As you travel through different stages of life you will ever be faced with opportunities for growth and change.
We got married six months ago, and one of the most difficult situations we have faced to date is deciding where to go for the holidays. We didn’t stop to think about this before our wedding. I assumed we would be with my family, since this has been our tradition for years. My husband’s family has similar traditions, and he presumed we would spend the holidays with them. We obviously can’t be in two places at the same time, especially since our families live more than 500 miles apart. We welcome your perspective.
You are facing one of the common dilemmas most newlyweds face, at least in the United States. While not every family is big on the holidays, many are, especially about Thanksgiving and Christmas.
As you already know, with marriage come significant changes and adjustments with which one has to adapt. If not handled properly, this can become a source of tension and anxiety, which you want to avoid. So the first thing we encourage you to do is to work together as if you are on the same team, because you are.
Newlyweds who face this dilemma do well to be intentional about lowering the level of emotion in their minds before engaging their spouse in conversation about planning for the holidays. Make sure each partner feels respected and highly regarded; you want to go for a win-win.
First, agree between the two of you before you gently inform your respective families how you plan to handle the holidays going forward. If your families regard this time as very important, and have been used to having you at home during these special celebrations, you can expect it to take some time for them to process the new normal.
Second, be patient with your families as they take time to process that your new status brings with it more complexity to your annual schedule. This means you will need to alternate between your family and your husband’s family where you spend Thanksgiving and Christmas each year. You may also need to think about forming your own family traditions.
Third, the objective is to acknowledge that life is dynamic, and that the holiday season shouldn’t be a time of anger and resentment. Instead, this can be an opportunity for everyone in each family to grow by recognizing that family members are going through a new phase of life that brings modifications with it.
The Bible states: “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Cor. 13:11).
As you both accept the new responsibilities that come with marriage, you will soon enough find yourselves adjusting again as children join your family. As you travel through different stages of life you will ever be faced with opportunities for growth and change. So embrace this reality and trust God to give you the patience and serenity you need to manage these transitions with joy and grace.
Willie Oliver, PhD, CFLE,an ordained minister, pastoral counselor, and family sociologist, is director for the Department of Family Ministries at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Elaine Oliver, MA, LGPC, CFLE, an educator, counseling psychologist, and clinical mental health counselor, is associate director for the Department of Family Ministries. You may communicate with them at Family.Adventist.org, or at HopeTV.org/RealFamilyTalk.