His family or yours: Where to go for holiday dinners

Nov 30, 2011 at 12:00 p.m. ET

Once you’ve been in a relationship for a while, gotten married or had kids, the holidays become a minefield of potential conflict. Your family wants you at their dinner, his family won’t take no for an answer, so what do you do? Since you can’t take off to Aruba to escape the holiday mayhem (which would really just make everything easier), we’ve put together some holiday planning advice for dealing with the annual debate over where to go for your upcoming holiday dinners.

Couple planning for holidays

Share the wealth

Let's face it; between Thanksgiving and Christmas, you will end up at more family dinners than you have the time or energy for, so why not devise a plan in which you spread yourselves around between several dinners equally. That way, no one feels shafted and you'll have imparted some semblance of equality to the proceedings. It's easy for one family to feel they "deserve" more of your time, so much so that they don't see why you need to share your holiday time with anyone else. If that sounds like your family, there are several options to think about:

  • Go to Thanksgiving dinner at his parents' place and Christmas dinner at your parents'.
  • Agree to spend Christmas Eve with one family and Christmas Day with the other.
  • Flip a coin or draw straws to see which family gets you this year – next year it's the other family's turn.

Bring everyone together

Make a note: This option requires planning, so if you know that you want to try hosting Christmas dinner at your place, send out the invites now – not three days before the 25th. People will need time to adjust to this idea. Also, be prepared for backlash – most mothers don't want to give up hosting duty. But stand your ground and let family members know they can still bring their specialties (less cooking for you) and help out with everything.

If splitting your time between the two families won't work (and sometimes it doesn't), you can try offering to have everyone come to you (if you have the space) or suggest everyone from both sides of the family meet at a mutually agreeable location equidistant from all involved. This can be a restaurant, cabin/cottage, lodge, hotel – anywhere a large group of you can gather and be together for one or more holiday dinners. While this option can be more costly if you need to rent space, it can be a good compromise. No one needs to take sides or feel offended that this year you're having turkey with his family instead of your own because everyone is together.

Divide and conquer

This option only works if there are no grandchildren involved. If all else fails and you can't come to any compromises (and everyone just keeps freaking out), just divide and conquer. You deal with your own family dinners and he can deal with his. Though not ideal since you'll be forced to spend some of the "big days" apart, sometimes this is the only way to keep the peace. Should you find yourself in this boat of separate holiday dinners, create some of your own traditions amidst the chaos. Pick a date for your own dinner, just the two of you or with your close group of friends. That way you won't feel as though you're unable to have any time as a couple.

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