Doing Life Together

hugs-1613208_1920Reader Question: Every year, we have this family conflict. My husband’s parents live about three hours away and mine are six hours away, in opposite directions. Both sets of parents want us to spend Christmas with them. How do we handle this without upsetting either family?

This type of family conflict is common this time of year. In order to settle it, it is best to have this conversation when you first get married and later when you start your family. That way, you can make a plan and communicate that plan to both families.

If you haven’t discussed a regular plan, start talking now as the more advanced conversation you can have, the better. The plan may need regular negotiation given the changes in families and special circumstances. Some families are flexible and will easily accept any plan you make, others are more rigid and want certain traditions kept with you participating.

There are usually four options to consider. These can help resolve the family conflict.

  • Alternate holidays by holidays or years. For example, go to one family for Thanksgiving, the other for Christmas; one for Christmas, one for Easter, etc. Or alternate the years, one year Christmas at one family, the next year Christmas at the other.
  • Dine and dash. Try to make both families for part of the Christmas season. This will be more stressful, require travel, and time off from work but each family gets you for part of the holiday season. I call it Dine and Dash because it feels like you eat and run to the next home. This works better for families who do not live very far apart.
  • Host the holiday at your home. Invite both sets of parents to come to you if you can handle the accommodations or they are willing to arrange their own. Or if you go to one family for Thanksgiving, maybe have the other family at your house for Christmas and then alternate the family that comes each year.
  • Visit at other times. You stay home for Christmas and make your own traditions and visit both families at other times of the year.

Bottom line, you and your husband need to make a plan that makes sense for you and that you can manage. Then talk with your families and see if you can agree on an arrangement.But keep in mind the importance of family traditions and being together to mark a holiday. While it might be inconvenient to work out all the details, it usually feels worth it to reconnect and build memories.

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