When it comes to your own mental and physical well-being, your expectations of other people, particularly loved ones, can be crippling. You may want to achieve the perfect greeting card family status, but for most of us, the reality of our family dynamics are far from greeting card material.
So what do you do?
Whether you’re at a niece’s birthday party, a wedding, or a holiday dinner, many family dynamics can be difficult. We get it: we’re a family business. While you love your family, they’re not always going to be your favorite people to be around. And that’s OK, as long as you can accept that it’s alright (and perfectly natural) not to feel warm and fuzzy every time you’re around your brethren.
It’s alright to feel this way, as long as you can deal with the dynamic healthfully. Here are three tips to help you maintain your sanity at the next special family function:
Tip #1: Keep it Real
DON’T expect anyone else to change. If your brother’s girlfriend has always been a loudmouth and puts you on edge, don’t expect this to be the year she decides to keep her opinions to herself. If your mom usually spends holiday family meals getting increasingly drunk and criticizing every aspect of your father’s personality, from his tendency to chew his cheek when he’s thinking to the attention he lavishes on his decoy duck collection, don’t expect that to change.
Pat Pearson, a clinical psychotherapist and author of Stop Self-Sabotage , agrees with this sentiment, saying, “Whatever (or whoever) irritated you last year, will probably do so this year, so be prepared.”
Instead, change the way you let it affect you. View the gathering as a little bit business, not purely pleasure. Sure, there will (hopefully) be pleasant parts of the gathering, but if there aren’t, at least you don’t feel let down. Your expectations were realistic.
Tip #2: Save the Sutures
You’re all together, but the special occasions are not the time to try to start mending fences and healing wounds. Keep conversations simple, and don’t venture into topics that are fraught with tension. If the conversation does veer onto sensitive ground, simply bow out of the conversation. No need to apologize or get angry, but you should feel completely justified to leave. You’re refusing to add to the ire of the situation, and that’s the best thing you can do for everyone.
Tip #3: Practice Compassion
If you’re feeling stressed, chances are, you’re not alone. Remember this throughout the gathering. Also give yourself kudos for doing what you’re doing — for fighting the good fight — and emerging (relatively) unscathed. This means also giving yourself compassion. Think what you please, have a laugh with yourself, and take solace in the fact that you’re taking on dysfunction with your healthy and functional brain, and as such, you haven’t allowed anyone else to rule your emotions.
Have any tips of your own to share? Do it in the comments. We’d love to hear them!