using your boundaries during the holidays

25 Days of Christmas | Using Your Boundaries During the Holidays

Hey, friends! We have less than three weeks until Christmas. How are you holding up? All your presents wrapped? Are they even purchased yet? Yeah, I’m working on that part too. I’ll get there. I always do. You will too.

As the holidays approach, you’ll have parties you’ll attend, probably at least one family get-together. Many of you may have a family member whom you might not love seeing and maybe you’re glad you only have to at Christmas.

Are they distasteful about receiving the gifts you worked hard to choose, purchase, wrap, and give? Perhaps they’re vocal about how they feel you failed in your gift-giving (true story that happened to a friend years ago). They ridicule what you gave them or remark how that’s not what they asked for or even (yep, it happened to a friend) they suggest they’ll just donate it because it wasn’t up to their level of quality.

Sounds like loads of holiday fun, doesn’t it?

Is there a specific relative who really gets under your skin? Maybe they like to one-up you and anything you might say, they can do better (in their minds). Or they love to get little digs in at your expense. “Joan, this sweater is too big for me, but I thought it’d fit you” (implying you’ve gained weight or are overweight).

Here are some ideas how to cope and use your boundaries:

First, if the person is that difficult and makes you miserable, avoid them if you can. Sometimes that can be challenging if they’re at a family function you want or need to attend. In that case, go to the party, but try to avoid this particular “offender.” You can say your polite hello’s, but you’re not obligated to spend much time with them if they’re unkind. You’re just not. Simply excuse yourself to help in the kitchen, check on your kids, use the restroom…think of something.

Gift-giving is another situation. Thankfully, I haven’t encountered the disgruntled gift receiver in my family, but I have an idea how I would handle it if it was recurrent. The true examples I mentioned above, for instance, if someone is year after year criticizing the gift I’ve given them, I’m not going to just suck it up.

I put a lot of thought into gifts. I spend hard-earned money, time shopping, and then I wrap each gift nicely. Time, thought, care, and money are spent on each gift. My Mom always taught me to be a gracious person and when it came to gifts, I was to be grateful whether I liked the gift or not, even if it was a duplicate gift (and you never, ever mentioned that). You appreciate the gift, act grateful, say “thank you”, every single time.

I expect the same from others so if someone was repeatedly ungrateful, then I’d be inclined to say something calmly like, “Joan, you never seem happy with the gifts I give you. Maybe you and I should just stop exchanging them.” Or how about this: “Joan, you’re always so unhappy with the gifts I give you, so this year I donated to a charity in your name. Isn’t that wonderful?”

Nobody wants a scene at their holiday gathering. Everybody loves peace and laughter. But I don’t believe you have to just grin and bear it, if someone is needling you. When I was in college, I worked on-campus my freshman year. My boss was a beautiful, tall, Sophia Loren-esque, sophisticated woman. She was also incredibly confident and kind. It was almost 30 years ago, but I still remember her relaying a conversation she’d had with someone who had insulted her. She said to them, “Tom, was that a dig? I just need to know if that was a dig.”

I remember being spellbound by this story. She was so strong and confident and elegant, and she had found a way to elegantly call someone on the carpet when they’d insulted her. I also remember wishing I could do that because I didn’t believe I could. So for the next 20 or so years, I didn’t stand up for myself. Until I learned about boundaries and how to use them.

If someone needles you about your weight, your kids’ grades, your looks, having a better house or car or vacation than you, if it truly doesn’t bother you, just smile and change the subject. But if it’s bugging you and this person seems to try to outdo you in every subject, ask them why. “Joan, do you realize that every time I share something happy about my life, you compare it your life?” Let that hang in the air a minute. Hopefully Joan will back off.

The flip side can happen too. Maybe you’re sharing (not bragging) about the grand European adventure you went on this year. The naysayer might pull this one out: “It must be nice to have all that money” or if you’re a stay-at-home mom (this is one I’ve gotten before) “Must be nice to sit around all day and do nothing.” Eek. Yikes. Yuck. Simply try this…”Well, we worked very hard to be able to go on that vacation, Bill.” And “I may not be employed, but I definitely work!” (Psst…Every mom is a working mom!)

So those are some examples you may choose to employ if the situation calls for it. And that’s day 7 of what’s amazing about you: You want to stand tall, be strong and confident, and use your boundaries. You have every right and reason to use them. You’re nobody’s punching bag, verbal or physical. Remember that, please.

Boundaries can be scary to use. Remember, I said I didn’t learn how to use them until just a few years ago. But they are healthy tools, these boundaries. They are loving when you use them correctly. They are not confrontation. They are protection. The use of boundaries say “I love myself enough that I insist on being treated with respect.” They also say in some relationships that you love the other person enough that you want to use healthy boundaries and protect that relationship.

So, go you! Use those boundaries. Find your voice…your strong, amazing voice.

Stay beautiful, stay strong,

signature Melanie in aqua color



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  • Reply Cait December 7, 2017 at 10:14 am

    wow this is so true! no one wants to create a scene like you said!

  • Reply Krystle December 7, 2017 at 10:26 am

    Such good tips! I could definitely use these this holiday season.

  • Reply Louise December 7, 2017 at 10:00 pm

    I love your writing, wonderful post! I do not stress in the holidays, its not worth it. I love christmas time and enjoy every little bit of it and I try to prepare a little through out the year as well. Happy holidays <3

    • Reply December 17, 2017 at 9:30 am

      Thank you so much for your kind words, Louise! Next year, I’m going to do what you said: prepare a little throughout the year.

  • Reply Mia Bergstrom December 9, 2017 at 12:38 am

    I’m glad I read this because I’ve been running through some scenarios in my head for my trip back home this Christmas :/. I want to be excited but I’m also bracing myself lol. I think I’ll plan on the elegant boundaries that you spoke of 🙂

    • Reply December 17, 2017 at 9:29 am

      I hope it’s a lovely holiday for you. It can be really hard to use boundaries, but we have to in all relationships, but we can do it elegantly and with grace. I’m rooting for you!

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