by Rachel, ProbablyRachel.com
All in all, I’m a lucky wife. And I feel like I’ve won the in-law lottery most days.
But I still deal with in-law issues, especially around the holidays. It’s not conflict, it’s forgetfulness. Certain members of my husband’s family forget that when I married into their family, I didn’t quit my own family.
Here’s a little bit of background: My husband has a small “extended” family, their holiday gatherings consisted of maybe 10 people including great aunts/uncles and great grandparents. My extended family is quite large, my dad was one of 5 children and my family gatherings which are aunts, uncles and cousins (and now their kids) breaks 20 people on a regular basis. I’m the youngest of the “grandkid group” and many had married before me. My husband is the only married grandkid.
Holidays are a fun balancing act in marriage anyway. You have to figure out which of each spouse’s family traditions to continue and which news ones you’d like to start. It seems like each family member outside of your couple, has an opinion and desires your presence for holidays. When the families are distant from each other, it’s harder to split your time.
How do you deal with it? We still have to figure out how to navigate the ever-changing family holiday landscape, but here’s what’s been working so far:
Communicate your non-negotiables.
For us (more so for me, but my husband supports it), that is spending Christmas morning at home with each other. I want to exchange gifts with my husband without an audience and enjoy the decorations we’ve put up in our home. This is also a good precedent for couples planning to have children and want them to be able to enjoy their gifts for awhile. My family kept Christmas morning at home when I was growing up and it was special that way. My mother-in-law continues to invite us to spend the night on Christmas Eve with them, I think she’s trying to wear me down sometimes. But it is important to me to have that boundary.
Communicate your scheduling needs.
The “social secretary” of my husband’s extended family made a Christmas dinner reservation without consulting us on the day of my family Christmas party (which isn’t on Christmas day, but has been planned for months). The response needs to be more than, “We can’t do that day,” we have to communicate that, “We can’t do that day because that’s my family’s Christmas party. It’s been on our calendar since August. Can we pick another evening?”
Talk about your family with your in-laws.
If you don’t talk about your family, it’s easy for your spouse’s family to forget about your family. It’s not intentional or malicious, it’s just human nature. When something happens in my family, I share it with my in-laws such as a birthday coming up, a trip to visit them planned or sharing pictures of my nieces and nephews that are cute. I also share about what’s going on with my in-laws when I talk to my own family members. You and your spouse link your respective families together, whether they like it or not.
Each family is different and has different traditions around the holidays, but you and your spouse are your own family and have to determine your own balance.
About the author of this post – Rachel:
Rachel is a public relations professional and social media enthusiast who blogs about married life, home-ownership and living with type 1 diabetes at probablyrachel.com. She enjoys trying news recipes, digging into creative projects and traveling.