You can make it through the holidays with your relationship intact.
As if Christmas wasn’t already a stressful time, trying to please everyone can be downright challenging.
The second thought is the bigger part of your panic. What happened to discussing this together? Now you feel more hurt than anything else.
No matter how complicated the scenario might be (such as blended families, competing grandparents, in-laws, logistics, money, gifts, time) the bottom line is you feel like it was his decision. He didn't even consider your plans and ideas.
There’s a swirl of emotions going on in your head and it seems like it's one more thing from one more person that expects something from you. The only thing is that this ‘one more person’ is your husband and you feel really hurt and most definitely frustrated.
Oftentimes, it’s the path and the pressure of the holidays that can churn out hurt feelings and missed expectations. This is especially true if there hasn’t been ongoing communication, easy dialogue and genuine consideration in your marriage up to this point.
So, the holidays can feel like it’s just one more layer on top of another.
To fix the challenge of deciding whose family to spend the holidays with without compromising your relationship, you need to talk about it. Not sure how? Here are 6 tips for how to have a potentially sensitive conversation and create a happy ending that lasts long after the holidays:
1. Decide if and when to have the conversation.
Take a minute and think it over: do you really want to dive into this issue now?
Only you can answer that. Perhaps it won’t lead to a huge discussion that increases stress. Perhaps, it will highlight your feelings and perceptions of not being included in the marriage.
Truly, he won’t know how you feel unless you tell him. The challenge is to know how and when to pick your battles! Like they say, TIMING is everything. What about timing?
Best timing is to do it sooner rather than stuffing it, and doing it before you land on your in-laws' doorstep. Just remember not to discuss it late on Sunday night before you have to wake up early for another workday. Best not to discuss after too much to drink.
It’s not so much about calculating when and how to bring it up if that‘s what you decide. Rather, it’s more about wanting to reach out to him and share each other’s thoughts with one another, so there’s more clarity.
2. How to start the discussion.
INTENTION is everything. If you have good intentions to feel closer to him and honest with him, then by discussing your thoughts and feelings in reaction to his decision, be sure to incorporate each sentence without blame!
You couch it in love: "Hey Babe, I was kind of surprised about the decision to go to your folks. How did you decide that?" And a word to the wise: be sure to check your negative or snarky attitude at the door!
Another approach: "WOW! I was hoping to do my holiday stuff. Remember? We talked about having our friends over too? So are your folks waiting for us to decide, or what did you tell them?"
3. In addition to your own feelings, pay attention to HIS.
Another important factor to consider is your husband’s feelings.
In all fairness to him, has he expressed more of his thinking as to how the decision came about? What if his folks gave the invitation, and he spontaneously said "Yes!" because it excited him to tell you? Who knows?
What if from his perspective, he thinks he is giving you a vacation because it gives you a chance to get away and you don’t have to cook, bake, clean and decorate? You are his family’s guest and you get to engage more in the celebration of it all with him.
What if his intentions are good, they just didn’t fit with yours? It’s a possibility, isn’t it? Absolutely!! Once you have that talk, remember to be open to his view just as you hope he can hear and understand yours!
4. Re-frame, re-calibrate & look at the positive so you can be grateful.
The holiday season comes just once a year with the richness of time-honored traditions and for many families, keeping the tradition the same is important.
As children grow older their needs change, as grandparents age their needs change. Sometimes you just have to "go with the flow" and make new traditions so it all works for the best. By adjusting your expectations you can still make it joyous and fun for EVERYONE!
This holiday season can also be a time of gratitude, being positive and being open to new ways of celebrating your love for each other and family.
Maybe you didn’t get a chance to cook your stuffing the way your mother made it, that’s OK. Maybe you can bring your delectable handmade Christmas cookies to your in-laws and knock it out of the park!
5. To avoid future arguments, schedule regular talks with your husband to keep the conversation going.
This is important. Keep talking. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. If you have to start with making an appointment, that works too, especially if you have a houseful of little people or if your schedules makes each of you feel like you are a single parent.
Even if it's 5 minutes a night, you and your sweetheart go to the back hallway stand in the doorway of your bedroom and look at each other and talk real time about how great it is to look into each other’s eyes.
Of course, 5 minutes after that, all the kids will wonder where you went and seek you out. The good news, those precious 5 minutes sets the stage for the entire evening. You connected with each other!
6. Drive it home by making time for each other on a regular basis by scheduling date nights with your husband.
Make a date, stick to it and find a babysitter if needed (no excuses). If kids aren’t the issue, then one of you tells your boss (if you work long hours or different schedules)... that you need time off.
Go to the big city, go out for a white tablecloth dinner, go to a concert, go to IN and OUT burger and sit in the car and talk. Both of you can get dressed up and go out on the town.
One rule: if you're parents, you're not allowed to talk about diapers or kids. Talk about current events, talk about when you met, talk about how fun it is to be alone with each other in that moment!
Keep talking, keep talking, keep talking. If it suits you, then each of you can rotate on making the plans. Every two months, minimum — you go out and have fun! He thinks of something special and then you think of something special.
That’s all it takes.
By incorporating this advice into your regular life, soon you’ll look back on the holidays and see that it all turned out fine. You’ll remember that little conversation you had about your Christmas feelings turned out to be a really tender moment of sharing with each other.
By talking, somehow, it gets easier. In the future, when you can talk about the hard stuff, the kid stuff, and the two-of-you stuff, it will begin to feel natural. And then one day, in the not too distant future, something like this will happen:
Your husband will walk into the kitchen, and as he opens the refrigerator he’ll turn to you and say, "I’m really happy."
Of course, you’ll be right in the middle of preparing dinner and you’ll almost miss what he said, but you’ll look up and see him smile and say, "I’m happy you're happy because I’m happy too!"
Margot Brown has helped couples and individuals create happier lives for over 20 years. She’s the author of Kickstart Your Relationship Now! Move On or Move Out. You can find it on Amazon and in local book stores near you.