Some of my friends are traveling to see family during the holidays. They might wish that their families got along like the ones in the holiday movies, the ones where issues get resolved in the last half hour, but they don’t. At most, they may be hoping for fewer pointed remarks, less drinking and more laughing, and not getting an upset stomach or headache. Many are planning a few extra days off to recover from visiting.
Why do they go at all? Partly guilt, but mostly love. Even though they may not like the way family members behave, talk, or feel, life is short and they still want to see them, even if only occasionally. And the visits invariably bring up sorrow at how different their family’s behavior is, compared to what they wish it to be.
In families where people stay in designated roles, those who have focused on self-growth and having better boundaries, may feel uncomfortable or no longer fit. Families can be rather closed systems, and introducing new behaviors might really blow things up. Feelings of estrangement make the holiday season extra painful for those who did not grow up in a Hallmark movie, which is actually most of us.Continue reading