‘Tis the Season for Compromise: 5 Tips for Navigating the Holidays with Your Spouse

In the past, I have written about how much anxiety I feel around what is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. When I think of the holidays, sometimes my favorite parts get clouded in the countless dilemmas that I probably give entirely too much thought. All the things that could go wrong probably won’t, but still I have yet to venture out of one holiday season where everyone was happy. The people-pleaser in me still feels “bad” when I disappoint the friends and family I care about. It makes it especially hard when everyone wants to see me … or so they say. I’m on to them; they want to see my cute babies! Nevertheless, it gets difficult to be in so many places during the holidays.

While growing up, the holidays were complicated enough. My parents were divorced, and while I admit I loved the idea of two Christmases and two of just about everything else (two Easter baskets? Yes, please! Two turkey dinners? Ok!), as I got older, I hated it. I felt like I was missing out on things and that I was making at least one of my parents sad. Although it wasn’t their intention, I felt caught in the middle. If I wanted to stay with my mom and my grandma because my cousins were visiting, it meant my dad had to celebrate the holidays without me in addition to my whole other side of the family.

Fast forward to adulthood and things still feel complicated, even if they probably shouldn’t. When I got married, another family was brought into the equation. Suddenly I wasn’t just thinking about my own parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, but also my husband’s. I struggled with my desire to spend time with my family and also start some of our own traditions as a family. As I mature, I feel bad less frequently, but that anxious feeling that hits me starting in October isn’t entirely gone from my life. I remember last month, the topic of the holidays came up and moments later, I asked my husband if we could revisit it in November. I just wasn’t ready to deal. Well, November is here, and until I am ready to face reality and be proactive, you can find me in a corner eating pie.

An article by YourTango offers some advice on navigating the holidays because, as it would turn out, I’m not the only one who perceives this time of year as a bit complicated. The article cites a study that found that couples who were exposed to a “stressful but manageable experience” early in their relationship and “effectively” dealt with it fared better in the future. The article indicated that it was likely to “increase the couple’s resilience to future and potentially more significant stressors” (Neff & Broady, 2011 as cited by Your Tango). If you’re married, it is likely that both sides of the family will want to grace your presence during the holidays. If you like pie, feel free to join me in the corner; however, if you don’t plan on wearing stretchy pants for the next two months, you may want to keep reading for some tips on how to navigate the holidays during the season of compromise.

  • 5 Tips for Navigating the Holidays With Your Spouse 1 of 6
    5 Tips for Navigating the Holidays with Your Spouse

    The most wonderful time of year makes me anxious, particularly when it comes to making plans. Here are a few things I plan to keep in mind as my husband and I decide how (and where!) our family will be spending the holidays.

  • Talk about it early 2 of 6

    Decide early on what your plan will be during the holidays. Having the discussion early will allow you (and your family, if you choose to share just yet) to prepare.

  • Host celebrations at your place 3 of 6

    If your family lives fairly close and gets along reasonably well, opt to host family gatherings at your house. If cooking isn't your strong suit, you can opt for a potluck. Some of us put entirely too much pressure on ourselves when it comes to celebrations and need to be reminded what it's really all about coming together and celebrating as a family. If your great aunt thinks your turkey is a little dry, hand her the gravy and move on. You can't please everyone, but you can make the most of the situation.

  • Do what you both want 4 of 6
    Happy young family sitting in black car looking out windows

    You may want to consider visiting everyone. However, it's important to note that this works best if everyone lives in the same vicinity. Start the day celebrating with your spouse's side of the family and end it with your side.

  • Take turns 5 of 6
    calendar "november 2013" on a blackboard

    You could also alternate years. One year you celebrate the holiday with your family, and the next with your spouse's.

  • Designate a different holiday for each family 6 of 6

    Perhaps your mother holds Thanksgiving near and dear to her heart, and the celebrations in your family for Thanksgiving have always been really big. You may decide that you will always go to your mom's for Thanksgiving, and then will always celebrate Christmas with your spouse's family, who loves upholding these traditions. 

These are a few suggestions when it comes to navigating the holidays with your spouse. In the end, it is important to do what makes you both happy. Unfortunately, that won’t always be the same thing, which is why compromise is so crucial. But if you think about it, doesn’t seeing your spouse happy make you happy anyway? Even if it means you have to suck it up and spend the day with your in-laws (hopefully there’s pie)?

For more insight on navigating the holidays, visit Your Tango.

Photo source: iStockphoto

Article Posted 3 years Ago

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