How to Keep Peace with Difficult Relatives


Susan Baker shares how to love, keep the peace with and actually enjoy your relatives.

If I had to describe my extended family, I’d probably take a deep breath and tell you, “It’s complicated.”

To explain it all would take a big white board and several different colors of markers.

I love them all. They’re family.

But if I got really honest, I’d admit there might be one or two relatives I’d rather not spend much time with. In one case, it’s because we pretty much have nothing in common other than a shared branch of the family tree. In another case, it’s because I dislike being around whining negative people.

And then there’s Edwina. She and I have a long history of not liking each other. Not.One.Bit. It’s messy and frustrating and emotionally exhausting. Since we love some of the same people, we can’t exactly avoid each other. We do our best to behave, but somehow it always ends up messy.

Over the years, I’ve learned a few lessons about how to keep peace with my relatives and actually enjoy my crazy family, even Edwina.

Here are my tips to remember to keep peace with your relatives:

Remember I’m not in control. No matter how much I’d like to have my holiday planned out weeks in advance, I have relatives who prefer to remain uncommitted until they get in the car. All I can do is stay flexible and focus on enjoying those around me. Simple and flexible plans work best.

Remember I’m not that important.

In spite of my best efforts, the universe does not revolve around me.

No matter how it might feel, Great Aunt Tizzy really didn’t spend the entire winter planning how to ruin my summer vacation with her emergency gall bladder surgery. Uncle Stumble did not spend hours shopping for just the right gift to tell me he thinks I’m getting old. He’s a notorious re-gifter. Hurt is rarely intentional.

Realize I’m not a mind reader. No matter how hard I try, I can’t figure out what cousin Kayla was thinking when she fed my son two pounds of uncut sugar. I have no idea what her intent was. So I just have to smile and assume that Kayla’s actions were well intentioned. She probably just wanted to make my son happy and help him remember her as “Auntie Awesome Blossom.” Assume the best intentions.

When that fails and things get out of whack, I’ve learned a few more ideas.

Love covers a multitude of sins. Responding with love and grace always makes things better. Even when love and grace have to be given at arms’ length to protect our hearts, it still makes things better.

When in doubt, pray for them. Nothing stops my litany of hurt feelings and angry thoughts faster than prayer. After I’ve prayed for Edwina, it’s really hard to go back to complaining about her and meditating on all those ugly thoughts.

As a blogger, I’ve learned one more secret.

No one needs to see my underwear. The Internet is not the place to air my dirty laundry. To be blunt: family drama does not need to play out over Facebook or Twitter or a blog.

No one in my family is actually named Edwina. I’m related to several people with whom I really do have “messy and frustrating” histories, but I’m not about to air the details.

That would only make things more complicated. 

Written by Susan Baker


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