Friday, August 10, 2012

(The 2nd Annual) Dear ESB: Why do the holidays suck when you're married??


Dear ESB, 

How soon is too soon to make plans for the holidays, and what's the secret to making both families happy? This will my husband and my first holiday season as a married couple, and I'm concerned about setting some sort of precedent for how we spend future holidays with our families. I suppose we have it easy because our families are both driving distance from us-- his are 1.5 hours away, mine are 4.5. But they're in opposite directions, meaning a 6 hour drive if we want to go from his parent's house to my parent's house; sometimes much longer in Texas' good ol' stand-still holiday traffic.

Throughout our past 6 years of dating I've always done Thanksgiving with his family (because it's his grandparents' tradition to host, and we want to spend as much time as possible with them while we can), and we've parted ways to do Christmas day with our respective families. But last year we did Thanksgiving with his family, Christmas with mine, and then went back to his parents for the day after Christmas. We thought this would be okay, that we could switch it up next year to be fair, but it resulted with his mother crying about how she and FIL had to spend Christmas Day alone. I felt awful, but also offended. Because this was the ONE year in 6 that I'd pulled their son away for a holiday. And since they live closer to us, we see them ALL THE TIME. They drop in on weekends unannounced. They are constantly planning the next get family get-together. And, like I said, we always spend Thanksgiving with them. Which is all fine! I'm happy to spend time with them. But meanwhile, I RARELY see my family in comparison, partly because the drive is more considerable, and partly because my family just tends to get together less. We keep busy with our respective lives during the year, and then really value and make the most of those few days when we're all together; it's great. But my in-laws don't seem to realize that I have my own family.

After last year's tears and guilt, my husband and I thought, OK, next year we need to communicate with them better, and further in advance, to make sure they understand our holiday plans. But I guess we didn't think about it enough because while visiting his parents this past weekend, and while I was left alone with MIL, she asked me about our holiday plans. I was totally unprepared! And she didn't even ask the questions I expected: instead of just asking if we'd spend Christmas Day with them, she asked if we could leave the country and make a tropical beach vacation of it (which almost felt like bribery), and if it would bother my parents if we couldn't spend the actual day with them (wtf!), AND how many vacation days do I get from work per year, and how many had I used already? (clearly calculating how many days she could kidnap me!). I think my exact response to these questions was "Uhhhhh" and now I'm not sure how to proceed.

So, my very drawn out question is for you and your readers. I'm curious if most people split holidays down the middle, switching important days/ families each year to be completely fair. And if people are successfully coming up with a routine that is understood and accepted by both families. And if we really need to visit BOTH families for a single holiday, because good lord do I fear spending future holidays in the car….

PS, not only do I dread the very idea of telling my parent's we're ditching them for the tropics, but our in laws don't approve of drinking or really a lot of things and I feel like a long beach holiday with them might be too much for me!!

PPS, the tropical location that MIL wants to go to happens to be the same location that my husband recently visited for our honeymoon (which we paid for almost entirely on our own)! I have no idea if she intends to pay for this proposed Christmas trip or not, but regardless, why should they expect us to do it all over again with them!?

*****
Have you discussed this with your husband? Does HE want to go on the trip? It's perfectly acceptable for you to set ground rules, such as:

1. I'm willing to go away with your parents for 7 days max.

2. Never again will we visit both families for a single holiday.

And then he gets to enforce the rules with his mom. (Let her cry it out if she has to.) 

But, yeah. One of the biggest bummers about being married is that you don't just get to do what you want for the holidays. Whether or not your in-laws approve of drinking.

Photo by Paolo Roversi for Vogue Italia, March 2005 via Ananas à Miami
______________________________

I answered a similar question over here. The comments are quite good.

61 comments:

  1. I feel ya, it is hard! We switch every other year: Thanksgiving with my family and Christmas with his last year. This year we will flip flop. I guess it sort of helps us because the two families are 9 hours apart from one anotehr, so we have to choose. We can't see both on the same day.

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    1. That's how we did it when I was growing up. Easter was spent with the grandparent(s) we'd see for Christmas. I'm fortunate that I'm marrying the guy I've been with since high school and our parents still all live in the same town and we might get to avoid all the horribly unnecessary drama families tend to make about these things.

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    2. Jess, I would be inclined to agree with you if I haven't seen it a million times before...it's all good during the engagement etc, but as soon as the wedding bands go on, relationships with extended families(and they ARE extended familes after marriage) can become messy. Good luck!

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  2. Probably best to have a talk with your husband and have him talk to his mom. For your sanity, I would alternate holidays between locations so you don't have to do both drives in one holiday.

    And add a holiday alone at home into the rotation if you want! (PLUS no unannounced drop ins!) You don't have to disclose your vacation schedule etc... sounds like she's starting to plan your future vacays. Dangerous territory.

    But in the end I think it's best not to keep score with these things- no one will ever win and resentment will build.

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  3. I think your husband has to lay down the law on this one. You two have to talk, decide what you want to do for holidays, and then he has to relay that to his mom. She may be lovely in other ways, but she's clearly manipulative when it comes to holidays and your time. Boundaries are going to be key.

    And she sounds like the kind of woman who is never going to be satisfied, but is going to keep requesting more of your holiday time. So without clear ground rules and boundaries, she'll just steam roll you.

    But any awkward conversation has to come from your husband; he's got to have your back or things could get ugly.

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  4. I feel your pain. Mothers and Mothers-in-law crying because they don't get to see you is a bummer but it's also kind of manipulative (even if they don't mean it to be)...you've gotta figure out a plan (alternate, share, throw a dice, spend them all alone, whatever) and stick with it. You think it's bad now, wait til you have kids (if that's in the plan) and both sets of parents are dying to see the grandkids as much as possible. 6 hours in a car is a bummer on the holidays but probably much worse with little ones (double that for plane rides).

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  5. As someone who's dealt with this her whole life due to divorce I have two thoughts.

    1. ESB is right about having ground rules, ground rules will be your saving grace. Make sure they allow for your to have a good holiday, ie, no driving back and forth, that is crazy town and means you're trying to make everyone but yourself happy, it won't work.

    2. Yes, your husband should do the communicating of the rules, but it already seems like your MIL is using guilt against you and it is working. You need to shut that down, emotionally, within yourself. You are not responsible for how she feels, you are being considerate of her and trying to make the best of the situation. The minute you let her into your head with the guilt, she will just keep asking for more and more and more.

    Good Luck.

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  6. Oh lord, driving 6 hours on a holiday...how un-fun for you guys! I agree with the previous commenter, Ms. K, it is essential to sit down with your husband, come up with a plan (alternating holidays per year seems like the most sane way to deal with this) and then rely on him to help you enforce it. You shouldn't feel guilty for spending time with your family. Ever. Especially if you see his on a much more regular basis. Make a plan, relay the plan and then enforce, enforce enforce.

    Good luck!

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  7. Have you considered hosting both sets of parents for one holiday? Since you seem to be between them geographically, and seem to resent the travel time, this might be ideal.

    Also, depending on your parents' personalities, it might take some of the pressure off of you both to be constantly interacting with them, since they will also be socializing with each other.

    One of the best holidays my husband and I have spent in recent memories was when both sides of our family got together. It also led to the best pictures.

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    1. Yes, I was going to suggest this too. Host the holidays at yours and then you see everyone!

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    2. This would work if you are only-children, but in my case I have a brother who has a long-time GF and my husband has two siblings, both of whom are married and have kids. Having them ALL stay in our little house for Xmas.....not an option. Inviting ONLY the parents (and asking them to NOT spent Xmas with their grandkids??)...not an option either.

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    3. Setting a precedent for hosting it yourselves every so often will be awesome if/when you have kids too...We traveled WAY too much when I was a kid and I was always jealous of whoever we were visiting because they got to play with their toys, while mine were back at home/grandma's/where ever.

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  8. I am slightly in the same situation as u, my mom and her family live 5 hours away but my husbands whole fam lives about a 2 minute drive away so of course we see them all the time but my husband and i are expected to spend every holiday with them almost as if they dont realize that yes i have a family, i blame this partly on my husband. But anyway this is what we do, we switch every year, so for example laat year was thanksgiving and easter with my fam and xmas with his and this year itwill be the opposite. Its sets a clear guide for whats expected so everyone yr isnt a tug of war. If he lives thamksgiving and you preferxmas u could just stick with the sam holiday every year by parents did this, thanksgiving was always at my dads family and christmas at my moms fam. Good luck!

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    1. ??? spell check, punctuation much?

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  9. Most importantly, you are an adult and therefore your drinking choices are your own. It's your vacation too, no matter who is footing the the bill, so enjoy your frosty beverages.

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  10. I agree about setting some ground rules. My husband and I both have divorced parents so we have FOUR different families to see over the holidays. Thankfully, mine are both in Milwaukee; his are split between St. Louis and D.C. I think the easiest thing to do is establish a schedule that you can stick to each year to avoid renegotiating all the time. Or, as the other commenter suggested, try to host yourself. We alternate Thanksgiving between Milwaukee and St. Louis and Christmas between D.C. and Milwaukee. We often try to see whoever we miss on Christmas sometime in January or February at the latest. For the most part it seems to work okay, although our moms, neither of which have remarried, can get a little bummed when we're not there. Three of the four parents have tried the "let's plan a fabulous trip that makes it impossible for our children to see anyone else" ploy; but we've thus far been able to schedule the trips after the actual holiday, and once we got the dads on both sides to vacation together -- that worked out wonderfully.

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  11. I'm thankful that mine and the fiance's family live all within a 10 minute drive of our place, but even then there's the pressure to be at both places for holidays.

    This past Christmas we spent Xmas Eve dinner with my family, then when they went to church we went to his extended family's Xmas Eve party. Xmas day morning was spent at his brother's but almost as soon as we got there we had to leave to spend the rest of the day with my family.

    No more we said! We were everywhere but no where and it felt like we barely got to spend any meaningful time with either side.

    This year my family will get us for Xmas Eve which we'll make Xmas Day for that group (no small kids on this side), then REAL Xmas Day morning will be our time alone, together, then the rest of Xmas Day will be with his family which has young children.

    Lord knows what we'll do when we have kids.

    BUT this was ALL communicated to his side by him, and my side by me. In your situation I wouldn't want to head back to my honeymoon resort with my MIL so soon after having already been there... EVEN if she is paying for it. Your side could probably use some good face time.

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  12. Also the holidays suck when you're married because everyone has expectations, and NO ONE wants to disappoint/let others down/make them feel bad at that time of year.

    If MIL is that emotionally manipulative she's the one who has to sort out her own ish, not you.

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  13. Being married means starting new traditions of your own. Definitely offer to host a holiday for both families to come together. Maybe make it potluck, so you don't get too overwhelmed. At some point, you may even consider spending a holiday or part of a holiday alone (ALONE!?) with your husband, perhaps on your own tropical island. Because holidays, with all their hectic rush and "have tos" are often not when the great family memories are made. My husband and I have come to enjoy and value the quiet, random, relaxed non-holiday visits with family much more than the "official" holidays.
    Will your MIL like this rationale? Probably not, but it's important to assert you and your husband as a "family unit" that has its own needs and plans.

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    1. I so agree with this! My husband and I are in CA, and our families split their holidays between four cities across the midwest / northeast / south. For the last 3 years I flew to 1 place for Thanksgiving and 3 places for Christmas / New Year's. It was nuts, especially considering the weather and airfare that time of year. This year (our first married holidays) when we got the schedule of holiday plans "in case we can join them," we pushed back and said we'd be spending our first holidays together. Alone, or maybe with some local friends. It's gonna be awesome, and we'll visit family on non-holiday weekends next year and be sane and have fun. Boundaries are awesome.

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    2. I agree - new family, new traditions.

      I don't understand the fact that there are only two choices, or flip flopping each year. My husband and I do Christmas on a three year schedule - his parents, my parents, us. The us holiday is whatever we want - overseas trip, chrissy at home with our friends (whom are our family), or maybe even visiting family if we want. Hell the first Christmas after being married we told our families to jam it and went camping on our own for a week. If anyone cried or got passive aggressive with me I'd give them a piece of my mind.

      You've got a new family to think about now and you gotta do what is right for that family!

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  14. Yikes, your MIL sounds like a handful. Ditto to everything that the others are saying. Have your husband be very clear that since you see them often and spend every thanksgiving with them, you need to spend some time with your family. Honestly, I don't even think you need to rush back the day after x-mas if you don't want to. The MIL needs to be a grownup and deal with it, and you guys need to not set a bad precedent by caving to her tantrums.

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  15. just reading this is stressing me out because the holidays always stress me out anyway and because i know exactly what you're going through since my husband comes from such a small family and i come from a very large one. luckily, our first married holiday season, my MIL completely understood and we drove up the next day anyway (we live in the same town as most of my fam and his fam lives about 4 hours away).

    your husband needs to just clear the air with his mom. she sounds scary. she needs to be ok with you two splitting holidays down the middle (thxgiving with your fam, christmas with his fam and then next year switch).

    i am sooo glad my MIL will be in europe for christmas this year.

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  16. I didn't read everyone's full response so someone might have said this, but I would avoid promising any sort of set schedule at all ever. If you choose to have children, there'll come a time when planning for their and your needs clearly will need to trump the old obligations.

    Also, you just need to put you foot down. Seriously, if not now, when?

    If I was you, I'd do Thanksgiving with his fam while the grandparents are still in the picture and then maybe Christmas Eve with them, too (depending on your work's holiday schedule). I'd drive there and back (and not stay the night). Drive to your parents Christmas morning and stay for a few days if you can.

    You MIL needs to face the fact that she has a grown child with his own plans and needs now - which include yours.

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    1. this - avoid the promised schedule!!

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  17. I agree with Ms K. You and your husband need to come to a consensus about your holiday plans and then he needs communicate that to her himself. Next time your MIL ambushes you, just keep telling her, "I don't know what our plans are for the holidays. I'll talk it over with Husband and then we'll let you know."

    Also, it kinda sounds like you don't want to do this tropical vacation. (And anyway, isn't that kind of thing way more fun when it's just you and your husband?) Don't let her manipulate or guilt trip you into a vacation that you don't want. You don't owe her a week in Cabo just because you married her son.

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  18. Oh yeah, forgot to add...

    We usually do the following: one family gets Thanksgiving and New Years, the other gets Christmas or Easter. Sometimes we split Christmas Eve and Day between families because it's a driveable distance for us. So if you're lame like my husband and I, you could choose to spend New Years with one set of parents. This would allow you to celebrate a belated Christmas with them.

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    1. Correction: "Christmas AND Easter."

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  19. My partner and I alternate Christmas every year between the States (my family) and England (his). I suppose it makes it easier that I live abroad, you can't possibly do both! But it also takes pressure off because everyone knows what to expect and we make the time we have with our families count.

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  20. Eurgh - I hate the Christmas negotiations and we aren't even married, after a year together with my folks we stayed at home last year and hosted for his folks (who live in the same city). I thought that meant this year we could spend it with my family, but no, now his sister wants to host (after being awful @ ours last year). I hated not being at home last Christmas so think we will be separating this year but we can't be doing that once we are married.

    Oh dear the stress!!

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  21. Oh goodness, lady. Can we exchange Skype numbers and just vent to each other for a few hours whenever it gets bad? Because this is pretty much exactly what my husband and I go through with our families every weekend/whenever someone has a birthday, a baby, a graduation, a bbq or whateverthehell.

    Except in our case, MY family is the clingy one that expects us to be at every. single. friggen. event, which they of course plan and set dates for without ever asking us if it'll work for us. We miss many of them due to work...and the guilt trips and grumpy attitudes ensue, which we mostly ignore.

    My husband's family gets the short end of the stick from us simply because they're less vocal about missing us (in other words, they respect that we have our own lives.) On top of the regular holidays, my MIL and my father were born on the same day. Thanks for that, Universe. So we also have to worry about whose birthday we'll attend each year. Sweeeeet!

    On one hand, we feel so blessed that we have families that are close-knit, loving, and love to spend time together. On the other hand, it many times feels like a burden or a duty to pack up and visit them instead of a joy, because of all the guilt and weird jealous vibes that go along with spending time with one family over the other. My current tactic is to ignore the behavior in hopes it will just subside after a while. But I SHUDDER to imagine what it will be like if/when grandchildren are in the picture......THAT is some serious birth-control.

    I don't know how to help you, because I'm in the middle of this myself (two years married this Sept., after 6 years of dating). Good luck to you, thanks for writing in with this question, and just know you're not alone!

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  22. This isn't helpful, but reading these questions makes me so grateful for the fact that my and my partner's families are both so chill about holidays. We roughly alternate, although sometimes we do two in a row with the same family, sometimes we host, and sometimes we stay home and hang out with our dog. Nobody seems to mind.

    My friend's MIL is like the letter-writer's, though, and she and her husband have actually ended up spending holidays apart to appease his mom (although thankfully he's finally stood up to his mom and said that won't happen again).

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  23. My fam lives far away, so we do a summer visit and a winter visit with them. The winter visit falls just before or just after Christmas, and is our family Christmas. Everyone comes, and everyone does their own thing on Christmas Day (work, other family, etc.). For his fam, we do Thanksgiving with them, and then Christmas Eve. We come home Christmas Eve night and do OUR Christmas ALL ALONE and it is amazing. We wake up late (until kids), drink beer all day, make traditional breakfast of bacon and soft pretzels, open stockings, and then play a video game that we bought/watch movies all day.

    Having a day be OURS with no questions is amazing. We planned this out on our own, and then sat down with our families, each taking the lead with them. It was a "we love you, we want to celebrate with you, but we need our own traditions" because no way did we want to be traveling over Christmas.

    Best of luck!

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  24. Whoa. Get out of my brain. This is pretty much our exact situation.

    First Christmas together, we decided we'd do Christmas Even with my parents, Christmas Day with his, and that in the future we'd switch-off who got the Eve/Day. Done and done. Fair and simple.

    That year his mother called him the day after Christmas SCREAMING about how we'd ruined the holiday. Oookay, crazy lady.

    What did we do? We stuck to the original plan. We switch off the Eve/Day each year. Does it kind of suck for us? Yes, and it may not always work in the future (right now the families are only an hour apart). But both sets of in-laws need to realize that we're adults, can only be in one place at one time, and that there is a need for compromise. Bribery/hysterics/guilt ain't gonna cut it.

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  25. I think we may have the same MIL...My family lives 6.5 hours away and his lives in the same zip code. We see his family every week and my family every 6-8 weeks. MY HUSBAND made the decision that since we don't have much vacation time to visit my family, they take priority for holidays since we are given extra days off to travel. This means that as long as we are living close to his parents, they get the holidays like Easter and my parents get Christmas every year and we split up Thanksgiving. Sure, MIL does not think this is fair and it does get blamed on me. She wanted the exact holiday and not every weekend. But I can guarantee that if we move close to my family and she gets us on holidays and not every weekend, that will not be fair either...you cannot win with some people so don't fight it and whatever you choose, DO NOT LET NEGATIVITY RUIN YOUR HOLIDAY!

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  26. This is tough. There is probably not a good way to make everyone 100% happy, and unfortunately the person with the most sensitive feelings (or simply the loudest protestations) often wins out because I don't know about you, but it often comes down to doing whatever is least stressful instead of what is most fair.
    I don't have any solutions for you as I'm still working the whole thing out with my husband... but ideally, I would like to spend holidays just him and I and then pick other times to spend with parents. This is complicated and may not ever happen because my husband's parents are divorced, his dad is unattached, and his sister tends to spend holidays with her husband's family because he has younger siblings and a child from a former marriage.
    That said, the people over at A Practical Wedding have a handle on questions of family dynamics and I've been going over there to think about a lot of this.

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  27. Soooo glad my husband's Jewish :)

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    1. Me too. But because of it, I always treated my sisters like they should have no issue spending Christmas with our family. Ummm, just come without the hubs, if necessary. These posts are making me realize maybe I wasn't fully understanding the situation.

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    2. I'm the Jewish one in our relationship, and while it makes Christmas easy, it does make me feel like I should always get Thanksgiving with my family. I realize this isn't exactly fair...

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  28. Wow parents can be so crazy...

    This definitely needs to be the year that you set ground rules. "Now that we're married, we have responsibilities to two families. So this is how we're going to do it this year." And then you tell them however you want to do it. Even that means taking Xmas off to go on vacation alone together, then that's what it means. Have your husband tell his mother which holiday you're going to spend with them. If she's like "But what about thanksgiving?!" he can say "we'll celebrate it with you guys next year" which is vague enough that it can mean you host it.

    The thing that is hard for most parents, is that now your top priority in terms of family is your spouse, not your parents. But it's necessary for them to realize this in order to eventually embrace the shift of power. It's part of them seeing you as an adult and someone's spouse, as opposed to just their child.

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  29. this is the first time ever a divorce has simplified the holidays...my sister is divorced with kids (for the past 12 years or so), so the holiday custody thing is always messy for her...BUT, to make sure we can all get together, my folks host everyone a week or so before christmas (not for the week, just for a day). that way, my side can hang with no distractions or places to be, my folks have a quiet day to themselves on christmas, and the me and the rest of my siblings make our overbearing in-laws happy by being available on christmas eve/day.

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  30. your MIL sounds just like my FMIL! I feel your pain. Throw into the mix, I'm a nurse and work frequent holidays, during which time fiance is able to go see his family. Leaving me having to split the few holidays I have left between our two families. I haven't celebrated Christmas outside of the hospital in 3 years. I can't even start to think about what we will do for our first married Christmas this year

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  31. I'm in this boat, too, except his family lives a 6-hour drive away, and my family lives in Michigan (several states away and not reasonably driveable). We're both very close to our families, so negotiating this has been tough. Last year, we spent Christmas with his family, and then flew to Michigan the day after to celebrate with my family. It worked out, but it's obviously not something we're going to be able to afford every Christmas. Our families aren't mean about it, though, which helps. But it still sucks. We see his family pretty frequently, and I'm lucky if I get to see mine twice a year.

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  32. Growing up I never dealt with holiday drama as we lived very, very far away from all relatives. I was very surprised at the f*ckton of drama we found ourselves in last Thanksgiving, but I think the previous ESB post inspired me to tell my partner that he had to check with me before promising his family anything in terms of visits. It sucks and I am so grateful my family does not use emotional blackmail/guilt tripping and so I am mostly immune to it.

    Also, lol at letting the MIL cry it out...seriously time for some detachment (of the) parenting by your husband.

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  33. Ours are in the same town, so we end up going to three or four places between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We're lucky, I guess?

    If you guys both feel okay with it, I might recommend spending Christmas on your own (that sounds ridiculously good to me, but I guess it might not to you) and then making alternate arrangements with each family during that month.

    Or, if you want to be there for the actual holidays, you could do Christmas Eve with one family and Christmas Day with the other (although I realize that means driving 6 hours on a holiday).

    Then tell everyone that if they don't behave you are officially boycotting all family holidays and neither side will see you.

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  34. We are horrible children apparently. We've not spent a single holiday with either family in about four years.

    Thanksgiving has been about getting together with friends since college. Then we used to split Christmas on an hour by hour basis as our families lived half a mile from one and other. That sucked.

    When we moved across the country and all of a sudden had zero vacation time and almost as much money we skipped our first Christmas. Then our second. Then our third and fourth. Now we're on our fifth and we've got such a tradition going that we plan on keeping it to ourselves. We see his parents the second week in January every year and are currently close enough to mine that a quarterly visit isn't too hard to make.

    It works for us. And though it was a hard phone call to make, it's been absolutely worth it.

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  35. so, we live in different coutries but i feel your pain, here we celebrate xmas and new year (we dont have thanksgiving. Dad died a few years ago so my mom wants all the hoidays for her, but my sis and I both have ILs to make happy too. Las year went like this:
    sis and I: "we´ll be with you on xmas and new year we´ll be with our guy´s fam, ok?"
    mom:"yay! I do not care for new year so that sounds fine"
    so we had our guys celebrate xmas with mom.
    new year eve sis calls me bc mom wants to be with her and she is in another city with her IL´s...
    I call mom and she´s like "I´ll be all alone you and your sis hate me...guilty blah..."
    me: "stop it mom, you knew it´ll be like this, you said you were fine"
    mom:"but I do not want to be alone....guilty blah..."
    me: "so come with us" (we live in the same city)
    mom:"No"
    me: "well, fine. you know were we are, have a nice evening" and got off the phone.
    My mom being drama queen showed up uninvited to the 30+ party that my MIL was hosting, with her mascara running through her face and went to my guy and me "thanks for inviting me". My MIL (who has her own shit happening every holiday)offered her to go to "refresh a little" and gave her make up. She refreshed and we had a nice dinner.
    At the end of the party, MIL walked with me and said in kind words to not be a bitch with mom bc my shit sprayed her.
    I am lucky enough to have that kind ILs that are a bit drama free but I think this year my guy and I are going away from dec 21 to jan 3 to some lost-in-the-mountains-place-with no celphone-reach or lie about it and stay home alone, haven´t decided yet...
    (ps: sorry for my bad english...)

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  36. I know two couples who avoided this (sort of) by getting married the weekend after the holiday (one Christmas and one Thanksgiving). While I don't think it was intentional, it sure is awesome to take a year off every so often and say, "we're doing blah blah blah for our anniversary this year."

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  37. We do Thanksgiving and Easter with her family, Christmas Eve and Christmas morning alone and then the remainder of Christmas day and the following few days with my family.

    The first couple of years took a bit of getting used to but now it is so fabulously easy.

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  38. This is when living 2500 miles away from all your family is kind of awesome. We moved to the west coast in 2003, and aside from some gentle prodding to fly back east more often, both our families have been very easy going about not seeing us on holidays.

    Our routine for Thanksgiving and Christmas is to get up, make a giant amount of high-fat, high-carb, terrible-for-you food and sweets, and then spend the entire day watching full seasons of television shows (preferably 22 minute eps, like Arrested Development and Community and so on). Our friends (and family if they want to fly out) get an open invitation from 11am to 10-ish pm, with the understanding that it is a day of relaxation and relaxation alone. No drama, no fancy clothes, no holiday carols, no stupid turkey.

    This past holiday season was even better for the far-flung family thing--we all have ipads now, so we just scheduled a few FaceTime blocks and got to see everyone and open gifts "together".

    Even if we did live near our families, I doubt we'd change what we do. I think we are all adult enough to realize that the actual day you do the celebrating really isn't the point.

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    1. OH MY GOD I HATE YOU. that sounds so wonderful.

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  39. Religion is a huge issue in our relationship, but I have now realized the silver lining! I have never been so happy that I'm Jewish and his family celebrates Christmas after reading these responses. His mom LOVES that she gets to see him every year on Christmas and usually for a few weeks even (them on the east coast, us on the west) and my parents live in the same town so we see them freqeuntly.

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  40. We have 20 minutes to his, 3 hours to mine. I'm the only child. This makes it a little easier, believe or not!

    My parents are pretty independent, and reasonably cruisy! My Mum can get a bit upset that we don't see her, but there's an easy option; they can come stay, because everyone else lives in the city (we're Australian) and they're the only ones in the country. It's a pretty obvious point, but it works. If there aren't other kids involved, make that point - there's nothing stopping them hanging with you.

    On the flipside - if we miss Christmas Day with his family, they'll *probably* have a sister or two there to heap the love on. We're not the sole offspring. This helps too.

    This year, I'm thinking of convincing my parents to host in the country for both sides. It will be radical, but we're already going to have (non related) issues over the holidays, so to be radical might help take the heat off. (That was totally a pun - It's HOT at Christmas).

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  41. Ugh. I am NOT looking forward to Christmas at all. Last year we had both families at our place and it took ALL of my negotiation skills to make it happen. My father is crazy and my mother & sister will go along with whatever will make him least mental. I am usually left looking like the bag guy if I suggest a different approach.

    We *had* planned to go inter-state and spend Christmas this year with my BIL (who, sensibly, never comes for Christmas) and my BFF. However, said bestie just announced she has bought tickets to come here instead. She knows my family deal and wants me to come spend the day with her family instead, which I would LOVE to do, I adore her family, but I don't think its worth the drama it would cause.

    Sigh.

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    1. I mean BAD not bag. Obvs.

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  42. We both live about six hours away from both sets of parents, and our parents live about a half mile away from each other (we met far away in a different city, so it was a happy discovery to learn that we can literally walk between our families' places in ~15 minutes.) So far we've just been splitting up for holidays but we'll walk over to each others houses on thanksgiving and Christmas to say hi. It's been pretty easy so far but we still manage to bicker about some elements of the arrangement nonetheless! I think holidays are just stressful, period.

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  43. My rents, husband, & I roadtrip it North to see my giant extended family & get some snow time every year... after a week or so we hop in a different car & drive a few hundred miles further north to see his giant family for new years & so on. I'm so glad my MIL is easy going, we've never heard a peep about missing out on tgiving & xmas.

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  44. I have a married friend who does Thanksgiving with her husband's family, New Year's with her family, and Christmas just with her husband. It works well for them! However, my husband and I both want to be home for Christmas-time, so even living far away from both families, we've made the trip to see both sets over the Christmas season. Luckily, we both come from families who don't feel strongly about doing their Christmas celebration on a certain day. In Oct/Nov, we each communicate with our siblings and let our parents know when we think we'll be in town. Sometimes we can only find 1 day that we can all be together, but so far we've been able to make it work (4 years now). It sounds like this might not be an option for you, but I thought I'd pass it along.

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  45. This is how we handle it:

    - Last year we planned our honeymoon over Christmas and New Years. No one could argue it because we were finishing degrees and it was the only time we could take off.

    - This year I will be 8.5 months pregnant and unable to travel. Whomever of our families (all living on the other side of the country) want to spend the holidays with us at our place is welcome.

    Done like dinner. Now I just need to make sure I am pregnant every Holiday season for the next 40 years.

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  46. I got (IMO) unbelievably lucky with the Christmas draw- my family always does huge things, my husband's family has a huge get-together a week BEFORE Christmas, and then we have a smaller celebration a few days later when his brother comes in from the Navy on leave. Because we have a dog at home (and who boards their animals on Christmas Eve? Unfair), we spend Christmas Eve with his family, Christmas morning with ourselves, brunch with my parents, and the afternoon with my extended family. A bit convoluted and exhausting, but everyone gets time.

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