Everything was going fine during the yearly holiday get-together until Aunt Judy made a snide comment about your husband's choice of career. Uh-oh.
For some, the holidays aren't a joyous reunion but an annual jousting match. The good news is it doesn't have to be that way, local experts say.
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Here are a few ways to keep the peace during the holidays:
Forget Norman Rockwell
"Keep your expectations low, low, low - as low as possible," said Lou A. Lichti, a psychologist whose practice, City Park Psychological Services, has locations in Hagerstown and Frederick, Md.
She said it's those unrealistic ideas of a perfect holiday that set people up for an emotional letdown.
Instead, she said, even before the day begins, try not to have built-in expectations for how the holiday will go or how others will act.
The Rev. Susan A. Haberkorn, a licensed pastoral counselor with Mercy Counseling and Coaching of Hagerstown, also said to be realistic.
"If you didn't have that kind of family the rest of the year, it's not going to magically appear at the holidays," she said.
Keep your ears open and mouth shut
During the hectic and often chaotic holidays, everyone comes wanting to share stories of the past year. The best tool at these times, Lichti said, is to listen.
"We all want to be heard," she said.
Save your stories for the holiday newsletter because by listening to others' tales, you might learn something new, she said.
And, she said, it always helps to have a sense of humor.
Have a way out
If you know the same buttons are going to be pushed, make a plan for sidestepping those situations, said Jack Carpenter, executive director of Washington County Community Mediation Center in Hagerstown.
He suggested taking a breath, taking a walk or finding an excuse to get out of the conversation.
"Try to avoid the confrontation, so that way it doesn't escalate," Carpenter said.
Haberkorn said keeping the peace is really about personal responsibility.