Is Turkey Day more like "Family Squabble Day"? It's time to break that pattern.
When it comes to Thanksgiving, we often picture Norman Rockwell-esque images of a happy family gathered together around the table. Delicious food, thoughtful conversations, and loving interactions, all sprinkled with a heart-warming dose of "thankfulness" and appreciation.
But in reality, most of my clients report that their Thanksgiving family gatherings are full of tension, bickering, and passive-aggressive comments. Maybe you can relate?
If you're dealing with anxiety about spending time at the obligatory family gathering, I'm here to say—there is a way to have quality family time while skipping the drama!
Here are 9 ways to make this Thanksgiving with your family a day you're actually thankful for:
Tip #1: Make Your Mantra "It's Not About Me"
Some people escape the reality of their own lives by obsessing over the lives of others. People (especially family) will talk about you. They will comment on your clothes, your weight, and your choice of friends or love interest. They will judge you, because they are too afraid to look within themselves.
Remembering that it's not about you can help free you from worrying about what others think. You are the only person who lives inside your skin, lives your daily life, and meets your eye in the mirror each day. If you are living a life that is best for you, then that's all that matters.
Tip #2: Don't Take The Bait
When people are rude or say mean things, it's tempting to snap back. (So, so, soooo tempting). But remember tip #1: it's not personal.
Step back, take a breath, and apply a lens of compassion and empathy to the situation. Don't take any of the 'bicker bait' they're dangling in front of you. Sure, a snappy retort might make you feel better in the moment, but in the long run, you'll regret it.
Change the subject. Reply with a smile. Someone showing their insecurities and fears doesn't have to send you into reaction mode.
Tip #3: Give Your Inner Critic the Weekend Off
Sometimes, the words of our inner critic are worse than anything others might say. This is why an innocent comment from your aunt about your giant piece of pumpkin pie triggers you and leaves you jumping to the conclusion that she's calling you fat.
Give your inner critic the weekend off, so you can relax and just enjoy the holiday banter.
Tip #4: Don't Play the Comparison Game
Comparison is really about conforming and competition. While seemingly opposite ideas, at the heart of comparison is a desire to conform and yet stand out within a set of norms: cutest kids, best pie, best hair, and happiest life.
Caving to the comparison game pushes you to always strive for perfection, which is just exhausting. Let go of comparison this weekend. You be you. Let your cousin be your cousin. And simply enjoy the tales of what's happening in your family's lives.
Tip #5: Let Your Inner Judge Off The Hook
Find yourself mentally picking apart another's words? Are you obsessively monitoring someone's behaviors and demeanor? (Say, like, the tightness of their jeans or their third helping of stuffing.)
Stop right there! You're caught up in another type of comparison: judging. Just like no one else's opinion of you really matters. Don't over-esteem your opinion of them either. Keep your attention on your own fabulous life.
Tip #6: Lay Down Your Worries
Families trigger all of our stuff. How many of us feel like a self-conscious teenager again the second we step foot into our family's house (no matter how successful we are out in the adult world)?
Don't let old ghosts and old worries run wild in your head, acknowledge them before the big family gathering. Enlist your partner, a sibling, or another trusted family member to help you lay your burdens down for the day. Worried that the promotion you didn't get at work just confirms what your dad has always said—that you're not as ambitious as your brother? Voice that worry to a trusted friend and then put that thought away for the day.
Tip #7: Don't Get Sucked In
No matter what we do personally, there will be some sort of family drama. If it starts, remember, you don't have to get sucked in.
Instead? Walk away. Remove yourself from the situation quickly by offering to help with the dishes, excusing yourself to the restroom, or just taking a walk.
You have the right to honor yourself and your needs. Alternatively, put your wits to good use. There's nothing wrong with trying to turn the conversation to another subject or injecting a humorous shift in energy. Step out of the family politics and drama. It may encourage others to follow your example.
Tip #8: Laugh, Love, and Accept Them
No matter what the holiday brings, focus on the positive aspects of those around you instead of their negative traits. As crazy as they make you feel, they are still your family. And deep down, you love them. You only have the power to change yourself and how you react. Accepting the fact that you can't change anyone, will help you just laugh and love them for who they are.
Tip #9: Consider Skipping It!
And now for some flat-out honesty: if the thought of spending time with your family makes you ill, then stay home. You don't have to submit to being emotionally or verbally abused. The world is full of unhappy people and sometimes, these people are family members.
You have a right to enjoy the holidays. You have the right to be happy. Don't make a rash decision, of course, but do listen to what your heart tells you.
If you decide that the holiday won't be the same without visiting the family, just remember these Thanksgiving ideas for dealing with the stressful moments.
What other Thanksgiving ideas do you have for keeping the peace and reducing the drama?
"From my mom and dad, because they're happily married for a long time: Just listen. Listen to him. I'm so independent and driven and stubborn. Just let him talk. It's about not being so stubborn and having to win every argument. My parents set a great example. They love each other and take care of each other so much."
"It's kind of cheesy, but my mama, who you all have seen on the show, says to cook for your man. She's Southern, so when he comes home, be pullin' a pie out of the oven. That's always been her advice, and you know what? It works. Your man wants to see you in the kitchen, puttin' some love into some food; it works for Eric, that's for sure."
"The best advice I've ever been given is being handed a Bible. That's the blueprint for marriage that we go by, and that's what our marriage is grounded in. We also have other married couples who are examples in our lives. My parents have been married over 40 years, and both sets of grandparents for over 65 years. When you see couples in long-term relationships and you see them go through good times and bad times, you realize it's about being committed enough and loving your partner enough to hang in there regardless."
"My mom told me, "It shouldn't be that difficult." My parents had their moments for sure, but the majority of their relationship has been really great. It shouldn't be that much work to make love work."
"You've got to be good to each other … it really comes back to respect. I was raised in a very Catholic, Italian family and it was all about respect. Don't talk badly about [your partner] the second they walk out the door; really preserve your relationship and be good to each other. Treat it like gold."
"Don't lie to your partner. Ultimately the expression on your face gives you away, and they feel betrayed by the lie. If this is the person you're going to be with—forever and ever, for better or worse—they will love you for all of your good and all of your bad. They'll love you for you. So open communication is key. I have no secrets and no skeletons in my closet with my husband, and I love that. I feel comfortable and at ease with myself when I'm around him. I love the woman that I've become with him."
"I think the best love advice I've ever received is really about understanding that communication is key, of course, but also that there's not one perfect person for you. You kind of have to accept what are the things that are negotiable for you and what are not."
"My mom always told me, "Whatever happens, will happen" or 'Whatever is supposed to happen, will happen." I've learned you'll know when you find the right person. When I found the right person, I knew it immediately."
18. The Five Love Languages Author Dr. Gary Chapman
"Before I discovered the concept of the 5 love languages, a bit of advice I was given was to become a student of my wife and to take time to learn what makes her feel loved. I soon learned that what makes her feel loved may not always be the thing I want to do because it may not come natural to me. But learning to love her in the way that makes her feel loved is a greater demonstration of my love for her, because I've chosen to do it with a goal of pleasing her."
"Pay attention to the girl, instead of myself. A bunch of people [told me that]. It's terrible. I'm very into myself, so people are always like, "Pay attention to the other person. Don't ever separate yourself." It's a good lesson. I'm learning. I'm doing good."
"Don't get divorced after your first argument! I have a lot of friends that have one fight and that's it, they get divorced. I go, 'Wait a minute! Oh my gosh, you guys! Calm down! You'll forget in three days what you were fighting about. I promise. So just let it marinate a little bit—that's my best love advice."
21. The Real Housewives of Miami's Adriana de Moura
"When I was about 15, [my grandmother] said something I will always remember: 'Love comes before money.' I will never let anything like greed come between us when it comes to love. She was married to my grandfather for 70 years. It's very hard to have a long-term relationship and if you're not sure, it's not going to last. Make sure that you truly love."
"If you're looking for love, focus on something you love to do and work hard. Love will find you. Basically, love yourself before you love anyone else. A lot of girls have such insecurities nowadays that you have to be comfortable with who you are before you can really have a good relationship with someone else."
"Love advice is like life advice, so there are so many elements of that. I think humor, patience, admiration are really important love elements. Love and respect. You have to respect the person that you're going to love, and you have to be confident in yourself and love yourself."
'Think about how much you'd miss that if he were gone tomorrow.' This is my senior producer's advice in my ear during our news show if I'm grumbling about my hubby, whether about his habit of leaving dirty clothes around, or the way he goes into la la land while I'm talking with him, or that he wakes me up being loud overnight. How true! Heaven forbid, but if something ever happens to our loved ones, oh how we'd long for them to be back, and their little aggravating habits would be something cherished.
"On the other hand the best love advice I've ever given is: Gals, don't marry someone for their looks. Sooner or later we all age and start to droop. Don't marry someone for their position and don't marry someone for money. Money comes and goes, and since when is that love? Marry someone because they make you laugh. Humor is always sexy. Besides, it's awfully hard to get mad at someone while they're making you laugh."
30. The Real Housewives of New York's Heather Thomson
"Well, it's one of the oldest. It really is paradoxical, but it's true: You just can't go to bed mad. You have to make up, because there's only one alternative, and that alternative is not being together. So, my husband and I always decide we might as well make up, whether we agree to disagree or not. We understand we are individuals and that together we're unbelievably powerful and that we have a family that is the most important thing, and that I wouldn't trade him for the world. So, love is about give and take, and love is about understanding that you're individuals and together as a couple, you're the strongest there ever is ifyou're in the right couple."
"I was going to say, 'It's work, relationships take work,' but that makes it sound like relationships are hard, that they're work. Rebecca and I have always gotten along really well. We've always had a really strong connection. I'm the last guy that should be giving people advice on love, that's for sure. But I have a great marriage. I just got lucky, I guess."
"I lost my dad back in the fall, and my dad said something to me a long time ago. He said, 'Are you happy with who you are now?' because we just had a real serious talk. And I said, 'Yeah.' He said, 'Then you can't regret what got you to where you are. So whatever you do and whatever mistakes you make, learn from them and grow. And just always treat people with kindness,' which I've tried to do."
"My mom always used to say, "You can't say I love you before you can say I." And I think that sort of makes sense."
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