The holiday season is here, which for many of you means more time with your family of origin. This time can be joyful, yet stressful, which can inspire a regression to dysfunctional family dynamics.

At a holiday gathering years ago, my Dad, who was fifty-one at the time, declared that he was retiring, packing it all up and moving to Florida with his long-term girlfriend.

Which to me, sounded like the worst idea ever.

My role in the family had been the fixer, and I thought his plan needed some fixing.

“Really?” I exclaimed. “What are you going to do in Florida? Wouldn’t it be more exciting if you guys flew to Europe, rented a Winnebago, and took a few years traveling and exploring?”

My father looked at me and said, “Maybe. But I just want to play golf and relax in a warm climate.”

I said, “Well, I just want you to be happy.”

He said, “I AM happy, Ter.”

In that moment, I realized I was projecting my desire onto my father. I needed to be supportive and accept his choice, as I expected him to do for me. My old role as the fixer was unnecessary because nothing was broken.

I had another opportunity to learn the lesson of acceptance when I got married.

Vic and I have very different ways of expressing ourselves. I am a talker with a need to be succinctly understood. I used to worry about Vic’s happiness because it didn’t look like happiness as I understood it, but when I asked him about it, he would calmly respond that he was really and truly happy. In time, I learned to accept Vic’s way of expressing himself as simply different than mine, not better or worse, just different.

As you move through this season, I invite you to practice more acceptance by actually listening without judgment or opinion.

If you can focus on what you love about the people in your life and release the need for them to be different, your holidays will be happier.

I am interested in your thoughts. Where in your life are you challenged by acceptance?

I hope you have a beautiful week of acceptance and joy, and, as always, take care of you.


Love Love Love


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  1. It is extremely difficult to make a constant effort to see the positive in some circumstances. My issue is my father in law. He is brash and verbally abusive as part of his constant attention seeking behavior due to childhood traumas. For over 7 years I have tried every way to handle it. Ignoring, only speaking when spoken to, focusing on the few good moments, but I just can’t seem to get past it. As the years pass it gets harder and harder for me to accept his behavior. I find myself avoiding contact or any opportunities to engage in anything. I feel guilt for these feelings because he IS my in law and I couldn’t ask for a better husband!

    1. Victoria,
      I am happy to hear that your husband is a keeper! From your description you have gone above and beyond trying to work around your unhealthy father in law. I think you need to protect yourself as much as possible. There is nothing to feel guilty about and if he never seeks help he will not change. Limit your contact and avoid as much as possible. His history is no excuse for his behavior and you have an obligation to protect YOU and your marriage. Keep up the good work and just try to bless and release your father in law. xo

  2. Boy, am I learning this…and it keeps happening…circumstances are teaching me to practice acceptance; not be a fixer (focus on fixing and taking care of me; not others) and not being such a control freak! (I’m still working on this one). Thank you for all your tips Terri! They really help and inspire me!

  3. We all could use this advice, not just in accepting others, but in feeling completely okay with being DIFFERENT from others.

    I am a minimalist and I don’t subscribe to Christmas gift exchanges. Shopping for a huge family was extremely stressful for me, so I opted out years ago, and I enjoy the holidays so much more now!

    But, I have a few family members that look down on my decision not to exchange. They see it as selfish, and ungiving and less then generous.

    That used to hurt me, but I have since come to terms with being OK with who I am and OK with people not getting me (after a few years of feeling bad).

    Now, I accept that not everyone will understand my way of thinking. And that’s okay.

    I’m going to visit family for Christmas again this year and I feel fully confident in my OWN way of showing love; spending TIME with people, not shopping!

  4. I understand that there are different ways of expressing ourselves, and that you cannot control someone else’s behavior. What do you do when you apply skills that attempt to enhance positive communication, but the other person projects, and blocks effort to build an effective co-parenting relationship? I am desperate as I am in the middle of what could be a low-conflict divorce. My husband, a Medical Doctor, who has an excellent professional reputation, has traits that are narcissistic, when I offer input that is different than his. This has turned this into non-stop high-conflict experience. We have an 8 and 6 year old, and only communicate by email. I’ve worked hard at increasing my self-esteem and recognizing my triggers, but he has not, so it makes interactions hard. Often if he does not like my answer, he will threaten legal action. I’m truly desperate to find a good way to engage, but am without much hope, when the co-parent has such domineering and controlling traits. Thank you!

    1. Arlene,
      It sounds like you have a lot of insight into your ex and are doing as good a job as can be expected when dealing with a narcissist. The is a forgiveness exercise that i love that i use when i feel I am negatively connected to a person who must remain in my life. Here is a link check it out and see what happens if you give it a go! You can only keep your side of the street clean and do your best to be UN PROVOCABLE ! Keep up the good work xo

  5. I am right there with you, it was always my version of happiness for everyone else. I learned to step back and let everyone be happy in whatever way that may be for them. which means I’m happier too! If their life is a freak show then it is their freak show and maybe they are happy in that envirement right now! I have also learned to enjoy the way other people live, I don’t go over my daughter’s house because of her boyfriend especially during holidays and I use to have a really hard time with that, but it is what is good for me. Kathy

  6. yes, I agree acceptance is so important in relationships. It reduces conflict. And it helps people enjoy each other. Especially in my family!

  7. The holiday season can take an unexpected turn to an Ed and Eunice donnybrook. I can see how any dominate fixer in a family can relate to triangulation.

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