Dealing with Selfish Family Members at Christmas

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selfishchristmasHave 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.  Our loved ones drive past our home numerous times a year and have stopped in only once in eight years.  (We live five minutes from the freeway.)   We drive 3 ½ hours to see parents; then we drive the extra hour it takes to get to their house.  After that effort, we usually 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.  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?  We choose the relationship first and work hard to set aside our hurt for the better of the relationship.  We tell our kids “your siblings are your lifelong friends, so treat them best.”  I try to do this 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.  Despite this, we continue to make them a priority.

Understanding The Five Love Languages also really helps. Author Gary Chapman says there are different languages we use to express emotional love for each other.  For example, 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 this 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 choose what 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 to invest in.

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26 Responses to “Dealing with Selfish Family Members at Christmas”

  • Barbara Alpert Barbara Alpert says:

    Hi Sheri J./Save Your Relationship Now, thanks for sharing some of your favorite quotes. Also, thanks for posting the “Message in a bottle” idea. In addition to filling the bottle with certain quotes…one can include Bible scriptures too.

  • Sheri J. says:

    Here’s another fabulous idea about giving to selfish people. Sometimes people can be inspired by what other people say. Use the message in a bottle method.
    Take an old bottle. Fill the bottle up with messages or quotes about “giving”.
    Search for famous quotes online related to giving. Copy and print it out make sure you give credit to person who quoted the saying. (For example, “A wealthy and wise man doesn’t shake hands with people, he gives an helping hand.”
    ? Michael Bassey Johnson)
    Put around 30-100 paper messages in the bottle. On the instructions on the bottle, tell the recipient to only pull out 1 paper message per day.
    (Do not even say that all the messages are related to giving, they will figure that out on their own).

    Then gift wrap the bottle or put a big ribbon on the bottle to give to recipient.
    Wonderful homemade gift!

    Something amazing might happen. After the recipient reads all of the quotes/messages relevant to giving, maybe they will be inspired to be a more giving person. Of course, this isn’t guaranteed.
    People can change when they FEEL INSPIRED to and many of us feel inspired by inspirational messages and/or quotes.

    I’d like to share some of my favorite quotes:

    “Be the change you want to see in this world.” – Mahatma Gandhi

    “Count your blessings, not your problems.” – Unknown

    “Whatever you are, be a good one.” – Abraham Lincoln

    “When you see the word (IMPOSSIBLE), do you see ‘impossible’, or ‘i’m possible”? Life is how you SEE it.” – Sheri J.

    “I do not know the secret to success but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.” – Bill Cosby

    “I am thankful for all of those who said NO to me. Its because of them I’m doing it myself.” – Albert Einstein

  • Sheri J. says:

    Here’s a good idea that we thought of. Instead of giving to selfish family members, give the amount you would have sent them and give it to your favorite charity instead. Then write a greeting card to your relative saying (example), “Instead of giving gifts this year, we decided to give to our favorite charity. In honor of you, (name of your selfish relative), we gave to Food Banks of America.”

  • Sharon says:

    good article thank you for posting it

  • Maureen says:

    Oh yes.. I know exactly what you people are speaking of.. half my family is like that! sadly they believe that if they beg and plead enough they will get giant piles of presents. they don’t seem to remember everyone else who can’t afford them. usually during that time of year, I just try and remeber to enjoy the time I have with my family.. Overseas or not( as the other half is from the Scottish Macdonald clan). And I always cherish the moments when I can speak with my Scottish uncles as well.

  • Andrew says:

    @Francine, It is awesome to hear that you did have a miracle in your life. Often when think Christ no longer does miracles!

  • Francine says:

    I beleive in miracles and it did happen in my family! My husbands mother came to our house Christmas Day and cooked for us all and we had a wonderful time of fellowship, and food.. Things have turned around and it is because of Jesus Christ.

  • Doris Beck Doris says:

    So true Janna! Unfortunately too many people do that which makes it difficult to have good family times. But miracles do happen! Just heard of a family that actually sat together at the same table for the first time in years for Christmas Dinner which was amazing! and definitely a huge answer to the prayers of many family members.

  • Janna says:

    Some people put their own selfishness ahead of the good of the family

  • Doris Beck Doris says:

    I have removed your comment as you asked Francine.

  • Francine says:

    My most recent comment was made in error. I thought Mark responded to my comment from earlier today. But it was someone else responding to Mark. Please remove my comment right before this one. Thank you

  • Andrew says:


    One of the most difficult situations in life is when you try to make someone love you who refuses to have anything to do with you. I am not certain where you are in your relationship with Christ or if you do believe in Christ. God’s word is very explicit that having intimate relations before marriage. You can not prevent your kids from having sex before marriage however by helping them out you are agreeing with their life style and often we do this in hopes of having someone love us who will never love us.

    In my own personal experience from my marriage many years ago it will only get worse if Christ is not part of the relationship. When a person has been emotionally hurt and abused what appears to be normal to the average person is dysfunctional to them. I have a brother who married a woman who has convinced him that our family is evil, controlling, and guided by the devil. In truth my family and parents have a loving relationship with Christ and do a lot of missions work. My brother has not spoken to our family in many years and unfortunately their is nothing we can do about this even prayer has not helped. He is my brother yes but he has disowned us. I was married to someone similar and my marriage ended in divorce for this reason as well as I refused to disown my family as there is nothing in the Bible that states we can not have a relationship with our families.

    You can not control what your son does however I would encourage you to schedule a time to meet with him directly and tell him your thoughts as parents. Encourage him to wait before making a decision like this that will destroy your relationship with your family. Often when we are in a situation that we should not be in we don’t see it clearly in particular if there has been a long term sexual relationships. Their is no easy answers if you have a relationship with Christ then as John 8: 32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. If you ask Christ to show you the truth he will do so and ask him for wisdom as often parents stand aside and say nothing instead of discussing the issue.

    God Bless

  • Francine says:

    @Mark I feel for you. We are in a similar perdicament with our son. To keep the peace we have had to do our best to accept our sons choice in fiancé. It has gotten better and it’s because of prayer and really just showing love and kindness. We’ve had some disagreements but it’s been better. She is an only child and doesn’t know what having siblings is like and before her our son was very close to his family. Since being with her he has changed. I always thought the right girl brings out the best in a man. We have yet to see this. They are engaged and both are very selfish. They give sparingly to others but lavish themselves and spare no expense. In my heart Im hoping they both will change for the better. But if they break up I wouldn’t be surprised or very disappointed.

  • Mark says:

    Our son will be marrying in a month to a girl that is totaly indifferent to us. They moved in togeather about 4 years ago and we did everything for them, found them a rental apartment via a friend even paid for new furnature. We did it because we love our son and want to come to love this girl but she is so cold towards us. We live a thousand mile away and last year stayed with them for ten days, it was terrible, made it very clear we were not welcome, she just refused to be happy and join in. We did have a big argument and everyone was upset, she said she was jealous because she never had a good relationship with her seperated parents. She is so selfish she makes food for herself and offers us nothing, she has no manners. We understood and moved on but a year later shes doing it all over again, she want to drive a wedge between us and our son. We speak to our son every few days on the telephone and he seems happy. We are not visiting this year as we are not invited, would have been good but thats life. What we are upset is we have not received any presents or card from them. Its the first time he has never sent. We think she is the driving force and really want us out of his life, then they will be equal. We have never done anything to be hurtful to her but she just will not be friendly, terrible. God knows what will happen if children come along. Shes so selfish. Just want to say to all Daughter-In-Laws out there, “Kindness costs nothing”

  • Beth Scholes Beth says:

    My friend once said in-laws are family enough to really bug you, but not family enough to tell them. I have always remembered that comment, because of the truth in it.

  • dee says:

    I have a mother in law who is very demanding and controlling. She goes to church every week but does not have any fruit of the spirit. Like Francine said, i was always left with fustration, exhausted and angry at her which is not good fruits to have. she hurt my child a couple years ago in a physical manner that i just found out about. he doesnt want anything to do with her anymore and that spoke volumes to me. i cut off the relationship. i pray for her everyday and i leave it in Gods hands for him to change. i willnot be in her life until i see a heart change in her or until i hear a word from the Lord. We cannot change people, only pray and leave it in Gods hands. A great lesson i learnt from this experience is to look for good fruits (and make sure i have good fruits in my life) before i let people in my personal life, family or not, because they can affect me in a bad way. i do everything in my power now to protect my and my sons spirit, from anything that is not one of the fruits of the spirit.

  • Patricia says:

    You have hit the nail on the head I know about her insecurities but I need a reminder that is what is going on here thankyou so much for the advice . I do love her but there are those moments when it is difficult . I will try harder and pray for her. again Thankyou.

  • Mary says:

    Wise words of advice. Letting go of the things that bug us about other family members, be it at Christmas or any other day isn’t always easy, but it’s selfless and noble indeed to put aside any hurt for the better of the relationship. It’s also true that people show how they care in different ways and not necessarily in the way that we would like it to be shown.

  • Francine says:

    I believe that you cannot force yourself on people be it family or not. I have family who are exhausting and who always create or are going through some type of emotional drama, over and over, they complain of one another and live in a chaotic filled environment. Just talking to them leaves you feeling down, exhausted, and depressed. And as long as they were successful in making you feel as miserable as they Are they get some type if sick satisfaction from it. I believe
    In spiritual warfare and people have demons and if you arent prayed up those demons can jump to you.
    This went on for years and years until enough was enough, I had to save myself and my family from these family members that were never going anywhere because they refuse to obey the Lord and compromise their Christian walk with their pride, resentment, jealousy and anger. I did all I could and more, but we are to shake the dust off our feet and move on and not be doormats to people who don’t care about their own family and certainly do not have the ability to care for anyone outside their own circle. I pray for them but I have moved on.

  • Leah says:

    I am sorry that you have to go through this. Just know that your daughter-in-law is the one missing out on a relationship with you. It sounds like your daughter-in-law has some insecurities. My suggestion is to love her anyways, love her even when she doesn’t return the love. One day she is will recognize it and be thankful.

  • Leah says:

    For sure I will change it right away

  • Patricia says:

    should be uncomfortable

  • Patricia says:

    I feel unco,fortable that I put my last name is published can it be taken off please.

  • Patricia says:

    Thanks , It is nice to have a daughter in laws point of view unfortunately she has made it quite clear that she can do it now and is quite capable of doing it herself. I had a great motherinlaw that taught me alot and shared all her recipes with me and we did just what you have suggested. I have tried in this case but to no avail.

  • Leah says:

    Dear Patricia

    As a daughter-in-law walking the line of a mother-son relationship is really hard. Nothing can take away the fact that you are his mother and that you guys have a special relationship. One thing you should know is that you are not being replaced but your daughter-in-law admires you so much that she wants to be like you. To me thats the ultimate compliment. For me, I am so proud of the morals and values that have been instilled in my husband and I know that its all because of the hard work, love and time that my mother-in-law put into raising him. Is there a way that you guys can work together in making his favorite foods so nobody feels useless. Maybe you have some helpful tips you can teach your daughter-in-law? Or ask her if she has any tips in making them easier? Let me know how it goes!

  • Patricia says:

    Thanks I just ran into this situation this morning about the bossy relative. I have a daughterin-law that seems to forget I am my sons mother. I am not allowed to make some of his favorites. I gave her the recipes but at should have added ” for when I am gone ” now I just feel useless.

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