Picture this–I’ll call them Lisa and Jeff. Lisa and Jeff have been married three years and have Carrie, their nine month old daughter. The holidays are approaching, and they. are. dreading. it. already.
With a look of despair Lisa tells me: “His parents (who live in another state) want us to come for all of Christmas week, go to Christmas Eve church service, and have Christmas Day with them. Jeff and I are arguing about this a lot, and we’ve gotten where we hate holidays anymore! We don’t want to feel this way, but I think my parents should be able to see Carrie at Christmas, too!”
Lisa barely got the last sentence out when Jeff cut in with: “We saw Lisa’s parents for the 4th of July AND Easter, and I think my parents deserve to see Carrie sometimes for the holidays, too!” He looked at me, “We can’t get past this!” They were both clearly exasperated.
Believe it or not, every couple goes through this issue at some point. It’s what I call one of the defining moments about you two and your children as the primary family. You see, I say defining because these experiences are signs that you’re not taking the bull (yes, a pun intended) by the horns, and setting some boundaries around what you want for yourselves during the holidays. It’s an easy to fix problem that just takes some savvy pre-planning, and conversational tips to get you through, though it may make others outside your primary family unit uncomfortable. But they’ll get over it with some finessing on your part. If it’s your parents you’re dealing with they are just not use to you asserting yourself around your needs.
Read on to find out how to finesse this situation.
Lisa and Jeff have been so busy they can’t see a few primary truths and their inherent rights:
1) They have the right to be calm, happy, and relaxed 100% of the time, and they have the right to do whatever it takes to help that happen. Everywhere. Always. At all times.
2) They are so used to being a child to their parent they haven’t broken the spell of the parent’s influence on them even now that they are their own adult, with their own family. The two of them and their daughter are the foremost family unit now.
3) They need to envision what their holidays would look like ideally for the two of them. They need to ask themselves: How do we want our holidays to look? Who do we want to spend the holidays with this year-if anyone–outside the primary family unit? Then strategize ways to make that happen.
You own your time, your home, and your schedule. You have the right to spend your time the way you want. When others want or expect you to spend it the way they envision that you should spend your holidays, you’ll need to come up with some one liners in advance to help you assert your rights, and remain in charge of these aspects of your life with loved ones.
Examples: “Yes, we’d love to have you come for the holidays. We’re accepting company on Friday the 20th until Monday the 23rd. Can you make that?” If your family member asks for more, say “We’ve decided we’re setting our own traditions for the coming years, and those dates work really well for us have company. We’d love to have you come if you can, and we really look forward to seeing you.” Just stick to your message, and repeat it if you need. They will get the message, and……..this is very important…..they. will. still. love. you.
I promise. I’ve been there, too.
Take Charge of Your Holidays.
Stop asking permission or pleasing others. It’s time you take charge of your life in order that you and your primary family unit are calm, happy, and relaxed. That is when you will truly have love to give others instead of always being in a state of tiredness and resentment. Nothing to give from tiredness and resentment–is there?
Please tell me in the comments below if you have had experience with this issue, and how you solved it. Also tell me about anything you’d like me to address in the next blog post.
Share this with others whom you know it would help.
Karen Pierce, LCSW