How To Mend Strained Relationships During The Holidays

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The holidays are a bittersweet time for many. All too often, joyous images of togetherness fail to match the messy reality of family relationships. If you’re estranged from your loved ones, then celebrating is likely the last thing you want to do. We’re not here to tell you how to handle your personal affairs. But we do have some tips for rebuilding relationships when you’re ready to try. Let’s look at these ideas together.

Understand the Problem

We all expect certain things of the people in our lives. We want our boss to pay us, the server at the restaurant to feed us, and the drivers around us to pay attention to what they’re doing. These are quite reasonable standards part of our functioning society.

When it comes to loved ones, however, our expectations sometimes reach unattainable levels. This is partly due to the sheer amount of time and effort we invest in our personal relationships, according to author and psychologist Joshua Coleman. We demand more than competence from family members. We expect sainthood.

This sets us up for disappointment when our relatives reveal to us the fact that they, like us, are all too human. So one key to fixing strained relations is to temper our expectations with a cold dose of reality. When we do that, we can approach reconciliation with a clear mind and achievable goals.

Know that Less is More

Our society conditions us to equate success with hard work and perseverance. We admire the visionary businessperson or the star athlete who becomes rich by showing more drive than her rivals. But, as much sense as this approach makes in some endeavors, it’s worse than useless in others, according to the Houston Chronicle. Harassing people, demanding a meeting with them, or overwhelming them with letters and messages will only make them uneasy or even frightened. So, when it comes to bridging gaps, go at the task slow and easy. Time will tell if it’s meant to be.

Count the Cost

We all have moral convictions. They’re part of what separates us from the other creatures on this planet. We get angry when those close to us fail to live up to these standards. But sometimes we must choose between taking a stand and bending a bit for the sake of harmony. The question is whether the matter is worth sacrificing the relationship. Only you can make that call.

The Thorny Issue of Substance Addiction

Most people think of drug and alcohol abuse as a young person’s problem. In truth, however, seniors are among the most likely people to develop substance abuse issues. The reasons for this include:

  • Emotional pain and physical discomfort. As people age, they begin to lose loved ones to death and decline. This can shake the foundation of even the stoutest mind. They also develop health issues that can pause prolonged and even debilitating pain. Both of these problems can drive seniors to seek solace through chemicals.
  • The easy availability of prescription medications. The medicine cabinet of many older people may resemble a pharmacy counter. This makes temptation an ever-present problem, not only for the patient but other members of the household.

If someone you know has fallen prey to the ravages of addiction, then reconciling with that person may require remarkable effort on both your parts. Here are some guidelines to help you in the process:

  • Look at the situation from the other’s perspective. To you, the matter may seem like an open-and-shut case of moral failure, especially if the estranged person has acted irresponsibly due to her addiction. To her, she may have acted in the only way she could, given the circumstances. Seeing things through another person’s eyes can make healing possible when nothing else will.
  • Ask a third party for help. A trained counselor or mediator brings a sense of objectivity to the situation that others lack. This may make all the difference in the world to the outcome.

The most wonderful time of the year presents a great opportunity to repair and rebuild relationships. Mending fences with loved ones is a goal worthy of almost any effort. Use the tips to help you as you seek to overcome enmity with understanding.

Teresa Greenhill is the co-creator of, which is dedicated to providing seniors with information on physical and mental fitness so that they can be active and happy in their golden years.

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