fully when you are able. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you’ll resent them because you’ve compromised your own needs so much that you have nothing left to give. By doing so, you give them permission to do the same.
I would love to hear what works for you. What have you done to make the holidays fun, restful, meaningful and memorable?
Hi! Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.
Darlene Tindall is a Transformational Life Coach, multi modality healer and teacher sewing the seeds of possibility far and wide. She is available in person or online for coaching, classes, private facilitation, energy work or yoga.