When Family Visits Are Traumatic

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Manage episode 251132296 series 1423957
By Caleb & Verlynda Simonyi-Gindele and Verlynda Simonyi-Gindele. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.
What do you do when you’re going to see family for the holidays or on a vacation and you know that not everybody is in that healthy place where they’re going to be able to show you, your spouse and kids respect and care? So many of our listeners — if they want to spend time with family — know ahead of time that it’s not likely to go well. How can we prepare and protect ourselves when this is the case? For many people, family visits are a time to look forward to where you enjoy spending time with your family. But for many people, they would have at least some concern about one of their parents or family members making part of the time difficult or uncomfortable. And I know there are other folks where they feel an obligation to honor their parents by visiting them but also know that there are going to be some legitimate hardships during that visit. Signs of a Toxic Relationship Let’s start by just looking at the signs of a toxic relationship. If you are put down a lot or if you experience passive-aggressive behaviors or comments from a family member then that’s evidence of a toxic relationship.[1] For example, they may bring something up out of the blue like “why did you not invite me to that movie you went to?” Or they may tell your wife something that they want you to hear, but not have the courage to confront you directly. Another sign of toxicity is if you find the person consistently attempting to cross boundaries that you have set. When this happens, you may withdraw or feel anxious or uncomfortable but perhaps not really recognizing why. If you notice this reaction in yourself, it may be because one of your boundaries has been crossed.[2] We’ll talk more about setting boundaries later on, but the reality is that many people, despite having difficult family members, feel that they should continue to make visits or spend time with difficult, sarcastic, narcissistic, ill-mannered, or toxic family members. What’s the best way to handle that reality? Ways to Handle Difficult Family Visits 1. Prepare Beforehand If you know you're going to a family gathering and you have a difficult relationship with one or more family members, practice self-care before going on the visit. Sleep and good nutrition can help you feel good, and help you be in a positive frame of mind before meeting family members.[3] It’s also a good idea to get on the same page with your spouse. If there are predictable patterns of behavior that you’ll be facing, what do you want to ignore or tolerate, and what are behaviors that one or both of you would consider severe enough to confront? What are your shared boundaries that you both agree to? What are your absolute no-zones? The question here is how can you face this as a team? And support and maintain connection with one another in the face of these challenges? 2. Do What You Can to Work With the Relationship It doesn’t hurt to remind ourselves that some toxic relationships can become healthy. Sometimes people just go through a phase or even just slip into a way of relating to us that isn’t really a true reflection of their deeper values. If this is the case, accountability may be prudent. You might decide that you want to gently call them out if they are being passive-aggressive and let them know how this kind of behavior is hurtful to you. At the same time, you may wish to acknowledge their feelings, saying things like “I didn’t know you were upset about that.”[4] It’s good to remember that, typically, remaining silent or else trash-talking the person to your spouse doesn’t really help them to grow. And it may be worth confronting some of these behaviors to see if the person is willing and able to respond. If you find that your spouse does not respond, then it may be time to set some healthy boundaries until the person is in a place where they can relate to you with some basic elements of respect and care. Just be sure to be thoughtful and not judgmental.

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