You’ve just gotten married and the honeymoon is continuing long after you left Aruba or the Bahamas when suddenly you are faced with a terrifying decision: whose family will you spend the holidays with? Splitting up the holidays after marriage is difficult for a number of reasons. First, you have your own traditions that have likely been observed since the year you were born. Further, your family might be hurt if you decide to spend the holidays with your spouse’s family.
First of all, splitting up the holidays after marriage should be a joint decision made between you and your spouse. Before you even involve your family members, discuss it amongst yourselves. Talk about your traditions and find out if you can reach a common ground. You might discover that your spouse’s family feels very strongly about Christmas, but has no set tradition for Thanksgiving. Those types of situations can make things easier.
Once you’ve outlined your desires for splitting the holidays, begin to work on compromises. For example, if you both want to spend Christmas with your families, agree to visit one for Christmas Eve and the other for Christmas Day. Or, if your families live in separate states, you might want to alternate years with your families. You should also consider whether spending the holidays with one family member will leave another alone.
Make sure that, until you thoroughly discuss splitting up the holidays with your spouse, that you make no promises to family members. Using the argument, “But I already told Mom we’d be there!” will probably create dissention between you and your spouse. If a family member calls and wants to know your plans, explain that you and your spouse have not discussed it yet, but that you will get back to them. Make sure, however, that you make your decision as far in advance of the holidays as possible. Holidays take planning, so give your families time to adjust.
When you’ve finally reached your decision, it is better for you to explain it together. Calling your mother and telling her that your spouse insists upon spending Thanksgiving at his or her parents’ is not the way to go. Instead, let everyone know that you’ve made your decisions together, and that you stand by one another.
You should also remember to include divorced family members in the decision of how to split the holidays. For example, both my parents and my wife’s parents are divorced, which means that we have to split the holidays between four separate celebrations. Although in an ideal world, parents would understand the decisions we face, we still have to work hard not to hurt feelings.
One of the best ways to go about splitting the holidays after marriage is to alternate years. This allows you to spend the holidays with all families at one time or another, and gives the other family something to which they can look forward.