In my office today sat a couple planning the next steps in their journey to try to have a child. Couples dealing with infertility are already on somewhat of an emotional roller-coaster. On top of all this the additional stress of the Christmas holiday season is sometimes just too much.

But for this couple it wasn’t the physical or emotional pressure of infertility, or the extra travel or financial “stuff” over the Christmas holiday season, or the somewhat depressing weather that was getting them down: it was the family drama they had just been through. Why does it seem the holidays so often bring that drama to a boiling point?

I doubt this couple are the only ones who have just experienced some fatiguing family drama. My extended family had its own share of drama this holiday season. Perhaps yours did as well. Someone didn’t attend a family gathering – or someone showed up that you wish wouldn’t have. Someone didn’t give a gift to someone. Somebody’s quirky personality eclipsed an otherwise OK family event. The in-laws fought over who would get who, when, and where. And on and on it goes.

Getting caught in the middle of such drama is miserable. You’re tempted to feel guilty, sad, or angry. Nothing you try fixes the issue, and everyone ends up feeling hurt.

A few things to keep in mind if you find yourself caught up in the drama from time to time:

  1. You are only responsible for your own happiness. That goes both ways: nobody else can make you happy or unhappy. And you are not responsible for anyone else’s happiness. While we certainly do have an impact on one another, our mental and emotional state is our responsibility alone.
  2. You can’t change someone else. Knowing that a certain person is likely to respond a certain way allows you to choose ahead of time how – or whether – to respond. And there’s no point in wasting your energy trying to make them respond differently.
  3. Your own attitude may be infectious. If you are calm and pleasant it may rub off on others. If you are upset, hurt, and angry, others will likely respond with a similar attitude. Taking charge of your own attitude is the only leverage you have, but sometimes it’s enough.
  4. Learning emotional skills takes time. Dealing with difficult people, or those who tend to stir up drama, is not a job for the faint of heart. If you’re struggling to know how to deal with the drama, give yourself some grace: it’s hard!
  5. It’s OK to say NO. You’re not necessarily being selfish or difficult: sometimes saying NO is the only wise thing to do. And remember, “NO” is a complete sentence.

You don’t really want to star in the next production of As the Family Drama Turns, do you?

Your turn: What role do you tend to play in your family drama? How can you respond more wisely? I’d love to hear from you!

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