If you’re American, chances are you’ve recently spent Thanksgiving with your family. Thanksgiving is, after all, a “family holiday” characterized by gathering the clan together, eating a ton of food, and supposedly being thankful for what you have and each other. Even if you have to travel cross-country, it’s assumed that you will spend the holiday with your most immediate family members.
However, that’s not always the best idea. Sometimes, your family is toxic and will go out of their way to make you or your significant other feel out of place, unwanted, and unloved. They might do this by subtly sniping at you or pressuring you about your job, your relationship, or your political views. They might bring up topics that they know you don’t agree with, or they might reminisce about negative memories. You might find yourself defending your so-called “lifestyle” or screaming at someone for claiming your aunt should die rather than go on Obamacare. You might have an anxiety attack, a panic attack, or feel extremely uncomfortable. And, lucky you, you get to do it all again in a month’s time.
There is no need to do this. If you have any sort of autonomy, you absolutely do not need to visit your family for the holidays. Go hang out with friends, go to your significant other’s family, have a small meal at home, or have a self-care day of pizza, ice cream, and movies. Yes, family members will get mad at you, but if they care about you, they will understand your decision. And if they don’t understand your decision? Then they don’t care about you.
Ideally, our families are support networks that encourage and respect us, helping us be mature, passionate adults. They may not agree with every decision we make or every opinion we hold, but they understand our emotional and physical wellbeing is more important than winning an argument. They treat us in ways that show how grateful they are to have us in our lives instead of just parroting it after spending 15 minutes berating us about not going to nursing school.
Unfortunately, sometimes family are just blood or legal relations. They won’t listen when you try to tell them about your life, and they won’t care when you ask them to change the subject. They won’t apologize when they hurt your feelings, and their very memory will induce a fight or flight response. These people don’t deserve your holiday.
We also should not guilt each other into spending time with our family. There is nothing wrong with someone choosing to spend the time alone or with their friends, and it’s not ungrateful to not want to be around someone who doesn’t have your best interests at heart. The holidays are meant to reignite feelings of love, community, and support, but those feelings aren’t exclusive to our families, and our families don’t deserve such feelings because of their title.
So, if you’ve just had a horrible Thanksgiving, don’t let those people wreck your Christmas or winter break. Make an excuse, lie if you have to, but remember that you deserve a good holiday too. And, if you still need extra encouragement, try reading this article from Bustle about toxic parents. I hope it will give you the strength to break free from bad relations and celebrate yourself.