With the holidays coming up,
it’s time to practice crowd control.
If you haven’t figured out how to descend on someone’s house for Thanksgiving dinner, and if you have the barbarian hordes descending on your home, it’s time to realize your power to control the day and adjust the festivities to your own level of comfort. Setting boundaries and limits to what you will and will not do can help you feel less overwhelmed. Rhetorically speaking, taking a few stiff belts of your favorite beverage can help temper the anticipation of relatives arriving with their boatload of comments, complaints and “suggestions.” But, without resorting to intoxicants, some directed forethought and well placed lifelines to sanity will encourage you to feel like a model hostess, thereby resisting impulses to slip out the kitchen back door when no one is looking.
One may take solace in the fact that relatives are an age-old problem as shown by the vintage postcard displayed below. If you are dreading the onslaught this Thanksgiving, no reason to feel like you are The Lone Ranger. These post cards were mass produced by the thousands for the general public over a hundred years ago so you know you are not the first and, odds are, will not be the last.
An age old problem with a simple solution?
In-laws truly present a special set of obligations and a special set of problems. It is interesting that in life, because of blood relations, you are expected to interact with people on a continual basis that you would never seek out for a sustained friendship. I have stood talking to my relatives and inwardly thought, “You know, if I met you at a party, I would be so turned off by your pompous arrogance, that I would never speak with you again.” Just inwardly acknowledging that I have rejected them for friendship has helped me step back from saying something I might regret. I have risen to the occasion a little easier, with less inward stress, because this related individual has been deposed as “not worthy.”
Are overbearing relatives the ruination of your holidays?
When I read many of the self help guidelines for getting along with relatives on the Internet, such as “How to Get Along with Relatives” found here or “Family Parties: Getting Along with Relatives or Anyone Else” found at this site, I am reminded that it is important to remember I can’t change other people, I can only change myself. But, one thing these self-help sites don’t emphasize enough is when you take responsibility for maintaining your own self control and discipline, do not feel responsible for everyone’s behavior as well.
For instance, don’t beat yourself up emotionally because you could not, on the spot without any warning, find the right phrase to diffuse Aunt Harriet’s unneeded comments about Cousin Mitzie’s couch potato husband, Bob, who’s lost another job. Don’t take responsibility for lifting that lead balloon out of the air. You’ve fixed the dinner, washed the crystal and polished the silver. You don’t also have to be a stand up comedienne “just in from Las Vegas” delivering the perfect one liner to make everyone happy again.
No! Just smile and pass the sweet potatoes.
If Aunt Harriet is going to bomb, let her. If Cousin Mitzie is offended, let her cover for Bob one more time, she’s used to it. The point is, as hostess, you don’t have to be a psychiatrist to the group for the dinner to go well. Save yourself the effort because odds are, no one will appreciate your “interfering” anyway. No one will think you said just the right thing anyway. And, if you shield yourself from getting hooked into the action, it will be easier to relax and enjoy the rest of the day and rest of the family.
So! Like I said, smile and pass the sweet potatoes.
And, if you need a reminder as to how involved family
relationships can become, here is a 1991 episode of
TV’s Roseanne with a family Thanksgiving get-together.
The Relationship Cure is highly recommended. If it
interests you, hover your mouse over this link:
“This is the best book on relationships I have ever read — a truly impressive tour-de-force. John Gottman has discovered the Rosetta Stone of relationships. He has decoded the subtle secrets contained in our moment-to-moment communications. By introducing the simple yet amazingly powerful concept of the “bid,” he provides a remarkable set of tools for relationship repair. By the middle of the second chapter you’re likely to say to yourself, “Oh, so that’s what’s happening in my relationship with my partner (or colleague, boss, or sister), and now I know what to do about it.”
– Daniel B. Wile, Ph.D.,author of After the Fight: Using Your Disagreements to Build a Stronger Relationship