Tis the Season to Be Enraged: Ways You Can Avoid Family Confrontations This Christmas

Family sitting together having a holiday dinner with Christmas tree in the background

Avoiding confrontation with the family is nearly impossible. Mom feels like she’s underappreciated, Dad feels like he’s a walking ATM, and the kids are stressed out because what if they don’t get the gifts they want this year? Plus, no one fed the dog, and the remote is still missing. Needless to say, you’re not looking forward to this year’s “festive season.”

According to experts, Christmas can be one of the best times of the year. However, it can also be a dormant minefield, just waiting for someone to step on the first landmine.

So often, people begin the season excited. But at the halfway point, they realize they underestimated the pressure of the non-stop social events, gift shopping, cooking, and cleaning while preparing for Christmas Day.

Conflict experts say it’s normal for arguments to happen during the holidays because people are expected to spend not only cash but time with their families, which means plenty of conflicting personalities and high tensions in one room for an extended period. KABOOM!

But it doesn’t need to be this way. All you need is preparation and the right mindset to help you avoid common arguments. So here are some typical disagreements and the best methods to dodge them.

1). Money Concerns

With everyone throwing their gift list at you, you don’t have the money (or time) to spend trying to make everyone happy, so screw ’em!

All jokes aside, here’s what you do; list the things that matter the most, placing high priorities at the top. Then, agree to a budget, stick to it, and work your way down the list.

Remember, the holidays should never be about how much you can spend, especially if it’s more than you can afford. Doing so will only cause additional issues when the bills begin trickling in.

Ways to Save Money on Gifts

If you want to keep the Christmas cheer flowing but your cash is a little short, be more mindful of your spending and saving habits this season. How? We got you covered. Here are 10 tips to help you save money.

  • Budget: Start early and set a limit on what you’re going to spend on gifts. Use a Christmas Present Planner guide and stick to it. Then download your free EveryDollar budget to help keep you on track.
  • Pull back on your other spending: According to the State of Personal Finance, U.S. families plan to spend at least $1,300 on Christmas this year. That said, you never need to spend more than you can afford, but we wanted to show you the average. What you plan to spend is up to you, but make it easier by cutting back on a few Friday pizza nights and other non-necessities.
  • Consider choosing time over money: When people say “it’s the thought that counts,” they mean it. You don’t need to buy everyone a gift. Sometimes it’s nice just spending time together in person or virtually.
  • Give fewer gifts: You don’t need to get your vet and the mailman a gift. Instead, save the presents for your family and close friends.
  • Order online gifts early: You may not be a big fan of Pottery Barn, but your grandmother is. (Wink)
  • Give unused gift cards: You can catch great sales on Black Friday. Even if you miss the day after Thanksgiving, plenty of online shops offer good deals up until Christmas
  • Just say no: Sometimes you feel obligated to join in on your company’s Christmas Secret Santa. Don’t be afraid to decline. They understand that the holidays are expensive enough, and only some have the means to be a part of every gift-giving circle that comes around.
  • Regift: Did you get a gift last year that you never intended to use? (Ahem, breadmaker). This is a time to find a perfect home for a gift that may not have been your first choice, but somebody else might love it.
  • Homemade presents: Ever since Pinterest came around, more people are finding useful ways to create perfect gifts for their loved ones. Pinterest has a ton of ideas and detailed instructions, even for those who aren’t particularly crafty.
  • Make extra money: How will you find time to make more money when you already work forty hours a week? Well, we got you on this. Do you have anything around the house that you could sell? Recently, people started selling their used items (designer handbags and jewelry) for a discounted price on sites like Amazon and eBay. If you have extra time, consider a side hustle like driving for Lyft or Uber, picking up hours at a seasonal job, or delivering food. One easy gig is dog-sitting while people travel for the holidays.

2). Which Family to Visit on Christmas Day

Your partner wants to visit his family, but you want to see yours. Then again, you may prefer a quiet Christmas at home. What should you do?

When you’re in a relationship, it’s about compromise, and Christmas Day is no different. Don’t wait until the last minute to figure out where you’re spending the holidays. Instead, decide on a plan early.

For example, spend Christmas Eve at your partner’s parent’s house. Then, spend Christmas Day at home and visit your parents for New Year’s Eve. Some couples alternate between Thanksgiving and Christmas, which works well.

To minimize disappointment:

  • Give advanced notice.
  • Notify your parents of your plan to spend New Year’s Eve with them but Christmas Day at your significant other’s parent’s house.
  • Once you make plans, stick to them so you don’t inconvenience anyone.

3). Family Tension

Even before friends and guests (and you) arrive, the first few common arguments begin with the family. Before the gathering, consider who and what triggers you.

For example, before you can barely put a foot in the door, Aunt Ruth always asks when you’ll finally find a partner and settle down. She does this every year, and every year you want to smash her face into the mashed potatoes.

You know she will ask this year, so prepare yourself mentally. Teach yourself little tricks like counting to three until you answer. So, next time she asks, silently count to three, smile, and then say, “I’m not sure, but you’ll be the first to know, Auntie.”

If you don’t like talking politics, avoid the controversial subject because you know it’s only going to add fuel to an already lit fire. When the political conversation comes up, politely excuse yourself for some air.

If there are going to be cocktails involved, make sure you pace yourself, so you don’t wind up unleashing the dragon and saying something you’ll regret, like, “Uncle Ned, next year, can you please kill that ugly toupee and put it out of its misery?” But, hey, people have said worse.

4). Ungrateful Bastards (aka Your Family)

Remember, you should not have to take on everything by yourself. So be the manager of Christmas and delegate that shit.

Ask for help when needed. Regarding gifts for the kids, don’t get their hopes up. If they think they’re getting a thousand bucks worth of toys, shut it down and let them know a realistic expectation. You don’t want to dash their hopes, but you also don’t want to have to sleep with one eye open on Christmas night.

Most importantly, if you want your family to show you respect, be the model of behavior you wish to see. So, when they help out, thank them. No matter the size or cost of their gift, show appreciation for taking the time and thought.

5). Dealing with Your Partner’s Family

The suggestions for dealing with your partner’s family vary, depending on your relationship. If you love your significant other’s family, spending time won’t be too much of an issue. But you may come to the point where it’s too much. When that happens, like your family, excuse yourself for some air.

If a political topic comes up and you want no part of it, politely leave the room. Offer to help clear the table or do the dishes. It may not be fun, but anything is better than hearing another reason why the insert your political party here are the hope for the future.

If you don’t necessarily get along with your partner’s family, try to for the sake of the holidays. Respecting and tolerating differences is a good starting point, but never allow yourself to be disrespected and made to feel unwelcome. If you do feel this way, discuss it with your partner and decide if it’s best to leave or stay.

6). Feeling Under-Appreciated During the Holidays

Every year, you are the organizer of the family tradition. However, everyone expects you to be the organizer and executor this year. Plus, they want you to contribute with your famous casserole. Well, this year, you’re not doing it, dammit!

If that’s how you feel, let the family know. If you don’t have an issue with helping out, place someone else at the helm, and you be the backup.

Suppose you have organized and prepared almost everything and feel that no one appreciates the time and hard work you put into creating a special holiday.

Grab a cocktail and disappear to another room. It’s that simple. Pat yourself on the back because you did a great job and didn’t need anyone else to tell you so.

However, sometimes you would like recognition (And we’re not hating if you do. We get it).

At the dinner table, go around and ask everyone what the best part of their day has been. This is a great way to spotlight how much you put into creating the special event.

7). The Game Cheater

After bellies are full from a fantastic dinner and everyone has had the proper amount of libations, it’s game on. Every holiday, the games start politely, but the competition begins to heat up, and the desire to win gets fierce. Someone always ends up sneaking a peek at the card or sneakily giving their partner extra time to solve the puzzle.

It’s the cheater, and they show up every Christmas. We all know one; if you don’t, you may be that one. But, unfortunately, sometimes, this irritating behavior brings up deep-seated resentments and unresolved issues.

If the game becomes too much, agree to forfeit and start another game, or skip the games entirely and watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Now that’s a dysfunctional family.

Family sitting around table playing cards

8). Conflict with Your Partner

Stress during the holiday time is almost a guarantee. When you add tension with your partner, it can make a stressful time even more anxiety-ridden.

If you and your partner argue ten minutes before leaving for the Christmas gathering, sit down and try to squash it. Who cares if you’re a few minutes late? The last thing you want to do is to attend a festive party while still fuming at your partner. You’ll spend the evening shooting dirty looks and spewing one or two (or twelve) rude remarks at each other.

Discuss what the issue is and why you feel this way. Is it something that you can resolve before your party? If not, agree to put it on the back burner until you get home. Who knows, after a few drinks, you may not even remember why you were angry in the first place. And speaking of drinks…

9). The Drunk

A few sips of wine with dinner here and there helps people to relax and enjoy the occasion. Then there are the ones that take it to a whole other level.

People who drink excessively often do so because other things may be happening behind the scenes that you’re unaware of.

For example, the holidays bring out many emotions, including loneliness, so perhaps they are struggling and looking for someone to show empathy and ask how they’re doing. In this case, don’t judge and allow them to enjoy themselves. Just make sure they aren’t driving.

On the other hand, you have the person who is being offensive and makes crude comments. This is not OK and shouldn’t be tolerated while you and your family are trying to enjoy dinner.

If you see they are getting annoying, try to steer them away from the masses and off to a spare bedroom so they can sleep it off. Unfortunately, sometimes people drink too much, and stuff happens. However, if this isn’t their first offense, reconsider inviting them back next year.

If you’re the one who partakes in the festivities a little too much (gets way too drunk), consider drinking more mindfully by spacing out your cocktails between each course. Or, be like the kids and stick with water and juice for the evening.

10). Arguments Over the Remote

Watching television on Christmas Day is a part of the tradition. You have the kids’ Christmas specials, the football game, and the romantic holiday movies. So, the question becomes, who gets the remote?

If you can’t decide what to watch together, try limiting TV time. Then, do something together, like go for a walk or play board games. Just watch out for the cheat.

Another option is to agree to separate from each other for TV time. Most homes have more than one television, so let the kids watch Rudolph in the room, and the adults can watch their games and movies on the other televisions.

Some homes only have one or two televisions. If that’s the case, sorry, kids. But that’s why you got all those toys for Christmas, so go outside and play.

Family Sitting on Couch

11). Too Many Kids

Let’s face it, kids have a lot of energy, and most adults do not. So, prepare yourself for meltdowns from the younger kids. It’s a lot of stimulation and excitement for them, too, so think ahead. Come up with fun activities they’ll enjoy if they get bored listening to grownups talk.

Holidays should be a happy time, so this year, make a point not to be angry during the holidays. Instead, take the necessary steps to ensure that everyone–including you–has a good time.

Will there be hiccups? Probably. But now you’re a pro and can handle anything your family throws at you. Good luck and Happy Holidays!

Have everyone (parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents) contribute a board game or an idea to keep them busy. Then, when they tire of one activity, they can go on to the next.

Older kids live on their phones, so that will keep them occupied. You can sneak away for a little me-time when you have activities to keep the kids busy.

Holidays should be a happy time, so this year, make a point not to be angry during the holidays. Instead, take the necessary steps to ensure that everyone–including you–has a good time.

Will there be hiccups? Probably. But now you’re a pro and can handle anything your family throws at you. Good luck and Happy Holidays!

Abigail Langton
Abigail Langton

Abigail Langton spends her time deep diving into the facts readers want to know about current dating apps online. You'll find her breaking down the latest price points and how to stay secure dating online.