How To Split The Holidays Between Your Family And Your Partner's Family

by Sydnee Lyons

The holidays are filled with festive music, baked goods, and, of course, familial obligations. From November to December, airports and train stations are packed with crowds of people trying to make their way home in time to see family and friends. If you’re in a committed relationship, you should determine early on how to split the holidays between your family and your partner's.

This is no easy task, especially if one of you has multiple family visits to make, like in the 2008 movie Four Christmases. In the movie, Kate (Reese Witherspoon) and Brad (Vince Vaughn) are forced to visit each other’s divorced parents, making a total of four chaotic stops and putting intense pressure on their relationship. Although the stress of it all nearly breaks them up, they realize that getting to know the other person's family actually helps them understand each other better than they did before.

Inviting your partner to spend the holidays with your family — and being invited to spend time with theirs — is a sign that you and your partner value your relationship. To ensure that things go smoothly, you should have a sincere conversation about your expectations for your respective visits.

"You need to strategize ahead of time and decide when and where you’ll be," says licensed psychologist and relationship expert Jennifer Rhodes. "It's important that you both agree on a schedule before the holiday season begins so that you won’t be overwhelmed by stress or guilt when things get busy. Ask important questions, like, 'When does your family get together?' and 'Will we be staying overnight in your hometown?'" Similarly, you’ll need to be honest about which days are most important to you and your family and which you might be willing to give up.

Planning your holiday visits isn’t just about you and your partner. According to Dr. Rhodes, it’s crucial to clearly communicate your plans with your families to avoid confusion or disappointment. "Give family members plenty of notice about your plans. If you’re not going home for Christmas, let them know when next you’ll be there," she explains. Visiting two sets of families, especially if they live far away from each other, requires compromise. Maybe you can’t make it to your family’s traditional Thanksgiving dinner but you’re able to see them for Hanukkah. Explain this to them and let them know that you’re still looking forward to celebrating the holidays with them.

As challenging as it might be to split your time fairly between both families, Dr. Rhodes assures, "There’s no right or wrong way to do it." You and your partner should consult your schedule frequently throughout the holidays, checking in with the other person to see how they’re doing and if they’re overwhelmed or stressed out at any time.

While it’s absolutely commendable that you and your partner are sharing the holidays with each other’s families, remember that you are still individuals. Dr. Rhodes says, "If you need space from your partner’s family, take it without forcing your partner to take time with you."

It’ll be a lot easier to get through the holiday visits if you make time for yourself every now and then. "Self-care is especially important around the holidays," Dr. Rhodes explains. She recommends getting a massage or having a spa day between visits to help you relax and to improve your overall mood. When you resume your holiday schedule, she adds, "If, for some reason, a visit is not enjoyable, take a break or end it." There’s no need to subject yourself to an uncomfortable situation, especially around the holidays.

Like with most other milestones in a relationship, agreeing to split the holidays between your and your partner’s family requires trust and honest communication. Sure, this time of year can be stressful but at least you won't be facing it alone.

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