Annual Holiday Reminder to Honor Your Boundaries With Family & Friends This Thanksgiving
The Holiday season is not fun for everyone. There has been a lot of loss, death, and trauma that has happened to people in the nearly two years since the pandemic first hit, but in addition to that, there is the reality that, for many, the holidays are not a time of joy in the first place.
Healthy boundaries can seem overwhelming to a lot of people for a number of reasons, but especially with family. We are taught loyalty to our blood and a sense of innate responsibility, especially to our parents. In reality, as I have been slowly learning (well, trying to) as I work on my own mental health journey, creating boundaries with people you love is a way of trying to protect bonds you think are important, not limit them.
We see boundaries as something blocking the flow—as an indicator of someone having behaved badly towards you in the past or connecting to some larger trauma. While those are certain aspects to it, boundaries can also be about avoiding things that make you uncomfortable.
It is bad enough that we have to pretend to enjoy other people’s food and root for their football teams just because they happen to be playing that evening. Must we also deal with family members asking about our relationships, work issues, and other personal issues that don’t feel like conversation starters—more like twists of the knife in an already complex world.
I say nay.
Decorum is nice, but have you tried firmly standing up for yourself?
Some advice I have found helpful is that if you know that you don’t want to have certain conversations, but they will—sadly—likely come up, prepare ways to divert the conversation back to something you actually want to talk about.
When an aunt asks, “Are you seeing anyone?” in a way that seems patronizing, instead of even answering, pivot to another topic or just even lead with a solid no. Example: “No, but I have been really enjoying this season of Succession. What has everyone else been thinking?”
Politics are something that comes up often during family events, and while I will never begrudge people who want to try to make things work, it is also important to say: You don’t have to be there.
Family is important, but so is your own peace of mind. There is nothing noble about suffering silently and pretending like everything is okay when it is clearly not. Life is full of compromises, but if the people who say they care about you can’t honor them, then it isn’t on you to just accept what is being said.
Lastly, for those like myself who will be spending Thanksgiving day alone: That is okay, too. Yes, being with friends and family is lovely, but sometimes, the lure of isolation can be a refreshing thing. We don’t get many days to allow ourselves to sleep in and relax guilt-free. I, for one, will be self-caring the hell out of myself and working on my writing.
Honor your needs. Honor your boundaries. Be honest with your heart, and most importantly, enjoy the time you have. Don’t let your aunt with the weird eyebrow pencil brows ruin your paid day off.
(image: Warner Bros. Television)
Want more stories like this? Become a subscriber and support the site!
—The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]