The holiday season is already stressful enough. Buying presents, pre-holiday baking, and attending work holiday parties can make your head spin, so the last thing you want is to argue with your significant other about where you’re going to spend the holidays.
Especially in cases when you get engaged or married close to the holiday season, each side of the family will probably be vying for you to attend events on their side of the family in hopes of being able to celebrate your engagement or first holiday being married.
It might be tempting to say “yes” right away when you get that phone call from your mother-in-law asking you if you’re going to be spending the holidays there or at another event, but you need to steer away from committing right away. Wedding Expert and Author of The Bride’s Guide to Freebies Sharon Naylor says you should not give an immediate answer. Naylor told Bridal Guide that “It’s not okay to say “yes” to the first family that calls, then tell the second family – who doesn’t start planning their holidays in November – that they missed the boat.” She says saying something along the lines of, “We have to look at ways of how we can be fair to everyone because we’re a combined family now,” is a diplomatic approach.
Now that you got the call, you should probably have a conversation with your significant other. The Life Hacker reports that couples should consider things like family dynamics, budget, fairness, and time when making a decision.
Family Dynamics: Spend some time really delving into what the situation looks like for both sides of the family. Is there someone getting older that you want to spend quality time with? Is there a family member you don’t get along with? Are your parents separated, if so, where do they live and how far apart? Which leads to…
Budget: How much are you both able to spend over the holidays? Do you have family that lives in another province? Can you afford the trip there or do you put it off for next year? With that being said….
Fairness: Is one family closer than the other and you see them more often? It may be a good idea to visit the family that lives farther away to make up for lost time. Unless…
Time: Did you coordinate your vacation days so that you can both take off a couple of days to visit family? Do you have enough days off to see both sides of the family?
You have to decide among the two of you what’s important and sometimes that will mean making compromises, but you and your partner have to be able to come to an agreement without resenting each other.
And this goes for your parents too. Natasha Sharma, Author of “The Kindness Journal,” TV/Media Personality, and Therapist, says she doesn’t believe that parents should be involved in any decision that you make as a couple during the holiday season. Sharma says obviously your parents are going to play a role in the kinds of decisions that you make, but they shouldn’t make you feel guilty. “If your mom or dad says to you – I really want you to come around on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day – they can make that request […] but I think at the end of the day it always comes down to a personal choice,” she says. “They have an expectation […] a certain desire, and a wish that we will be there on [all three days], but when it comes to them getting involved [in the ultimate decision], that’s a big no, no.” Both sides of the family have to be understanding of your situation and how the holidays are divided up is up to you and your partner.
Sharma adds that the holiday season should be an enjoyable time, but “if figuring out what to do to actually enjoy your holidays is a source of major stress, that in itself is a problem.” She says there may be something wrong in the relationship if just determining how to spend your holidays is causing tension. It’s normal to feel a little embarrassed by your family’s quirky traits and everyone has family members that they don’t like, but couples visit each other’s families in support of their partner. And if you’re having a difficult time doing that, “it’s not really about the holidays then, it’s about something else.”
Whether it’s spending Christmas Eve at one family and Christmas Day at another, hosting your own dinner, or pulling a “Four Christmases,” the choice is what’s right for you and your partner.