How to decide where to spend the holidays

CHICOPEE, Mass. (Mass Appeal) – It’s the holiday season and many couples face the dilemma of where to spend the day. Do you go to your parent’s house, or your in-laws? Clinical psychologist Dr. Tim Hope shared tips on how to navigate the holidays stress free.

Tips for Deciding Which Family to Visit

Principle #1: Let the relationship vote.
When you two are having trouble making a good and fair decision on an issue like this, keep in mind that there are three votes to be considered: one for you, one for your partner, and one for the relationship. You should each get a chance to make a case for your own position, but then make sure that your relationship also gets a vote-and this vote breaks the tie. By doing this, you’ll emphasize the fact that you’re on the same team and that your commitment to each other is more important than your individual agendas.

Principle #2: Consider the context.
Fairness is a great principle to work from in situations like this. But sometimes, being fair means not taking turns. For example, do you live closer to her family and spend time with them on a regular basis? Then maybe his family gets more time on holidays. Or have you spent more time with his side of the family during past holidays? Then make a decision that lets you get to know her side equally well. The point here is that you want to consider as much of the context as possible. Don’t limit yourselves to simply asking, “Whose family were we with last Thanksgiving?” Instead, ask which option makes the most sense, considering your current situation.

Principle #3: Be creative.
Be willing to “think outside of the box” as you try to make fair and equitable holiday decisions. After all, there’s no rule book that sets down unbreakable guidelines you have to adhere to. So use your imagination. Maybe you could each see your families separately, then carve out some time when you do something special for just the two of you. Or maybe you take a “three-point trip” where you see first your family then your partner’s before heading home. Or pick a neutral location where you invite both sides. Or stay where you are and have both families come to you. Just don’t fall into the trap of thinking that there are only two options to choose from, either of which is going to leave at least one of you upset. Instead, challenge yourselves to plan the holidays in a way that feels good to both of you and that’s good for your relationship.

Principle #4: Communicate with your family.
Don’t let family stresses stress out your relationship. Of course family is important. And it’s important to honor parents and siblings, not to mention tradition and inherited rituals and customs. But your romantic relationship is a priority as well. And depending on exactly how serious the relationship is, you may need to explain to your family that you want to do things a bit differently this year. Obviously, it’s best if you convey how important your partner is in a way that’s kind and respectful to your family. But even if they don’t understand, there may come a time when you have to make a decision to go your own way, even if it means missing the New Year’s Eve service you’ve always attended in the past.

In the end, it’s all about finding a healthy balance or, to be more precise, finding healthybalances. It’s great that you want to be true to your family, to your partner, and to yourself. But as you probably already know, that’s not easy to do.

So, consider your own desires, along with how important your relationship is to you-what kind of vote should it cast? Then talk through your options with your respective families. After you and your partner have weighed the desires of as many people as you can, make a decision together. It will probably require compromise, sacrifice, and conflict resolution, but remember that the holidays are about being with the people we love. The important thing is to find a way to make your holidays together as meaningful as possible.

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