Dealing with Selfish Family Members at Christmas
Have you ever sat in a group of people and listened to someone describe a family member whose own agenda takes over from the rest of the family? We have family members like that. One family member has driven past our home numerous times a year and stopped in only once in eight years. (We live five minutes from the freeway.) We drive 3 ½ hours to see our parents then we drive the extra hour it takes to get to their house to see them. But usually we only see her and the kids because he is too busy.
We used to have a great tradition where our family and their family stayed together overnight on Christmas Eve with the kids. We’d eat a great meal, open gifts and enjoy time together. Our kids are older than theirs, so we had done this tradition for many years with our kids. When their kids got past the baby stage, they no longer came to spend the night. Just like that the tradition was cast aside.
These people seem to feel that if it is their idea it is a good idea, but if it is inconvenient for them it just won’t work. I have had enough conversations with others to know most families have one of these members in them.
Choose the relationship first
How do you deal with selfish family members? I have chosen the relationship first and have worked to set aside my own hurt and agenda for the better of the relationship. We tell our kids “your siblings are your lifelong friends, so treat them best.” I try to do that with these challenging family members. The thing that always surprises me is that when we are together, we all have a really great time, both couples and kids included. I don’t understand why they don’t make us more of a priority. However we have chosen to continue to make them a priority.
Understanding the five love languages also really helps. Author Gary Chapman says that there are different languages we use to express emotional love for each other. Once when we were in the home of the above mentioned couple my husband and I were in the family room, our brother-in-law disappeared. I was getting more and more ticked off because we didn’t have much time, we had driven to see them and he disappeared. When we left that afternoon, we left with an arm full of clothes, a cooler full of food and several other gifts from them. My brother-in-law was running around the house collecting things to give us, while we were waiting for him to sit down and visit with us.
I realized in that moment that their love language is giving gifts, while ours is quality time. He was showing his love and care for us in his own way, giving, while we were missing it waiting for his time. We don’t often get time with them, but they are VERY thoughtful, generous people. Once I recognized the difference in communicating love and care, it really helped my attitude.
As Christmas approaches you and I have a choice to make. We can let the little things bug us, keep silent and let it fester, or we can communicate, re-adjust our expectations, and decide the relationship is more important. Carefully consider the relationship first and then choosewhat will be best in the moment. Sometimes being angry, but kind is ok. Sometimes letting it go is ok. Letting it fester however is never ok. Make a conscious choice based on the relationship at stake. Family relationships are precious and worth making an effort and investing in.
For more information on the Five Love Languages
For more on investing in relationships