Every year my wife and I get into an argument on where to attend Thanksgiving. Both of our parents would like us to join them, any advice?
As we approach the holiday season, though we tend to think of it as a time of enjoyment and festivities, this time of year is often fraught with a great deal of stress! I have no doubt there will be many different disputes that couples will be facing in the weeks to come.
Your wife being upset about spending time with your family is a concern Iíve often heard from others and it can easily be one raised by husbands as well. One of the great myths we have in our society is about spending time with families during the holidays. Our movies and novels tend to portray scenes of families gathering together to share special moments of renewed happiness. Sadly this portrayal is, more often than not, a fantasy.
There are lots of reasons that getting together with family can create tension. Of course, the major reason is that any time you bring people together from different upbringings, there are going to be differences in styles. Each is accustomed to doing things the way they were raised; and based on each personís history, each one will have different expectations of the visit. Throw in the fact that you have a bunch of different personalities and lots going on, and it really can create havoc.
Additionally, if youíve had to travel to visit your family, there is an additional burden. The visits are fewer and so there is more stress put onto them. Itís like you have to pack everything into a few days since they donít occur as often. Alternately, if you lived closer and only get together for a meal, and it doesnít go well, then thereís always another visit in a couple of weeks.
One more piece to add to the mix if youíre visiting from out-of town: Are you staying with your folks? If you donít stay with them, they might feel insulted. If you do, it may be harder to get some private down time.
So, what do you do? Here are some tips to help you handle a sticky situation:
Especially at this time of year, donít forget to remember all the things for which you are grateful. When you focus on the positive, it allows you to "let go" of your stress which, in turn, will help you have a happier and healthier life!
- First, you need to let your wife know you understand her feelings. That will really help the situation a lot. If you donít validate them, she will continue to put up a fuss feeling that you donít understand her.
- If you share some of the same concerns, let her know that you do.
- Let her know that as much as you understand, these are still your parents/family and you feel strongly about spending some time with them.
- Then, together, work on some ideas to help you distance yourselves from the situation so you can lighten it up. For example, make a bet on how long it will take before Uncle Bill starts to fall asleep at the table or how many times your mother will comment on something youíre wearing.
- Come up with private signals to let one another know you need some down time and think about ways you can take some.
Karen Sherman, Ph.D., (www.drkarensherman.com) is a practicing psychologist in relationships and lifestyle issues for over 20 years. She offers teleseminars and is co-author of Marriage Magic! Find It! Make It Last.