The time is coming and is now here where families gather for the holidays. Although holidays are meant to be a time where we relax and enjoy our time together, when marriage is involved, they can become very stressful. Since my parents are divorced, we have had to be very strategic about how I spend my holidays. And now that most of my siblings (including me) are married, we have had to adjust our plan in so many different ways.
And let’s just say, it doesn’t always look like Norman Rockwell’s Thanksgiving dinner.
Every year, the question is brought up: Where are we spending (enter holiday here)? Last year, we were fortunate enough to have four days in a row off from work for Christmas Eve and Christmas. We saw my husband’s immediate family and extended family, and my immediate family. We were able to see everyone we wanted to see and still have time for ourselves. But it was exhausting. We decided this year that we were going to do things differently, for our sake. However, doing so involves stepping on some people’s toes.
I share this during this time for married couples because I know it is a struggle. Your family may be accepting of your new family, or they might grow bitter from you not seeing them. But now that you’re married, what is most important is your husband. God first, then husband, then kids (if you have any), then family, then everyone else.
So, here are some ways that we’ve learned to actually enjoy the holidays together:
- Plan ahead. You and your husband need to go out to a nice fancy dinner and bring a calendar. Look at every holiday your family celebrates. Then create a schedule that works for both of you. If you’re crazy enough to do half and half for every holiday (see one family for lunch and one for dinner), then go for it, but that does not work for us. We like to invest in each family without staring at our watches and wondering when we’re expected at the other side’s house. But no matter how your schedule looks, make sure that both families are represented. If your parents are divorced, unfortunately that makes it more difficult to see everyone, but just designate Christmas as “husband’s family” or Thanksgiving as “wife’s family”, so whether you see extended family or immediate family, a mother or a father, a sibling or a cousin, you’re compromising so that both of you are happy. Then, stick to the plan, no matter what.
- Expect to offend. Nothing breaks my heart more than telling my family that we won’t be seeing them for a holiday. Just get it into your head that someone will not be happy with your plans. Grandma might hang up the phone on you. Mom might not speak to you for a week. Dad might Facetime you and say that you’re missing out. But take their offense as a compliment. They’re upset because they won’t be seeing you, and that means that they actually want to see you. But remind them that you will see them again soon, and if you’re like us, you will probably see them at the next holiday or at the same holiday next year.
- Expect to be wrong. We got married right before Thanksgiving. The question on everyone’s mind was: where are the newlyweds spending Thanksgiving? We quickly told everyone that we wanted to be alone for the holidays. But after the honeymoon, we decided that we needed to spend time with our families. It was good for us, not just for our families. So I called up my mom and asked if we could sneak over for Thanksgiving, and I called up my mother-in-law and asked if we could come over for dessert. So, I will admit in this case that I was wrong about how the holidays would have turned out. And I guarantee that we will be “wrong” again. But, the point I’m trying to bring home is: what’s important more than anything else is what you decide together.
- Be one. My husband loves seeing his family for all the holidays because they have special traditions that never change throughout the years. I love seeing my family because I don’t always get to see them, so the holidays are a treat for me to catch up with those I love. So when we have to decide how we are spending the holidays, we always end up disagreeing a little bit. But what’s important is not what your mother is whispering into your ear. What’s important is not that your brother is planning on hosting and doing something amazing. Actually, what’s important is being together with your spouse. You will miss out on some of the plans, but as long as you are both together, you’re doing it right.
Family, I know it’s hard not to see your child/sibling/extended family member spend time with other people that they also happen to call family. Some families are fortunate enough to be able to host both sides of the family. Some couples have their own houses and are able to host. My advice to families is to cherish the times that you are all together. But when you’re not together, rejoice that God is growing your family through your in-laws and that your loved ones’ in-laws are so accepting of him/her. Give them grace; they are trying to figure it out. The last thing they need is to feel guilty about how they will be spending the holidays, especially since it is a time of year where we should be thankful and joyful in all of the Lord’s blessings, and in our Savior’s birth.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Enjoy them, no matter how you spend them with your family.
Featured image created by Norman Rockwell.