In my last post we talked about one way to Beat the Holiday Blues was to Break the Rules!
Sometimes we may need to break the rules--and at other times, we may simply need to:
There are three safeguards that can be helpful to employ if you have struggled in your relationships with family members or at other gatherings that may cause you some discomfort.
Set a Time Frame
Decide in advance the amount of time you will spend at your family event. Stick with this time even if things are going well! Don't make the mistake of waiting "until things that a turn for the worse." Begin to establish a new pattern and enjoy the "time frame" you've set.
Use a Signal
With a friend, spouse or other family member agree upon a signal between the two of you that signifies, "come to my rescue." It can be a distinct hand gesture, a tug on the ear, a repeated glance, or a discreet text message. Agree ahead of time what your spouse or friend will offer to you--your spouse may say, "let's go take a walk", or your friend might join the conversation to divert it in another direction, or a family member might ask you to assist with something in the kitchen that allows you to excuse yourself.
It's sometimes helpful to plan a diversion that will allow you to graciously exit an uncomfortable situation with the help of someone else.
Take a Time-out
Early in our marriage I found it necessary to take a time-out from my family. It became evident to me that before and after a holiday spent with my parents I was very irritable and out of sorts with my child and my husband. It wasn't because anything bad happened. We sat around the dinner table enjoying a lovely dinner with pleasant, but superficial conversation, and no harsh words. What was it that was causing my angst?
Pretending was taking its toll.
I had never dared address the abuse that went on in our home growing up. We all just pretended that it hadn't happened. I could pretend no longer.
I obtained some godly counsel and knew that for my own emotional well-being and that of my family, I needed to take a time-out from seeing my stepfather. When I made the call to my mom, it didn't go well. I told her that I needed to do this for my own emotional health and that I was not doing this out of anger. I just needed time to work through some issues. I was still willing to see my mom, but her response was, "if you don't see your stepfather, then you don't see me!" I was devastated by her response, but knew I must do this.
That time-out lasted a year. I spent that year in counseling grieving through the losses and facing my childhood pain. At the end of that time, I met with my parents and truth about what went on in our family was spoken for the first time. I know God was at work behind the scenes during that time-out period, both in my heart and the heart of my parents. Through that conversation, we began the road to reconciliation and restoration that lasted over twenty-five years. We were not going to pretend anymore. We would now have a relationship based on truth and seasoned with grace.
If you need a time-out, you may not need a year like I did--you may just choose to spend a holiday elsewhere to give yourself a breather. You don't necessarily need to make it "official" like I did. You can simply say, "I'm spending this holiday with my friend's family this year."
Time-outs are best utilized when you are pursuing other healing relationships through a support group, counseling, or a healthy body of believers who will undergird you with prayer and loving support.
You may choose to start with only one of these safeguards- set a time frame, use a signal, or take a time-out to see what works best for you. Get some wise, godly counsel regarding your specific situation and try it out! Modify if necessary!
Stay tuned for my next post in this series on How to BEAT the Holiday Blues!