Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Splitting Up the Holidays as a Married Couple

Reader Question: I'm curious - how do you negotiate holiday/family time between you and Matt? I hope that isn't too personal to ask! I'm just wondering - if I chose to spend thanksgiving at home instead of with his family (or if he chose to spend it at home instead of with my family), I think there would be a lot of hurt feelings! I'd love to hear about how you navigate what can be a sticky situation!

Ah, yes, the difficulties that can come from merging your life with another person!

Matt and I live in Texas, while his family lives in Bloomington, Indiana, and mine lives in Tampa, Florida. We've had to negotiate a family visitation plan that meets both of our [often conflicting] needs.

There are a lot of questions to consider when coming up with a family holiday plan that works for both of you.
  • How do you make time to build relationships with each others' families?
  • How do you balance time between extended families and the new little seedling of a family that you are growing with your partner?
  • How do you honor a partner's potential desire to spend holidays with friends and not just family?
  • How do you honor a partner's potential desire to spend time traveling to new places rather than just visiting family?
  • How do you honor a partner's potential desire to visit family frequently throughout the year?

For Matt and me, the answers usually involve lots of conversation and compromise.

I am the partner who loves my family and talks with them on the phone weekly but would rather spend my vacation time traveling with friends to new and exotic locations. Whenever spring break, summer vacation, or Thanksgiving rolls around, I like to hop in the car or jump on a plane and explore somewhere new.

Matt is the partner who wants to spend as much time as possible visiting his family in Indiana.

How do we balance both of our needs? Well, for Christmas, we visit BOTH our families and my best friend. Yes, it's a whirlwind of a trip, and it can be exhausting, but we make it work. Matt's vacation starts at 5:00pm on December 23. We jump in the car (with our dog in tow) and drive halfway to Florida. The next day, we drive the rest of the way and arrive at my family's house in time for Christmas Eve. We spend three nights with my family and then hop on a plane (leaving Hoss with his grandparents and uncles) to spend three nights with Matt's family. When we return to Florida, we drive two hours to spend two nights with my best friend for New Year's.

Since Christmas is the one time of the year that I always visit my family, the Thanksgiving-at-one-family and Christmas-at-the-other-family option doesn't work for us. Additionally, Matt couldn't bear to not see his family at Christmas AND Thanksgiving. Since Christmas and Thanksgiving are so close to each other, he understands that it doesn't make sense to expect me to go with him to Indiana for Thanksgiving. He goes alone, while I spend Thanksgiving doing something interesting with my best friend (although sometimes I multi-task and drag my best friend up to Indiana with me!).

As for the rest of the year, Matt is free to travel to Indiana on weekends whenever he wants to. He usually goes about four times a year (in addition to holidays). I sometimes go with him, if it's for a special event (wedding, funeral, family party, etc.). When his family visits us in Houston, I always spend quality time with them.

I can usually get Matt to travel somewhere new with me for spring break and our two-week summer vacation.

However, all of this has to get constantly renegotiated, depending on new circumstances that arise. Once we have a baby in February, for example, we might have to make adjustments to our plans, depending on what feels right.

Like with all major issues in relationships, finding solutions requires honest conversation, mutual respect, understanding, and compromise. It's never easy, but trying to work through these issues in a healthy way is definitely worth the trouble!

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Eleanor said...

Well, we're an international couple (Germany/US) so the issue has a built-in defacto solution: we alternate countries each year. Which, in some ways makes it easier.

This is our second Christmas together as a married couple, and we didn't do much last year because we had just gotten married and we're flying to the States. This year, however we're doing a lot, we made an advent calendar and we're getting a little tree for our apartment. That one of the things I like about staying in the country we live in for the holidays - all the little traditions we can start to build.

Anonymous said...

this has always been a difficult issue for me and is definitely on my mind this time of year. thanks for posting!

(you'd think we'd have it easy because our parents are in the same town, but he would like to fly home for much less time than I would, or not at all, since Christmas is an expensive time to travel)

Andrea Marie said...

What a great topic!! This is literally the hardest issue between me and my fiance. And even though we compromise and talk about it endlessly, it is still so fruatrating and painful. Every. Single. Time. I have such a hard time compromising something like family and friends, and I obsess w/ making sure it is "fair." If we spend one hour longer w/ his parents than mine I have a heart attack.;)

But, its worth it! so worth it. And we get better at it every year :)

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