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First year of marriage conversations: Holidays

My husband, Dan, and I both come from very close families. Even as adults, we still spent a lot of time with our families. When we began dating, our personal familial bonds meant that we spent our holidays apart from one another. He always went to his family’s house to celebrate, and I went to mine. That was until we got married.

The Holiday Discussion

The first holiday after we were married was Thanksgiving. As it was approaching, I asked Dan what we were going to do. He seemed a bit baffled. Why wouldn’t we go our separate ways like we did last year? I explained we were a family, which means spending holidays together. This didn’t necessarily mean we had to stay home and eat turkey alone with the dog, but wherever we ate turkey, we should be together.

We reviewed our options. I told him how my parents approached the holidays when they got married. They divided up the holidays – Easter with my father’s family, Thanksgiving with my mother’s and so on. Another idea was to do every other year with each family during a holiday. Or, we could go crazy and run between both houses on holidays.

Making this decision was pretty important for us because we knew we weren’t planning to have children. It seems that once a couple has children they celebrate holidays in their own home and grandparents don’t expect the family to travel as often. This wasn’t the case for us. We felt like the decision we made was, most likely, going to determine the holidays for many years to come.

Making a Decision

Not all newlywed couples have an easy time making this holiday dilemma decision, which is usually due to unrealistic expectations from one family or the other. Some parents don’t want to give up seeing their child at every holiday and it can be tough letting go. Dan and I have friends who went through this situation. They sat down with the husband’s parents and explained that they needed to make decisions that were best for the two of them as a couple. This meant that although he would love to spend every holiday with his family, he also would love to spend time with his wife’s family. His mother wasn’t happy initially, but they knew that this was what was right compromise as a newlywed couple. After a few years of the new plan, his family has become used to the new holiday schedule.

Our Decision

Although we lived relatively close to both sets of parents, about an hour and a half from each house, we decided it would be crazy to visit both every holiday. Dan and I were fortunate that our parents understood our struggle to spend time with both families and that we needed to come up with a compromise. We decided to do a combination of our other options. For the first year, we went to Thanksgiving with my family and New Year’s Day with Dan’s family. We decided that Christmas was the most important to both of us and we went to one house on Christmas Eve and the other on Christmas Day. The next year we did the mirror opposite.

Seven years later, and we’ve consistently followed the same holiday schedule since it has worked for us so well from the beginning. Of course, now we realize that this probably won’t be the case forever. Our parents are getting older and at some point, they won’t be living in big houses ready for holiday guests. Eventually we will have to have the holiday discussion again but for now, we are satisfied with our decisions and happy that we get to eat turkey together as a married couple.

How did you and your spouse determine where you would spend the holidays when you first got married?