On Christmas Day last year, I boarded a plane along with my husband. Not to either one of our family's locations. We had decided to take a trip of a lifetime instead. Destination: Zurich, Switzerland. We were so excited about a winter wonderland vacation to enjoy all Switzerland had to offer including its sky-high snow-covered mountains, world-class skiing, as well as its decadent hot chocolate and delectable cheese. Not to mention the stunning scenery we'd see as we traversed the country by train.
While we were thrilled to be planning our holiday excursion, there was one thing that we weren't so enthusiastic about - telling our families that we'd be missing Christmas. As you may be able to relate, holiday time for me was all about family. From the time I was a kid all the way until my late 20's, I had never even thought of spending the holidays away from my family. But getting married presented new opportunities for holiday traditions as well as new challenges for how to split my time.
For my husband and I, our partnership comes first. We consider our situation prior to what others want us to do. That's because our relationship is the most important at this point in our lives. When we approach it from this perspective, it helps us make difficult decisions easier, like in the case of our spending Christmas abroad last year, which was an amazing way for us to enjoy each other and reconnect, outside of normal everyday life.
What works for one couple doesn't work for all, so I've checked in with a few married couples about how they've approached splitting their time during the holidays and what advice they have for couples trying to overcome family demands this holiday season.
COME UP WITH A GAME PLAN
Autumn and Eddie Agans, married for two years, split Christmas between their two families and stay home for Thanksgiving. "We rotate years so one year my parents get Christmas Eve and the couple days before and his parents get Christmas Day and the couple days after, then the next year we flip," Autumn said.
When they welcomed a new baby into the world earlier this year, they set new expectations.
"We recently told them all that this will be our last year [of rotating homes] since we had a baby this year."
Newlyweds of just over a year, Amanda and Kyle Haeberlin also stay home for Thanksgiving and divide family time for Christmas. "Our first Christmas, we tried visiting both families and that was just too draining physically and financially. We have now set up a three-year rotation. One year at our house, one in North Carolina, and one in Wisconsin," Amanda said. "We flipped a coin to figure out order."
Both Autumn and Amanda said that their families were understanding of their decision. It worked, they report, because they came up with a fair plan.
Autumn said, "I think whatever is most convenient for you as a couple is best, but keep fairness in mind."
Amanda and Kyle also try to visit both families throughout the year, which she thinks helps them be more understanding during the holidays.
Make sure that you communicate your holiday game plan early. If your family is anything like mine, they start getting excited about and planning for the holidays months ahead, so be sure you inform them of what you're going to do within a reasonable timeframe. It's the considerate thing to do and their plans might, in fact, depend on your plans.
Do you have experience managing different family obligations over the holiday season? Share your thoughts in the comments.