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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Yes this season makes familybonds an how a narc, be it spouse or parent, can wreck things everso apparent… but praise yourself this christmas that you escaped their suffocating and toxic control, even if you do spend it on your own. You were the one that got away, so be kind to yourself, and maybe soon there will be people in your life that really appreciate your company, and don’t manipulate, lie or belittle you. don’t ever fool yourself into thinking you are not worthy, and keep reading Savannah’s blog, to me she is a guiding light in these times where narcisism is all around us and so many people are still oblivious to it’s destruction. Love freely and unconditionally, and don’t ever look back because the narc will never change his or her ways. Many blessings to all of you who still struggle to get away, things will get better❤️
Thank you for your always inspiring and uplifting blogs. I follow your blogs every week since I got out of the relationship with my previous N.
I have a question for you — After my first N I started to practice self-care and read about codependency, and I am feeling better and more healthy than ever. I did however fall in the trap and found one more N (not as bad though) and he was a drug-addict and I ended the relationship. I know my pattern now. The thing is — I moved to a new city, and met a handsome guy. He has been love bombing me and now I haven’t heard from him in 4 days. I recognize the signs, and know that I attracted one more. I want to leave as soon as possible, but I already find myself gazing at his facebook wall and putting him on a piedestal. Do you have any blogs/advice on how to brace oneself and get out of a “blooming” relationship to an N, before it even starts? I already slept with him but I don’t wanna get stuck in the same trap again and forgetting myself all over again.
Thank you Savannah for covering family narcissists and holidays. For so long I suffered because I was the only one in the family who found my brother’s behavior negative. Yes, it’s true – everyone in my family kept making excuses for his behavior. He was only mean to me, you see. So it appeared that I had done something so horrible to him that he couldn’t stand me. He was nice to the rest of the family. He’d make a big show of greeting me at holidays – a BIG HUG, like he really missed me. Then once I had hope and tried to talk to him he would ignore me or be very rude to me in front of everyone. Then at the end of the evening he would again give me a big hug.
When I expressed how upset this behavior made me, my step-mother said matter of factly, “Well I think he’s still upset about things you did to him when you were little.” You know, as if being upset after 40 years is ok. I finally said “IS THIS NORMAL?”
They are just now beginning to understand who my brother is. I was pressured, and wanted to, attend family gatherings. My dad wanted us all there, but who wants to be around an NPD? They blamed me for all this. I’ve heard from other family members that “all (I) need to do is apologize…” But that doesn’t work. He refuses apologies.
I guess I find the family aspect so much more challenging since there is an expectation that you must accept your family no matter what. It was difficult to break out of that, to stay away from my entire family in order to protect myself. It feels selfish and petty in a way. Everyone (especially family) usually knows when a boyfriend is treating you badly, but when it’s family extricating one’s self is more problematic when not everyone can see the problem. He chooses who he wants to have on “his” side – my dad, step-mom, etc. and he carefully tends this relationship to make himself look good. It’s taken me several years of ignoring him at gatherings and not getting emotional (he got really mad when I stood up for myself instead of acting hopeful). They are starting to see him for who he is – he is the one who might/might not show up, might cancel at the last minute. I was doing that to avoid him and my dad thought I was the problem child. Now I always go as a way to insert myself in the family which makes him stay away. My dad now sees me as someone who truly cares and wants to be there.
I agree, though, that avoiding company with the narc is the best thing. Times when I avoided going to my dad’s cut down on the drama and the bad feelings. Now if I see him I know that it’s HIS problem, and that my family gets this.
Maybe we need a gathering “For family, ex-partners of, or friends of Narcs on the Holidays” so none of us have to be alone!
When children are involved over the Christmas season. ….and they look forward to planning interaction with aunts / uncles/grandparents …..it really isn’t as clear cut as this
This could not have come at a better time. Tonight I went to a place I’ve left because of my N. I have been diligent in my no contact although it has been hard. I went tonight to give gifts to 2 friends. I saw N but I had my escape planned I was going to be strong. His eyes burned through me as he stared me down from across the room. I said goodbye to everyone but him. He messaged me just 10 min ago “thanks for stopping by and completely ignoring me”. I will not respond. I was thinking if he really casted he wouldn’t have been such an ass in his delivery. But that’s a narcissist right? I feel so empowered though. Like I’m finally getting my life back. Thank you so much.
I started reading your blogs two years ago (almost to the day) and each one I’ve read has helped me toward the position that I’m in now, which is, “I don’t care!”
Thankyou, I survived and learned what I’d been doing wrong in a Narc relationship which I endured for three years.
Two years ago I started to realise and your blog MADE me realise.
It’s still taken a long time, and I wouldn’t trust myself to go back….. BUT I’m beginning to live for myself again, and that’s soooo cool!
So, thanks again Sav, and a
VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY NEW YEAR to all!
I promise you, there is hope…Just NO CONTACT!!!!
Love to all!
There’s a myth about what “should” happen at Christmas, however created, which is untrue and unhelpful. To be blunt, it’s not “the most wonderful time of the year”. Calls to suicide and child cruelty helplines rise because reality so diverges from expectation. Coming to terms with a new reality is about trying to accept what “is” and knowing it’s all right for that to differ from expectations.
I don’t have any children. I hope parents who have experienced a first Christmas without them will post here to say How they coped. I guess it may be one of those times you really need that inner warrior.
Kelly, your plans for the day sound great. Possibly you can answer your own question better than anyone else by thinking how you have coped with emotion during your five NC months and understanding why you think it will be different that day. May be some of the advice in Savannah’s recent “loneliness or dependence” blog, would help. The main thing I’d say to anyone is please don’t, whatever it takes, be tempted to break NC.
My first Christmas post discard seems desperate to me now. I took off on a cheap group trip and left my ‘phone behind. I had my own room so when I needed to scream into a pillow I could. There were people to be around if I wished, warmth, sea to walk by and places to see. It wouldn’t be the same for everyone I’m sure but feeling anonymous helped me. I wouldn’t have gone into any part of my story with complete strangers. None of them deserved it!
I’ve posted recently about a very newly found sense of post narc tranquility. I may be a social being but I’d spend the rest of my life by myself rather than have it screwed around ever again by someone like that. That goes for Christmas just the same as any other day.
Great post Savannah, as always you are saying exactly what many of us need to hear. Second to Kelly’s question, I will be alone on Christmas as well, having ended it with my narcissist and being in a new town where I don’t know many people that well and not feeling up to traveling to spend it with my narcissist mother. Any advice for making alone not = lonely would be great.
As it applies to any visit, any party, any time and anywhere. So often I just get stuck with a strong feeling of an obligation not to leave. It is surprising how much empowerment one can feel just by being proactive and politely and quickly leaving the scene. Thank you so much, I needed that. Happy Holidays with some freshness in the air!
Yep, got this one covered!
My 2 Kids are with Dad this Xmas so I’ll be on my own this year for the first time. My 2 sisters recently (in separate events) both stopped talking to me when stopped them abusing me verbally over the phone (how dare I stop them in their narcissistic rage? One of them went so far as to blame me for her behaviour – so what’s new?)……
Have planned Christmas lunch with a friend and her family, boxing day with another friend, will go to the beach for a swim (am in Australia….it’s HOT on Christmas day here!). I plan to relax and try to enjoy my new reality – the narc free reality that is! It may be a little weird and lonely at first, but I think I will gain more by embracing it rather than moping around feeling sorry for myself.
Merry (narc-free) Christmas to you all:)
Any advice for someone spending the holiday ALONE?/ I have my children Christmas eve until 10 pm and then I am alone. Last year, I was in the arms of my ‘soulmate’ and spent a beautiful time. Now I am 5 months no contact and trying to understand myself, including my status as a ‘caregiver’. I plan to spend a quiet day doing my own thing, walking the dog, watching TV if I want to, soaking in the hot tub, but would welcome any advise for the potential emotional turmoil I am about to encounter.
Spending holidays alone is an important topic particularly for those who have willingly cut themselves off from a dysfunctional family. I was finally able to break away from an abusive mom and highly disfunctional brother. My partner and his family are my family now, but I often think about what will happen if he dies and I am left alone. There is no going back to dysfunction or hooking up with someone to avoid loneliness. I suspect that this is a real problem for not a few people.
I have spent holidays alone and have read but also processed the emotions in my journal. Loneliness is a dark p!ace to be because we are social people.
A few ideas for you. You could go on a hike, or if there is a movie you want to see–theatres are open on Christmas Day. Or if you feel like being at home, try watching a movie on NF or reading a good book, sipping your fave tea or wine, have music on and cook yourself something good.
Don’t view it as a bad thing, but as time for yourself. I plan to visit my family over New Years but will spend a quiet Christmas at home, catching up on the things I enjoy.
You are the best thank you for lifting me up always . You are the only person that can understand my thoughts ,act, and behavior.
Happy holiday ,god blessed.