Christmas questions: How to deal with a family you hate?

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I’ve been soliciting questions about the festive season over on social media! You can submit questions to this google form:

How do I deal with a family I hate? I don’t want to fall again for their passive aggressive guilt trip of joining them. I want to feel good about myself choosing my own life

anon question

So this question suggest you’re not going to spend time with family and they’ll be difficult about it. Firstly, well done on choosing you, and your live. It’s absolutely the correct decision for you, and I applaud and support you.

Secondly, I’m sorry this is so late, a combination of end of year work and the booster shot took me out of commission for a bit.

Okay, so how to dig deep and get the Christmas you deserve.

Do what you want to do. Make the absolute most of your time. For me that’s cooking a ridiculous amount of food, and enjoying it. For you it might be ordering food to be delivered and not getting out of your pjs. Or something in between. Don’t let other people’s disapproval stop you from celebrating as you deserve to.

You don’t have to discuss your decision. You can simply say ‘I’m not able to make it this year’. Now, it’s easier said than done, and people will absolutely demand to know why, and why you’re punishing them and but we’re faaaaamily. Don’t get drawn into discussions! You have plans. They don’t need to know what those plans are.

Conversations are going to happen and they’re going to be grim and you’ll leave them feeling angry/guilty/maybe disappointed in yourself (I had things where I knew I had a backbone but it would disappear in the face of guilt tripping, because that was the pattern all interactions in the past had had, and I was used to making things better and smoothing things over). As long as you’ve kept your plans, that conversation was successful, and be proud you’re putting yourself first.

If they want contact with you over the holidays, set times to jump on a call. Say you’ll be busy over the holidays, nd don’t want to interrupt their plans, so it’s better to set a time. Don’t let them encroach. Give them some time (15 or 30 mins), and then go. They’ll complain and guilt trip, but they’ll do that anyway, because the only good option in their eyes is what they want. So if you’re going to disappoint them anyway, you may as well not lose too much time to disappointing them.

Change the conversation to be about them. “Yeah, I just couldn’t make it work this year. Anyway, how’s ?” Choose a subject they’ll talk about, and let them fill the space.

Give yourself permission to do things like this. Have the shallow relationship. Disengage. It’s fine. Treat them like a distant aunt who you only see at weddings and funerals. It’ll be tough, and you might feel guilty.

I know that there were times where deep down, I wanted my family to be the family I deserved, that other people got. Where was my support and love? Why was I constantly asked to provide support to people who never offered anything back, and took more than I could offer, without even noticing how much they were taking from me?

There’s an unique mix of anger-resentment-guilt-sadness that comes from having to manage interactions with family just to survive with you’re mental health remotely intact. It’s unfair, and wrong, and you deserve better. I’m sorry you don’t have that. But know that there are people out there that support you. That will send you strength and love over this period. I’m one of them.

I hope this is helpful, and it’s not coming too late to be useful. Thank you for asking, and I hope you get the break you deserve.