This time of year usually means one thing that a lot of people dread- spending time with their own family and/or spending time with your partner’s family. The following should make the time easier even if you still hate the idea of going.
- Be prepared for the worst- Yes, they may be trying to make it a personal attack by bringing up issues they know will push your buttons but that doesn’t mean you have to take them personally. Prep yourself to be prepared to deal with whatever rude things they may say or do so you will be ready for it instead of it catching you off guard. People tend to not to vary too much in their behavior over the years so once you see the pattern you will know what to expect. Brainstorm with your spouse or a friend situations that may arise and how you can handle them gracefully like having your spouse step in and play referee. Think of fixes that won’t cause irreparable damage to your relationship with the other person. You can’t change them but you can change how much what they say or do will affect you.
- Set boundaries and don’t feel like you owe them more than what you agreed upon- Each partner’s family will want you and your partner there on major holidays so you need to work with both to figure out which of the major holidays are important to them that you be there. Both sides need to compromise by say giving up Thanksgiving to spend it with your partner’s family by spending Christmas with your family. If one/both of the families pushes for more than you can or want to give? Stand by whatever reason you gave. Keep saying that reason until they stop. Once they see you aren’t backing down, they will drop the pleading.
- Accept that some people in your or their family won’t like you- As in no matter what you do to appease them, they will never, ever, ever like you. You could give them a kidney and save their life and they still would hate you for no apparent reason. Don’t waste your time and energy trying to make them like you. Focus on yourself instead and ask the question- Does it matter in the long run if they like me or not? There’s something clearly wrong with a person who hates you for no real, solid reason so leave it at that. They don’t like you and now you can spend more time with the people who do like you.
- Always be respectful- You can’t expect others to give you respect if you treat them badly so even if you have someone you can’t stand and you’re now forced to spend time with them, show them respect. It’s basic human decency and to add to #3, if you can help yourself by not giving this person a real reason to hate you, you can at least offset some of the hatred they feel towards you. Don’t be hostile towards them but don’t feel like you have to fake friendliness. Treat them like your least favorite co-worker- you know your time with them will be limited but you will have to see them in the future so make an effort to be kind.
- Put your own needs first- This is an excellent time to be selfish. If you need a break from the craziness, take one. Don’t run away and never come back but do decide you suddenly need to go to the store or for a walk outside if you are losing steam for dealing with everyone. You will be a much more tolerant and kinder person if your blood pressure isn’t at peak high levels and you’re not at the point that you want to physically strangle someone. Hide in the bathroom if all else fails.
- Try to see this time as a moment to create memories- Memories during the holidays are usually better when spent with other people, especially with your family. See this time as a chance to remember something silly or crazy instead of something to get through begrudgingly. Try to get a memorable quote from your racist uncle that you and your partner can use as shorthand in the future. Make cookies with the older generation to get some quality time with them.
- Remember, this will all be different in a year, five years, twenty years from now- Your relationships will change and evolve (hopefully) over the years and people, whether they’re your family or not, will come and go in your life. I hate to say this but people will move away and you may never see them again. People die. You are only going to be in this situation so many times if ever again so take it for what it is, a temporary situation. The holidays can be stressful but they will pass just like all of the stress you’re putting on yourself about dealing with people who drive you nuts.
- Plan how you’re going to deal with social distancing and any other Covid concerns before you leave- You don’t want to drive for hours to get to your destination only to find out they don’t believe in wearing masks or if you’re on the other side of mask wearing beliefs, only to find out they do wear them- find out what their plans are to deal with the potential risk of contracting Covid at this encounter and deal with it before you get there. If they’re not doing anything then use that as an excuse to skip this year if it means that much to you and tell them politely you want to sit this year out and hopefully can do it next year. You can’t force them to deal with social distancing at their own home but you can still wear a mask and wash your hands before eating and every other action you’re taking normally to keep safe. You can still go there but be cautious and take every precaution you can to avoid causing your family get together to be on the many that end up being superspreader events.
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