Carolyn Hax: With marriage on horizon, holiday plans need to be a team effort

Carolyn Hax
Columnist September 12, 2013

Hi, Carolyn:

I recently got engaged to my best friend, and we couldn’t be happier.

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

However, we are facing a difficult decision for the holidays this year and in the future. We live in D.C., and every Christmas, we have gone back to the West Coast to celebrate with his family. He rarely sees his family, so I’ve gladly accompanied him. This year, my mom finally put her foot down and told me how she felt about my not spending the past four Christmases with my side of the family. I completely agree, and I promised I’d be here this year. She was elated, and even agreed to take me to the airport after we open presents so I can see my in-laws, as well.

The problem is, not having my fiance with me on Christmas would be awful. He’s extremely torn; he’s never missed a Christmas morning with his family, but he also doesn’t want to be without me.

I’ve stressed my side of the situation (that we should be a team, and I deserve to have a Christmas morning with my family), and his family has stressed theirs (they see him only a few times per year). He hasn’t made up his mind yet.


One additional note, we are relocating to California in the next year or so and starting a family. We will remain in California forever, and I’m positive he and his family will change their outlook on the whole Christmas situation if I ask to go to my house every year because I never see my family.

Am I right to feel as though my fiance should make this sacrifice this year?

Blue Christmas

“Who’s right” is not the question you want to be asking as you stand on the brink of “forever.”

Instead, I suggest: “What serves us both here, with Christmas and in general, this year and from now on?”

The right answer will be personal and mutual, which is what all answers are that serve a marriage — and the people in it, by extension.

Regardless, I’m butting in. I don’t think it serves you or your fiance, for Christmas or any other important event, for this year or in perpetuity, to keep treating yourselves primarily as your parents’ children.

You are adults, and as such you are centers of your own families now — be it a family of one, two or 13 including children, cats and goldfish. Your mommies and daddies can put all their feet down, but they no longer have jurisdiction. “Never missed a Christmas morning with his family,” I’m sorry, just doesn’t cross the marital placenta.

So start thinking and planning accordingly. If you want to see your parents, then see them — on mutually agreeable dates, holiday or non. If this or that holiday just belongs at Mom’s, then get there — but don’t march there on anyone’s orders but your own.

“Your” here refers to you and your fiance collectively, which is something else to get straight; if I read your letter correctly, you promised yourself to Mom without first huddling with Fiance. That’s another precedent not to be setting.

I realize this is an extended way of saying, “Grow-up time!,” but an unwelcome “what” tends to go over better with a spoonful of “why.”

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Sign up for Carolyn Hax’s column, delivered to your inbox early each morning, at http://bit.ly/haxpost.

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