My girlfriend and I have been dating for nearly two and a half years, live together, and are planning to get married. However, this is the first winter where we need to decide how to split up the holidays and family time. I suggested going to our separate homes for Thanksgiving and then splitting Christmas day between the two families; she suggested spending both holidays with our respective families. I know she doesn’t like my family (it took them a while to warm to the “their daughter is dating a girl” thing, but are very welcoming of her now), but I feel torn between spending the holidays with my family – and without her – or with her and not my family. What’s the etiquette here? We’re not married, but we’re close enough that it feels weird not spending holidays together. But whenever I broach the subject of splitting holidays between our families, she gets defensive or shuts down. I know she loves her family (I do too!) but I feel like mine isn’t being respected. How should I proceed?
Confused for the Holidays
Dear Confused for the Holidays,
Thanks for writing to me. You actually have a very common dilemma for a lot of couples. It’s hard to break from family traditions you’re used to for the holidays, and start new ones with your partner in a relationship. With that said, a time comes when couples have to make choices in this arena, and it can get tricky.
On this particular subject, I actually learned a lot from watching my uncle and aunt over the course of their 22 plus years of marriage. For them, they made somewhat of a rule that they would take turns with Thanksgiving and Christmas. One year, they would go spend Thanksgiving with my aunt’s family and Christmas with my family. And the following year they would flock to my grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving, and go to my aunt’s parent’s home for Christmas. This rotation has seemed to work for them all these years, and I think it’s a pretty sweet deal. However, I should point out that this arrangement didn’t really occur until after the two had married. From my recollection, each chose to spend the actual holidays with their own respective families pre nuptials.
Although I haven’t asked my aunt and uncle why they decided to wait in implementing their “family holiday plan,” I suspect they both realized that in the grand scope of “forever” in terms of marriage, you really will only spend a few holidays at home with your family just you and them. So for the pair, it was okay to put off this holiday conversation until the “I do’s” were said. I also suspect that my uncle and aunt had their own special pre or post holiday celebrations with each other in private.
Now let’s address your girlfriend’s relationship with your family. Not to take anyone’s side, but I do think it’s a little unfair to want her to spend the holidays with people that may not have given her the biggest welcome, and people she obviously still has an issue with. Folks want to be as comfortable as possible when these big dates roll around in November and December. If this was a regular dinner, I would say your girlfriend should be able to tough it out for a few hours. But again, it’s Thanksgiving and Christmas. And if your bae is anything like me, she holds these occasions near and dear.
As part of your marriage preparation, it’s your job to smooth over bad feelings between your family and your boo. Especially, if you hope to have the two one day share a holiday space. And trust me, bringing about peace between the loves of your life will give you less of a headache in the long run concerning all matters in your life.
Suggestions going forward.
- Before you can really expect your girlfriend to share the holidays with your family, you again have to try to resolve any bad feelings between them. If your girlfriend really loves you, she will try to let go of the past and move into a more positive space if you insist. I’m assuming your parents are already willing to make a mends since they are on the road of acceptance as far as your sexuality.
- In an attempt to better the relationship between your girlfriend and your family, try hosting a dinner or two at your place so they get to know each other better. Dinner should be something you prepare once everyone has arrived and without their assistance. If you are in the kitchen preparing things, that means they will be left alone in the living room or dining room with each other. Hopefully without you readily present serving as a buffer between the two factions, they will get to talk and find some common ground for conversation. Once you join them to sit down and eat, gauge whether the plan is working or if you need more wine to loosen people up. LOL! Oh and if you need some recipe ideas for dinner, just let me know.
- If my aunt and uncle’s plan of rotation is something that doesn’t work for you, consider alternative ways to share and split the holidays. Perhaps splitting Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day between the two families equally. Or perhaps you two have your own Black Friday Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve celebrations, and you spend the actual holidays with your respective families. Or even entertain the idea of hosting a joint family Thanksgiving dinner at your place and seeing how things go then to determine future plans.
As always nothing but love,