For many people, the holiday season is a glorious time of year. The time to enjoy friends, family & celebrations. For others like me who have survived demanding, controlling, entitled or even narcissistic parents &/or in-laws however, the mere thought of the holidays brings about a feeling of dread.
My first & current mothers in-law both always demanded my husband’s & my presence every Thanksgiving & Christmas, no matter what. Divorcing my ex & cutting my current in-laws out of my life in 2002 naturally ended their demands for me at least but the damage was done. The enjoyment I once felt for the holidays was gone. Years of spending holidays with people who obviously hated me or alone while my husband spent the day with his family destroyed all pleasure I’d once had in holidays.
I know that my story isn’t all that unusual. So many others have been through very similar situations that I thought sharing some thoughts I’ve had on this topic might help you, Dear Reader.
When you develop this holiday bitterness, people aren’t always understanding. Most people seem to want everyone to look forward to holidays with enthusiasm & joy, & if you don’t, they can be shaming. Many others I know & I have been scolded for not trying to enjoy holidays, told they need to just focus on the joy of the day, everyone loves holidays, etc etc. What these people fail to realize is this holiday bitterness didn’t happen over night. We have tried to enjoy the holidays repeatedly, but demanding people ruined it by commanding us to do what they want us to do & treating us badly when we didn’t do it (well, often worse than usual since bad treatment is the norm with narcissists). It came about when in-laws demand we ignore our own family in favor of them, & treated us badly & acted like something is wrong with us for not wanting to spend a holiday with them. They also shame us for wanting to spend a holiday with our immediate family- our spouse & kids- rather than with them. These people think shaming us & ordering us around is OK. Really, how does that make any sense?
I’m not saying holiday bitterness is a good thing. Frankly, it stinks! I miss looking forward to the holidays & hate how I dread what was once a time of year I looked forward to. What I am saying though is that there is no shame if you feel differently about holidays than the average person does.
Sometimes, too many bad seeds have been sown to overcome. Something unpleasant is the only possible harvest when that happens. Of course it’s a good idea to try to counteract the bad feelings, but if nothing works, it doesn’t mean something is wrong with you or that you’re a bad person. If you can’t conquer holiday bitterness, it just means that some really bad things have been done that caused you to feel this way.
Dear Reader, I’m sorry you feel this nasty holiday bitterness. I hope you can conquer it by starting your own traditions, avoiding negative people around the holidays, suggesting holiday gatherings with extended family on a different day near the actual holiday while you spend the holiday with your immediate family, etc. If you can’t however, then at the very least, please don’t beat yourself up over it. It’s simply a normal reaction to abnormal circumstances, & it happens more often than you might think.