This is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but it can be anything but when you have a dysfunctional family. There is pressure and expectation that families, especially those with children, will spend the holidays with parents, in-laws, and sometimes even cousins you can’t stand, and often hurt feelings and angry words if you do not oblige.
The holidays seem to bring out the best and the worst in people, and if your family is dysfunctional it seems to be amplified during this time. Is it even possible to have a happy holiday with the outside stress and drama of family?
This year my family has opted to spend the holidays at home. In the three years my husband and I have been married we have spent every holiday on the road, either to my family or his, and sometimes to both in the same day. We have never been able to really establish our own traditions because our time was always spent with extended family. In light of some new dysfunction and drama, we opted to opt out. We have come under some fire for our choice to stay home, but at the end of the day a peaceful, joyful holiday spent reflecting on the true meaning of the season is worth it to us.
Your family situation may look different than mine, but I believe that there are a few central points to consider when dealing with dysfunctional families over the holidays.
Your family consists of your spouse and children.
I love my family. My nephews almost feel like my own children. But God has a specific chain of priorities and that is 1. God, 2. Husband, 3. Kids, 4. Extended Family.
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife. Genesis 2:24
Putting my family first is not an insult or affront to my extended family. As a matter of fact, it is my God-given job to make the best choices I can for my family, and that includes having a drama-free holiday. That doesn’t mean that we will never spend another holiday with family again, but this year it is the right choice.
Don’t get wrapped up in bitterness and hurt.
It seems like family should act like, well, family around the holidays. But people who do not normally act loving, loyal, or thoughtfully throughout the rest of the year are not going to magically change just because it is Christmas. It hurts to think that someone cares that little about you, but there is not one thing you can do to change their actions or attitude. The only part of this scenario you can control is how you react.
It’s natural to feel hurt, but don’t give that person enough control over your life to make you sad, angry, or bitter. Accept the situation for what it is, forgive, and move on. Normal, well-adjusted people do not act in a hurtful way to people they love. The people causing the hurt in your life are likely miserable enough without you doing a thing. Don’t let them make you miserable too.
Remember the real reason for the season.
Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. The moment that our salvation entered the world. When you think about the season in those terms, petty arguments and dramas don’t seem nearly as big and life-altering. We have been given a purpose here on earth, and every action we choose to make should be a step towards completing that purpose. When you have tunnel-vision on what God’s plan is for our lives, its easier to let other distractions and hurts go.
Whatever your plans are this holiday season, don’t let family strife and drama distract you from the celebrating the birth of our savior. No matter how toxic or hurtful our families can be, we have a Heavenly Father who loves us more than we can comprehend, and whose love is perfect.