Even though the holidays are centered around themes of gratitude and thankfulness, it can also be a time that brings a lot of stress. Everyone is hosting dinners and other gatherings. In most cases, everyone is typically booked solid. So how do you decide whose family to visit for the holidays?
First off, know that every couple deals with this difficult decision every holiday (or special occasion). There is really no right or wrong answer. However, the goal is to make the holidays enjoyable and memorable, create balance within household traditions, focus on the time spent together and invite Christ to be focus within your plans and celebrations.
The key is deciding together and seeing both sides. To do this you’ll want to:
Avoid Immediate Responses
Avoid aggravating your partner by not confirming or passing, until you’ve had an opportunity to discuss together. The last thing you want to do is disappoint family members by changing plans, after a promise. You also do not want to provide false hope to one side because that could create potential animosity.
Talk to Both Sides of Family
Occasionally, the stress of potentially disappointing someone could all be in your head. In some instances, families can agree on being present for one holiday versus another – depending on availability. For example, maybe Thanksgiving is when one side of the family will all be in town. And Christmas is when the other side of the family will all be in town.
Take the time to talk to both families – in person or over the phone. Ultimately, allocating time to discuss the matter can help everyone feel better about the final decision.
Choose Your Battles
Identify which holidays are the most important to you – sometimes this is based on holiday traditions already in place by each side. Maybe your family celebrates always attends church on Christmas Eve and your partner’s side traditionally has a big Christmas day dinner. Depending on the regional logistics, you may be able to do both. If not, switch off the celebration of traditions.
Be honest with your partner and communicate which traditions are meaningful. With that said, be understanding and willing to compromise. For example, my husband and I take turns staying with each side when we travel for holidays. Both sides know and understand this. If we stayed with one side for Easter, then we will stay with the other side for Thanksgiving. Drawing that line has prevented any ambiguity between families and allows us to also be fair. They might not always be happy with the decision, but they know what to expect.
Selecting an Alternate Time to Celebrate
Since you cannot be in two places at once, designating an alternate date of celebration can ease hearts and mindsets. Maybe your travels do not allow you to celebrate Thanksgiving on the actual day with one side; however, you can suggest a get-together on a date that is relatively close. You can switch out who gets the real holiday every year.
Allow Your Relationship to Get a Vote
eHarmony staff suggest: “When you two are having trouble making a good and fair decision on an issue like this, keep in mind that there are three votes to be considered: one for you, one for your partner, and one for the relationship. You should each get a chance to make a case for your own position, but then make sure that your relationship also gets a vote—and this vote breaks the tie. By doing this, you'll emphasize the fact that you're on the same team and that your commitment to each other is more important than your individual agendas.”
Showing that your relationship is more important can help strengthen your bond. In the end, someone must compromise, and your partner will make an effort to be the one who bends next time.
Be the Host or Get Away
If you have children or do not have the budget to travel, it may be a good idea to host a holiday celebration at your house. Even though hosting can bring forth a different kind of stress, being the neutral ground can be a huge difference maker and bring both sides together.
Or maybe hosting just isn’t your thing and you do have the budget to travel – plan a getaway as a couple and/or family. I can speak from personal experience, this one is my favorite. I don’t really like to host a house full of people. My husband and our two kids decided to cross a destination off of our bucket list and we spent Christmas away. We explained to both families that we wanted to create memories with our children – for us, that meant seeing Dwyane Wade and the Chicago Bulls play the Indiana Pacers. Sometimes traveling for pleasure and not just visitation can be worth it. Your travel budget doesn’t always need to go towards visiting family.
Decide ASAP and Share the News
Once you’ve made a decision together, tell both sides of family. Keeping the decision a secret will only create problems with each side. Even though one side may not be pleased with your decision, it’s better to address the issue versus avoiding it. Providing an answer to each side will eliminate future conversations about the topic and will also allow each side to cope with the decision.
Additionally, having a decent amount of notice can allow one side to create a celebration plan – coming together at a different time, making another upcoming holiday a bigger celebration or allowing a side to make future travel plans they weren’t originally thinking about.
Above all, it’s crucial to not allow this decision to create an argument between you and your partner. You are a team and the decision of where to spend the holidays is a topic you will visit quite often. Setting the tone and communicating with each other will, ultimately, make all the difference.
Both sides will probably not be happy, at one time or another, but standing as a unified team will display your strength as a couple and set the tone for other topics of discussion.