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!
This article was originally posted in 2014.
Seriously, I can’t be the only one with insane in-laws and drama-filled holidays. But somehow everything I’m reading is about being thankful for your family, cooking amazing food, and relaxing with loved ones over the holiday.
What if instead of expressing thankfulness for your family, you’re trying to set boundaries and say “No,” to your family? What if instead of settling in for a fun holiday with laughs and good times, you’re crying with your spouse about how mean his family is, and yet how strongly he feels he wants to see them and be a part of their lives?
For us, that means dealing with my husband’s tendency to respond to abusive behavior to make everyone happy: No one has called to make plans? Well maybe they think we don’t want to talk to them, so we need to be nicer! Short-notice plans 3 hours away? Of course we should go, it’s cold not to!
Translation: I’m stuck respecting his desire to have a relationship with his family of origin and battening down the hatches to protect him from their manipulative behavior. Oh yes, a holly jolly holiday for us.
Just once, I’d love to see a headline on The Huffington Post that reads “How to Deal With Dysfunctional In-Laws,” or “What to Do When Your Spouse Wants to See His Abusive Family.”
No, no sir. The media does not talk openly about dysfunctional family holidays. After all, that writer would have to put her name on the article and that would lead to a dysfunctional holiday indeed.
How about you: are you anticipating a typical happy holiday, or lots of stress and tears like us?
I’ll be back later this weekend with a real post, but for now can I just say I’m so excited to start this blog! I write somewhere else, but this is where I can be myself. Because with anonymity comes no consequences! Yes!
Truthfully, I’m dealing with a lot of annoying problems right now. Trying to be nice to in-laws who are mean to me. Trying to use the Creighton method (problem #1) to get ready to get pregnant (problem #2) with a body that can’t conceive or carry the child (problem #3). And trying to come out as my Catholic self with friends who aren’t Catholic or christian.
If I don’t get to posting this weekend, don’t worry! I have a feature coming out on TheFix.com about creating boundaries around my sister-in-law’s alcoholism. You’ll soon find that I have a mess of in-law problems ranging from narcism, alcoholism, denial, lack of boundaries, and verbal, physical, and sexual abuse. I really, really hope you CAN’T relate, because I know how hard it is to deal with that stuff.
Until then, I’d love to learn more about you! Leave a note in the comments with your name and your blog and I’ll stop by and say hello!