Choosing "who to visit" is a challenge every time Christmas or another holiday rolls around, but the longer you and your significant other wait to plan, the harder the decision will be. Deciding which family to visit for the holidays can be a tug of war, but here are some tips to help you decide and make the visit a little less stressful.
The Important Things You Should Both Consider
We may not always get along with our families in every way, but we love them and we want to see them during the holidays. There is only so many special days in the year and lots of family for us to see. This can lead to couples butting heads about where they should go. Holidays bring stress to all of us in a lot of different ways, but it's important to keep things in perspective. This is a good problem.
The fact that you even have this problem means you have someone to visit. Still, it's tough to navigate and it can add tension to a happy time of the year. To keep things from getting crazy, here are some important factors you and your partner should consider:
- Family dynamics: Are you and your partner's parents together? Do they live in different cities? Would someone be especially hurt if you didn't make it? Is there someone in the family that you or your partner do not get along with very well? Maybe there's someone who's getting older that you want to spend quality time with while you can. Take some time to really go over each side of your family and determine what's feasible and comfortable for both of you.
- Budget: What can you afford to do? If one side of the family is on the other end of the country, that's a much bigger financial commitment than, say, driving an hour down the road. Seeing family is important, but you don't want to break the bank just to spend a couple of days with them, especially when you can do it for much less at another time during the year.
- Time: How much time do you or your partner get away from work? Is it even possible to see both sides of the family?
- Fairness: Do you see one side of the family way more than the other on a regular basis? If so, the holidays might be a good opportunity to make up for some lost time.
Remember, you're both in this together, and the best outcome is one that appeases both of you one way or another. It's not the end of the world if you can't make it to all sides of the family. What's important is that you and your partner come to an agreement without resenting each other.
Don't Commit To Anything Right Away
Chances are you'll get calls from all sides of your family asking what your plan is, but giving a flat yes or no will get you in trouble. Either you'll aggravate your partner for not checking with them first, or you'll disappoint your relatives when you end up changing plans. Sharon Naylor at wedding blog Bridal Guide recommends holding off on any definitive commitments:
If parents start calling now to ask if you'll be at Christmas or other holiday events, don't give an immediate answer. Use this smart stall tactic: "I have to talk with (spouse) so that we can make a plan that works best for everyone." It's not OK to say "yes" to the first family that calls, then tell the second family -- who doesn't start planning Christmas in November -- that they missed the boat. That sets up a competition that stresses out parents, hurts their ability to blend in with the other side of the family (if they see them as trying to 'steal you' for holidays), and sets a precedent that's really hard to break.
Be diplomatic about holiday inquiries and nicely explain that you and your significant other haven't decided yet. In fact, you may be better off keeping things loosey goosey until the holiday is much closer. Yes, it's polite to let your hosts know as soon as possible, but it's much worse to make them prepare for your arrival and cancel.
Talk To Both Sides Of The Family
Sometimes all of the stress that comes from this decision is created in your head. It's possible that both sides of the family are indifferent about where you actually end up as long as they get to see you at some point. Ask them how they feel about the holiday in question. Which holiday is the most important to you or your partner's parents?
Maybe they have plans of their own and you're not included, or maybe grandma actually hates hosting Christmas every year. Take the time to speak with each side of the family and really get a feel for what their perspective is. You may not hear what you expected, but no matter what, there will be a little less stress because everyone will be on the same page.
Communicate What's Important And Pick Your Battles
Everyone associates particular feelings and memories with different holidays, but not all of them are necessarily your favourite. Be open about what holidays you like and what specific traditions are the most important to you. Maybe Christmas is key; maybe New Year or a birthday matters more. It's important to communicate how you feel so you can decide how to split them or trade them off. Who knows, maybe it will work out perfectly so no one has to miss their favourite family tradition. If not, you at least know what aspects of the holiday are important to your partner so you can make it more comfortable and welcoming for them.
Celebrate The Holiday Another Time
There never seems to be enough time when you're visiting family, but a little is better than none. If both families are close enough together, consider splitting the day in half. Take the morning and midday to be with one side, then make your way to the other family for the afternoon and evening.
You can also use time to your advantage by deciding with your family when the holiday will actually take place. Spend one day with one family and then pick another day to celebrate with the other family.
Give Your Relationship The Tie-Breaking Vote
If you and your partner can't see eye to eye, something has to break the tie. Holidays are supposed to be a happy time, but clashing with your significant other is an easy way to turn it all into a negative experience. On its advice blog, eHarmony staff suggest giving your relationship the third vote:
When you two are having trouble making a good and fair decision on an issue like this, keep in mind that there are three votes to be considered: one for you, one for your partner, and one for the relationship. You should each get a chance to make a case for your own position, but then make sure that your relationship also gets a vote -- and this vote breaks the tie. By doing this, you'll emphasise the fact that you're on the same team and that your commitment to each other is more important than your individual agendas.
That means that you might have to show that your relationship is more important than getting what you want this time. Strong relationships sometimes require sacrifices, so in a stalemate consider putting the relationship first and taking one for the team. Someone has to give and hopefully either you or your partner can look beyond their own wants and recognise what will be the best for you as a couple.
Host Yourself Or Go Your Own Way
If the pressure to decide is too much, change the whole equation instead. Host the holidays at your own place if you have the room and announce that anyone who wants to come is welcome. Hosting can mean a completely different kind of stress, but you get out of the mess of trying to decide where you're going, who you're staying with, whether you can make it to both, and so on. You may even be able to bring both sides of the family together for once and start a great new tradition that involves everyone.
If you can't decide and hosting isn't your bag, ditch the family and do your own thing. Spend the money that was going to go toward travel and head somewhere exciting you both have been dying to visit. Or maybe just stay put at home and start creating your own traditions together. It's possible you'll be starting a family with your partner, so get the ball rolling on memories and traditions your future family will grow up with. Just tell your families that you need some time to yourselves and that you'll visit them soon when the holiday hustle and bustle has disappeared.
Don't let this kind of decision become a fight. In the end, it's about doing the best you can to make everybody happy, including yourself. Be honest and open with your partner so they can do the same with you, and hopefully you'll find the best way to solve this classic dilemma together.