Surviving the Dysfunctional Christmas: Savannah’s Holiday Survival Tips
Christmas day, in my family, consists of the three siblings (me and two of my brothers), a few family friends and our various partners and offspring. With our parents both deceased, we take turns hosting the big day and everyone contributes something to the meal.
We have another brother, but we haven’t included him or his children in a very long time. I know he would like to be included, but as an alcoholic and someone who, I suspect, suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder, he ruins the holiday for everyone else. I certainly wish things were different, but he is unstable in both mood and behavior, so we never know what to expect and despite being the oldest, he always has his hand out looking for charity and isn’t necessarily someone you’d want wandering around your home unsupervised. I care about him, but after years of suffering his behavior, as well as his lack of desire, to even acknowledge he has a problem, I made the decision to remove him from the front row seat of my life. Just because you share similar DNA doesn’t mean someone gets a free pass to mistreat you.
The holidays are difficult for many, as they force people together, who wouldn’t choose to even be in the same room under any other circumstance. They place abuser and victim in the same vicinity, which can open old wounds and create new ones. It has the potential to undo all of the progress made by adult children of abusive parents. So navigating the holidays and practicing self-care can get pretty tricky.
I know some of you will be stuck in uncomfortable situations and are very concerned with how the big day is going to go down, having to face siblings or parents that you don’t get along with and who love to take shots at you, humiliate, shame, insult or drain you. My first piece of advice would be, if going to someone’s home for the holidays is going to cause you harm, or set you back – don’t go. It’s only one day and not worth your inner peace. If you’re trying to avoid someone, you can always spend Christmas Eve or Boxing Day with those you wish to see and avoid the drama of those you don’t with to see on the big day. If you can’t do that I’ve compiled a few survival tips.
Sav’s Holiday Survival Guide:
- In conjunction with last week’s blog – if you’re involved with someone that you can’t trust or depend on – don’t trust or depend on them. Plan your holiday without them. Don’t ask them, don’t hope or wish they’ll show up – don’t include them – just go by yourself. People do what they want to do and you should never have to beg someone to spend time with you. If, as the day comes closer you still don’t have a definitive answer from them of what their plans are, that tells you all you need to know about your relationship. If they tell you they are going to spend it with you and then pull a no-show – your relationship should be immediately over. If they are going to go with you, and you know they’ll just sit there, contributing nothing and just being miserable, you’ll enjoy yourself more if you leave that baggage at home.
- Don’t drink too much. I know it’s tempting to numb your senses when you’re surrounded by people that are difficult to handle, but adding copious amounts of alcohol to an already smoldering situation is just asking for trouble. Alcohol weakens a person’s inhibitions and supplies them with, what I call – idiot courage. Don’t dull your senses to the point where you’re picking fights or engaging in things best left alone.
- Always have an escape route and a back up plan. Never be dependent upon someone else for your transportation if at all possible. If you can take your own car – do so. The fact that you can leave whenever you want to should make you feel a whole lot more secure to know you have that option should you have a need for it. Make a back-up plan with a good friend that wouldn’t mind having you over on the big day. If your evening ends in disaster your night won’t be a complete write off.
- Don’t engage in the drama. We all have that relative that loves to criticize or take shots at us. They’re looking for a reaction – don’t give them one. Resist the urge to fight back and simply say, “This is not the time or the place for that,” and walk away. When you take the high road the offender’s behavior becomes obvious to everyone else and they end up looking as dysfunctional as their behavior. Remember what other people think of you is none of your business. Let it roll off your back, knowing that you don’t have to prove or defend yourself to anyone. Take a mental note that this is not someone you will want to engage with in the future and don’t put any stock into their opinion.
- Don’t try to buy love. Codependents are perpetual people pleasers that tend to over-give. Many want to be liked so much that they will overspend in an attempt to get attention or affection. Set a limit and do not go over it. Gifts and their price tags are quickly forgotten – bills tend to last a lot longer. It’s not in your best interest to put yourself in debt to momentarily please someone else. If you’re buying for a partner that you know will not be giving you a gift – don’t do it – put it back – get a refund. Buying someone a gift, in the hopes that they will be grateful and give you the relationship that you want, is like lighting your money on fire. Trust me, it will give them the opposite impression of what you are hoping to convey.
- You don’t owe anyone your presence or your time. If you choose not to attend a family dinner and they are trying to guilt and shame you don’t allow it. Be confident in the knowledge that only you know what’s best for you and practicing self-care doesn’t make you selfish, it makes you someone who puts you and your well-being first. If you’re at someone’s home and not enjoying yourself you don’t have to stay. You don’t have to explain yourself or make excuses, just calmly and politely say your goodbyes and be on your way.
- Draw the line. If you happen to have a narcissistic mother, father or sibling and still want to take part in the festivities, make it very clear to them that you’re not going to allow any disrespectful behavior. Tell them straight up, “If this continues I’m leaving.” And follow it up with you leaving. No drama, no emotional outbursts – just simple, straight to the point, cause and effect.
Always be mindful of what is in your best interest. Pay attention to your feelings and if you find yourself in a space where you do not feel good, empowered, loved, or appreciated, then practice self-care and get the heck out of there. You don’t owe anyone anything. You’re not responsible for other people’s thoughts, feelings, beliefs, behavior, or their holiday merriment. You’re responsible for you and your children (if you’re a parent) – that’s it. You teach people how to treat you by what you allow, so never allow or reward bad behavior. Never sacrifice your self-worth to keep the peace. If disrespect is what’s being served, respectfully decline and spend time with people that feed your soul.
Have a safe and happy holiday my lovelies!!! XOXOXOXO
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