Relationships with toxic family members are very tricky. You love them but you do not like them one bit. You want them to succeed in life, but you want to witness their happiness from a (very very) far distance. If you weren’t family, you would joyfully distance away from them. Unfortunately, the gag is you are. So here you are, anxious about spending Christmas and New year with them.
To retain your sanity while holidaying with family that makes you internally cuss every five seconds, read these steps on how to tackle that selfish father, manipulative mother, misogynistic uncle, boundary ignorant aunties, pick me cousins, egocentric siblings…the list doesn’t end, they come in all shades of annoying.
Choose your battles wisely has never been more relevant. The key to not getting (overly) annoyed by toxic family members is to keep conversations as pleasant and superficial as possible. If coming in contact with them is a must, put on a smile and have trivial discussions with them—the heat in Nigeria, price of a bag of rice, must see shows on Netflix and so on.
Avoid conversations on topics that are controversial or topics you’re passionate about—religion, sex, relationships, politics, and feminism. That way, they have no chance to air opinions that will upset you and cause unwanted drama. If they attempt to draw you into such conversations, simply tell them you have no opinion on the topic. This isn’t you being a coward, it is you deciding not to put in energy into a crowd that is not only disinterested in your opinion, but is also determined to gaslight you and make you feel inferior at any given chance.
2/ Secure A Support System:
This can be anybody; your friends, other amazing family members, a partner or even your pet. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to stay positive, toxic family members can still get into your head. Before going to stay with them for the holidays, let someone you love and trust know about the unhealthy situation you are about to go into. Let your confidant be aware that things might be too much for you to handle, so you might be reaching out to them a little more than normal.
Knowing that you have someone you can run to at any time will help keep you level headed, because at least you’ll feel better knowing that you have someone who’s there to listen when you need to express your rage or sadness.
3/ Set Clear Boundaries:
This can be so tricky, especially in Nigerian homes where disrespect for people’s agency, especially in family settings, is common. A relative will insult you and the rest of your family will pat you on the back and say “that’s family for you.” Sorry, but hell no. Other times, older relatives look at you as a child, and because they have no regard for the feelings of children, they will try and take you for a fool.
Chances are, abusive behaviors like these go unchecked because you are not being clear and assertive about the things you will not tolerate and why you wouldn’t tolerate them. If there’s one thing about (Nigerian) toxic family members, they will bury whatever boundary you have as far as you’re lax when it comes to being serious about enforcing them.
As I said earlier, setting boundaries can be so tricky in Nigerian homes because sometimes, standing up for yourself comes with consequences, especially when you’re heavily dependent on your family. If you fall into this category, rather than being forceful when enforcing boundaries, choose to have calm conversations with family members on things you can and cannot stand. You might have to make a lot of compromises and I’m honestly really sorry. Other times, some disrespect is just not worth your peace of mind, so you might have to show them that you too, are mad. With time, they will adjust.
4/ Get Familiar With The Cycle:
It will do you a lot of good if you take sometime out to know and understand your relatives damaging behaviors. That way, you’re conscious about not getting triggered when they reveal their toxicity and try to poison you with it.
This season is a time for merriment. Wherever you find yourself, you must take your happiness into your own hands, and vehemently refuse bad vibes. Merry Christmas and happy Holidays!