Doing Life Together

dining-table-710040_1920This year, Jill and Rick will spend Thanksgiving with Rick’s family. Jill and Rick have very different families.

Jill’s family focuses Thanksgiving around Christian themes like blessings and gratitude. Rick’s family never mentions God. They are not Christians and Thanksgiving is all about the food and drinking.

Jill feels uncomfortable because the drinking has caused arguments and fights among family members. It is not pleasant to spend the day with relatives who bicker and prefer to escape their unpleasantries with one another though drinking. She doesn’t want to go, but feels she should support her husband. No one has ever been mean to her. She just hates the way  a few relatives act once they get drunk.

What do you do when one family celebrates in a way totally different from yours? After all, most of us have a family member or two that make family time challenging. Little things can irritate us when we get together for holiday events.

Remember, it’s only a day. Unless there is physical danger or abuse, you can tolerate most anything for a short period of time.

Roll with the differences during the holiday season. Your expectations make all the difference in terms of your stress level. Don’t expect changes unless the family has been in therapy during the year! If you know what to expect, have a few strategies.

It may help to remember that sibling rivalries don’t stop during adulthood. Many adults are still working out issues related to old wounds. Being home, brings those wounds to the surface.And whatever issues are left unresolved during the year, manage to find an outlet during the holidays.

So on the way over, ask your spouse to tell you a few positive memories of his relatives.  Talking about good times and moments of laughter and fun. This could relieve some of the stress and show you a different side to some of the relatives.

One option is to separate yourself from the rowdy group and find two or three people to play cards, go on a walk or do something like a puzzle or game. You might want to take a game to entertain the children or a group of people in a space away from the crowd. Go for a walk if the weather is decent and get away from the crowd for a few moments.

If relatives get out of hand, have an escape route. This usually means booking a hotel room so you can politely excuse yourself, having stayed for awhile. Just tell the family that it was great to see everyone and leave on a positive note.

Bottom line, families all have issues and differences. Since we can’t control them, we can control how we approach the day. Start positive, lower your expectations, have a few activities planned and leave if things begin to escalate. This is not the time to confront. Save that for another time.

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