Hey, it’s Christmas time, If you haven’t’ noticed yet! You had thanksgiving fly by and it reminded you exactly why you hate family functions. Yeah, something happens each year. You have subjected to the blatant back handed complements from the drunk aunt who has the self-delusional thoughts that she is in charge of everything. Then your odd uncle who believes you are still 8 and wants to wrestle after drinking a 12 pack. While you have great aunts who come by and her dementia seems to get just a little worse each year.
The Family is such an interesting dynamic. A little slice of humanity with your genes involved. Yet why are they so weird? How can a set of people who are all from the same lineage be so diametrically different from each other? That is the question of the ages. The answer will never be found in today research nor any that research was done in the future.
So how do you deal with your family gathering during the holidays? Well, that is as varied as a question as your family members. Yet you can actually enjoy your family no matter how dysfunctional you see them.
Why Do You Find Your Family So Annoying?
Before going to your family Christmas or any other family event why not ask yourself that question. What is it about your family or family member that you find so irritating?
Seriously look at the why’s. Look at what they do through the lens of trying to understand. There are often reasons for many times it seems as if they don’t “get” you. Your uncles are haranguing you for your love of video games while your grandmother may not understand why you are gay. Their questions don’t mean they don’t love you. It doesn’t even mean they don’t understand you. Yet at a mean to get to know you better these folks will ask questions.
Answer their questions about your family and other folks will always ask questions about what you are doing. Embrace those honest questions and then answer them honestly but with restraint. Attitude only severs channels of communication it doesn’t help with getting feeling across. Other than you don’t want to talk about the topic at hand. Instead, let your family in they will come to understand they may not approve but they will understand.
Use That Cool Aunt
When growing up we all had that one cousin that was out first best friend. Often they still are a close friend. They enjoy a luxurious browse though the annuals of your yesteryears. Sitting back reminiscing about all those times yall walked down to the creek to skip stones or go fishing. That connection is important.
Andrea Bonior mentions that you can find neutral territory in your cousins and other relatives. They can actually help run interference at the dinner table when that political junkie uncle starts talking about whats happening in Washington. These particular relatives are also the best resource in staying sane around those really annoying relatives
Escaping to your past is fine to do from time to time. You cousin can help you do just that. Yet, talk to that cool aunt that always up to something weird. They can be great channels to understand the family dynamics. They are also great ways to understand that yeah you family may be drama hounds but she knows how to navigate those treacherous waters. More times than not they can also help you understand that your family is fun to pick on.
Change how you look at the situation
Sometimes a discussion arises that can have people look at you or someone your close to in critical ways. Maybe the reactions to what is being said are making you angry, or down right pissed off. Instead of flying off the handle as we often want to do. Try accepting the fact that they may process information differently. Remeber that no two people are the same, and though it may seem painfully obvious to you. You mom or one of your uncles don’t see it that clearly
Then there are time that they do understand and the way they approach the situation is from a completely different angle. So maybe just maybe they get your after all they just aren’t using the same words.
On Frederick Hertz post on Caring.com, points out that some people also are not able to process information in the same environment. You Mom can describe what happening on NCIS perfectly, yet get her to describe why the family trust has certain stocks in it and she wouldn’t be able to tell you. Also, You aunt may not understand what is being explained in a group setting but if you were telling her one on one off by yourselves she understands beautifully. While your uncle could be the exact opposite.
Ask about family traditions
If you ever want to start a lively discussion try bringing up some of your family traditions. For Example, I love this story cause it explains so much.
One day a young woman was making her mothers famous ham for her new husband. She got everything ready and then cut the ham in two and placed the pans in the oven. Her new husband looks at her strangely and asks, WHy did you just cut that ham in two?
The young woman said, “cause my mom always did it that way.”
“OK”, inquisitively ask the husband, “but why did she cut it in half?”
She didn’t know so she called her mom up and asked why she cut her ham in half before putting it in the oven. Her mom’s response was because that is how her mother prepared it. So the young woman called up her grandmother and asked her and the replay was the same, “That’s how my mother did it”
So the young lady called up the matriarch of the family and asked why she cut the ham in two? The old woman answered in a cracked voice said, “I didn’t have a pan large enough for a whole ham, so I cut it in two”
It is the same reason that many people in the high plains store their cups upside down. There is a reason for why your family does strange things and if you show just a little bit of curiosity you can find the answer.
Drop the Victim Schtick
One of the hardest things to do when it seems that everyone is piling on you is this. Drop the victim mentality. Yeah, people don’t really feel sorry for victims they pitty victims but rarely is there any sympathy. Why? Because most victims got into the situation they are in because of their actions. Yep, I said it and I always will Victims are in that situation because of their own actions.
So yeah the family will point out your shortcoming. Especially when it is your fault. That isn’t because they don’t love you nor cause they don’t understand it is because you are in a destructive mentality that does nothing to help your self-esteem or self-worth.
The victimhood mentality is exactly why bullies happen. If you own up to your own shortcomings admit that what you did was stupid then the attacks suddenly turn to attempts to help. Advice is given and when you are not a victim that advice suddenly looks helpful instead of an attack.
You can be the adult and set boundaries
Yeah you may still be relegated to the kids table. Yet When it comes to Family drama you can be the adult. You can make adult decisions by laying out boundaries. Those boundaries can be that you will not answer questions about your dating life. Then again it could be that if someone criticises you on how you raise your kids. You can lay down a boundary that says you will no go past said boundary and if you do this will happen. Then the key to setting a boundary is holding to that consequence.
Will your parents push that boundary? Oh yeah, there is this thing called Diapered butt syndrome. Where they are old enough to have diapered your butt then they have some extra authority over you. While you are a child that is true but after you have become a legal adult then they have no power over what you do. They can hold sway but if someone likes to criticize your wife or your girlfriend then lay out the boundary and if they cross it again then perform the act you said. Even if that means you have to drive 7 hours back home.
People do learn and they end up respecting you for your boundary. That is because they see that you are true to your word.
If the drama gets too high keep calm. The calmer you stay the more the toxic people who are use to being able to manipulate others will try to push. If you stay calm their reactions will speak for themselves. You can teach a lot to your elders by just remaining calm let them blow up. After the storm you will actually look better than if you react to the situation. Always respond to a situation but don’t react.
Christine Carter talks about keeping calm in US News post about Difficult family members. She recommends stepping away from the confrontation when you feel frustration and fear overwhelming you.
Emotions are one of those weird things about humans that we all feel but for some reason, we believe they affect other people. Sadly when it comes to emotions they only affect you. So ONe way you can defuse a situation is to choose to feel love towards that person who is screaming in your face.
Is it easy? nope, but it is possible. And you can often defuse a situation with your responses. Say your mother says something uncalled for. You can get mad at her and express how mad you are at her. you can yell and scream stomp your feet if you like. But what you are actually doing is you are handing the responsibility for your emotions over to her.
You are handing over all of your power over to your mother or wife because she didn’t stand up for you. You can be mad at your wife but in reality, it isn’t her responsibility to make you happy. That is your doing. You can keep calm and love the person who is having a meltdown.
There are those who like confrontation. They will say things they know will set you off. If they can get you off balance then they can manipulate you in other areas. So if you can avoid certain topics
Often the best reaction to someone getting in your face about your business is to agree with them. Whether they are right or not. Use the Famous Ben Franklin approach. If you say something and someone disputes it, give your rebuttal. If they still want to get in your face then say this
Good point, Lets go have a beer.
And leave it at that. You will have completely disarmed the whole situation by giving them validation that they can think.
Yeah, I know they are annoying and weird but you could not have a family or they could be so dysfunctional that there is always an arrest or even worse You hear of a family who lost a loved one in a fire or even worse. So gratitude goes a long way with having the patients to deal with the relatives.
You Can’t Change Them
‘This is one I have had to struggle with for a long time and that is you can’t change a person if they don’t want to change. That is where the saying,
You can lead a horse to water but you cant make him drink,
came from. You will always have the annoying uncle or bossy aunt. You can change their mind but you have to be calm and assertive. yet if you want to try to change their personality sadly you cant unless they want to change. You can give them reasons to change. Yet they will not take that change unless they see evidence that it works.
That is why one more analogy will work for this situation,
I tried to change the world, but I couldn’t and failed
I tried to change my country, but I couldn’t and failed
I tried to change my state, but I couldn’t and failed
I tried to change my county, but I couldn’t and failed
I tried to change my city, but I couldn’t and failed
I tried to change my neighborhood, but I couldn’t and failed
I tried to change my family, but I couldn’t and failed
I tried to change myself,
Which changed my family
Which changed My neighborhood
Which changed my city
Which changed my county
Which changed my state
Which changed my country
Which changed the world.
These folks are your family the best way to “deal” with them is to love them. Yes, you have that power. You are the only one who does. They can not make you love them the same as you can not make them love you. You and only you have to do this. Embrace their weirdness. In fact, I would say celebrate it.
The fact that your uncle does wrestle with you helped you win state when you were a senior, and he just may be afraid of getting old. He doesn’t want to think that he will be put into a home much like his cousin Kathy was a few years ago. Empathy and communication is the cure for a lot of your families oddities. So instead of hiding or ignoring everyone. Why
Merry Christmas Everybody.