Is it realistic to expect that you can go home for the holidays and people will treat you as you are at this point in your life? Or, will they treat as they are comfortable thinking of you as they knew you?
Sometimes, people like to keep us in the box they drew around us long ago! They think they know us, or that they have us figured out. And, somehow, they seem to stop learning about us--or, at least, stop being curious about us--once that happens. That's what causes some of us to dread going home for the holidays!
Does that sound familiar to you? It is a common relationship trap.
You change, right? You learn things. You experience things. You grow. You have insights. You figure a few things out. You have realizations, and think differently about the past now. You understand and see your life differently and are creating a new future.
And, you want to be allowed to change and have those changes noticed and considered. You want to be known for who you are today, not for who you have been, right?
(NOTE: Are you allowing the people around you to change and grow? Or, do you try to keep them in the "I know you" box, too? It has to work that way. We cannot ask for what we are not willing to give.)
In my work with couples, this whole idea of "I've got you nailed down." is a big problem. We lose our curiosity and our desire to learn about our partner. It moves us in the direction "being taken for granted." That's a killer to the possibility and growth of emotional intimacy.
All this really can be dangerous for the health of your relationships. One place it shows up regularly is when we go home as adults for the holidays, and the folks there somehow don't think we've changed. They want to think they know all about us and how we are and what we think and what we are doing and what we always do, and what we never do. They really think they've got us "in the box!"
You want to scream, "I've changed!" but, even if you turn the volume up, the desire to keep you in the predictable box often wins. It's a huge frustration. And, because it seems to happen each time, it becomes a larger obstacle to looking forward to going home for the holidays!
Is that something you dread facing? Most folks do.
We love the idea of going home for the holidays, but that's one place all this is most likely to happen. Preparing to go home, we are hoping that some members of the family have changed. They won't still rub your head as though you're still ten, or, make judgmental comments on your life choices. You just wish they would accord you the same courtesy they offer the cashier in the grocery store. They don't tell her they don't like what she's wearing, or that it's time she had a baby, or that she could have done better in life if she had followed their advice! Yet, they feel free to do it to you.
How is it in your primary relationship? Are you encouraged to grow? Are you supportive of growth in your partner? Both these things are greatly enhanced by talking well together...often. Sharing the path and holding hands along the way enhances the journey greatly. One great advantage: neither person gets too far ahead of the other. It keeps love alive, too.
So, if you're awake, aware and alert to all this, this holiday season could be very different for you. Start practicing on your partner...and that will open the way to greater intimacy. Open yourself to the family when you go home for the holidays, Remind them that you're all grown up and managing quite well to make choices, accept consequences and continue to learn. Thank them for their good intentions and remind them that you've got it covered.
All round, everyone wins, especially you! Start now.
© Rhoberta Shaler, PhD, The Relationship Help Doctor
I help the partners, exes, and adult children of relentlessly difficult people save their sanity and stop the crazy-making. If you need that help, I offer many ways to get it through membership, group coaching, and private sessions. A good place to get acquainted is by receiving blog updates HERE. and get my free ebook, Let's talk soon.