Becky Harlan and Trish Pickelhaupt / NPR
OK, so a bunch of us went on vacation last year, right? Instead of a whole thing with the family, I opted for a relaxing hangout with a few friends outdoors and a small dinner with my bubble.
But this year? Now? For better or worse, it feels like the holidays are in full swing again – despite the latest variant hanging over our heads.
We are here to help with the worst. We asked you to share your questions about getting through the next few weeks, and you will definitely get through. So we asked the licensed clinical psychologist Andrea Bonior to help guide us through some harsh winter spots involving family, money, loneliness, and, of course, security.
The one unvaccinated family member
My future father-in-law has not been vaccinated and refuses to be vaccinated. I know my fiancé does not like the situation either, but I also know that he is done trying to convince his father. It’s not my family, so I feel it’s not my place to stand up to him when his own children do not want to, but I do not want COVID either.
Talking to the vaccine-resistant people in our lives is a challenge in itself, and when combined with the pressure to stay on the good side of your future family members, that conversation can be difficult to navigate.
Something important to keep in mind is this you have the right to express yourself. “You don’t have to sacrifice your own health to get along in this family,” Bonior says. “The expectation of not spending time indoors with people who are not fully vaccinated is very reasonable.”
Now it’s easy to go with the flow to avoid “drama”. As Bonior says, it is not the people who listen to experts and do what they can to stop the spread of COVID that create drama – rather “it is the people who refuse to live up to it” that create problems. .
This, of course, is further complicated by the fact that the person in question is not yours immediate family but your partner. This means that it is necessary to check in with him about how you will react to this situation together. When you draw clear boundaries with your in-laws, it helps to have a common front to ensure that your thoughts are respected. If the two of you can not agree to confront your father-in-law, it may be better to just skip the meeting.
Christmas? More like Christmas $
Every year, my in-laws and in-laws all get very expensive gifts for Christmas and expect the same in return. But my husband and I have a tight budget. When it comes down to it, I tend to find gifts to be wasteful and harmful to the environment, and I do not consider proposing gifts (without much hope that this idea holds). Hoping for some advice on how to navigate the holidays with this break.
Gift giving is so wrapped up in the holiday season that some people have a hard time imagining the season without it. For this reason, Bonior suggests that one refrain from going full without gifts and instead try to find a middle ground. It is clear that things have not gone well so far in this scenario, but perhaps the best approach is to have an open conversation about what makes giving gifts so important to the parents-in-law in question.
Bonior says some people may even feel “threatened” by the idea of eliminating gift exchanges because it makes them feel like they are not celebrating a “real holiday.” So it is especially important to find a way to knock down the deeper meaning of these gifts if you are trying to renegotiate a long-standing family tradition.
It can also help to be upfront (to what extent you feel comfortable with) about your financial status. Some people need it clarified for them – “Hey, we really can not afford a big gift exchange right now. How about this year we just focus on quality time together instead?” No one should have to put themselves in an insecure financial situation over a holiday get-together. As Bonior says, “We can make sense in so many other ways.”
Here is another:
My partner and I have a wonderful and stable relationship that is more than a few years old. I am physically handicapped and sex queer. I thought I was getting along with my boyfriend’s family when we first met, but a few months later they started beating me into my partner. My instinct is just to avoid them, but I do not want my partner to have to choose between our relationship and their family. How can I respond to ridiculous comments or confrontations when we are together?
This is another case where an honest conversation between you and your partner is crucial. Your family’s hopes for you may fall into the realm of toxicity in your relationship if left untreated, and it is your partner’s responsibility to provide protection, whatever it may be. For example, you and your partner may decide early on that you will only take a certain number of excavations from family members. Then it’s time to leave.
A game plan like this can work well, especially if it is communicated to that person every time, Bonior says. “You want a kind of warning: ‘Hey, this is the second time you’ve mentioned their gender identity. We’ll have to go if it happens a second time. Please let’s be respectful here.'” The second option is a more zero-tolerance approach, which may mean not going to the next family reunion at all.
Loneliness during the holidays
I’m back to spend the holidays away from my mom and my sisters. I feel miserable alone. How do I feel less lonely?
Bonior says we are often pressured to feel happy at this time of year. Instead, she suggests, “Let yourself say, ‘This is a really tough vacation for me, and maybe I want to somehow tune certain aspects of the vacation completely out.'”
And as you do this, it’s helpful to know that you’re not the only one. As you can get out of our letters so far, there are many people out there who choose to skip out on gift exchanges, family dinners and other social commitments. So allow yourself to feel lonely, knowing that you are not alone.
Reaching out to a friend is another option. Maybe you can make plans to look forward to, like watching a movie or having dinner. “Many times when we reach out to friends … it really helps alleviate some of our loneliness because we feel we have a purpose,” Bonior says.
Inconsistent holiday energies
A tofar! Here is one side of the coin:
Every year I dread the holidays. From mid-November to January 2, I am miserable under the pressure I feel from all sides, society, the media, friends, family. It’s just too much for me. The problem is that my attitude is ruining this time of year for my wife, which is not fair to her. How do I fake it so she can still enjoy this time of year?
And here is the other:
My husband’s family situation has never been great and the holidays are emotionally tough for him so he does not like to celebrate. On the flip side, my family is big for festivities and we love holidays. We are celebrating Christmas for ourselves this year. I want to dress up and make new traditions, but I’m not sure how to approach my husband.
The first is first – it’s not about forging it. Instead, it’s about “building something new” it works for both of you, Bonior says. “I think the middle ground really consistently comes down to saying, ‘What are your values here? What’s most important?'” Which means these vacationers might have to dig deep to find out what really drives them every year to inflate. their outdoor snowman and trap the Christmas tree. Is it sentimental? Does it make you feel more connected to your loved ones? Maybe try to think of other ways you can evoke these treasured emotions. For example, if Christmas makes you feel nostalgic about the excitement of childhood, you might find joy in helping younger members of your family write their own letters to Santa.
Alternatively, the “holiday haters” should ask themselves whether consumerism is really what is at the core of their end of the year. Is there a way to show your love and affection to someone in a way that does not involve online shopping or going shopping? The answer is yes.
“Try to get rid of the external traits,” says Bonior, “and ask the deeper question, what values am I trying to represent here? And how can I connect with my partner at that level?” Regardless of how you choose to spend this time of year, just remember that there is no “proper” way to celebrate – every long-established holiday tradition was once new.
The podcast portion of this story was produced by Andee Tagle. We would love to hear from you. Leave us a voicemail at 202-216-9823, or email us at LifeKit@npr.org.
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