This year is a big adjustment for Dave and I when it comes to holidays. Not only is it our first holiday season as a married couple, it is the first year we won’t be spending Christmas with both his family and mine. In the past, we’ve committed to seeing both families on Christmas. We would spend Christmas Eve (when my extended family has our big annual Christmas party) and Christmas morning with my family, then hop in the car and drive the 4 hours to Michigan to spend the remainder of Christmas day and the following days with his family. Honestly, it’s just gotten to be too much. Split holidays are hard. We spend a lot of time in the car to spend a little time with each family. So last year we made the decision that it would be our last year splitting up Christmas like that. Instead, we’ve decided that we’ll spend Thanksgiving with one family, and Christmas with the other.
We’ll be spending next week with my family for Thanksgiving meaning, for the first time in my life, I’m not going to see my family on Christmas. And it’s hard. Thinking about missing my family’s huge annual Christmas Eve party and opening presents around the tree with my family the next morning makes me well up, and it’s not even here yet. Since this will be a big adjustment for both of us, both this year and in future years, we’ve been discussing some ways to make the process easier for us and our families.
Don’t Commit Without Discussion
Your spouse (or significant other) should be the first person you discuss the holidays with. The worst thing you can do is promise a parent you’ll be there for the holidays before you two have discussed it first! Your putting your spouse in an awful position, and putting your parents in a position to be disappointed when you tell them you spoke too soon and won’t be coming. When people start asking about holidays, just tell them you haven’t decided anything until you and your spouse have really worked your plan.
Consider Your Budget
Dave and I are within driving distance of both families, so budget isn’t too much of a concern. But for those who have to travel cross-country, budget is something you’ll have to consider. If one family is just too expensive to get to one year, that will make your decision for you.
Pick Your Battles
Decide which holidays are worth battling for. If your family doesn’t do anything for Easter, why put up a stink if your spouse wants to spend Easter with his family, who has an important family tradition that day? You’re not really losing out on anything, and you’ll be able to even it out with a holiday you actually do care about.
Ask for Flexibility
Just because you can’t celebrate Christmas on December 25 doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate Christmas. Ask your families to be flexible and celebrate on a different day. Christmas for my immediate family will be December 19 this year. It might not be Christmas Day, but we’ll still spend the day together, open gifts, etc. It will be our Christmas.
Consider Special Circumstances
There are some things that are worth breaking the pattern, such as a new baby or a relative who doesn’t normally come to holidays. When Dave’s nephew celebrated his first Christmas, we broke our normal pattern and drove 4 hours (in the middle of the night) to be there for his first Christmas. On the other hand, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been able to spend a holiday with my older brother in the past decade. So him being home for a holiday would change the sitatuion.
This is what we’ll be doing. This year we’re with my family Thanksgiving and his for Christmas. Next year we’ll switch.
Be Prepared for Hurt Feelings
When you tell your parents that you’re not coming to Christmas for the first time, they will (or should) understand. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be hurt feelings. Be prepared for that, and be sensitive.
It’s Okay to Say NO
Right now, Dave and I travel for every family holiday. No one comes to us. And as much as we love our families, it’s both a time and financial stress. Traveling costs money, and we spend hours in the car where others don’t. Right now we’re okay with it because we’re the ones who moved away. My family is concentrated in one area (mostly), as is his, so it makes sense for us to be the ones to make the drive to them. However, this isn’t always going to be the case. Someday we’ll say no. Someday we’ll decide that we’re spending the holiday in our own home, definitely so when we have kids of our own. And that’s okay. If you and your spouse want to spend the holidays in your own home this year, or want your kids waking up in their own beds for Christmas, that’s fine! Your parents, in-laws, etc. will have to deal.
If you really can’t think of a fair way to split the holidays, host them at your house and invite both families! This will give you a chance to see everyone! Dave and I have spent a lot of time talking about holidays, and have decided that when we have kids, Christmas morning will always be spent in our own home, so we’ll invite our families to join us!
How do you and your significant other split your holidays?
JOIN THE TRIBE!
Sign up to get a list of my favorite tools and resources for staying productive!