I was expecting this Christmas to be horrible. I cried, I panicked, I was angry…and to my surprise, our Christmas celebration was probably one of my best ever.
What happens to us at holiday time when we have lost members of our family due to a family feud or estrangement? I was so convinced that it would be a lonely bleak day. Despite two of our sons forbidding us to be in contact with them, our first Christmas without them was not only good, but it was one of my best! Not only did we have a great time with our two youngest, but their grandma and my ex, (their father), joined us. We shared a meal, exchanged gifts and played games. No one was loud and obnoxious because they needed to be noticed, no one was teased, no jokes were made at someone elses expense, and no one walked on eggshells or made excuses for anyone and/or their behavior. Once I got over the initial sad feeling of loss, I admit it was quite possibly the least stressful and one of the most fun holidays I’ve had in I don’t know how long. The bonus was, I was not mentally exhausted when the day was over. WOW. Not only is it hard to believe, it’s even harder to admit. It is the first time I saw actual proof that what my physchologist has told me about how much disrespect I have endured from my oldest two is notably true. That alone, makes me sad.
This situation for me inspires me to share with you that it is OK to feel like some stress has been taken out of your life when you experience a disconnect from certain family members. Whether you have dismissed them, or they have dismissed themselves from your life, you may find that even though you loved them, they were constantly causing some sort of mental anquish or inadequacies and the relationship with them was unhealthy for you. Your family gatherings could very well be more enjoyable, or at minimum, less stressful. This is not something to feel badly about. The fact that everyone else is able to get along well, smile, laugh and love, is obvious the absent ones were the stress causers. A very good example of the saying, “sometimes it’s best to love from a distance”. Yes, it might make you sad that the situation is the way it is, it is still OK to enjoy yourself without feeling guilty about it.
The ironic part of my situation, is that the absent ones are absent because they choose to be, not because I want them to be. Yet I unexpectantly experienced less stress at our family gathering. Despite what the absent ones think, it’s obvious that I alone, if at all, was not the “toxic” part of our relationship.
I want you to know that you are worth having enjoyable family gatherings, whether that means you yourself attend, don’t attend, invite or don’t invite. I have shared that I believe there is a certain respect or certain actions I feel are in order when you are part of a family, and I stand by that statement whole heartedly. However, at the same time, if others are not willing to give those things to you, or do not adhear to the same family values, it’s ok for you to respectfully dismiss yourself from the active family circle. You might very well find an odd sense of peace about it. We need to surround ourselves with people that treat us with respect. There is no relationship worth causing us to question our self-worth or losing our dignity. I would rather spend my time with fewer people who choose to be honest with me on all fronts, treat me and my family with respect while believing in the same family values, than be surrounded by a larger group of people that is occupied by lies, posers,disrespect and a lack of the family values in which I hold close to my heart.
I believe there are questions you should ask yourself:
- How do I feel when I’m with______?
- Do I feel inadequate or disrespected when I’m with ______?
- Do I get teased when ______ is around?
- Does ______ often hurt my feelings when they are with me?
- Do my children and/or I enjoy our time with ______?
- Do I feel safe with _____ is around?
- Do I question myself when I’m with ______?
- Am I exhausted when ______ leaves my house or when our time together is over?
There are certainly other questions, and maybe my questions don’t apply to you. If nothing else, they are good examples of what you should be asking yourself. The answers may very well solve the mystery for you. In my case, I only have three answers to the above questions that tell me the time I spent with my two oldest was not always good for me. I was always exhausted when one of them in particular left. I was always the butt of the jokes and I constantly questioned myself when either of them was around. I guess that means I didn’t always feel adequate or good about myself in their presence either. Wow, that sure is yucky to admit. I’m suggesting you examine your feelings and believe in yourself and how you feel. Perhaps a family member makes you feel like you’re not enough, or maybe they make you feel like you are less than you deserve to be. If that happens, the time with that person, relative or not, is probably not good for you. I’m not suggesting for you to be disrespectful, I’m not suggesting that you blow off your family completely. I’m only suggesting that while we should treat our family members with respect, if they do not reciprocate it might be best to respectully love from a distance. I want you to remember also, that if it is necessary for you to love from a distance, you should continue to be respectful, do not gossip or cause any retribution for them. It is not acceptable for you or anyone to pit other family members against each other. Only people that are insecure in their own choices or their own values will choose to cause discontent or issues between other family members.
In the situation that you find yourself being the target of bad criticism, lies or idle gossip from other family members. I want you to remind yourself that if they feel it necessary to cause added heartache to your already unfortunate family situation in any manner, then they do not adhere to the same family values as you do. In which case, my opinion is that it is perfectly acceptable to dismiss them from your active family circle. No need to bad mouth them, no need to make a scene, simply discontinue contact with them. And if anyone asks why you have chosen to keep your distance, you can share with them that you have found your values differ from theirs and to avoid causing any drama for innocent bystanders, it’s better for everyone to leave the space as it is.
Love your family, love yourself. If everyone treats family with the respect they deserve then none of this is even necessary. However, in the event that you have found yourself the target of negative family chaos, it’s OK for you to respectfully keep yourself in a safe place at a safe distance. And hopefully one day, the issues will be resolved and you and all of your family can enjoy each others company once again.