Dealing with Hurtful Relatives
One of the great stresses of the holiday season is dealing with relatives who are hurtful, difficult or, perhaps, even emotionally abusive. Maybe you rarely see them and try to be nice when you do or are stuck with them all year long. There is no easy answer for how to deal with these kinds of family members, but you do have options. None will feel just right, but often you have to choose the best of the lot and live with the consequences.
Newspaper advice columns often tell readers to ignore the bad things troublesome relatives do or say and look for the good in them. This is a viable option with a relative who is basically a decent person and only mildly annoying. You can usually tell if a remark is made with a benign or loving intent. Maybe your well-meaning, sweet aunt always asks when you’re going to lose weight or your generally loving and supportive father puts an extra helping of potatoes on your plate, insisting that you put some meat on your bones. Your options in these instances are to ignore what is said or done or respond in a kind way that expresses how you feel.
Then there are the family members for whom you don’t care much, people who, in fact, lack tact and social skills and frequently manage to rub you and others the wrong way. They rarely think before they speak and are so tuned out to others feelings (though they’re often hypersensitive to being hurt themselves) that they really have no idea how injurious they can be. Sometimes a bit of education done in the nicest way possible will prevent them from spouting off, but often nothing will help. Your best option is to minimize contact with these types unless you are ultra-thick skinned and skilled at emotionally detaching and not personalizing what others say or do.
The last group of family members are people who are nasty, manipulative, cutting, and have only their own interest at heart. Selfish, self-centered, abusive, and intentionally provocative, no amount of reasoning or confrontation will change them and, unless you have to be around them (even if they are your parents, siblings, or other close relatives), you are better off avoiding them. I don’t agree that emotionally detaching from abusive people is enough. You might not react to what they say, but their abusiveness still registers, lingers in your heart, and is unhealthy to be around. In this case, you may need to cut them out of your life, painful work and not generally accepted by society.
Think about your family members and how to deal with them before the holidays. Have a strategy to cope with each one and your holidays will be happier and healthier.