Between my husband and I we have three sets of in-laws spread around the country requesting us for the holidays. We try to rotate evenly, but inevitably someone is upset that we’re not there. Not to mention we rarely just do what we want to do because we’re trying to make everyone else happy. How do you handle the holidays?
It may seem this question is ill-timed since this is may be an issue for most during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season, but maybe for you it is Easter or a summer vacation. This question hits on a fundamental issue in most marriages, and for that reason, ’tis always the season to start making a change so that by the time the next high-demand holiday comes around, this dilemma is a distant memory.
The fundamental issue that is involved here is the command from God to “leave & cleave”.
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be cleaved (joined) to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).
What is established here is that the parent-child relationship is meant to be temporary, while the husband-wife relationship is permanent and therefore the primary one in our lives.
Problems often occur in family life when these roles are reversed and the parent-child relationship takes precedence. This can be because of the parents. Some parents continue to demand obedience or “meddle” in the lives of their adult, married children. Sometime this can be because of the children. When we continue to look to our parents for emotional or financial support, it unnaturally restricts us from leaving them as we need to.
When it comes to the holidays, it may be good to first look at whether the relationships with all your parents have healthy boundaries. Are these expectations during the holidays stemming from an over-controlling parent? Are you putting the desires of your parents over the needs of your spouse and your immediate family? If the issues over the holidays, and trying to please all the sets of in-laws is causing strife and conflict in your marriage, then it is time to take a stand for your own family.
My husband and I had to navigate these tricky waters early in our marriage. Each coming from divorced parents, our attempts at trying to spend a bit of our holiday time with each parent meant much of our season was spent on the road traveling. Stress, exhaustion and a hurried sense of needing to get to the next activity, meant that none of the time we had with any of our family was the quality that we wanted it to be. Finally, when we had our own children, we realized that we needed to be making choices during Christmas that set the traditions and memories that we wanted our kids to have. Was time with the grandparents important? Absolutely! But, waking up in our own home on Christmas morning and having that time together as a couple and with our children, was a top priority.
Begin to think about what traditions and memories you want to establish for your children at holidays? Do you want them to always remember it as a time of stress & conflict for Mom & Dad? A time spent rushing through the busy airports and hours on end in the car? Use the topic of starting special traditions for YOUR family as the spearhead to discuss with your parents the changes you want to make this holiday season. Maybe it means inviting one set of in-laws to join you at your home. Maybe it means asking all the grandparents to respect that you want to establish this time for your new family, and start traditions of spending other holidays and times of the year traveling to each of their homes. It is going to look different for everyone, but the hardest thing to realize for those of us that are young parents is that we are someone’s SPOUSE now, we are someone’s PARENT now, and that overrides being someone’s CHILD. The new beginnings for your family may involve some endings.
This looks different for everyone. Share how you balance the grandparents and time with family over the high-demand holidays in the comments!
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