We know that family of origin has a huge effect on how you spend your holidays. For couples, it is a time often filled with obligations and assumptions based on the traditions that you grew up with. For example, in my family Christmas Day has always been the “big” day, while Christmas Eve is more low-key. In my husband’s family, the opposite is true. In my family, we exchange gifts, but it’s not the “main event.” With my in-laws, the living room turns into a sea of presents and wrapping paper; it’s a pretty big deal.
It is assumed we will spend these respective days with our respective families and that we will follow the gift-giving guidelines of each. There is also a sense of obligation to make sure that we are spending adequate amounts of time with each side. It can get overwhelming sometimes. Although we do not have children yet, I know that the complications of these dynamics will multiply when that time comes. Couples with kids or those who are remarried: I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.
While there is not a universal set of rules to help you navigate complicated family dynamics and holiday-induced stress, here are three tips to help you and your partner remember that you’re in this together.
- Communicate about what’s important to you. Talk to each other about what traditions are most special to you and why, and discuss how you’d like to see these manifested in your couple relationship and with your children as they grow up. You might even learn something new about your partner!
- Compromise. Be realistic, and be courteous to your partner. Know that it is unlikely that either of you will be able to do everything “your way.” Whether it means alternating each year or combining your traditions in a new creative way, be willing to meet your partner halfway, and appreciate each other for doing so. Which leads us into the next tip…
- Create new traditions together. Just as important as carrying on family of origin traditions is creating new ones within your own family. Whether it’s just the two of you and the dog or you’ve got a house full of kids, it will bring you closer and create lifelong memories.
These three familiar concepts are highly applicable to relationships in general, but may also be particularly helpful during the hectic holidays when stress and family obligations can sometimes cause us to lose sight of the big picture.