This article was originally posted in 2014.
Writing about our typical holiday apprehension was very therapeutic for me. Even more therapeutic was getting a comment that someone else felt the same way!
The day I wrote that post kicked off a three-day barrage of stressful phone calls and conversations. Without even seeing my in-laws myself, they managed to create a toxic experience full of power plays and guilt trips specially targeted to my husband. I suffered through it vicariously, but my husband bore the brunt of it.
Here are a few blog posts that helped my husband and me find some strength for the holidays. We’re still stressed, but we’re not alone:
- Dr. Phil helps you understand that you need to choose your spouse first.
- Darlene Ouimet writes a whole blog on recovering from abuse of all kinds. In particular, her post about Dysfunctional Families and Holidays resonated with me. (She also wrote about Toxic Mother-Daughter Relationships, which I found to be accurate).
- Dr. Townsend and Dr. Cloud write the book Boundaries, which my husband and I turn to every year to guide us through his family’s manipulative behavior. Not only is it a great resource year-round, but it got us started on this road to freedom and peace within our marriage (at least where his family is concerned).
Talking helps us the most– analyzing every angle of this situation in as much detail as possible. We’ve also found counselors and psychiatrists for my husband who have touched on these topics from time to time. Clearly we need to touch on it more in sessions, but for the most part this has made us stronger as a couple.
If you are struggling with destructive, dysfunctional families, I encourage you to seek some distance in your relationship and begin to build more firm boundaries. It is difficult and painful, but it is the only way to live outside the thumb of oppressive emotional abuse!