#ASKINGFORAFRIEND: Dysfunctional Family Holidays

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Dear #askingforafriend,

For last several years, the holidays have been really difficult. After moving several states away from our families, figuring out where we will spend the holidays and splitting time between my husband’s family and mine has been really hard. Because it is the only time each year when all of my siblings and their families get together, we always spend about 5 days with my family for Thanksgiving. We then spend several days with my husband’s family for Christmas and even tack on a couple of extra days to visit my family again right before New Years.

My husband’s family literally never complains about the time split. They are always so grateful for the time we spend with them, but my family on the other hand acts like it is killing them when we are not celebrating with them on the actual 24th & 25th of December. No matter how many times I explain it, tell them how they get the better deal in terms of time spent with us and the grandkids, it doesn’t matter. I get the heavy sighs, subtle digs, and sometimes just flat out complaints about how we’ve chosen to split our time.

How do I get my family to see they are being unfair? I would like to have just one holiday where they appreciate how much money and time we spend going out of our way to be with them.


Never Enough


Dear Never Enough,

First let me say, I feel your pain! The holidays can be a difficult time for many of us and splitting time among families is almost always tricky. Our families feel a certain sense of ownership over our time and some handle that better than others. And, changes in traditions are generally hard on everyone. They take time to get used to and some people are slow to warm to change. (And, act like spoiled children while doing it:))

Some of the best advice I’ve ever received, though it was hard to hear at the time and left me wanting to say “but”, was this: You can’t control other people’s reactions. (If you are anything like me, you instantly thought “But, they should understand my point of view.” “But, if I try hard enough, they will change their behavior.” Or, any other host of “buts!”) The hard truth, though (bet you thought I was going to say “but”) is you really can’t.  

It sounds like you’ve done your best to explain the situation to your family and that is really the best you can do. How your family chooses to respond is up to them and you are not likely to be able to change that.  

Moving forward it is important to draw good boundaries with your family. If they continue to make comments about the time split, you can calmly explain it, articulating your reasons and feelings for making the best decision you can for your own family, and then firmly let them know that you want to focus on enjoying the time you do have together and aren’t going to discuss it any further.

Once you have stated your position clearly, stay firm on your commitment not to discuss it and not to respond to the heavy sighs or subtle digs (or childish eye rolls:)). Eventually, when your family realizes that they are not going to badger you into changing your mind and you aren’t wavering in your resolve, they will likely move on. And, if not, rest assured that you have made the best decision you could for your own family, been respectful of other’s feelings, and ultimately cannot control the reactions of others. 

Good luck and happy holidays!

With Love,

Asking For A Friend

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