My boyfriend and I are on year three of living together, and we still don’t have a real plan for how to split or manage the holidays. Add to it my birthday is in December, and, well…the season is always a marathon of family, parties and too much peopling.
For one, he has a large, blended family. I, on the other hand, have a very small, close family. His wants us to be present at every family function. Mine wants me to host the one thing we do–and it is always in direct conflict with at least two of his family’s things.
How do you decide who to spend the holiday with? How do you decide when to attend what? How do you split the holidays?
How Do You Split The Holidays Without Disappointing Everyone?
Lately we’ve made a lot of our plans based around need and who was involved and not always what we want to do. Because let’s face it, if he and I had our way we’d spend the hole Christmas season hunting Pokemon, binge watching The Walking Dead and drinking hot chocolate. We’re simple like that. Unfortunately, the holidays aren’t always about what “we” want.
Case in point, my boyfriend has a son. We get him every other Thanksgiving/Christmas. Having a kid on the holidays changes our entire focus. We aren’t going to do a boozy Christmas party, we’re going to look for fun crafts, movies, things an eight year old will enjoy.
I on the other hand…have had a lot of ill and dying family. Some of the holidays have been my last to spend with them. Let’s face it, this year my family has seen a lot of loss and I cannot imagine missing our annual Christmas Eve because I could very likely never see these people I love so very much just…gone. I think about the year we lost my uncle so suddenly, with no notice. And I’ll never forget sitting on the front porch with him while he smoked a pipe and we talked about his grand kids inside the house opening up Christmas presents. I couldn’t imagine having missed that, the regret I’d feel.
It’s not been a perfect situation by any means, but we’ve made do. That said, we’re trying to formulate a better plan moving forward. A couple things we’re discussing include:
Talking about important holiday memories. For me, the one Christmas tradition I don’t want to miss is Christmas Eve at my grandmother’s. For him it’s something else entirely. But knowing what is important to each other makes it easier to prioritize what we want to do, where I can “give up” something I’d like to do for something that’s infinitely more important to him. It’s not compromise as much as making room for someone else’s desires.
Being up front with family. I’m a big supporter of meeting a problem head on. Years that we have my step-son I try to tell my family months in advance so they know we are likely to be less available because we have to be kid-minded. When someone got cranky about our plans I asked them what they did when they were first married, how they made the choice to split the holidays. A lot of family forgets how hard it can be to “choose” who to spend holidays with. Reminding them of what it was like for them can go a long way in building some understanding.
Involving our kiddo in the plans. My step-son is not hugely social, and doesn’t often have an opinion to give unless it’s in relation to Mario Maker or Pokemon. But if he has one? We want to include him. The last two years it’s been incredibly important that we factor in times to go look at light displays. They fascinate him.
Avoid committing to plans. This probably sounds awful, but it’s important. So often a family member will call you up or spring an event on you and follow it up with, “You should come!” or “You’re coming, right?” My favorite words for these are, “That sounds so great! I’m going to have to check with our calendar/schedule/boyfriend/the cat.” Usually if someone starts getting pushy I immediately scratch that event off my mental list, but I do explain my reasoning why we don’t want to commit to too many things. With a lot of family and an Autistic child sometimes we just don’t have the energy or ability to do it all.
Which leads to…
Stay flexible. Sometimes we just don’t know if our kiddo is going to be up to doing an event, or if we’re going to want to, or what. It might sound ungrateful, but avoiding direct commitments until right before can lead to a more enjoyable, less stressful holiday.
And when in doubt…go it alone. Really. I have no problem whatsoever attending a family function without my boyfriend if he–or our kiddo–doesn’t want to attend. There is no hard and fast rule that says we must do all the things together just because we cohabitate.
More than anything, don’t lose the holiday spirit. Keep what’s important close, and everything else will work out.