Got family? Then it’s very likely you’ve got DRAMA. Now that the holiday season has arrived many anticipate and accept future family gatherings like forced medicine. Now imagine a double dose – dealing with your own family AND your significant other’s as well. It’s enough to make you want to just say ‘forget it’ and stay home in peaceful solitude, as some choose to do.
For the rest of you who can’t endure the guilt that comes from being a ‘no show’ at family gatherings - there’s hope. Here are some suggestions to help couples navigate through the holiday’s with their relationship in tact – and possibly even stronger once the holidays are over.
Honesty & Communication
First and foremost, be honest about your family. Everyone would like to have nothing but pride for their families, but the reality is that relatives happen to be part of the human race, which means they aren’t perfect. You have learned how to accept (or ignore) the imperfections, but it’s important to be fair to your partner so that they know exactly what to expect.
Many people endure (or put up with) bad behavior from relatives by just ignoring it, laughing it off, or with quiet resentment. Every family is a sort of ‘tribe’, with their own rules and unsaid expectations of each other. Regardless of what you have agreed to accept from your family, family gatherings are not the time to throw your mate into the fire. For the sake of your relationship, it is your responsibility to protect them. Your spouse comes first. If you handle your responsibility by protecting them from the people you have grown to just accept, you may find yourself trying to heal a wound that will take longer than it took your relatives to do the damage.
Creating boundaries for what is acceptable and what is not acceptable is key while spending time with relatives. It may be necessary to state the rules upfront with your family members if they are not savvy enough to behave politely on their own.
Finally, and most importantly, you have a choice. You can decide ahead of time to stay in a peaceful place during family gatherings and enjoy yourself – no matter what happens. No one can take this opportunity away from you. Just remember not to take the behavior personally. Happy Holidays!