Having Boundaries at Family Holiday GatheringsOn November 16, 2020 by admin
Holidays with family can bring on mixed emotions. Especially this year, when many of my friends are staying away from their families out of love and desire to keep them safe. Maybe it makes us appreciate our family in ways we couldn’t when we were too focused on what they did and said that annoyed us. Either way, the holidays with or without family is hard. I want to share what I’ve learned about having boundaries with my family when I visit them.
For years of going home to see my family into adulthood, my family treated me the same way they treated me when I was a sixteen year old and living with them. Being treated that way and being in a previously familiar surrounding had my brain back on teenage autopilot.
Before I knew it I was acting and feeling the way I did in high school. It was like my family didn’t know how to treat me because they didn’t know who I was at that moment, and I didn’t know how to still behave like myself while being treated like who I used to be.
First, I had to learn how to maintain my adult identity in the midst of being treated like the teenaged version of myself. The best way I found to do that is to enforce my boundaries the second they are violated. DO NOT wait until you have been annoyed into exploding; it will only make you look crazy.
If someone calls me a name I don’t like, even if it’s a cute nickname, I immediately speak up and say I will not answer to that name. If someone speaks to me in a way that I am uncomfortable with, I pull them aside and tell them how that made me feel and that is not okay going forward. The biggest thing that helped me is when someone tries to pressure me to talk about something I don’t want to share, I remain firm that I will not share that part of my life with them even if it was something I shared with them when I was younger.
For me, it is so important to not discuss things with people in my family or otherwise where the person brings more fear than hope to my situation. If my family wants to talk about the future of my career in the times of Covid, I have to shut that down. I know that they want the best for me, but I also know that they don’t bring solutions in this area. They only bring in fears and doubts. Therefore, I no longer talk to them about my job or my finances.
When to take advice, and when to refuse it
I wish I could get advice from them in every area, and I know they would love to give it to me, but sometimes people who care about you a lot worry about you too much to be helpful. Life involves a lot of risk, and I need people who believe in me and place more faith in my possible success than my possible failure.
I also will not allow my family to speak into any area of my life that they do not have fruit in. I won’t receive relationship advice from anyone in my family who does not have a healthy thriving romantic relationship or has settled in their relationship. If it is true that we end up like the five people we hang out with the most, I won’t put stock into the words and opinions of those who have failed at the things I am currently trying to grow and succeed in.
What I will share, and what I won’t
So now I have my established out-of-bounds topics: career, finances, and romantic relationships. I decide prior to interactions what I will and will not share so it is not a decision in the moment. When these topics come up I share what I have decided to share beforehand and I am firm to not share more. I keep topics light, hopeful, and that create joy and laughter.
Something that really helps me stay grounded and act like myself when I am being treated in a way I am not used to, is making sure I get enough time alone or conversations with friends to maintain my balance I have at home. I had to learn to be firm and communicate when I need alone time.
I communicate that it is about me getting what I need and not about cutting people out at all. If people take that the wrong way that is on them. You are not responsible for other people’s feelings or reactions. Do not let anyone’s needs keep you from meeting your own. If you can’t get your own needs met, you won’t be able to meet anyone else’s.
Lastly, just be patient with your family. It took my family multiple visits a year for about 3-5 years before their minds caught up to the fact that I was grown and mature. The best advice I can give is to keep showing up, keep acting mature and loving, and CONTINUOUSLY forgive them for things they have done in the past, and the things they continue to do.
Don’t Give Up Hope!
Don’t ever give up hope for anyone in your family, even if it seems like they haven’t changed in years and they never will. Keep hoping for the best and do not let bitterness take root and color your expectations of what you think they will do and say in the future.
Your family probably won’t ever be everything you need them to be, and that’s okay. The most important thing is that they love you and you love them. That love is worth fighting for, being frustrated and trying again for, and hoping for.