Lifestory: Maintain an emotional balance when dealing with your family

Lifestory: Maintain an emotional balance when dealing with your family

Dealing with difficult family members might not be an easy pill to swallow. Especially during some family festivities when we’re somehow “obliged” to get together and behave at our best. How to survive and come out unscathed after spending a few days stuck under the same roof?

Before Christmas came, I was feeling on the top of my emotional balance. I’ve found myself disconnected from negative influences and empowered by positive stimulations. I’ve clearly seen how to proceed with most common scenarios happening on a daily basis. That was a great feeling. Feeling of control we’re all looking for at some point. But as life goes, another test knocked to the door.

Since I moved far from my hometown a few years ago, I’m used to seeing my family a few times a year. Such an arrangement seemed perfect as living in the same place became more and more challenging. I believed that being away will influence positively our relationships provided we don’t contact each other every day, we miss each other and we enjoy time spent together.

Some people say that beginnings are tough, but in our case, those were pretty good moments. Enthusiastic welcomes, quality time, sentimental goodbyes. I felt like we’ve been enhancing our ties. We’ve been all doing our best to avoid any unpleasant situation. With better or worse results, but at least we’ve tried. However, as you know very well, people get used to repetitive things and with the course of time appreciate less and less what is given to them. That was also a part of our story.

Time and distance make their job. We wean off certain habits, we evolve, we change. Often times, it doesn’t happen simultaneously for all of us and it doesn’t head the same direction. We start to argue again, some past incidents come back to the daylight, the mutual resentment settles down. Slowly, we become more and more like strangers. We don’t like anymore same things, we don’t have anymore the same topics which interest us, we don’t laugh at the same jokes. It’s because we don’t influence each other so strongly as we did in the past.

Furthermore, life has its cycle: our parents get older, we grow mature, our children learn more and more. The perspective changes when not influenced by old habits and routines cherished in the family circle. Some of us get open for new approaches while others get stuck with traditional ones despite their irrelevance. Another background for the conflict of generations.

So the next Christmas time came. But this time there was no enthusiasm. No quality time. No sentimental goodbye. There was a tension. Fake politeness. Counting down time to get back home alone. We’ve been all tired with pretending that everything is all right, but at the same time not willing to destroy Christmas with heated discussion over what is wrong. If people don’t want to listen to understand, if they listen to reply, then you can do nothing about it, can you?

According to Psychology Today family members are often the hardest to deal with because they’re connected to us in a more complicated, intimate way. We are almost obligated to go the extra mile for the sake of the integrity of the family group. What to do if you want to change them? Following what Family. LoveToKnow says on the matter, the only thing you can change about your family is the way you see them.

If you don’t like what you see in a family member, change what you see and how you react.

Let’s find out how to reduce the volume of tension between you and your family members.

1. List the positive traits of your family members

The worst thing you can do is to think about all the things which irritate you in someone’s behavior before even seeing him. It already increases the level of stress and plays you against this person. Trying to think about the positives might not bring the best results as our thoughts are often overshadowed by negative memories. Instead, take a piece of paper and list what is good about your family members, what do you like about them, what do you appreciate in them. It might be a tough exercise but might bring you a completely different insight on relatives you deal with.

2. Plan meetings’ intervals

Spending the entire day together might increase the chance of getting frustrated. Plan specific activities with all family members or at least some of them in the defined periods of time. Leave room between the intervals for taking a rest on your own. The more you manage to focus your family members’ attention on constructive activities, the less probability the unplanned time brings unexpected issues. Obviously, the conflicts may arise even during planned activities. Nonetheless, keeping people busy raises the likelihood of maintaining peace.

3. Take a break

When your emotions get out of control, go for a walk, make a phone call, open a book. The break is important in order to clear out the atmosphere and to make the mind up. Sometimes, it’s better to leave for a moment than to say one word out of line. If you feel that the conversation leads you nowhere, postpone it or put in on hold for some time.

It’s only you who can break the vicious circle of mutual bitterness. Waiting for others to change without you changing first hardly ever brings the expected outcome. You don’t have to accept their behaviors but you need to accept them as human beings. It’ll help you be more aware of what drives them to embrace conflictual attitudes. It’ll help you to be more open to dealing with them the way they are. And finally, it’ll help you to better manage the situation regardless of how difficult it gets.

Do you find your family relationships challenging to deal with? Why?

Do you know any checked methods to keep up with peaceful ambiance while spending time with your relatives?

How do you maintain a healthy emotional balance when facing family issues?

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10 thoughts on “Lifestory: Maintain an emotional balance when dealing with your family”

  • Great post.

    Like you, I live far away from my family. It’s not that I ran away, but life just worked out that way and I’m OK with that. Most of the time, I go home for Christmas. The first day is great. We get to catch up on things and exchange some pleasantries. By the second half of day two, though, people become complacent and the claws come out.

    This year, I decided not to go, much to my family’s displeasure. I wanted to see how it would be to spend this time on my terms. I have to tell you that it was exactly what I needed. Hopefully, that will last me for another couple of years of family Christmases.

    The problem with walking away is that usually it’s dark and cold outside. I don’t want to leave the house. Last time, I vowed to myself to rent a hotel next time I come to visit. That way, I could moderate my time with my family. When I stay with them, I am being guilt tripped about taking a break. We haven’t seen each other for so long after all. Will I really rent a hotel? I don’t know. It would probably hurt them. But it might help our sanity. We shall see.

    • Thank you, Goldie! I completely understand what you’re talking about. The scenario looks exactly the same for me. Sometimes, I’m also wondering how would it feel like to spend Christmas in a different way than usually. Family puts big pressure on spending Christmas in a traditional way, but it happens that I’m fed up with it. I would like to breathe and truly enjoy this time without having to adjust all the time. Doing something just for the purpose of tradition or habit without really living it up makes no sense for me. But they wouldn’t understand if I wanted to do it differently as well as they wouldn’t understand if I wished to spend this time alone either. They’ve been spending Christmas in a traditional way since forever and the idea of doing it differently is considered as a threat to traditional values. Even if it results in disagreements and general dissatisfaction.

      What is your idea of a perfect Christmas time? What have you been doing this year?

      • Perfect Christmas time? Focusing on what’s important to you during the season. Since I consider myself religious, I attend various church events and immerse myself the spirituality of it all. Next, I was able to get a few days off (which did not go without a hitch once I came back to work…), so I slept in a little and did the things that I could not have done otherwise due to being at work all day. My partner was slightly sick and I was fighting it off myself, so it wasn’t as great as it could have been. But to sum it up – doing what feels right to you. To me, it’s immersing myself in the Christmas spirit, taking things easy, sleeping in, making new good memories, and writing.

      • Sounds really good! I’ll definitely focus on all of it next Christmas without any regret. I’ll even think about a new approach to make sure we spend this time in the most valuable way. I hope your partner recovered well? You said that your family wasn’t particularly happy about the fact you’re not coming home for Christmas. How did you communicate it? Did they understand your reasons?

      • We’re both still somewhat affected. Whatever is going around spares no one for weeks on end.

        How did I communicate it? I kept slipping hints of what I had done to prep myself/the house for Christmas and what I plan on getting done when I get a day or two off. If I was to go visit them, none of it would have been possible. So I gave them small doses of reality at a time. That way, they were already prepared when I didn’t surprise arrive for Christmas.

        I think on a reasonable level, they understood (because it’s more than just not wanting to come). I still skyped with all of them, which I think made up for it a little bit.

      • In that case, I hope you’re both recovering well! When it comes to Christmas out of your hometown, you played it really smart! I guess you didn’t make them feel it’s about them. I’m wondering how do you deal with your family’s habits which irritate you when you’re at home? I must admit that sometimes it drives me nuts especially when it is related to some behaviors that I don’t appreciate in particular. It happens that I lose control over my emotions. What is your approach to overcoming the temptation to burst?

      • I try to gently explain to them how things look from my perspective. Unfortunately, emotions do get the best of us all sometimes. Overcoming the temptation? Maybe looking at their positive qualities and reminding yourself that those are people you care about.

      • Sometimes it seems much easier to care about some people when they live far from us, don’t you think? Then, we’re not affected so strongly by their moods, habits, and attitudes. I try to work out the best approach to deal with negative emotions when they come up. I’ll definitely need to focus more on the qualities, but in some situations, I can see nothing but what’s the worst in them. It might be a matter of a psychological habit that has to be changed in my mindset.

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