Why splitting the holidays between families is so stressful and what you can do to make it easier
Adrienne C. Laursen, LMFT, Licensed Marriage Therapist, Fox 9 relationship contributor and owner of The Engagement Coach, reveals five tips for splitting the holidays with your families. Adrienne works specifically with dating, engaged and newlywed clients in her private practice, located in Hopkins, Minnesota.
If you’re recently engaged or new to “newlywed” status, you’re likely experiencing your first round of splitting the holidays between your families. If you’re lucky, it’s an easy decision and everyone is happy. But for most of you, there will likely be some added stress, uncertainty and hurt feelings along the way. Why does this need to be so difficult?
Splitting the holidays can be difficult for many reasons. First, each of you has certain traditions with your own families that you want to continue to celebrate. It can be hard to think about missing out on those traditions and celebrations, especially if you’re not really feeling the love from your in-laws.
Second, there are a lot of feelings and expectations that go into your decision. Family members will inevitably be disappointed if they don’t get to see you. Try to remember that everyone has been doing things the same way for many years, and it may be hard for everyone to adjust to a new normal. Just be sure not to turn the stress on each other!
Third, you’re new at this, so give yourselves a break! As an engaged or newlywed couple, you don’t have a lot of experience managing all of these expectations from so many people. If you can learn how to communicate effectively about these decisions from the start, you’ll be better prepared for years to come.
WHAT TO DO . . .
1. Talk about what you want as a couple before involving anyone else. Make sure you and your new spouse (or fiancé) are on the same page before one of you commits to anything or anyone. You have to be fair and spread your joy evenly, so you don’t have hurt feelings from either set of parents. Maybe you can agree to attend the holiday that is most important to each family. Or, start a new tradition and invite both sets of parents over to your home for the holidays. (Potluck anyone?)
2. Discuss the traditions you each have with your respective families, and why they’re important to you. What traditions do you want as a new family, and how do you want to celebrate each holiday as a couple? If you’re lucky, one family might love to celebrate Thanksgiving while the other could care less. This will definitely make splitting things up easier.
3. Work on compromising. If you both feel strongly about attending your own parents’ celebrations for Christmas, work with both sets to coordinate schedules. Hopefully your families will realize they need to be flexible too. Tell them why it’s important to be with each family for this particular holiday, so they can better understand your decision.
4. Tell your families your decision, and present a united front. Don’t say things like “John is making us spend Thanksgiving with his family and there’s nothing I can do about it.” You have a lot of time ahead of you to negotiate holidays, so if you fail to present a united front in the beginning, the pressure will only get worse. Show both sets of parents that you make decisions as a couple, and that they need to respect your decisions (whether they like them or not).
5. Don’t split up as a couple just to please everyone else! So many couples tackle their own family celebrations without their partner, just to avoid the stress and anxiety caused by having to choose. When you choose to celebrate the holidays without your partner, you’re sort of telling everyone else that your relationship isn’t a top priority. And, you’ll be missing out on a really important part of being married: starting your own traditions as a new family, the family you made together when you said “I do.”