At some point or another, each of us is plagued by that one relative (or group of relatives) with whom we just can’t seem to get along. The conversations are awkward, we have nothing in common with them, they subtly (or not-so-subtly) insult us, they get all giddy and gossipy when they find out you have boob cream (after sneaking into your bedroom and digging through your drawers)… or all of the above.
(No, JANET, I don’t actually have boob cream… anymore… in my drawers…)
It’s the age-old saying: You can’t choose your family.
But that doesn’t mean you have to force yourself to get along with them.
You should never feel guilty for not having a deep and genuine relationship with every single one of your relatives. Yes, they are your family, and when push comes to shove (not including the time you literally shoved your Uncle Joe into the Christmas tree last year), you will (hopefully) be there for them when they really need it, and vice versa.
Love is ultimately a choice. You CHOOSE to love your family.
That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to like them.
You can’t force yourself to feel a certain way around your relatives. Sometimes they treat you like shit. If that’s the case, I ain’t gonna blame you for fantasizing about shoving your pretentious cousin’s head through the banister. The point is, since he’s family, you choose to NOT shove his head through the banister…
If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.
Love (Especially Familial Love) is a Choice
When it comes to family that you don’t get along with, you likely feel extremely guilty when you’re less-than-thrilled to see them.
Ugh, not Uncle Charlie and Aunt Bertha… All they do is complain about their bunions and criticize the contents of my kitchen cabinets. I really don’t feel like talking to them.
Shit, that’s an awful thing to say. I’m going to buy a ton of deli sandwiches and make a beautiful lunch spread because food makes everything better and this will be the best visit because I’m such a terrible person and I need to make up for it and I probably just need to be more interesting to talk to…
And then the visit turns out just the same as always: with deli meat spraying from Aunt Bertha’s mouth as she describes her biggest bunion yet and Uncle Charlie passing a massive gas as he kneels down to dig through your cabinets.
Now I’m not saying it isn’t a nice gesture to give your family the deli treatment when they visit. But your kindness shouldn’t stem from guilt. It should come from your CHOICE to love your family, even when you aren’t their biggest fan.
It’s important to remember to love yourself first. Don’t let guilt wear you down into pouring all your energy into trying to like your family. You don’t have to be BFFs with all your relatives.
Be there when they need you because you choose to love them. Don’t sacrifice yourself because you want them to like you.
Don’t Expect Them to Change or Reciprocate
Oftentimes, even though a relative has hurt us time and time again in the past, we still go out of our way for them in the hopes that they will appreciate it, change their ways, and/or reciprocate our kind gesture…
It’s a nice thought, but unrealistic. And it should definitely not be the reason you go out of your way for them.
Maybe the only reason Cousin Jack treats me like shit is because I haven’t really put in the effort to get to know him better. Maybe, by going to the birthday party he invited me to last minute (only because the mailman couldn’t make it) and bringing a thoughtful gift, he’ll be more considerate going forward…
The result: Cousin Jack gets an engraved briefcase, you’re ignored and placed at the kiddie table in the corner, and you’re short a hundred and fifty bucks that you could have used towards finally upgrading from a twin bed to a full.
When history has shown that any effort you put in is only going to be snubbed and shit on, don’t be the fly that keeps smacking into the window. Unless you are a master of emotional detachment (BRAID ME UP AND MAKE ME YOUR PADAWAN), it’s best to trust what history has proven and limit your exposure to similar situations with that particular family member.
Otherwise, your bacon will shrivel and eventually crack.
Let me use a personal example…
When a relative my family doesn’t particularly get along with invited us to his wedding, we debated whether or not we should attend. On top of past events during which he was less than kind to us, he had treated my older brother like shit about the wedding.
CONTEXT: My brother had just postponed his own engagement; our relative announced his engagement shortly after, and then didn’t invite my brother to the wedding after a small fallout between the two of them.
When my family considered not attending the wedding, our relative made us feel guilty, saying we should celebrate this major milestone in his life. (Plus our food was already paid for… I think that was the main reason he wanted us there, that cheapskate bastard…)
Long story short, my family caved and attended the wedding. And sure enough, we were treated like shit: our reception table was the furthest in the back (by the kitchen), our relative tried to have my younger brother kicked out for underage drinking, my dad wasn’t even allowed to sit at the same table as his mother, and not a single “thank you for coming” was given.
My family left that night feeling shitty, hurt, and bitter. But not the slightest bit surprised.
That’s not to say that it was the wrong decision to go to the wedding. But my family went in with the tiniest glimmer of hope that our kind gesture would somehow be reciprocated, or at least appreciated.
THAT’S where we went wrong.
Respect yourself. You don’t need your relatives to change or reciprocate kindness to feel worthy.
Your bacon is already worth all the butter, biscuits, and eggs in the world.
Detach and Don’t Emotionally Invest
Easier said than done, am I right?
My parents and some of my siblings feel very betrayed and hurt when relatives treat us like shit. How could family treat family that way?
I used to feel that way. Now, I just laugh when it happens because I’ve slowly but surely learned to emotionally detach from those kinds of situations. (With family matters, anyways… with friends and other relationships, that’s another bag of shitholes.) I never go out of my way to talk to the relatives who are particularly hurtful (unless it’s to say “Hi,” “Until next time,” “Good to see you,” “Happy Birthday,” or other small pleasantries). If I invest too much, my self-esteem starts spiraling and I begin overthinking and overanalyzing every stupid thing.
What was she insinuating when she said it like THAT?
Did he just roll his eyes at me?
That’s totally a fake smile. How rude!
Did I say something wrong? Why is she glaring at me?
Here’s the thing: just because they’re your family, doesn’t mean they determine your worth.
If you’re guilty-prone, you tend to think there must be something so incredibly wrong with you that makes your family treat you poorly. You wonder why you aren’t worthy of their love. Your frustration goes up while your self-esteem plummets.
Guess what, Gabby? YOUR BACON DOESN’T NEED THEIR APPROVAL.
Why would you let someone else cook your bacon when all they do is burn it to inedible ashes?
I remember when my sister and I were younger, we’d often hang out with two of our cousins who lived down the street. But we were always the ones asking THEM to hang out. Whenever they would occasionally bless us with an invite, this is how they said it (without fail):
“We asked all our other friends first, but they weren’t available… So we asked you!”
As if it was the donut of all honors.
Now, for me, I somehow learned to let these types of things roll off my back. (Probably because I had so many other problems with my self-esteem.) But my sister would feel so hurt. She really wanted to have a friendship with them that didn’t always end playdates with tears. She wanted them to treat us better. (An understandable and perfectly reasonable desire.)
But they were never going to do that. If we were to have any respect for ourselves, we would have to detach from the idea that their friendship somehow determined our worth.
Oh, she spoke up for herself, my sister. And all the power to her. But after the first gazillion times she called them out on their hurtful behavior, it was time to throw in the raggedy towel. (You know, the one that’s been sneezed in, coughed on, stabbed with a knife, used to wipe assholes, bled on, and ground into the dirt, yet keeps insisting that it doesn’t need to be washed – EVER? That one.)
Remind Yourself That It’s Out of Your Control
If you’re a Sensitive Sizzler like me, you know how easy it is to blame yourself for not getting along with someone in your family.
IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT.
Some things just are what they are. I’m just gonna say it: Sometimes, certain members of your family are just plain toxic.
That raggedy towel will never want to be washed; that’s not your fault. Your asshole Uncle Jerry will always seat you at the kiddie table at family parties; that’s not your fault. Your aunt will always groan about her bunions during lunch; that’s not your fault. And that snoopy relative will always go hunting for boob cream in your home; THAT’S NOT YOUR FAULT. (Unless you really suck at hiding it…)
The only time you should ever regret something where your family is concerned is if you actively treat them unkindly. If you curse at Uncle Jerry in public or stab your aunt’s bunions with a steak knife, THEN you should take responsibility and apologize for your actions.
But NEVER feel guilty for choosing to respect your bacon and avoid situations from which you know you’re going to walk away feeling shitty.
Before you can choose to love your family, you must make the choice to love yourself first. So the next time your Uncle Charlie is farting up the kitchen and complaining about cabinet space, you can just smile to yourself, fantasizing about bacon.
Mmmm… So crispy…