The holidays are a time for festivities, food, and usually lots of family time. Sometimes maybe too much family time?
Having difficult relationships with family members can be tricky to navigate. On the one hand, they’re family- you’re supposed to love them endlessly… right? On the other hand, that doesn’t excuse unacceptable behaviors and it definitely doesn’t mean they have the right to say or do anything they want without consequences.
Estrangement from family doesn’t need to last a lifetime. When you look at the big picture and the grand scheme of life does holding onto a transgression seem worth it in the end?
Some of you may feel that the timeframe to rekindle a relationship has passed, but for those of you that would regret never reconnecting with that loved one again, we’re going to look at some things to keep in mind during the process.
Subconsciously, you have many expectations when it comes to family. Most of these are ones you don’t even realize you hold onto.
Our expectations often come from how society tells us our family should be.
The setting of subconscious expectations can happen through movies (cough cough… Hallmark), books, and even simple things like advertisements. When we have these societal standards in our minds we start to expect perfection, rather than remembering the reality of those around us, that all of us are human and all of us make mistakes. Unfortunately, we hurt the ones we love the most, although sometimes unintentionally, we still do it at one point or another.
When we let go of these outlandish expectations we can start to repair relationships. This doesn’t mean we excuse harmful treatment, but for the less severe schisms we can let go of the minor infractions and see things from their imperfect perspective.
Reflect on why you’re angry. Is it because they didn’t meet an unspoken expectation about how they should be acting rather than who they actually are as a person?
Stay present & listen
There are situations where a discussion about what happened isn’t necessary. Maybe there was miscommunication or a simple misunderstanding that doesn’t need to be rehashed because you both have an unspoken realization that it’s all water under the bridge now.
For others, a pretty uncomfortable talk may be necessary.
Navigating these types of discussions can be awkward and tense, but keeping your pride aside can help. You’re most likely going to hear a lot of accusations or you may be the one wanting to accuse someone else of wrongdoing. However, using healthy communication patterns can be helpful to keep the frustration at bay.
Statements such as, “It hurt my feelings when x was said” or “I felt x way when x situation occurred.”
Straying away from “You are always doing this,” or “You never do that” will help to ensure that the other person doesn’t get defensive when listening.
Being mindful of when the other person is doing the same can help you recognize why you’re feeling defensive as well.
Being less defensive can help you listen and understand the pain behind the anger.
Sometimes forgiveness comes easily. You don’t want to worry about the situation anymore so you’ve made a conscious decision to simply let it go.
Other times, forgiveness can be something that is an ongoing process. You have to continually remind yourself that you don’t want to hold onto it anymore. Remembering the “big picture” can be helpful in the process of forgiveness. If it won’t matter in 30 years when you’re old and gray, then maybe it shouldn’t matter now either.
Your mind follows patterns of thought, so the more times you remind yourself that you’ve forgiven someone the easier it’ll be for your mind to repeat those thoughts of forgiveness.
And remember, forgiving does not mean forgetting. There are always consequences to actions and just because you’ve forgiven them doesn’t mean things need to look the same as they once did.
Setting boundaries when it comes to family can be a learning process that feels never ending. Oftentimes, people have an unrealistic idea about family, thinking that they need to be there for them at their beck and call.
However, just because someone is family doesn't mean you can’t have boundaries. Maybe you’ve forgiven them, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences to their actions.
You need to decide what healthy boundaries look like for you. Maybe it’s as simple as telling your brother he needs to call before he comes over or telling your cousin you’re no longer loaning out money.
Deciding what will help you have peace in your life is where that line should be drawn. It doesn't mean they’ll be happy with your decision, but the decision to abide by your boundaries is in their court.
Reconnecting with someone in your life doesn’t mean that the relationship will look the same. There are some transgressions that are harder to get past and there are some that will never be fully resolved. Release the anger and decide how you want the relationship to look moving forward.
“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”