The holidays can be an exceptionally difficult time for people of all ages and in all different family situations. For those with codependency issues, the holidays can be particularly problematic, especially when it comes to making healthy decisions, maintaining boundaries, and having the ability to let go of those unrealistic expectations.
The holidays set up the perfect conditions for emotional abuse by a narcissistic or addicted partner or family member. Often, codependents are struggling with both addictive and potentially emotionally abusive or disengaged parents and partners, which can make the issues seem all the more complicated and complex.
The addict or narcissist is well aware of the importance of the season, which can be amplified and brought to bear as a weapon against the codependent partner. There is a never-ending supply of things to create feelings of guilt, shame, imperfection, loss of love, and the threat of blowing up the season that the addict or narcissist can leverage.
However, the codependent does not need to fall into this same old trap. She can prepare herself, or he can prepare himself to deal with the behaviors and mental manipulation of the partner or the parent.
One of the most effective things to do is to create a mental vision of how you want to maintain yourself over the holiday season. Think about what you want to do, who you want to see and spend time with, and what you want to highlight as the meaningful things over this important time of year.
In some cases, this may mean limiting your contact with negative or emotionally abusive people, including those who drink or use, which means practicing saying “no” and sticking with your decision.
To help to prepare for the drama, possible manipulation, emotional and mental games, and even the potential for having to cancel or limit certain events and activities, developing a plan of action on how to manage your own best interests and mental health over the holiday needs to be a priority.
Set Expectations in Advance
As a codependent, setting expectations and “rules” around the behavior by the addict or alcoholic can be a challenge. Well in advance of the special meal or event, have a structured, clear conversation about what you expect. This includes expectations about the non-consumption of alcohol at the event or the use of drugs at or prior to arrival.
Holding the event in your home, and not theirs, allows you to ask them to leave. Another option may be to have it at a relative’s or friend’s home who is confident in standing up to the addict or alcoholic if there is any breach of these rules.
Make Meetings Short
Consider meeting in public and going for a coffee or a walk, or perhaps taking in a movie or doing something you both enjoy. By having a limited, short window of exposure, you can often prevent any of the drama or emotional abuse that is associated with longer contact where you may fall into the trap of feeling cornered or captive to the other person.
Let Them Be Responsible for Their Behavior
Make this be the holiday season where you stop making excuses and trying to clean up their issues. Be supportive and offer assistance, but do not accept that you are to blame if they are drunk or high. Instead, be your own individual and spend time with the people you enjoy, even if that means not knowing what the addict or alcoholic is doing throughout the holiday season.
Are holidays harder for you with relationships? What expectations would you like to lay out for this season? What shorter activities can you do with difficult relatives? What are you looking forward to this holiday season? Be sure to share your thoughts and questions using the comment section below so we can all learn from and help each other…