Part V: Healthy Holiday Relationships

In December we celebrate various holidays like Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Christmas & New Years Eve. There may be one or more people at these celebrations that voice their beliefs in a less than appealing way, cross verbal, emotional or physical boundaries and are generally just difficult to be around. There may be a level of anxiety that builds before the celebration. Certainly, these situations trigger confusion and frustration can leave us feeling empty in the afterglow of the holiday.

Setting healthy boundaries can be very challenging because codependents lack moderate responses and we want people to like us (especially family!). Setting healthy boundaries means that you will not make everyone happy. Likely those one or two family members who are most difficult will not have healthy responses to healthy boundaries, at least not at first. 

However, when boundaries are set respectfully and repetitively (this may take the consistent practice of a few years), those difficult family members eventually push less and even back off completely. We no longer give our energy to their shenanigans and ultimately, they retreat. When they don't retreat, we continue to set the boundary respectfully and repetitively. In this way, we build our healthy interdependence.

People healing from Codependency and working toward being more interdependent feel a sense of strength and self-love when consistently setting healthy boundaries. Our self-efficacy grows. Self-efficacy is our belief in our ability to succeed in certain situations, meet a challenge and accomplish a task.

We can do three practical things to improve relationships and take care of ourselves during the holidays. In this blog, I will highlight and detail one of those practical ways. Then in the December blogs, I will highlight the other two items.

1. Set functional boundaries: 

A. This begins with you several days before the occasion. Think about, write down or discuss with a friend, how you can take care of your adult needs and wants during holiday festivities. 

B. Write down or discuss with a good friend what you need to do or what you need to say to that difficult person or family member. Below are some practical responses when that difficult family member is spouting an opinion, asking too many questions or making uncomfortable requests.

Healthy verbal boundaries:
  • "This is not a topic for discussion" (then switch topics)
  • "I will have to get back to you on that"
  • "I will have to think about that"
Healthy emotional boundaries:
  • Use general and moderate, compassionate responses like, "that sounds difficult"... rather than diving into problem-solving for the person
  • Responding with, "let's talk about that at another time"
  • Taking time out to step into another room or outside when feeling flooded
Healthy physical boundaries:
  • Put your hand out for a warm handshake for those you prefer not to hug
  • Face your body to the side, step aside or move away from a family member who invades your personal body space
  • Respectfully requesting a different physical situation, like asking someone to switch seats with you around the table
Preparation is the key to success
Write it down, discuss with a friend and rehearse how to keep yourself healthy this holiday season. For individualized coaching about healing from codependency and creating healthy boundaries, contact me for a Holiday Coaching Session for 15% off.