Have you ever sat in a group of people and listened to someone describe a family member whose own agenda takes over from the rest of the family? We have. Our loved ones drive past our home numerous times a year and have stopped in only once in eight years. (We live five minutes from the freeway.) We drive 3 ½ hours to see parents; then we drive the extra hour it takes to get to their house. After that effort, we usually only see her and the kids, he is too busy.
We used to have a great tradition where our family and their family stayed together overnight on Christmas Eve. We’d eat a great meal, open gifts, and enjoy time together all sleep over, waking on Christmas morning to a big pile of gifts, but more importantly our whole family. Our kids are older than theirs, so we’d done this tradition for many years, travelling with our kids. When their kids got past the baby stage, they no longer came to spend the night. Just like that our tradition was cast aside.
Seemingly, these types of people think that if it’s their idea it’s a good idea, but if it’s inconvenient for them, it just won’t work. I’ve had enough conversations with others to know most families claim one of these members.
How Do We Handle This?
How do you deal with selfish family members? We choose the relationship first, and we work hard to set aside our hurt, for the sake of the relationship. We tell our kids “your siblings are your lifelong friends, so treat them best.” I try to do this with these challenging family members. The thing that always surprises me is that when we are together, we all have a really great time, both couples and kids included. I don’t understand why they don’t make us more of a priority. Despite this, we continue to make them a priority.
Understanding The Five Love Languages also really helps. Author Gary Chapman says there are different languages we use to express emotional love for each other. For example, once when we were in the home of the above mentioned couple, my husband and I were in the family room; our brother-in-law disappeared. I was getting more and more ticked off because we didn’t have much time, we had driven to see them and he disappeared. When we left that afternoon, we left with an arm full of clothes, a cooler full of food, and several other gifts from them. My brother-in-law was running around the house collecting things to give us, while we were waiting for him to sit down and visit with us.
I realized in that moment that their love language is giving gifts, while ours is quality time. He was showing his love and care for us in his own way, giving, while we were missing it waiting for his time. We don’t often get time with them, but they are VERY thoughtful, generous people. Once I recognized this difference in communicating love and care, it really helped my attitude.
As Christmas approaches you and I have a choice to make. We can let the little things bug us, keep silent and let it fester, or we can communicate, re-adjust our expectations, and decide the relationship is more important. Carefully consider the relationship first and then choose what will be best in the moment. Sometimes being angry, but kind is ok. Sometimes letting it go is ok. Letting it fester however is never ok. Make a conscious choice based on the relationship at stake. Family relationships are precious and worth making an effort to invest in.