The holidays can be a difficult time if you have toxic family members. Given that the holidays emphasize family and togetherness, it can be hard to square the glossy, warm-and-fuzzy hype with the sometimes difficult realities of toxic families. One particular area in which toxicity can flower is the tradition of presents. We all hope for a charming experience of giving and receiving thoughtful, lovely gifts, but the reality can be very different; gift exchanges can open up a world of insults, narcissism, passive aggression and outright bad behavior. It's tempting to think about whether you should give toxic family presents over the holidays at all.
For starters: No, you don't have to get anyone presents during the holiday season at all. There are many reasons people might want to avoid this tradition entirely, from wanting to bring the focus away from material objects, to wanting to avoid spending money. But avoidance isn't always the best route with toxic family, especially since it might be interpreted as a slight — and start the process of toxic behavior.
The holidays and accompanying gift catastrophes might serve to highlight the fact that your family member (or members) are toxic to you. If that's the case, it's a good idea to seek help. "If you’re feeling like this toxic person is having a negative impact on your life, and you’re having trouble staying non-reactive when you’re around them, you may want to consider talking to a therapist about this dynamic in your extended family," therapist Heidi McBain tells Bustle.Beyond professional help, which can be invaluable as you deal with these relationships, here are five ways to manage holiday gifts when you have a toxic family member.