Don’t Skip the Party: Simple Tips for Dealing with Difficult Relatives During the Holidays


You’ve heard it before: if you want to feel happier, surround yourself with people who make you a better, happier you.

That’s all fine and good, but there’s a catch: What if you feel like you can’t escape the people in your life who bring you down, because they happen to be related to you?

Those people who, even if you only see them once a year at the Christmas Eve Eve Eve party your Aunt Norma always throws because “it’s tradition,” that one time a year is more than plenty.

I totally get it. There have been many times where I’ve dreaded going to holiday events… and I happen to adore my family! I love the holidays. Quality time is my love language, and spending time at family gatherings (usually) brings me joy. 

Yet I also know what it’s like to be trapped in the corner of the living room, clutching your empty punch glass as your eyes dart around in search of an excuse to escape the conversation you’re in with cousin Debbie Downer who only ever complains about why the sky has in fact, fallen. 

I know what it’s like to stress-eat a second helping of pecan pie thanks to the heated political debate that’s just erupted, robbing you of your holly jolly spirit. 

We’ve all experienced this in one way or another. And when you’re trying to live your best life and stay on a path of growth, you know that hanging around these so-called “Negative Nellies” doesn’t align with your heart’s true desire for positivity and peace.

So, what’s the solution? You can’t exactly cut these people out of your life. 

Nor do you have to.

Maybe you can’t gracefully bow out of Aunt Norma’s party altogether, but you CAN control the amount of time you choose to spend there.

So, if you’re dreading the family banter around the dinner table which somehow always seems to devolve into Uncle Joe and Cousin Lou dueling with the turkey baster and the carving knife, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Decide ahead of time how long you’ll spend at each family gathering
  2. Discuss this with your significant other, communicate, and make sure you’re both on the same page (This is called setting your expectations).
  3. When you arrive, immediately greet the host and let them know you’re delighted to be there. You have two options here: a) let them know up front that you’ll have to scoot out right after pie this year. You do NOT need to give an excuse or reason why. (This is called setting their expectations). OR b) if they’re they nosy type who wouldn’t let you off the hook with such a graceful and simple answer, then it’s up to you to make the move to leave when you’re ready. Hold your own boundary.
  4. RELAX. Make the most of the 2 or 3 or however much time you said you’d spend there. The holidays are the most wonderful time of the year, after all. What’s a couple hours of your time spent with family – even the Debbie downers of the bunch – especially if you know it brings joy to someone else that you’re there (particularly Aunt Norma)? It’s time with them that you’ll never get back. 

Remember: the simple solution to dealing with difficult relatives is to set yourself a boundary and commit to protecting your heavenly peace. 

The key (and the hard part) is to hold this boundary. You’ve got this. You can do it. You’re in control of your life, and you have permission to do what makes you happy. You’re capable of holding the boundaries you’ve set so that you can experience more joy this holiday season. And just maybe, you’ll experience a little more peace on earth too… or at least, around the family dinner table. 

If all else fails, just say: “We can only swing by for dessert.”

About Courtney

Courtney is a Lifestyle Strategist, Speaker, and Stress Expert dedicated to showing high-achieving women how to StressLESS and LiveMORE. 

After a fast-paced corporate career and overcoming cancer at the age of 25, Courtney realized that life’s too short to waste any time feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and burnt out. She believes every woman was put on this earth with power and purpose, and deserves to have success without the stress. 

As the creator and founder of The StressLESS System©️, Courtney specializes in showing busy women how to ditch the overwhelm, create order out of life’s chaos, and find their inner peace. 

She’s known for sharing simple, actionable steps to help them grow their business without the stress, so they can have more time to enjoy the life that’s in front of them right now. After all, “StressLESS, LiveMORE” is her motto!

Courtney lives in New Orleans with her husband Alan and their son AJ, a surprise miracle baby following her cancer treatments. You’ll find her hanging out wherever there’s dark chocolate and good cappuccino.

To learn more, you can connect with Courtney on Instagram @CourtneyElmer_ or on her website,


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