Your first year of marriage is quite an experience to say the least. Of course, you share many wonderful moments together as a newly wed couple…the honeymoon, sharing a home, merging your lives together in so many ways. The holiday season is fast approaching, and you will most certainly be creating many new memories together. As the classic melody declares, it really is “the most wonderful time of the year!” Even with all of the holiday cheer approaching, you may find that you and your new mate are experiencing challenges in the area of distributing your time with family and friends. Eventually, the issue of “his family of hers?” will make headlines in your relationship and hard feelings are sure to follow. However, it doesn’t have to be that way.
I know from experience how difficult the “his family or hers?” issue can be early on in your marriage. After sharing, planning for and perhaps financing your recent nuptials, it’s easy to feel obligated to spend the holiday season with your side of the family. Your family members may also have a way of subtly (or overtly) pressuring you into sharing the season with them. After all, they love you so very much and did so much for you for your wedding day, right? Wrong. Sure, they love you and all that bit. But, the sooner you come to terms with the fact that you will not be able to please everyone all the time, the better.
I used to run around like the proverbial “chicken with its head cut off” from this house to the next to be sure I satisfied everyone and their desire to share some holiday joy with me and my new husband. News Flash: It didn’t work. My time was spread much too thinly and frankly, I was totally stressed out by the pressure I had placed upon myself to make everyone happy. After several years of this madness, my husband and I finally came to our senses after making a few logical realizations.
Realization 1: You can't win them all. As mentioned above, there will never be a time that you will have the ability to satisfy everyone on both sides of your family at the same time. So, this is where compromise comes in. The ultimate goal of compromise is to create a “win-win” situation. It’s better to divide your time by individual holidays, rather than try to see everyone for each holiday. You might visit with your family for Thanksgiving and then travel to your spouse’s hometown for Christmas (or Festivus). Then, you might reverse them the next year to keep everyone happy. This becomes a little more complicated if you have had a divorce in the family (thus creating more families to visit). But, you get the gist…it’s all about the compromise.
Realization 2: You are your own family now. You don’t have to go anywhere for the holidays if you don’t want to. There is nothing wrong with spending some time creating new holiday traditions with your sweetie. If you’re lucky enough (or not so lucky) to live in the same town as both sides of the family, you might consider having each side over for individual holidays. If you’re like me and you’re not so handy in the kitchen, you could do a potluck style dinner and have each person bring a dish. Or, you could meet up at Bennigan’s, IHOP or Denny's…I know for a fact they’re open on Christmas day. Lastly, if you are very brave, have both families over at the same time to celebrate said holiday. You don’t have to do anything extravagant. Have them over for coffee and dessert, or a delicious hot toddy.
Realization 3: Save your vacation time and use it for a holiday getaway (without family). That’s right, get out of town. My husband and I went on a Christmas cruise to the Mexican Riviera one year and it was fabulous. The ship was richly decorated and holiday cheer was abundant. It was a perfect opportunity to have some much needed time away and the chance to reconnect with eachother without the added pressure of pleasing a network of family members.
Realization 4: This too shall pass. What I mean by that is that everything will eventually fall into place and you will establish a holiday rhythm that is comfortable over time. Each family is different and what works well for one may not be the best idea for another. Only you can decide what works best for you and your family. The holidays are meant to be times of joy and happiness. If you are stressed out and find yourself dreading the holidays, you are definitely doing something wrong and should take some time to reevaluate the situation.
Over the span of 12 blissful years, my husband and I finally found our holiday rhythm with a combination of the points mentioned above. Thankfully, we have come to love and appreciate the holiday season after many years of stress and self-imposed pressure. We also realized there are many ways to express love to our families without physically being together. A handwritten holiday card, a thoughtful gift (nothing says "I love you" like a Honey Baked Ham), a super long Skype session…these are all things that connect you with family during the holiday’s. Isn’t that what the season is really all about? It should be if you value your sanity.