Families all over America will be getting together to celebrate Thanksgiving, but for some the holiday will be marred by the hurt, anger or bitterness of family feuds.
Feuds start over money or power or values or politics, or a real or imagined insult, Judith Viorst wrote in the November issue of Redbook. They exist between parents and children, brothers and sisters, relatives in all combinations. Some are poignant, others absurd, and they may have gone on for years.
"To those of us on the outside, family feuders can seem pathetic, petty, irrational. Why can't they, for heaven's sake, just kiss and make up?" Viorst wrote.
"But often a family feud is about a lot more than we--or the feuders--readily recognize. Often a family feud is the eruption of a lifetime of buried feelings--of rivalries and resentments, of all kinds of unhealed hurts stretching back into childhood."
Waiting for First Move
Some feuders do not make up because they believe what happened is unforgivable, or because each is waiting for the other to make the first move. Even people who are neither self-righteous nor stubborn unwittingly find themselves caught in family feuds. But, sometimes, even bitter feuds can be mended.
--Rachel, at war with her mother, put an end to several years of silence with a telephone call announcing a new grandchild and an invitation to see her.
--Paul, whose father forced him out of the family business because he disapproved of Paul's "hippie" values, came home when he learned his father was dying--in time for them to tell each other, "I love you."
--A sister called a sister-in-law after 17 months of not speaking and announced, "We're making up. It's enough already."
Sometimes all that is needed is for one feuder to reach out and make a gesture--but sometimes that gesture must be made again and again.
"A psychiatrist observes that it's the style of some families to feud," Viorst wrote. "He says in some families it is generally accepted that conflicts are resolved by X not talking to Y."
Healthy Thing to Do
Other families keep on getting together and hurting each other terribly, but they don't--and never will--cut off the relationship.
The psychiatrist says sometimes ending a relationship may be the healthy thing to do, but even the bitterest family feuders should leave the door ajar and retain the option of ending the feud.
There is another option--not to let the feud get started in the first place.
"Feud avoidance is easier if we don't expect the impossible from our relatives--if we can accept them as they are and not demand that they be what we want them to be," Viorst wrote.
Other ways to avoid feuds are not to burden relationships with the angers and grudges of ancient history, nor feel compelled to get revenge or win every battle.