Navigating your first married holiday season?
The holidays are a really fun time of year for some and a really stressful time for others. When you first get married, you can easily find yourself unsure of what to do when the holidays come along because you no longer just have to think about what your family does and your own personal traditions, but also of your new spouse and the family you married into. Add in any religious beliefs and traditions there, it can easily become a daunting task to figure out just what you are going to do on Christmas Eve and Christmas day, but also how you are going to navigate the gift giving and receiving expectations of your new family.
1 - Have a conversation about what is most important to you both (without the input from family)
Your families are excited to now have a new member in the family, but for you as a married couple, it can be hard, because you didn't just add a new person to your family, but an entirely new family as well. You can easily get swooped into the festivities of what is normal in their family, but when you now have to concider two different families and their needs and traditions it is so easy for feelings to get hurt and communication to break down if you don't have a game plan set out from the beginning.
Talk to each other about what is normal expectations for both of your families during the holidays and what is important that you stay committed to. Then agree together on how much family time / family input you will have during the holidays and try to stick with it. That way you don't get overwhelmed when you get invitied to the 3rd family get together in the past 10 days. Maybe that's normal for their family, but if you didn't know about it, you could get overwhelmed quickly!
2 - Decide if you are going to switch which holidays to do at each families home or if you are going to try to do both families for every holiday.
How many families/events can you fit into one day? And do you want to split your time like that? Some people are up for that, and others may want to spend more quality time on another day. It's up to you, but it's important you have the same expectations.
One thing that has worked great for my husband and I (and we've been married going on 9 years now!) is to decide which family we are doing which holidays with. And usually we swap from year to year. One year, we will do Thanksgiving with my family, and Christmas with his. The next year we flip. Now that we have kids, we have defaulted to a simpler, stay at home (at least for Christmas) solution, but when you are newly married, everyone wants to see you, and you don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. So, you have to make sure to please everyone you can, while still making the holidays pleasurable for you as well!
Another option (which is a bit much for my brain to handle) is to try and do it all. Spend early Christmas at your family, and later Christmas at his. This can work if your families are nearby, but can also be overwhelming and exhausting having to trek all over town from event to event.
Both options have their ups and their downs, but if you make a game plan before you have been invited to all the gatherings, you will find yourself less exhausted and more fulfilled!
3 - Decide on a budget for gift giving for both families (and each other!)
Holidays are about spending time with loved ones and showering them with gifts right? Well, the time spending is usually awesome, but the gift giving can be overwhelming when adding a ton of new people to have to get gifts for. Now you have in-laws, and possibly nieces and nephews to buy for as well as your family. Make sure you set a budget for how much you can give and that the family is on board with those requirements. My friend ended up finding out that her new family all picked from a hat to give one gift to each person (which sounded awesome) but then found out their budget was $300 per person. That was well over what she was capable of handling, especially because that meant $600 between her and her new husband.
I know our family gets gifts for our parents and for the kids then try to spend an evening out with each other ( 6 couples) instead of giving gifts left and right.
4 - Have a code word for if you need a break during any family get together.
Even with the best of intentions, things can get overwhelming. Your mother in law might be a little too much to handle after a couple of glasses of wine, Uncle Billy might be cornering your husband talking about something real boring, or you just may be ready to be done with the festivities for the night. Think of a code word that can be said to your spouse around family that tells your spouse you've reached your limit, but doesn't offend your in laws. My husband and I also do this when we are getting "hangry" (because we both do it). We just ask if you need chocolate cake. It gets the point across without having to bring up the actual point and you can adjust to your spouses needs. A win win in any marriage!
5- Create your own tradition that is yours as a married couple
You are a married couple now. You are at the beginning of what will be a pretty cool life together, so why not start a tradition that is just for you? Something that you can continue on for your children and will become something to look forward to every year. Maybe you get your tree at a tree farm and cut it down together. Maybe you go to the best neighborhood in town for holiday lights and drink hot coco while walking through the neighborhood. Maybe you take a weekend away to a winter wonderland nearby where you can focus on each other before the craziness of the holidays. It doesn't matter what it is, or if it is big or small, as long as it is yours as a married couple and something you do together!
Do you have any great tips for navigating the holidays season yourself? Leave a comment!