How To Navigate Holiday Plans With Your Spouse
Icing Christmas cookies isn’t the only sticky situation you and your spouse may find yourselves in this holiday season. As a married couple, making plans about where you’ll spend the holidays can be a delicate and tricky balance of satisfying your own wants and needs with the weight of family traditions and expectations. But it can be done!
The first step to navigating this dynamic is to sit down as a couple and talk about what you want your Christmas to look like. While it’s thoughtful to respect your parents’ wishes or traditions, it’s important to determine what works best for you and your family.
Here are a few questions to help you get this conversation started.
- What about the holiday season makes you feel nostalgic?
- What is most important to you—participating in Christmas day celebrations or traditions surrounding Christmas?
- What traditions would you like to start with your own family?
- Where would you like to spend Christmas day this year?
- What are the benefits of each option?
It may take more than one conversation, but between the two of you, there will be a solution that lets you honor your parents and be true to the needs of your “own” family. Keep in mind, this isn’t all about preference. The realities of limited vacation days, travel distances, and physical energy will all play a part in your decision on where to spend time this holiday season. If you have some flexibility, you may want to consider compromises.
Could the extended family get together on another day, at another location or even another time of year? Having some alternatives ready that could work for you might make it easier when you let people know you aren’t coming to the specific dinner or event they’re hoping you’ll attend. And remember this doesn’t have to be a forever decision. Give yourselves the opportunity to try something new this year and see how it feels.
When you’re ready to share your decision with your parents, marriage expert Julie Baumgardner suggests, “Each of you should call your own parents and say, ‘We’ve had a conversation about the holidays, and this is what we plan to do.’ Be careful not to throw your spouse under the bus—We’re not coming to your house because she doesn’t want to or he doesn’t think that’s’ a good idea.’” This is a decision you made together for your own family.
Approach the conversation from a place of love and kindness. It will bolster your confidence and make it easier to answer questions or navigate hurt feelings or disappointment about your choices. Remember, this will be new for them too, so prepare to be patient and compassionate if their first response isn’t what you’d hoped.
If the conversation still seems overwhelming, here are a few phrases to get you started.
- “We want to share a decision we’ve made about Christmas this year.”
- “We’ve decided to stay home for Christmas. We know this might be disappointing, but we know this is what’s best for our family this year.”
- “We love you and love spending time with you. Can we have our big celebration in January?”
- “You’ve given us so many great family traditions, and we want to start a few of our own.”
- “We have such great memories of being home for Christmas morning. We’d really like our kids to have those memories, too.”
No matter how the message is received, hold fast in your desire to do what is best for your marriage and your family. Giving your parents space to express their feelings is gracious and caring, but it’s not your responsibility to overexplain, backpedal, or justify your decision. Spending time with your extended family is important but so is taking care of your own needs. Remember, your holiday plans may continue to evolve and change from year to year as your family grows, if you move, or other circumstances arise.
And now that you’ve done the work to find some balance, enjoy it! Use some of this newfound time to reconnect with your spouse and make new memories. If you’re looking for ways to start a new tradition, check out our Christmas tradition ideas for couples and families or some of these fun holiday themed conversation starters.