How can I tell my family that I don't want to spend the holidays with them?

Dear Edahn,

My spouse and I usually split holidays to avoid the guilt of not seeing one side or the other. I've found myself gradually leaning toward spending more time with my spouse's family and less time with mine. To be frank - I like them better as people and they treat me better as a person.

Now, how do I (a) stop feeling like a horrible child for ditching my family and (b) get my family to understand that I love them, but I don't need to see them every holiday.


Guilty Gal

A FAMILY IS REALLY an organism. It grows slowly, and every person plays a role, like organs all have a role in the body. The patterns that develop within a family aren't always healthy. He person might become a scapegoat, another a victim, another the aggressor. Everyone's role is maintained with the help of everyone else. In that way, the family drama, or theater, persists even when one person starts to doubt its health.

You sound like a person who has begun to doubt the health of your family dynamics, in part because you've seen how healthy families function because of your in-laws. Now you're feeling the pressure to maintain your part in your family's drama by playing the role of the person who's shit on. That's normal. But I think the thing you want to remember is that love can be expresses in many different ways. You show you grandfather love differently from the way you show your partner love (hopefully), which is still different from the way you show love to a best friend or a mentor. For years, you showed love to your family in one way, and now that you've changed, and grown, your relationship and the way you express your love needs to change too. That's not a bad thing--it's a part of growing, in the same way you might outgrow a favorite jacket and then turn it into an art piece.

In sum, it's not your love that changes; it's how you share it.

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