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Man Feels Conflicted About Spending 'Stressful & Depressing' Holidays With His Siblings

Photo: Nicole Michalou / Pexels 
holiday celebration

The holidays are meant to be joyful, but they don’t always play out that way. Navigating time spent with family can be a challenge, especially when it’s not clear if the rest of the family is enjoying that time together.

One man asked Slate’s advice columnist, Dear Prudence, for help deciding what to do with his family during the holiday season.

The man said he's conflicted about spending time with his siblings because past holidays were ‘stressful and depressing.’

He shared that he, his brother, and his sister are estranged from his parents, who were abusive addicts. As the oldest sibling, he often finds himself playing the role of parent, noting, “I coordinate the few times we see each other every year and provide financial help when I can, mostly to my sister.”

“Because of busy [and] conflicting schedules, financial issues, and living far apart, we rarely see each other outside of the holidays, but text often,” he said.

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Yet recent holidays with his siblings have proven to be unenjoyable. Last year, he arrived at his brother’s home, only to find it a mess, which he, his wife, and his sister cleaned up before guests arrived. He said, “After dinner, mostly cooked by my wife and me, my brother went to play video games, leaving us and his partner to make awkward small talk with his in-laws and guests. My sister spent most of the time on her phone.” 

man feels conflicted about spending holidays with his siblingsPhoto: Karolina Grabowska / Pexels 

“I thought it was a one-off, but Christmas was more of the same,” he revealed. “I feel bad putting the expectation of gifts on them when I know what their finances are like. It was stressful and depressing.”

"It feels like I’m forcing everyone to do something they don’t really want to do,” he explained. 

The man isn’t sure if it’s worth the stress to spend holidays together, yet he noted that 'we are all we have left.' 

The response he received from "Dear Prudence" hinged on maintaining a connection with his siblings, despite his feelings of discomfort. As she saw it, “There’s no animosity here — just three people with significant shared trauma.”

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She noted that the man seemed like he was able to fill the role of holiday coordinator, as “every family needs someone who is willing to fill the gaps left by other people’s challenges or shortcomings, whether that means bringing enough positive energy to make up for those who lack it, or by shouldering the planning burden.”

At the same time, if getting together for the holidays doesn't feel nourishing, there's no reason to force it. Setting boundaries during the holidays is a valuable practice for anyone to master.



Dear Prudence offered alternatives on how to spend time together. She noted that their holiday celebrations shouldn't be bound by tradition, which could take the pressure off everyone.

man feels conflicted spending holidays with his siblingsPhoto: Monstera Production / Pexels 

“You sound like great candidates for an unconventional holiday routine that works better for everyone,” she said. “It doesn’t even have to take place on any special day.” She suggested planning time together that involved other activities besides a holiday meal, like volunteering or seeing a movie. 

While only the siblings themselves have a strong enough understanding of the nuances of their relationship to decide how to proceed, the suggestion of a non-traditional holiday celebration could certainly ease the pressure, and refocus them on spending time together in ways that feel good for everyone. 

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Alexandra Blogier is a writer on YourTango's news and entertainment team. She covers family relationships, pop culture analysis, and all things to do with the entertainment industry.