We get in a fight every year about family expectations around the holidays. How do we avoid that?
Best idea: Talk. Talk again. Talk ahead of time. Talk when you are both at your best, and not when you are hungry, sleepy, or grinchy.
Worst idea: Avoid talking about it and see what happens.
It's really easy to avoid talks that are tricky, especially about things that have such complicated edges as families and expectations. Occasionally, that even works, but not most of the time, and not usually about issues that are going to come up no matter what. The holidays will come and go, whether or not the two of you have a plan. They will. Bet on it. Just check the calendar; the dates are right on there and they are not going away and all your relatives have the same dates. So, this one will each your lunch if you don't deal with it.
Find a time or two to sit down and talk when you are in a good mood. If you can, both of you agree ahead of time not only to find this time but to try to work together to figure this out as a team. Try these simple steps from a book I wrote with co-authors such as Howard Markman (12 Hours to Great Marriage).
- Separate out discussing the issue from trying to solve it. Listen to each other first, and find out what's important to each of you in how you handle things. Listen, don't judge, and don't try to solve the problem at first. That comes after listening carefully.
- Brainstorm. Come up with all sorts of ideas, and write them down. Anything at all can be suggested and don't judge the ideas. Just get a bunch of them out there.
- Work through the ideas and see if there is a combination of ideas that the two of you can work on together to make a complete solution that you both agree ought to help this year.
Lastly, realize that even if you do all this well, things will come up. You may even have a relative or two who tries to get the two of you to do something other than what the two of agree on. It's time to have each other's back. Defend, as a team, like two ninjas fighting back to back, the decisions the two of you have made in order to bring peace to your relationship this holiday season!