Not everyone warms up to their family. Sometimes, we may find ourselves even hating them.
So what should you do if you hate your family?
We asked experts to give some advice:
Author | Talk Show Host | Speaker
Make a decision from a place within you that is not seeking revenge
Having survived a homicidal alcoholic father and an abusive brother, I know a thing or two about the various stages a person goes through before getting to a place where they completely give up on their family.
Anger and hate are two emotions that propel a person through those stages.
Before you get to a place of complete shutdown and go no-contact with your family, here are my top three tips for handling the holidays with a family you hate:
Know your baseline
Your level of self-awareness is key to maintaining good emotional health. Being aware of your moods, as well as what makes you feel low and how to recover will empower you to maintain self-control.
You’ll be able to limit your family’s ability to push your hot buttons and strengthen your ability to smile in the midst of turmoil. Once you are tuned-in to your baseline, behave accordingly. Don’t plan to interact with people you hate if you’re already in the dumps.
Take time to immerse yourself in a loving environment where you are treasured. Really get your energy up to an optimal level. Knowing your baseline will help you create a go-to list of energy boosters, so you’re always ready.
Identify a FOC
Find a family that has healthy dynamics and spends as much time around them as you possibly can. I call this type of family, a Family of Choice (FOC).
Exposing yourself to a family with healthy conflict resolution and unconditional love will keep you balanced. It will enable you to maintain a clear mind and a loving heart.
It is true that we become the people we spend the most time around and what we think about the most, expands. Take the time to expand your network of great FOCs. It’s a wonderful way to reinforce becoming the good you’d like to in the world.
Maturity over guilt
Make decisions from a place of emotional maturity, not guilt. You will face making a decision to call or not to call, or even to visit or not to visit, the family you hate at least three times a year (Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Festival of Lights, the breaking of Ramadan, etc.).
Ensure that you make the decision from a place within you that is not seeking revenge, dreading the impending interaction or opting not to be alone. Start with a healthy you, limit your time with the people you hate to the moment your baseline begins to sink. Then, end the day with an activity that you find very uplifting.
These three tips are a great start to helping you design a life that obeys the golden rule, To Thine Own Self Be True. Remember that you pour into the world from your unconscious core. If your core is unhealthy, your spreading the very thing you wish to eradicate, hate. Be mindful!
Julie Williamson, LPC, NCC, RPT
Therapist | Founder, Abundant Life Counseling St. Louis, LLC
It’s important to set boundaries with difficult family members
Here are three ways to do that:
Know that it’s okay to say no to family gatherings
Is your schedule packed around the time of the gathering? Is the gathering planned at the last minute?
Dealing with difficult family members requires energy, and if your schedule is already packed or you’re already annoyed at the last minute planning of a get-together, consider if the event will give you quality time with your family, or if you’re more likely to snap out due to a crazy schedule and not wanting to be around certain family members in the first place.
I encourage people to consider quality over quantity. If you’re going to an event just to show your face, but harbor resentment for the timing of the event, it’s alright to say no, or to drop in for a short period of time.
It’s okay to take a break from relatives staying in your home
If you notice your energy decreasing and your mood taking a turn for the worse, give yourself permission to take a break from entertaining and being around your guests.
Provide them with the Wifi password, magazines, and the remote control, and retreat to your room for a nap or run out to get a quiet cup of coffee. This will help refresh you and give you energy for engaging with them, and give you stamina when feeling particularly irritated.
Decide when, how, and what controversial topics you will engage in conversation about
Also, decide who and what behavior may irritate you the most. You have the right to decline an invitation into a political conversation, and can let your relative know that you’d prefer not to talk politics over eggnog.
Or, if you do decide to accept the invitation, stay present, and remain aware of what is occurring in your body and brain, in order to have the most accurate information with which to respond to.
It’s important to remember that your opinions–no matter how thoughtful and well researched they may be–are yours and not the other person’s. It is unlikely that you will convince them otherwise, just as they probably won’t convince you out of your opinion. Accept the difference, and move on to a new topic if you find yourself getting heated.
It’s important to remember that –as much as we might like to or as much as we might try–we cannot change our family members. We can change how we cope and respond to them, however.
Senior Manager, People Looker
Find some common ground
Whether you get along or not, you’re might need to see your family on occasion, even if it’s just over the holidays. When the time comes, it’s good to be prepared with some light, pleasant conversation topics that could potentially give way to bonding.
Before your next visit, do a bit of research on your family. Look at their social media accounts to see if you have any common interests or tastes you can discuss, like movies, music, sports, food, etc.
How to handle gatherings with family you don’t get along with:
Our families are often our biggest critics. A family gathering may bring with it a smorgasbord of opinions and advice from siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins.
And they all like to put in their two cents about what you should be doing in life. In situations like this, remain confident. They don’t live your life and although you’ll listen to their advice, you don’t have to follow it.
Realize you probably can’t change the opinions of others
You can avoid arguments by realizing something you’ve probably figured out in life on your own already—trying to change someone’s opinion (especially an older family member)—is just about useless.
People don’t change their minds by arguing with them. Attempting to change your uncle’s mind will only get you both more defensive of your opinions.