Are you dreading the holiday season, believing you can not have a pleasant family holiday, because your narcissistic husband has a way of making you feel nothing you have done is good enough? Or, perhaps he despises this time of year and wants you and the kids to join him in his misery? Well, I hope things can be different for you this year. And I think they might be if you decide to focus less on him and more on yourself and the children. What would make this a pleasant family holiday season?

Of course, you might feel you have to make everything just perfect so you don’t have to listen to him rant and rave. After all, while he might not enjoy this time of year, he still might expect you to put on quite a show to impress the people he wants to impress, perhaps because they can help him in his business or professional life. So, you have knocked yourself out year after year to do this, right?

He complained even so, though, didn’t he? This year, however, do you suspect if you try even harder yet, he won’t do so?

I rather hate to tell you this, but your narcissistic husband probably isn’t going to be satisfied no matter what all you do. If he suffers from unhealthy levels of narcissism, he is probably going to find some way to criticize and put you down. Yes, you will fail him once again. You won’t have served the perfect dinner for his business associates or family. Your choices of gifts will have been all wrong. Or, he might shout at you, Why do you have to make such a fuss over the holidays, especially when you know I can’t stand this time of year?

Sure, there are some good reasons you have come to dread the holidays. But why forsake something you once loved because of him? Really, why give your narcissistic spouse that kind of power? Decide to do what is best for you and your children instead, okay?

You want the holidays to be about connection and love for the sake of the children, I suspect. You can also take actions that help them to feel those things, even though your narcissistic spouse might not identity with such feelings.

Yes, think about creating good memories for your children instead of striving for the level of perfection your narcissistic spouse seems to always demand. And if you find yourself stressed out and snippy because you are trying to meet his unrealistic and perfectionist demands, remind yourself because of his unhealthy levels of narcissism, he is going to need to find something to criticize you about no matter how hard you try. He needs to make you wrong so he can be right, as well as prove once again he is better than you. This is something you aren’t going to change, either. Think of it as his narcissism talking.

So, how do you start creating good memories for your children?

Involve your children in your family holiday preparations as much as possible. Sure, it might be a little slower and sometimes messier, but do you realize your children will long remember these times they spent with you because, indeed, they felt connected to you and loved? Trust me; I have talked to enough people who are long past childhood who will tell you that long after the gifts received were forgotten, those memories of loving connections with parents or family lingered on. Those moments were what created the pleasant family holiday.

So indeed, let your children be a part of the holiday cooking and baking if they are old enough to do so, even if not perfectly. Let them help pick out the Christmas tree if you have one each year. Decorate the tree and the house together. Let them experience their creativity and the joy of transforming one or more rooms of the house. Try and do some of your shopping together. You also might want to attend a holiday concert. So what if your narcissistic spouse could care less, and he elects to mope around the house alone. Invite him, of course. Then, if he is miserable while you have a great evening out, the choice will have been his.

Talk to your children now about some things you might all do together that could become family traditions if you don't have some already. You might be surprised by their great suggestions. Or, think back to your own childhood. What things did you like to do or perhaps saw other families doing that you would have liked to have tried? Throw these out there and watch for their response.Select a couple of them to try. Decide to do it next year, too, if people seemed to enjoy it, and it brought you closer together.

Remember, children like rituals even if your narcissistic spouse does not.

As a child, I looked forward to the fact we got together shortly after Thanksgiving to make Christmas wreaths with another family. We used to actually be able to go out and gather up the greens we used. Perhaps you can't do this where you live, but there might be something else you can do instead. Maybe there are other decorations or ornaments for the house you can make?

Children often like to help bake and decorate Christmas cookies. I know we got a bit carried away with the sprinkles and icing. But hey, they looked good to us, and we loved eating them. Really, did they need to be perfect for my parents' friends? Just as no one ever turned down a gift I might have poorly wrapped, no one ever turned down the cookies, either.

Children can have fun doing simple things. One year my brother and I had such fun setting up our rendition of the nativity scene using my dolls and his stuffed animals. Sure, this wasn’t something that would make the cover of some decorating magazine, but it made us feel good, certainly. It also reminded us of what Christmas was all about.

You want your children to realize the holidays are special, whether you celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas, or you celebrate other holidays instead. Personally, I don't believe all days should be treated as equal. That fails to show proper respect for the intent of the holiday, plus it also makes life too mundane and dull, wouldn't you agree?

Of course, I’m not saying you have to go all out and to all sorts of expense. Things can be different and special without spending a huge amount of money. Again, just have some simple things you do that the children can look forward to every year. For example, as a child, I looked forward to decorating the tree together as a family. I loved the way my parents would always play Christmas music as we did this. Then, I liked it when we all sat in the living room afterwards with the other lights turned down, staring at the tree with all its lights aglow. It seemed so beautiful to me. Oh, and while we did this, my mother served eggnog which she only served during the holiday season, of course. Thus, it was a real treat.

What could you and your family do that would linger in your children’s minds as special? Again, let them help you decide, but realize you don’t have to try and emulate what Martha Stewart and her huge staff can accomplish in order to make it a pleasant family holiday.

In fact, if you’re trying to do that, and this is another reason you find the holidays stressful (besides because of your narcissistic spouse), you might want to decide to stop and simplify things immediately. What could you let go of? What could you do more simply?

The gifts don't all have to wrapped as beautifully as they might manage in the gift wrapping department at Neiman Marcus.Perhaps your spouse might have a snide remark to make, but I doubt even he will refuse the gift. And what if he does? Excxhange it and buy yourself something instead.

Do you have to serve half a dozen vegatable dishes? Must there be four kinds of pie? And if you are baking cookies beforehand to give away, could you just give people samples of one or two of your favorite recipes versus eight of them?

Yes, you might have to decide how you can minimize some of the stress of the holidays. Realizing you will never please your narcissistic spouse might help, certainly. And indeed, adding a family tradition or ritual might make it easier for you and your children to look forward to having a pleasant family holiday. And wouldn't that be so much better than allowing the behavior of someone with unhealthy levels of narcissism to ruin them for you instead?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Author's Bio: 

Diane England, Ph.D. has degrees in clincial social work, family studies, and child development. She writes primarily in the areas of his narcissism, addictions, and abuse and her likely codependency, as well as she addresses the codependent wife's recovery through self development and spirituality--or spiritual growth. To read more free articles, visit her website at