It’s that time of year!
Thanksgiving dinners, holiday traditions, and Christmas Eve dinners are starting to pop up in conversation and you realize that your calendar is going to be really full this season! What do you do when balancing the agenda, and your family, gets to be too overwhelming?
Navigating holidays as a newlywed (or just a married couple in general!) can be really tough! After all, when you were dating it was great if your boyfriend or girlfriend could attend holiday events with you, but it wasn’t necessarily a problem for them not to. Now that you are married, both of your families expect both of you to be at everything! This can be particularly overwhelming if you have a lot of extended family traditions, or multiple parents on both sides, or even just overlapping traditions on the same day.
As a newlywed, Nolan and I fell into this same typical quandary. We wanted both of our families to be happy and we spent all of Thanksgiving and the weeks leading up to Christmas madly darting back and forth. There was more than one occasion that we practically traversed our entire state twice in one day trying to balance their expectations. The result- we spent more time in the car than with our families, didn’t enjoy the food or the fellowship, and our families were still upset because we were constantly rushing in late, leaving early, or couldn’t fully give them our attention because we were exhausted! We knew something had to give.
As much as you wish you could both be at everything, it just may not be possible, which means you have to deal with some potentially uncomfortable family conversations. If this sounds like you this season, here are some tips for navigating the testy holiday waters with grace and kindness.
MANAGE YOUR OWN EXPECTATIONS
Discuss with your spouse beforehand how you would like to split holidays with family. Will one side get Thanksgiving and the other Christmas? Then flip the next year? Or will you spend morning with one and evening with the other? Inevitably, there will be certain traditions that each of you are very attached to, so see if you can narrow it down to the most important one for each of you and manage to attend at least both of those.
MANAGE YOUR FAMILY’S EXPECTATIONS
Have an honest conversation with ‘the person’ in each of your families about the holiday events (normally this is mom!). Let them know that as much as you’d love to, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to attend every holiday event but you are going to do your best to be present for [insert family tradition here]. It is completely normal to receive disappointment when you are explaining this to family as their expectations may or may not be realistic. After all, they want to see you both and celebrate the holidays with you together!
When it comes to families, it’s often best for you to handle your family and for him to handle his. By you taking the lead in solving any tension or issues with your own family, you are preventing putting your husband or wife in the middle of a complicated family dynamic.
One of the quickest ways to spiral into familial discord with holidays is to turn your new spouse into a scapegoat. Saying that you can’t make Christmas Eve dinner because your husband would prefer to be with his family or that you can’t attend the holiday parade because of your wife is the quickest way to cause your family to resent your significant other. Always make it clear that “we have decided” and that you are completely united in your decision!
Be prepared when you are met with disappointment or frustration so you can respond with compassion. Share openly with them that you value being with them and determine to respond with kindness even if you feel their reactions are unkind or unfair.
DEFINING YOUR HISTORY
Every person carries certain history and life circumstances into marriage, but you are now in a unique position! Together, you get to decide which parts of your history will become a joint part of your relationship and which parts will be left behind or altered. The only ones who can carve your new path together is you!
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Lindsey LaRue is a Georgia Wedding and Anniversary Photographer for Heirloom Couples Who Love Timeless, Romantic, and Legacy-filled Imagery. Serving the Southeastern US and Beyond, Traveling Often.