The holidays are a time of celebration, filled with parties, food and gift-giving. But what happens when the holidays feel like more of an obligation than a celebration?

You have likely heard the term “codependent,” but I’m guessing you haven’t given much thought to how it relates to the holidays.

Codependency is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. If you are codependent with a person, you spend time and do things with them out of obligation. In order to change the pattern, the codependent party has to either learn healthier ways to relate, or break up. Since breakups are not usually an option for codependents—much too dangerous, since they often believe they need the other to survive—learning new ways of managing the relationship is the key to lasting happiness.

The same thing happens with the holidays.

Many of us relate to the holidays in a codependent manner. We give in to their demands. We scramble to meet their expectations. And all too often, we are left feeling empty and angry.


Here are the top three holiday stressors that cause us to go from healthy functioning adults to wanting to ditch Christmas all together.

  1. Gift Giving. It is more blessed to give than to receive, right? Not when you cross over into credit card debt and worry about “one upping” last year’s gift. God calls us to be cheerful givers. I’m not too cheerful when I look at a credit card statement the following month and feel like I need to repent.If someone is going to judge you for the cost of the gift you give them, it’s not worth the expense. True giving comes from the heart, so put your credit cards away—or at least keep your spending to an amount you are comfortable with.


  1. Parties. Did you know that the holiday season is the time when people are most susceptible to illness? That’s because we are running around trying to attend every event, eating foods that would constipate a buffalo and not giving our bodies ample time to rest.  If you feel “obligated” to attend the non-stop holiday parties—even when you feel a virus coming on—please ask yourself who your codependency to Christmas is helping.


  1. Family. For most clients I counsel, this time of year brings dread instead of joy because of the time they are expected to spend with family. Instead of doing what you feel you are obligated to do—which is a key part of the definition of codependency—consider doing what makes you happy.In particular, minimize your time spent with family if they display inappropriate, uncomfortable behavior. Your submitting yourself to emotional abuse doesn’t do anyone any favors. Consider this: If you decide to take a break from or to limit time with your dysfunctional family this year, it may just open the door to future talks and growth.

Despite what the media tries to portray, there is no such thing as a perfect Christmas. And while I don’t agree with ditching Christmas, I do agree with having healthy boundaries.


Remember first that Christmas is about the birth of our Savior, Jesus. Everything else needs to be kept in balance.

You can change the pattern. And if you follow these three tips, you won’t have to ditch Christmas to do it.

4 replies
  1. Donna Suzanne
    Donna Suzanne says:

    Really great post and points to ponder. We set boundaries with family many years ago and brought Christmas back home. We decided that false peace is not peace and allowing family to be disrespectful toward us was hurting our family and influencing our children in a way that was not healthy. Christmas is now something I look forward to instead of dreading.

  2. krisreece
    krisreece says:

    Thanks for sharing Donna. So glad to hear that you worked through the issues and can look forward to time with family. God Bless you!

  3. Heidi
    Heidi says:

    Such great advice. The line – “eating foods that would constipate a buffalo” – cracked me up! oh, how I can relate to that one! ha

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