My mom and I have a rough relationship. It’s well known that I had behavioral problems as a teenager and young adult, but I have grown up and I’m past those things now. It seems like she can’t let go of the past.
At holiday dinners, if there is company, she will find a way to humiliate me and treat my sister like the queen. My boyfriend and I now refuse to go to holiday dinners.
My family also said they weren’t doing gift exchanges due to money, but I found out my mom and sister exchange gifts behind my back. My mom says I’m making things up and refuses to acknowledge her part in all of this.
I now dread the holidays. I don’t know how to change my status as the black sheep of the family. How can I enjoy the holidays again with my family problems?
Wouldn’t it be nice if the magic of Christmas transformed all family members into loving, inclusive and generous people? We have such high expectations of each other, especially during this time of the year. We long to experience something ennobling and different from our loved ones, even just for an evening.
You are hurt by your family, especially your mother. You want her to see who you really are. It all feels so unfair to you. You might keep your distance and live separate lives the rest of the year.
However, you want something different to happen this year. Perhaps you could be the change you’re looking for. Perhaps you could give your mother and sisters the love they struggle to show you.
I’m not suggesting you continually put yourself in harm’s way and remain in social situations where they can humiliate you. I’m suggesting that you offer them the one gift that represents who you are at the core. You clearly love your family; otherwise, this wouldn’t hurt so badly. You can offer them the love they can’t show you.
The most touching Christmas stories usually involve some undeserving person receiving an unexpected gift of love and kindness. You don’t have to wait for your family to treat you kindly during Christmas. This can be the one time of the year when, regardless of how they’ve behaved the rest of the year, you will show them who you truly are — a loving daughter and sister.
In fact, this time of year is a time many of us try out forgiveness, reconciliation and other emotionally vulnerable actions. There is a softening that happens this time of year and allows us to experience different ways of relating to others.
You’re not the same person anymore, so it should be easier for you to rise above the petty family dynamics and show them a better way to treat others. Once you decide to offer them your undeserved love and kindness, the ideas will flow. I have no doubt you can find an authentic way to show them how important they are to you.
This response captures the spirit of Christmas, and it’s something you can give to your family. And who knows? It may have a bigger impact than you realize.
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.
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