Navigating Your First Holiday Season As A Married Couple

Written with love, by Karley Kiker

Whether you live near the mountains and have been bundled up in cozy sweaters for months, or (like us) you're a pair of beach bums ordering Peppermint Mochas despite the fact that it's still 80 degrees outside, I think you'll agree—the magic of the holiday season is officially in the air!

Navigating Your First Holiday Season As A Married Couple

Turkeys and hams are running low at the supermarkets and every department store is stuffed with Christmas decor, two signs that it's time to finalize your plans for the holidays. If the thought of doing so is making you feel a little bit less than "merry and bright," know that you're not alone. Nothing brings family together like the holidays, and yet at the same time, no other season can prove quite so difficult to navigate as a newlywed couple.

For instance, perhaps his dad has been talking about a family reunion timed around Thanksgiving, but the two of you have dreamed of seeing the Macy's Day Parade in New York City. Or, your mom wants you to come to Texas for Christmas, but his parents would love to take you both on a Colorado ski trip. How's a newlywed couple to meet everyone's expectations without hurting any feelings...or ending up in a situation they aren't happy with?


1. Communicate.

With both sides of your family, often and as early in the process as possible. Identify the expectations, hopes, and dreams of your parents, siblings, and extended family, and then sit down for a planning session with your spouse. Is it reasonable for you to see both sides of the family for all of the major holidays coming up, or is it more realistic to divide and conquer by spending Thanksgiving with your parents, and Christmas with his? Realize that no matter how much time you spend planning your schedule, feelings of disappointment may be unavoidable in some instances. Again, I believe the best way to conquer this obstacle is through clear and honest communication that points to the heart behind your decision. For example: "We wish we could see both sides of the family at Christmas, but Bob only has a few days off work and we're worried that our time with everyone will end up feeling too rushed. We'd love to join you for Thanksgiving so that we can have as much quality time together as possible!" 


2. Tackle this season without making promises about the next.

Some couples choose to rotate which side of the family they spend each holiday with. For example, if you're going to see his parents for Christmas this year, next year it would be your parents’ turn. While this system might end up working for the two of you, it's wise to leave yourself some wiggle room by focusing on enjoying this holiday season rather than laying plans for the next five years. Things can always change—hello babies, Caribbean Christmases, and cross-country moves—so do your best to stay focused on the moment at hand.


3. Work as a team.

Family dynamics. Every family has them—both the good kind AND the bad. Maybe your mom won't stop hinting that she can't wait to be a grandmother at this time next year, or maybe his dad clearly wasn't a fan of the side dish you brought to the Thanksgiving table...and said so. A week of close proximity to the people who know you (and all your buttons) best can start to wear on even the most tight-knit family, so make sure that you're communicating with your spouse through it all. Operating as a team and taking a moment to privately express your feelings will help diffuse any frustrations that arise, and prevent you from turning against each other during a time that should be focused on love and connectivity.