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The 2014 Farmers Almanac
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Family Driving You Crazy? Try These Seven Tips!

Family Driving You Crazy? Try These Seven Tips!

The holidays are a great time to reconnect with family, but what if your family drives you nuts? Whether it’s your mom’s passive aggressive criticism, your sister’s overbearing competitiveness, or your uncle’s never ending stream of inappropriate jokes that gets your hackles up, the holiday season can be prime irritation time. Here are a few simple strategies to make your holiday season merrier:

- Stand up for yourself: If a certain behavior really upsets you, say so. Don’t lose your temper, but do be honest about how the other person’s words or actions make you feel. Be as direct and clear as possible, and use “I” statements — “I feel like I’m not appreciated when you criticize me while I’m trying to help” — rather than lashing out in anger or blame.

- Pick your battles: Standing up for yourself doesn’t mean you have to be combative. Sometimes it’s better just to let lesser irritants slide for the sake of peace and harmony.

- Don’t drink too much: Alcohol inhibits judgment and makes you more likely to make impulsive decisions or say things you’ll regret. You may think a few drinks will help you deal with difficult feelings, but you’ll feel better in the long run if you are careful to keep your wits about you.

- Remind yourself it’s only temporary: No matter how painful your interaction with a certain family member may be, remember that it will be over soon. The holidays are only a few days out of each year. Sometimes it can be hard to keep this perspective when family members push your buttons. It’s easy to regress right back to childhood, when everything feels like a big deal and seems like it will last forever. It won’t.

- Take five: Allow yourself some time away to decompress, either alone or with a trusted ally, such as your spouse or a favorite cousin. Go for a walk. Drive to the store to pick up more ice or snacks. Look at the stars on the back porch. Taking some time out for quiet, or a laugh with someone who doesn’t annoy you, can make a world of difference.

- Don’t expect perfection, from others or yourself: Nobody is perfect, including you. Maybe the reason your parents’ criticism or your brother’s “perfect” kids bother you so much is that you’re putting pressure on yourself to live up to an unrealistic standard. Just relax. Allow yourself to be who you are, and maybe the rest of the family will follow suit.

- Keep your sense of humor: Chances are, you already have a mental list of everything your family does that rubs you the wrong way. Try to change your perspective so you can laugh about instead of getting angry. Turn it into a private joke between you and your spouse or sister or brother. Make it into a game. Make wagers on how many times Aunt Ethel will ask you when you’re going to get married. Eat a cookie every time your dad tells that story you hate. If you feel comfortable, and if you’re sure your intentions aren’t malicious, let your family in on the joke. Humor can make difficult situations sting less and help to bring people closer together.

What other strategies do you use to get through difficult family gatherings? Share below!

12 comments

1 Mark J. Goluskin { 11.26.13 at 1:34 pm }

Carolyn, sorry but youe husband sounds like a douchebrain to me. Sorry to be so blunt. But after the 4th Christmas I would have really thought about dumping him. He gave up custody of his only child for crying out loud. HUGE bad sign. To have future better Christmases, you have to dump him.

2 tyarra { 08.06.12 at 5:03 pm }

my brother drived me crazy but now i now how to control my temper thanxx

3 Carolyn { 12.23.11 at 9:56 am }

Thanks Jamie. I asked him point blank if he respected me or valued me when I got home from work yesterday and he thougtht for a moment and said probably not.

4 nikki { 12.22.11 at 2:42 pm }

just me…im a smoker and i do go outside to smoke…back in the day, people smoked where ever, ashtrays were set around like candy dishes,but things have changed…my mother is a rude nonsmoker you could shower and she will still complain, it a comtrol issue with her.It seems with you that you have no tolerence to it and some of it is in your head…try a gas mask… I went to a ladys house and it stunk so bad from animals & full trash cans i about puked and she said they didnt smoke in the house!!! smoke would have improved the smell.

5 Jaime McLeod { 12.22.11 at 10:49 am }

Carolyn,
Unlike parents, siblings, aunts, and uncles, we choose our spouses, and can un-choose them. I’m not a therapist, and I don’t know enough about the rest of your relationship, but it doesn’t sound like you are valued or respected. I hope you give yourself the gift of a Merry Christmas, with or without your husband’s “company.”

6 Carolyn { 12.22.11 at 9:19 am }

This will be the 6th Christmas with my husband. He has done everything in his power to ruin every Christmas for me. Here are some examples: Year 1: He fired my daughter’s boyfriend on Christmas Eve and accused him of stealing from him – husband was drunk – my daughter would not talk to me for 6 months. Year 2: He started doing work in the yard on Christmas morning – rented a bulldozer on Christmas Eve and tore the entire yard up when my family was due Christmas day. Year 3: He went to work on Christmas morning and “accidently” left cell phone. Did not show up for Christmas meal – forgot what day it was. Year 4: my daughter and her family needed to stay with us in our pool house for a couple of months (totally seperate house). On Christmas Eve he set up barricades where they had parked and blocked off the drive way. Year 5: on way to parents for Christmas said it would be the last time he did any of this stupid holiday sh_t with me. Cussed me in front of my daughter who just got home from college. Had not seen her in 3 months.

Years before I met him he gave up custody of his only child – his ex cheated on him with a golf pro and she pressured him into the custody thing because he was dealing drugs at the time because of her and she was going to turn him into the police.

Last year we found out his 12 yr old daughter is not his biological child. Can hardly wait to see what is going to happen this Christmas Eve.

I have asked him to go with me to talk with a professional but that is out. I do not want to end our marriage but this behaviour is ridiculous. I did not make any of his past choices for him and I did not pass of another man’s child as his.

7 perry collins { 11.19.11 at 12:04 pm }

ever since Mother passed 5yrs ago, it’s not the same. my family is now free to act out the way they do without mom around to keep things together..it’s a shame how some people act and treat each other around the Holidays..when it should be a time of love and Peace and understanding often it’s not..I try to enjoy the Holidays for what they are and often it’s alone..but peaceful..

8 Jaime McLeod { 11.16.11 at 9:29 am }

That is a difficult problem, JustMe. The only thing I can recommend is lots of trips outside. If someone mentions it, perhaps you can matter-of-factly inform them that cigarette smoke makes you feel sick. Of course, there are always people who will take offense to even that light criticism. You know better than I do how your family might react, but my experience is that many smokers feel some level of entitlement about their habit.

9 JustMe { 11.15.11 at 10:15 pm }

These are all great ideas, there is a major one missing. Environmental issues. How do you go and enjoy yourself knowing you will come home sick due to the smokers in the house and the house is kept at 80 degrees or more? This is the single most reason most of the family doesn’t want to go home for the holidays. All suggestions welcome! Thanks!

10 DSB { 11.25.10 at 10:29 am }

@Angie – How very true your words are…I’m so very fortunate to have many of my immediate family still with me (Mother, Siblings, Cousins and their children) and am very thankful for them, even though at Christmas when we’re ALL together it can be a bit difficult at times. So, on this Thanksgiving day I give thanks for my family. Today, I will think of you and would welcome you into our family and invite you to spend the Holidays with us if only possible.

11 Frutero { 11.25.10 at 12:00 am }

It’s true. This morning, I woke up early, took care of the animals, and went back to sleep. Then, as I began to wake up again, it seemed for a moment I was waking up in the room I had when I was in my teens, and then that I saw my aunt’s living room just as it was then. That was over half a century ago… how unchanging it seemed then! But it’s gone, long gone, and only in those moments of clear and present memory will I ever see these things again. Carpe diem… seize the day, because only by embracing it now will you be able to hold it to you in a future year, a lonelier time.

12 Angie { 11.24.10 at 1:15 pm }

While this may be a good article and all, I have to say that I really get sick of people telling everyone to remember to be thankful for all they have and then turn around and complain about family. The next time you wanna feel sorry for yourself just because some family members get on your nerves, try to think about some of us out here who have no family to spend the holidays with, no turkey or pie, no one to even complain about! Either be thankful or don’t be but just remember one day some of those people won’t be around anymore and you’ll view their nagging, irritating gestures and opinions in whole different light. You’ll actually miss it! Just be thankful you got family!

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