AGP MARRIAGE SERIES WEEK 2 {The In-law Conversation: Whose Family Has Which Holiday?}

Oh the dreaded in-law conversation!! This is a touchy topic for many couples, but I think it is important topic to talk about. Everyone has a different relationship with their in-laws: some people are very close with both families, some people are close with one family and not the other, and others are not close with either side of the family. Regardless of your relationship with the in-laws, it is important to be able to talk to your spouse about how much time you spend with each family.

The holidays are the biggest time of the year that this conversation comes into action. It is important to talk with your spouse about which family you will spend which holiday within a month or so before the holiday. That way, when your parents and your spouses' parents are asking your plans for Thanksgiving and Christmas you will have already decided what you are doing with your spouse. Tension can arise between families if you do not clearly explain your plans ahead of time. Being pulled between families does not feel great, but in the end it is your relationship with your spouse that should be the number one priority. It is also important for the both of you set the expectation ahead of time.

Now the tricky part. How do you decide who's family has which holiday? The phrase I will use to help you make the decision in a healthy way is SACRIFICIAL COMPROMISE. It is impossible for you both to be with both of your families for Thanksgiving dinner and for Christmas morning (or whichever holiday you celebrate) unless you celebrate all together. 

 

"Sacrifice is made sweet to us when we treasure the joy it brings to another heart."

- President Henry B. Eyring

 

Wow. That quote hits home for me. Kevin's mom passed away 7 years ago from breast cancer which has made holidays tough for Kevin's family. Kevin has three younger brothers, his dad, and his Nana whom we visit every few months and during the holiday season. Kevin's family lives in Leesburg, VA which is about an hour and a half from Baltimore. We are thankful his family is not a plane flight away, but it also is not just down the street. This past Christmas, we got into a small argument with Nana. We decided this year that in order to get a few full days of time with his family, we would spend the weekend before Christmas with his family. And then we would spend Christmas day and the few days after with my family. Nana told us that she was upset that we were spending Christmas with my family because we live near them and always get to see them. She wanted to be with Kevin and I on Christmas Eve/Christmas day because she does not get to see us very often. At first, I felt defensive, but then I stepped back and thought about what was happening. I admitted to Kevin I was being selfish for wanting to always spend the big holiday time with my family because we have a little niece and lots of people that want us to be there. But just because Kevin's brothers do not have their own families yet and his mom is not around to host, this does not mean his family is not just as important as mine. 

I am realizing more and more that his family is as important to him as my family is important to me. I love the above quote because it's not saying sacrifice is easy, but that it is good for our soul. When we can bring joy to our spouse through sacrificing being with our family every holiday and instead, spending time with their family. I love how the quote tells us to TREASURE the joy it brings to their heart. This will continue to bring humility into our life and strength to our marriages. I also love these two quotes.

We think of sacrifice as a negative word because it means we are losing something. But what if losing that holiday with your family meant a growth in your marriage and a new memory with your spouses' family? God will bless those humble in heart. When you said your vows you vowed to be unified as ONE. The two of you are your own family and you go together as a family in life making decisions together. 

So what does this look like practically? Maybe this year you spend Thanksgiving with your spouse's family and Christmas Day with your family. Maybe you can still make it happen to see each others family for the days leading up or after the holiday. If you are a plane flight away from one of the families, budget the trip out throughout the year so you are ready when November hits. Talk about it and make sacrificial compromises with each other. Yes, you may miss out on some memories with your own family, but in the end your relationship with your spouse should be the most important family relationship in your life. It is also a fun time to start creating your own memories as a family!

Now let's hear from two past Anna Grace Photography brides and two sweet photographer friends of mine on how they handle the holidays with their significant others!


STEPHEN & HANNAH

How long have you been married?
1.5 years!

What city do you live in? What city does your family live in? What city does your spouse's family live in?
We live in Baltimore, MD. Both of our parents live in York, PA - about 5 miles apart

How often do you see your family? Your spouses family?
I see my mom frequently and spend a lot more time with my parents because of my flexible schedule. We see Stephen's family much less because of his work schedule.

How do you decide which holiday's you spend with which family? Has this been a conflict for you in the past? How have you resolved/compromised?
My brother and sister-in-law live in Charleston, SC so they are forced to flip-flop for each holiday. One holiday they will be with us, the next they will be with her family. Thankfully, Stephen and I don't have the long distance issue because our parents live so close, although there is an entirely different set of problems that can arise. This Christmas was our second being married and I felt really torn with where we should be. If we were with my family I felt like we weren't given his family enough attention, and vice-versa. We decided to split days with families, which can be a challenge. We also had some miscommunication that created some tension & last minute changes this year. It feels silly, but I think the most important aspect of the holidays is communication (not just with spouses but even more importantly - both families)! Next year, both Stephen and I need to lovingly manage expectations (I'm thinking about making a spread sheet!) Overall, holidays are a wonderful time for us as a couple and as two families coming together, it's just communicating those expectations so everyone is on the same page! 

A lot of newlyweds have trouble their first year of marriage with deciding where to spend the holidays. What is a piece of advice you would give to newlyweds on how to navigate your first holiday season as a married couple?
The first year is SO good but so hard! So many traditions are changing and it feels like you're loosing a part of your childhood. Starting your own traditions is a huge way to navigate if you feel like you're missing out on a special celebration with your own family. My last comment was about setting expectations with family, but it's also good to set expectations with your spouse and yourself. Things will be different, but they will be good. You don't have to leave all the old traditions behind but look forward to making a life together.

What is one thing you love and appreciate about your spouses family?
I grew up with one brother. Stephen has 3 other siblings, two of which are married. I love the way his parents house fills up when everyone is home. We play games and talk for hours, eating & drinking and watching movies. We all get along, parents included, and it's such a blessing! I remember the week before we got married I kept thinking how lucky I will be to be able to call myself a Byrne. I love his family, which makes holidays that much more special because they are really MY family too!


LUKE & MEGHAN

How long have you been married?
1.5 years!

What city do you live in? What city does your family live in? What city does your spouse's family live in? We live in Radford, VA. My family lives in Suffolk, VA (about 5 hours away), and Luke's family lives in Raleigh, NC (about 4 hours away).

How often do you see your family? Your spouses family? Since Luke and I have been married, we've seen our families equally, about once every other month. So on average, we're with family (either his or mine) about once a month.

How do you decide which holidays you spend with which family? Has this been a conflict for you in the past? How have you resolved/compromised? So far, thankfully we've been able to see both families for the week of Thanksgiving and the week of Christmas. We've traded off whose family we're with on the actual holiday. We haven't really had to compromise - yet! With a baby on the way, we'll probably make some changes for next year - most likely, we'll spend Thanksgiving with one family, and Christmas with the other, then trade off for the next year!

A lot of newlyweds have trouble their first year of marriage with deciding where to spend the holiday's. What is a piece of advice you would give to newlyweds on how to navigate your first holiday season as a married couple? Be sensitive to the desires/needs of your spouse, be gentle with one another in your discussions, and be ready to put the interests of the other above your own.

What is one thing you love and appreciate about your spouses family? I love how laid-back Luke's family is! And how truly happy they are to be with one another.


CHAD & ALI

  Photo by Wendy Laurel

Photo by Wendy Laurel

How long have you been married?
A little over 5 years!

What city do you live in? What city does your family live in? What city does your spouse's family live in?
We live in Williamsburg, VA. My [ali] family lives in Northern VA and Chad's lives in Virginia Beach! We're almost equidistant!

How often do you see your family? Your spouses family?
We probably see each other about the same amount of time, around once a month. Chad's family stays at hour house for longer periods, where my family will make day trips.

How do you decide which holidays you spend with which family? Has this been a conflict for you in the past? How have you resolved/compromised?
Chad and I are both easy going and we have pretty simple families. Both of our parents are still together and this makes holidays not as complicated as it can be. Although we were advised in pre-marital counseling to spend holidays just the two of us and to create new traditions, we decided to trade off Thanksgiving and Christmas. So, every other Christmas with my family, and vice-versa. Since we don't have kids yet, we thought we'd just make it easy and continue spending our holidays this way! I'll admit, it was hard during my first Thanksgiving/Christmas without my family, but it was really cool to be included as family into Chad's family's traditions!

A lot of newlyweds have trouble their first year of marriage with deciding where to spend the holiday's. What is a piece of advice you would give to newlyweds on how to navigate your first holiday season as a married couple?
Ali: Do what is good for your MARRIAGE, and not what is good for your feelings. Traditions are nice, but if it's going to create a strain on your relationship, it may not be worth it to try and "see everyone!" Chad: Do what you want and set a precedent with both families that, "This is what holidays are going to look like." Let it be fair, but firm. 

What is one thing you love and appreciate about your spouses family?
Both of our families are so similar in the fact that they both respect our relationship as a priority, but are also incredibly generous and supportive. They make it known that they're willing to help and show up when or if we need them. For big things and little things. It is so common for each family to end a conversation with, "Do you guys need anything?" Whether it's help moving, or trimming bushes, or just hanging out to watch football together, they are always there when we ask! 


VANESSA & JONATHAN

How long have you been married?
4 months

What city do you live in? What city does your family live in? What city does your spouse's family live in?
Jonathan and I live in Philadelphia. Jonathan's parents live in Pittsburgh. Vanessa's parents live in Massachusetts.

How often do you see your family? Your spouses family?
We generally see each other's family every other month. We may see my family more in the summertime because my dad lives on Cape Cod less than a mile from the beach and my mom's side has a lake house on Lake Winnisquam in NH. We venture up there more in the summertime to take advantage of these vacation spots. 

How do you decide which holiday's you spend with which family? Has this been a conflict for you in the past? How have you resolved/compromised?
Jonathan and I were long distance for a little over two years. When Jonathan first moved to Philadelphia, we wanted to do our own thing in regards to holidays saying "we have the rest of our lives to share holidays!" That lasted all of two years. I realized that I missed my partner in crime and I'd rather be with him than anyone else. Since our families are 9 hours apart, we knew we would never be able to celebrate with both. We started rotating 3 years ago, thanksgiving at one side and Christmas at the other side. Each year it switches. We play it by ear for Easter each year. This has worked out really great for us because although it is difficult to have to choose, we along with our families know what we are doing for the holidays well in advance!

A lot of newlyweds have trouble their first year of marriage with deciding where to spend the holiday's. What is a piece of advice you would give to newlyweds on how to navigate your first holiday season as a married couple?
Jonathan's advice is "Rip off the bandaid and just do it. Just jump in. You're never going to please everyone so just make a decision and stick with it."

What is one thing you love and appreciate about your spouses family?
Vanessa: I love how being with them feels like being at home. It is so welcoming and comfortable.
Jonathan: They are very fun, genuine, and family oriented similar to my family.  


Thank you for reading! I hope you are encouraged to talk with your spouse about the best way to navigate the next holiday season.