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Negotiating the holidays

November 22, 2011


I thought it’d be good to take a break from the Fighting Fair series and instead talk about more pertinent relationship issues–those of navigating the holidays. It’s a question that has to be answered by all couples at some point–usually in the first year of marriage. Are you going to switch off the holidays? One side gets Thanksgiving this year, the other Christmas? Will you attempt to see both families each holiday {provided they live close enough to be able to do that}? Will you host your families at your own home? Possibly one side for one holiday, another for the next?

The logistics of compromising may not seem all that difficult in theory. Make a decision that seems fair to the both of you and allows sufficient time spent with each of your families. There’s no wrong way to do it. The decision should be made between you and your partner–without the input of family members–and then communicated graciously to each side. Things get tricky, in my opinion, when the compromise is put into practice. And by that I mean how it feels the first time you’re unable to celebrate a particular tradition with your family. Or the first time you wake up on Christmas morning without being surrounded by your parents and siblings. Or maybe the first Thanksgiving meal you eat that isn’t your mom’s/aunt’s/grandmother’s.

The emotions you feel in those moments are ones of loss. I had a professor once say that every decision involves loss. Think about it. Decisions require a change to be made. And the definition of change is to give a different position, course, or direction to. Meaning the old way–the old position, course, or direction–is lost.

Although this isn’t the first time I won’t be spending Thanksgiving with my family, this is the first time I won’t be spending either holiday with them. Money is tight, my husband just started a new job {and therefore has little accrued vacation time}, and the price of airfare is seriously exorbitant around the holidays. Needless to say, the change is hard and the loss, palpable. I’m excited to spend the holidays with my in-laws–and my new husband of course!–but I’ll miss my family. I’ll miss our silly little traditions and holiday routines. I’ll miss it being just us.

And the moral of the story is that it’s OK to feel the loss of change. It’s completely normal. Loss needs to be grieved and you should be able to grieve without feeling bad or worrying you might offend your partner or in-laws. OK, I’m not recommending that you cry through Thanksgiving dinner but give yourself some room. Take time to call your family, sit down with your significant other and share with him/her what you miss most, journal. But most importantly, know that change takes time to adjust to and won’t feel as bad, or as abnormal, in the years to come.

So, what about you? How do you navigate the holidays with your significant other? And, more importantly, who gets Thanksgiving this year?

PS. I may not be eating my mom’s amazing turkey dinner on Thursday but my mother-in-law thoughtfully asked if she could buy the ingredients to make my mom’s pumpkin ice cream pie. I think everything will work out just fine. 🙂


Be Thankful fork found via Simply Suite Studio on Etsy

5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 22, 2011 3:56 pm

    What a wonderful mother-in-law! John and I aren’t close enough to either of our families to see them during the “little” holidays like Thanksgiving or Easter, but we’ve had practice compromising on Christmas! Last year I spent Christmas eve/day with his family, then flew out to see my parents after a slight snow delay (you know, the one that closed every airport from Miami to Maine? That one). This year, we agreed to travel together, so we’re seeing my family for the 25th, then heading to John’s childhood home for the second half of our trip. Boy, just thinking about it has me feeling exhausted!

  2. November 22, 2011 7:34 pm

    Kristine, Im right there with you! You love your guy, but it’s just hard to be away from the people youve spent the holidays with since you were born… I always get a little sad. Your suggestions were good ones, though. Thank you. 🙂

  3. Kathy permalink
    November 23, 2011 10:14 am

    So true. Now that we live completely out of state, seeing my family at the holidays is even trickier. Been together for 16 years and married for 12. This change of moving makes me feel like a newlywed all over.. Great advice girl.

  4. November 23, 2011 5:46 pm

    Lovely message. Thank you.

  5. November 29, 2011 10:00 am

    I HEAR ya! What makes the choice all the more difficult is that there are so many outside factors. You can’t just sit down, the two of you, and make a choice.

    Factors for us were: I don’t have any grandparents, and Zach’s paternal grandmother is rather old. We want to spend Thanksgiving (the traditional “dad’s side of the family holiday”) with her as long as we can. We started out with a tentative agreement to start going to my family’s Thanksgiving after that.

    Another factor is that I’m an only child, Zach has siblings. My (extended) family Christmas party is often in January and I can’t take time off work for that AND Christmas day. Zach’s extended family is on Christmas Day!!

    So it’s evolving. We’re having an early Christmas with my parents the week before (when I could take time off work), and flying back to Chicago on the 23rd. Who knows what it’ll look like next year.

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