Just because you’re related doesn’t mean you have to relate. If you can accept that, then you’ll be able to at least get along with the likes of in-laws, second cousins, and other extended family members.
No reason to waste your energy getting annoyed, angry or frustrated. Your relatives aren’t likely to change just for you — and vice versa. And if you can’t relate to them, chances are the feeling is mutual.
So how do you handle those ever-popular seasonal family reunions, get-togethers and visits without blowing a fuse?
• Don’t plan trips or visits longer than you know you can handle. If three days of togetherness is your limit, don’t let anyone — not even your guilty conscience — convince you to extend. Better to leave wanting more.
• Remind yourself of all the things that you find hard to handle and talk them through with a neutral party beforehand — such as your spouse, or better yet, an unrelated friend. Get your gripes off your chest before the get-together. You’ll feel lighter from venting, and the edge will be gone, giving you the ability to have a more relaxed approach. And you may even get some coping tips from your outside source.
• Remember that it’s not forever. These family events are usually requested by the older generations, hoping to spend precious time with their loved ones. Do them a favour, try your best to make the most of this short-lived situation.
• Focus your energy on those family members with whom you do connect. Get to know them even better, solidifying your relationship. Don’t ignore the others or act rudely, but keep a healthy distance to avoid any unnecessary tension or arguments.
• If you really can’t handle even the thought of such an event, don’t go. Or, at the very least, don’t attend every one — if the family makes these reunions an annual priority, arrange to be busy every other year. Better still, plan your own family vacation at the same time, so no one can argue. But if you don’t want to make a spectacle of yourself — or enemies within — as they say on the street, suck it up. Go for the grandparents’ sake and let everything slide off your back like water off a duck.
• When you’re together with the people with whom you don’t quite see eye to eye, keep the conversation light, neutral and emotion-free. Ask them about themselves — nothing makes a person happier than talking about themselves and their own interests. Avoid topics such as politics, religion, child-rearing, marital advice — basically anything controversial.
Remember, it’s not necessary to confuse having relatives with having relationships. It’s nice when it happens, but in some cases, family harmony is better maintained when it doesn’t.