Christmas Expectations

by admin on December 17, 2013

On December 16th 2011, my fiancé and I moved into our very first place together. He had been living on his own since he was 16, but I was moving out of my parents’ house, and we were both excited at the prospect of spending a wonderful Christmas together, in our new home.

My parents were going abroad for Christmas, taking my two younger siblings with them, which meant it was also going to be the first Christmas I had spent away from my immediate family.

I was very excited by everything in a new home, decorating it myself, doing the Christmas dinner for the two of us, and starting new traditions with my fiancé.

Because it was such a big deal for me, being away from home and family, we agreed to have a small, cozy Christmas, just the two of us, though we would visit fiance’s family briefly to exchange gifts. Despite living away from his family, my fiancé would usually spend Christmas eve at his parents, sleep there, then spend the day with them. Because he knew that it might ruffle some feathers, my fiancé let his mum know what we were planning, and she was even there while my fiancé bought the meat for our Christmas stew. (I wasn’t about to make an entire roast dinner for two people, and neither of us like turkey.)

Come Christmas Day everything was going really well. We had a brilliant morning, and loads of fun incorporating a mix of both our family’s traditions, and making up our own.

About one o clock in the afternoon, as previously arranged, we visited my fiance’s family. They only live half an hour away, but me and my fiancé both ride motorcycles, and the day was very cold, wet and windy. Usually, it would be the kind of day that we wouldn’t risk going out on but, as it was Christmas, we wanted to go and see everyone and give them their gifts. Fiancé rang ahead to let his family know that we would be heading down but, as the weather was bad, we would only stay for an hour before heading back before the weather got worse.

When we arrived at his family’s house, we were made welcome, offered drinks and settled down to exchange gifts. Everything was wonderful, until my fiance’s mum asked what vegetables I wanted with my lunch.

Fiance reminded his mum that we weren’t staying for lunch and that we had our lunch waiting for us when we got home. That’s when things erupted into madness.

His mum and his two brothers started shouting and swearing at my fiancé, telling him that he had ruined Christmas for everyone. Fiancé reminded them that he had told them ages ago what we were planning, but this was met with, ‘I didn’t think you would actually go through with it! You always spend Christmas here! How can you stand to do this to your own family?!’

His grandmother informed me that, because I was only making stew, we could have that tomorrow and to stop being so selfish. While fiancé was explaining to his brother that I had given up a holiday with my family so we could spend it together, his mother turned to me and said, ‘Do you feel bad yet?’

The icing on the cake was when fiance’s younger brother said, ‘We all know you’d be here if it wasn’t for her.’

At which point my fiancé told me to collect my things, and we both left immediately.

To my fiance’s credit, he stood up for me, and later rang his mother to inform her that she, and the rest of the family, were out of order, and that it was totally unacceptable. I’m happy to say that his mother and grandmother have since apologized (citing excessive alcohol consumption as a main reason for the family’s outburst) and we have built a good relationship, and his younger brother has learned that we will not stand for any of his attitude, and so is extremely polite when we see him.

This year I am going to my parents’ house, while he goes to his – under the clear understanding that next year we will be spending Christmas together as a married couple, on our own. 1203-12

 

So, the family tantrum worked.   They now know that a display of drama will yield the results they want, i.e. eldest son home on Christmas Day even if means you two are separated.   When you carry through with your stated plan to spend Christmas together as a married couple next year, will it come as a surprise if the family howls, “We didn’t think you would actually do it!”?   No doubt about it, your in-laws won this skirmish and you think you won because you wagged a stern finger at them.

It is hard for a family to readjust to the new relationship dynamics when the first adult child either moves away from home or becomes involved with a lover who will eventually become an in-law.   There isn’t a lot of literature out there preparing parents and siblings for the shift of priorities that necessarily must occur when the first child or siblings gets married.   Children grow up and become independent adults (one hopes) and that means new families, new traditions and a different way of interacting with the original, nuclear family.   Some families have a very difficult time adjusting to the new reality but adjust they must if a new status quo is to come about.   You’ve just delayed the inevitable.

{ 76 comments… read them below or add one }

Kirsten December 17, 2013 at 3:53 am

I feel for you. The first Christmas my husband and I spent together, I had to hear how his brother thought it was ‘not right’ that he wasn’t with his family etc. Why did his relations think it was helpful to tell me this? No idea, but I pointed out that I had a family too, and hadn’t been with them the year before! Both sets of our parents have no issue at all, but his brother and aunt…let’s say they have never been in our position, so they don’t really understand it.

My SIL also used to give us a hard time until she got pregnant by her boyfriend and realized that it was impossible to see everyone on Christmas Day even with all their family in the same small country. For us, with family in different countries and off-shore, it will always be a compromise.

I agree with Admin – do what YOU want, not what his family demands!

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lakey December 17, 2013 at 4:24 am

“(citing excessive alcohol consumption as a main reason for the family’s outburst) ”

Are these people alcoholics? This sounds like the behavior of people who have drinking problems. It would be normal for there to be a bit of grumbling when the adult child no longer spends the entire holiday with the family, but the yelling and swearing that was described is the behavior of drunks who tend to turn family functions into brawls.

If these people can’t manage to behave themselves, it may be necessary to cut back on contact.

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Marozia December 17, 2013 at 4:34 am

Admin is right. The family threw a fit and it worked. But good for you for standing up and growing a spine against them and good for your fiance for standing up for you. They may have won this battle, but when you are married you will be able to make your own rules and traditions regarding holidays. How that they know you are not easily subdued, I’m sure they will think again about chucking these fits.
My late MIL was a bit like that too, insisting that we have Christmas lunch at her place and forgoing my family.
I have 8 brothers and 3 sisters (all older, with families) and when I tried to tell her that she refused to listen and thought I was playing it up. She then suggested that I invite all my family including mum and dad to her place. ‘OK’ I said Christmas day arrived and so did 11 siblings with children and grandchildren + mum and dad. In a 3 bedroom apartment that was quite a squeeze. Luckily my lot bought a huge amount of food (MIL only cooked 1 chicken, vegies and a tray of lasagne!!) and we ended up having Christmas lunch down at the river’s edge where she lived. She had a great time and got on well with everyone. She finally listened to what I had to say, we compromised and had Christmas at one family’s one year and one at another’s the next. Compromise worked for us.

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Yasuragi December 17, 2013 at 5:49 am

I agree with the admin. OP thinks they lost the battle but won the war when in reality his family have been playing the long con all along. They got exactly what they wanted: Son is home for the holidays and that chick whatshername he’s dating is out of the picture.

OP, had you spent any time with his family before all this went down? How was that previous interaction? Because I’m seeing red flags all over the place. He moved out at sixteen, the family reacts to disagreements with shouting, swearing and bullying and the cherry on top is they blame it all on that gosh darn alcohol. Those poor victims.

But good on your fiance for standing up for you when you needed it. Sad to say I’ve been in situations where the one person in the room who should have been there for me kowtowed to his parents. Luckily, he and his parents’ are someone else’s problem now.

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Stacey Frith-Smith December 17, 2013 at 6:04 am

Seems kind of anticlimactic to do the whole “we’re beginning our own traditions” and go back to each spending the holiday with the parents. But- and this is key- how and where a holiday is celebrated is the prerogative of the adult(s) celebrating it. Some families do rotate years between “his”, “hers” and “at home”. Accepting that not everyone will be “home” for the holidays is part of that package.

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ketchup December 17, 2013 at 6:08 am

I agree with Admin here. Why ever would you not celebrate Christmas together? I understand that his family is unhappy, but that is not your concern; you’re your own family now, and you get to decide what to do with the holidays(, but I would advise you to celebrate them with both families equally.) You’re giving in here. Too bad.
Besides, I really don’t understand why your fiancé would want to celebrate Christmas with people who say and obviously think such horrible things about his love. I know they have apologised, but the cat’s out of the bag you see.
On the whole a painful situation.

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Selphie Trabia December 17, 2013 at 6:33 am

I’m not entirely sure OP and the fiance gave in. It seems that they made some attempt to placate the family, then just left when things were going nowhere. They planned to stay an hour and they did only stay an hour.

I think it was good that they stuck to their guns.

But I may have read the story wrong.

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Christine December 17, 2013 at 7:14 am

I live almost 800 miles from family, while my husband’s family is about an hour and a half away. When we got engaged we made it clear that we would celebrate Thanksgiving with one family and Christmas with another, then switch the following year. It’s been working well for three years because we, thankfully, have awesome and reasonable families. However, when our daughter was born 4 months ago and told our families that the alternating holidays would be fine for another 3 years or so, but then we would be planting our own roots and celebrating Christmas at our house. All parents and siblings were understanding. I thank my lucky stars each and every day that I lucked out with such wonderful parents, siblings, and in-laws.

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Lenore December 17, 2013 at 7:46 am

Correct me if I’m wrong, but it appears that this was Christmas of 2011, yes? I don’t see anything in the letter to indicate otherwise? So, assuming that this letter came in this year, one could then guess that OP and her fiance spent Christmas of ’11 and ’12 with each other as they previously planned, but have agreed to share the day for ’13 and return to normal in ’14? I hardly see this as the in-laws winning, unless I am misreading the letter and getting the dates wrong?

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wren December 17, 2013 at 7:51 am

Beware the stated understanding that they know you have other plans and that they have adjusted their plans with this in mind.

One year all my siblings and I had plans that took all of us out of town. Each of us invited my mother to come along. She declined every invitation. It was months before she stopped talking about how she cried into her hot dog that day, she was so lonely.

Sometimes it doesn’t matter who stays home. The expectations of the day still reign and ruin.

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Cat December 17, 2013 at 7:53 am

I am with Lakey. If they have not yet had lunch and are already so drunk that they cannot control their behavior, I would refuse to spend any time with them unless they could be reasonably sober. Imagine if you had brought children into this situation-a bunch of drunken relatives who are screaming and in hysterics.
Sorry, I would not split up to appease his family. If they were able to accept his living alone at sixteen, they can accept the fact that he is a married man with a wife with whom he will, without exception, spend holidays.
If they want to see him, they can certainly drive over to your home to visit you-assuming that they are not too drunk to drive.

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Mary December 17, 2013 at 7:56 am

When hubby and I got married, my mom told me that once we had kids we needed to stay home and celebrate Christmas celebrating our own traditions. We alternated Christmas and Thanksgiving with both families (mine 400 miles away, his about 60 miles) until our oldest was two. Then we always had Thanksgiving with my family and Christmas morning in our own home. We would get together with his immediate family Christmas Eve and his extended family the next afternoon.

Well on Christmas Eve we want to be at Mass in our own church. Even going to the earliest service, we would drive to his parents, eat dinner, exchange gifts and by the time we got home it was after midnight. We still had to get the kids to bed and play Santa! So after 3 years of this we had enough. We stay home Christmas Eve. It is incredibly relaxing. We still see his entire family the next day and then exchange gifts with his immediate family the weekend after Christmas.

His sister still gets snippy about us not being there on Christmas Eve, sometimes even taking it public in Facebook with comments. But we ignore it and move on. She is single and doesn’t get that we are not going to put our kids through that schedule anymore!

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Lo December 17, 2013 at 7:56 am

This is one of those rare occasions where I disagree partially with admin, although my own ideas about what’s important when it comes to family and holidays are probably different than most peoples.

I say, what does it matter who “wins” as long as you make it through the holidays?

Personally I’d be thrilled if my spouse and I could split up the holidays as a divide and conquer tactic once in awhile. We don’t have kids so it doesnt matter to me if we’re together Christmas morning so long as we see each other that day. Reason being, my own family pulls this stunt (abeit a much tamer version than yours does) every year. Every time his year rolls around (we take turns) someone in my family will express surprise and dismay that we are not sharing the holiday with them. And it’s always the same 2 stupid guilt trips:

“But the children will miss you!” (no they won’t, they get gifts from us every year and we don’t live far away, plus they’re still at the age where they have to be coerced into even saying hello to auntie and uncle)

“But you should be with your family!” (I am with my family, my spouse is my family and he’s now my nuclear primary family. Wherever he is, I’m with my family)

See, I grew up with only one set of grandparents so there was never any compromising for inlaws with my parents. They never had to learn to switch off holidays. So while I’d love to retrain them it’s easier to ignore them and would be even easier to just show up alone at a holiday and then go home so my spouse and I can have a quiet Christmas together and everyone’s kind of happy? Both sets of parents like to give us grief when we show up at events solo (you can’t win, really) but it beats the alternative. Unfortunately for me my spouse is not on board with this tactic when it comes to Christmas.

So I think your plan is good.

I’d also humbly suggest that the less time you spend with people who yell and swear at you the better. Your fiance did good by standing up for you. Seems like the obvious right thing to do but family’s hard to stand up to.

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Cerys December 17, 2013 at 7:57 am

I agree with Selphie Trabia. The OP and her fiancé didn’t fold over the tantrum – they worked out a compromise after the fact.

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HollyAnn December 17, 2013 at 8:01 am

I agree that the in-laws’ behavior was abominable, but I’d like to play devil’s advocate a bit. Perhaps the blow up could have been averted if you had considered their feelings a bit more and arranged to spend some more time with them on Christmas. I have to say that only one hour on Christmas seems stingy, especially when you didn’t have any competing family visits of your own to make.

This isn’t the first time I’ve read about a couple who have just moved in together and make a big point of wanting to “create their own traditions” at the holidays and it always strikes me as pretentious and a little childish, almost like two kids self-consciously “playing house” and wanting to show off how “grown up” they are to their families, i.e. “We’re our own family now and we don’t need you anymore”. Holiday traditions develop over time, especially once you have kids of your own – you shouldn’t try to invent them in your first year together just to prove a point.

Your parents should absolutely respect your need for some space and time of your own on the holidays, but at the same time you should respect their need to see you and share at least some of the traditions that have been part of your family for years.

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Abby December 17, 2013 at 8:02 am

@ Selphie Trabia

I assume what Admin means is that while they did leave right away, for the next Christmas (2012) they split up again and each saw their families separately, which is what the fiance’s family wanted in the first place.

It would be interesting if the OP would come back and clarify, as she should be married by now, if they are sticking to their plans to celebrate this Christmas Day together apart from their families.

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internetmama December 17, 2013 at 8:30 am

I’m having reading comprehension problems but I don’t see how the family got its way. To me it sounds like the OP and fiancé left and didn’t give in so. Can someone explain it? I think I’m missing something.

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Lex December 17, 2013 at 8:31 am

Oh dear. Typical family drama. It was great to hear a story of how your Fiance stood up to his family and upheld your arrangements – usually we see a lot of stories of spineless OHs and domineering in-laws.

Adult children moving out and forming relationships is always going to be a difficult adjustment and both myself and my sister have had to adjust to spending more time with our in-laws over the festive period – it is never easy although myself and my partner have considerably less hassle then my sister and her husband as they both work in the hospitality industry and so often have to work unsocial hours over the festive season so where my sister is concerned, there is usually a lot of compromise.

Early on in our relationship LeBoyfriend and I worked out a system whereby we would try to share our time equally between both families – even if that means half a day in one place and half in another. This year, MIL is having to work boxing day (a day that is traditionally full of family visitations in LeBoyfriends family and usually the day we spend with his parents/brother/nephew/aunts etc) so we have committed to having Christmas Dinner with his parents, brother, SIL and nephew (and I imagine MIL’s sister A and her nephew R will turn up – they usually do). Then, because my sister is off Christmas day and working Boxing day too, we will visit my sister on Christmas evening (my parents are having Christmas Dinner with her) and on boxing day we currently have no concrete plans although in previous years my family have visited Paternal Aunt P and Uncle K 100 miles away so it is possible we may do this (weather dependant) or we may even host an event of our own where my parents and LeBoyfriends parents can both attend thus meeting the time-sharing criteria.

It is always awkward and arrangements are always a compromise but the sooner your in-laws understand this and adjust to the new arrangements the better. It also works both ways in that you have to sacrifice ‘traditional’ time with your family too. Try offering an ‘alternating Christmases’ option – where you both spend alternating Christmases with each others families.

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Rap December 17, 2013 at 8:51 am

Yeah, if I am reading the story right, the fiance tried to be reasonable and when the family wasn’t, he and the OP left.

I think Admin is stating that fiance’s family is getting their way because OP is going to see her family this year instead of going with Fiance to see his family ie the two of them will be seperate this year and his family gets their way.

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Huh December 17, 2013 at 8:53 am

I’m glad he stood up for you and they apologized. I noticed that this was several years ago, that the “this year” referred to in the letter, was in 2012, so THIS year would be the year they actually spend together, so I hope OP writes back and lets us know how that went and how everything leading up to it was.

I’m a bit concerned about why in 2012 you were split up on Christmas day, you with your family and he with his. From the way you wrote, it sounded like this would have to be somewhat near the wedding, as 2013 would be your first year as a married couple. Wouldn’t your families be wanting to celebrate with their to-be new family member? Aren’t the two of you your own family unit (as in, if this were just a friend celebration, it would be VERY rude to invite one half of a couple and not the other?)

How did this come to be? Did his family suggest it? Did he? Did you? I don’t want to be all gloom and doom, but we’ve already seen one big red flag from how his family treated you, and depending on how this came about, we might be seeing another.

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Charliesmum December 17, 2013 at 9:07 am

I’m lucky because when I was growing up Christmas Eve was really the ‘special family time’ so as an adult, my husband, my son, and myself spend Christmas Eve with my family and Christmas day with his, as Christmas day was always his family’s special time, so we’ve never had to battle with the ‘who goes where when’ thing.

That said, establish your routine now. Realise that if you want to keep the holiday relatively (hee) stress free then something is going to have to give. You can alternate family years, you can invite both families to YOUR home, or you can do what we do, but there’s no way you can make everyone happy and keep yourself happy as well. So chose you what will work best for your family of two and eventually it will become routine and (hopefully) his family will get over themselves.

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A December 17, 2013 at 9:48 am

I’m wondering if lakey (above) has a point…sometimes families cover-up dysfunction during the holidays-everyone getting together and playing nice to put on a show type of thing…then when OP’s fiance tries to break away from that it looks bad and everyone puts up a fight. Of course, that’s just speculation and only the OP and/or her fiance would know for sure.

Even if that’s not the case, families will sometimes behave this way and I think it’s crucial to stand your ground in the face of the craziness. Also, the people in the OP’s and OP’s fiance’s positions also need to be understanding of the original family’s feelings. Change is hard and even more so when it signals the passing of time…

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Anonymous December 17, 2013 at 9:48 am

Jeanne, when was this story submitted? The OP says “2011, this year, next year,” which I took to mean that “this year” was 2012, so now, according to that timeline, it’s “next year,” as in, the year that OP and her husband celebrate Christmas Day together, without their families of origin. So, I’d really like to see an update on how that goes.

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admin December 17, 2013 at 9:57 am

The number at the end of the story is the submission date. Some holiday submissions do not appear on the site until the following holiday.

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Markko December 17, 2013 at 9:51 am

The shining star in this is that you fiance stood up for you and demanded they face what they did. It is worth any unpleasantness this situation caused just to know he will do this. A husband isn’t worth having if he won’t put his wife first. As other posters have pointed out, he probably doesn’t like going “home” for Christmas. It is difficult to deal with the fallout from controling family in the process of loosing their control. Please make sure your fiance/husband is the one that makes it clear that you and your marriage are his very top priority. Otherwise it seems they will blame you for their son’s spine.

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Lilac December 17, 2013 at 9:52 am

Since my ex and I got a divorce I have had to juggle 4 different celebrations. My kids are invited to their dad’s family celebration, we have our own, we have one with my mom, and one with my dad, as my parents are divorced and remarried too. My ex in-laws are pretty flexible and in recent years have had their Christmas party one or two week-ends before Christmas. They have a HUGE family so this helps to accommodate tons of kids and grandkids who have other obligations. I celebrate with my kids on Christmas Eve and usually invite my local family and/or friends over. My ex mother and father-in-law also stop by to give the kids their gifts at some point as they don’t exchange at their party due to the mass chaos of a bazillion people. The following day we have Christmas Day brunch with my family and Christmas dinner with my dad and his wife’s family. We have varied it over the years depending on other things in the schedule but I don’t remember their ever being a significant conflict. It sounds like a lot of coordination but it all falls into place very easily as everyone is pretty flexible. Same with Thanksgiving. My family celebrates on the Saturday after and my kids go to my ex in-laws on Thursday. I’m not sure why people get so hung up on December 25th being the only day to get together. Stretching it out just a bit takes off a lot of pressure and if you don’t let a little extra running around stress you out, it makes for an enjoyable holiday season.

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Shalamar December 17, 2013 at 9:58 am

Oh, OP, I feel for you. When my husband and I first got married, we always spent Christmas Day with his family (because my parents lived on the other side of the country, and we couldn’t afford to visit them). This worked for a while, although I never really enjoyed Christmas with his family that much – his mother is very cold and unloving, and apart from the big turkey dinner, it was pretty much treated like any other day.

After we had children of our own, we finally decided that we’d like to spend Christmas Day in our own house. My husband told his mother what we were planning to do, and she seemed to accept it. When the day arrived, the phone rang in the afternoon. It was MIL, who proceeded to ream my husband out, telling him that he was a bad son and had turned his back on his family. He cried for an hour after that, and I was absolutely furious – it was all I could do not to call her back and tell her a few home truths.

We’ve stuck to our guns and have celebrated Christmas Day in our own home every year since, despite occasionally getting a chilly “Why don’t you love your family anymore?” e-mail from his sister.

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The Elf December 17, 2013 at 10:41 am

The best part about this is that Fiance stood up for you. That’s definitely a point in his favor!

I don’t understand why a certain date is so damn important. Does it matter if your family celebrates Christmas on Dec 24, Dec 25, Dec 26, or – why not – Jan 3? The important part is to celebrate with family. The spirit of Christmas is not dependent on the actual date, and if you are celebrating the birth of Christ then it should probably involve a church service anyway, not lunch with Mom. When fiance marries, if he has kids, etc, does Mom expect Son to still come home on that day, exactly as she demands? With wife? What about her family? Or will it magically be different then because he “has a family of his own” (as if that would be the only reason to deviate from plan). I shudder to think what Mom would do if Son had a job that required holiday work!

My side of the family is very easy going on celebrating the holiday. Husband’s less so. But the best thing we did was unplug ourselves from that kind of demand that had us shuttling about to different houses trying to appease everyone. No more! My family simply moved the date – usually the Saturday after Christmas. Works for me. Pressure’s off and we can still celebrate.

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VM December 17, 2013 at 10:44 am

Before one roundly claims that the OP and fiancé caved in and lost the battle, shouldn’t we ask if splitting up for this year wasn’t something they actually wanted to do for themselves?

The Christmas of 2011 was a first Christmas living together. If I read rightly, the “next year” of the text is to be their first as a married couple. What if they saw the Christmas of the submission year as the “last” Christmas to be spent the way they grew up — the bachelor/bachelorette’s (holiday) party, as it were?

How the in-laws will interpret it is another story…but as Fiancé doesn’t seem to be a mewling momma’s boy, I don’t think it result in a lasting problem.

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Wild Irish Rose December 17, 2013 at 10:48 am

I didn’t really see this as OP’s fiance’s family “winning.” OP and Fiance had already informed his family of their plans. Family went off, Fiance tried to remind them of what was what, and when they got nowhere, they left. The plan to spend the next holiday separately from each other may have been already in the works before all this ridiculous drama occurred.

OP, please let us know how it all stands now.

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Margaret December 17, 2013 at 11:00 am

I hope we get an update of what happens this year. I don’t think it was terrible for OP and her fiancé to have spent last Christmas apart. Maybe THEY decided to have one last Christmas with their first families before they get married and start their new family tradition, which OP states is to spend Christmas together, on their own. It doesn’t really matter if fiancé’s family thought that they “won” and he will be spending all future Christmas’s with them. It matters if the decision OP and fiancé made last year was something agreeable and reasonable to themselves, and if they are going to stand together in the face of any opposition this Christmas.

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Gee December 17, 2013 at 11:05 am

Admin is spot on. Once, after my BIL had been married for several years (and they had a few kids), his mom was mad that he wasn’t “coming home for Christmas”. To which he told her, “Mom, I AM home for Christmas. My home is with my wife and children.”

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Miss V December 17, 2013 at 11:09 am

@HollyAnn

‘Perhaps the blow up could have been averted if you had considered their feelings a bit more and arranged to spend some more time with them on Christmas. I have to say that only one hour on Christmas seems stingy, especially when you didn’t have any competing family visits of your own to make.’

She explains that the weather was bad and they ride motorcycles so they had to leave early to avoid poor road conditions. An hour of your time is not stingy when staying longer could result in an accident. The fact that the family couldn’t or wouldn’t understand that is atrocious.

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Yet Another Laura December 17, 2013 at 11:13 am

“Do you feel bad yet?”

“No, why?”

Isn’t it just so precious when someone accuses someone of being selfish when they themselves are the ones being selfish?

Kudos to your fiance. He stood up for you and was the first to suggest leaving. Excellent plan. The minute someone starts insulting me or the people I come with, I’m out of there, too.

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Elizabeth December 17, 2013 at 11:23 am

You won the battle in 2011 but lookie what is happening this year! You’re only making this more difficult for all involved by letting them have their way this year. They’ve already demonstrated their ability to ignore your wishes and plans – why ever are you giving them an inch? This will only make things more painful later – rather like indulging a child’s tantrum, don’t you think?

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Daphne December 17, 2013 at 11:39 am

I think the absolute worst thing to do in situations like this is to split from each other in order to please everyone else. It may be difficult, but holidays are actually the perfect situation in which to establish yourselves as a couple that cannot be torn asunder by petty family squabbles. Not only is it the right thing to do for the relationship, it teaches rude family members that you demand to be treated with respect.

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Pen^2 December 17, 2013 at 11:52 am

What an awful family.

I agree with admin on this. It would perhaps work better to have the very next christmas as a married couple and the one after with each person’s respective families… just to see if they actually meant any of their apology. Because that is absolutely disgraceful and would take a great deal of effort to make up for. Honestly, blaming *you* for them not accepting the plans you graciously told them in advance? What a horrible thing to do to you and their own son.

Based on the submission date, though, you’ve already had that christmas at each family’s home. I sincerely hope this year goes well, then, because if not, you’ll have to dial the relationship waaaay back. When people refuse to be civil or treat you with an ounce of respect, the only thing to do is keep limiting how much time you spend with them until you get to a level where they’re no longer horrendously unpleasant. I hope it doesn’t come to this.

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MsDani313 December 17, 2013 at 11:56 am

@HollyAnn Part of growing up is creating traditions. Making my own traditions has nothing to do with proving a point but with creating my own traditions.

As a child I would spend Christmas Eve with my mom where we would open our gifts at midnight. Christmas day I would spend with my father usually at my paternal grandparents’ house. Last year, my boyfriend and I went to my mom’s as usual and opened gifts at midnight and then split Christmas day between my dad’s family and his dad’s family. (His mom lives 700 miles away) This year we are combining Christmas Eve dinner with my mom and paternal grandma because the rest of the family is doing their own thing. Christmas day will be spent with bf’s family. This way we do not feel rushed. After we have kids the tradition may be to spend Christmas Eve afternoon with my family and Christmas day with his or vice versa. The point is that we are free to choose where we go because we are adults. We are not “trying to show how grown up we are” but actually being grown ups and deciding how to spend our holiday. I refuse to play the holiday shuffle. And if a part of my family requests that I do they will be the first to go on the list of people I am not visiting during the holidays.

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Anonymous December 17, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Oh, right, of course. December 3rd of 2012, so I was right; the OP submitted this story in the run-up to last Christmas. So, yeah, what I said before–since “next year” is now “this year,” I’d love to see how the OP’s Christmas plays out. I mean, I hope she has a peaceful, inlaw-tantrum-free Christmas, but given the inlaws’ past behavi0ur, I really don’t think that’s going to happen.

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ketchup December 17, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Also, I’m so glad that we in the Netherlands have two Christmas Days. That way you can visit both families. All it takes is some early planning to ensure that the in-laws synchronise with us. We obviously don’t do Thanksgiving, but we do have Sinterklaas, which is a children’s holiday and is therefore mostly celebrated by families with (young) children and almost always at their home.

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Lacey December 17, 2013 at 1:31 pm

I completely agree with HollyAnn. Yes, his family was obviously rude and out of line; there’s no disputing that. But why is it so important for you to spend Christmas completely alone with your fiance? In our family, Christmas is really important and is definitely about spending time with family, so yeah, I’d be upset (though not to the point of acting the way his family did) if my brother’s girlfriend announced that the two of them had to spend both Christmas Eve and Christmas as just a couple and they only stayed for an hour on Christmas Day. It would be one thing for this couple to spend some Christmases with her family; that’s just normal compromise – or to host Christmas for both families at their place – but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of justification for isolating themselves. Sorry, OP, his family was out of line, but you come across as immature and selfish.

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Angel December 17, 2013 at 1:32 pm

From the way the story is written I do not think the inlaws necessarily won anything. The OP and her fiancé walked out. At least the first time. If they would have stayed after being berated, then I could see the admin’s point, but I don’t think spending Christmas the following year is necessarily caving in–perhaps they decided to compromise. Part of joining two families together is learning to compromise. Personally I couldn’t imagine not seeing my parents or my husband’s parents at least for a little while on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. But that is our choice.

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Stella December 17, 2013 at 1:56 pm

I definitely don’t agree with the admin. Since when has compromise been bad form? This kind of “year here, year there,” thing is common where I’m from, where couples either spend holidays together at one family one year and the other the next, or spend one year apart and together the next. The OP have made their tradition this way. Giving in would have been altering their plans that year.

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Amber December 17, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Nicely worded HollyAnn. Exactly my thoughts!

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Dee December 17, 2013 at 2:09 pm

The only problem I have with how the OP and fiancé handled things was in regard to the last minute change of plans to really shorten the time spent with fiancé’s family. I understand the need to keep bad weather in mind but I am confused as to why OP and fiancé do not have proper transportation. If their bikes prevent them from traveling during typical weather how do they to and from their jobs? It sounds to me that either OP and fiancé have not considered having proper transportation for their lives or they are using the bikes as an excuse to shorten a visit that was high on the in-laws priority list. And at the last minute, too. When the shortness of that visit was already in contention. I’m not really buying the argument about the bikes, actually. If it was really important to them they would have planned ahead to secure proper transportation. It is not surprising to me that this decision inflamed an already volatile situation with the in-laws. The in-laws were clearly out of line overall but if I was them I would have been quite insulted, too.

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June First December 17, 2013 at 2:22 pm

My siblings and I have worked jobs without the usual first shift workday and holiday schedule (retail, news, farming), so our family has been pretty flexible about which day Thanksgiving and Christmas are celebrated.
My MIL is excited that we’ll go to church and dinner with them on Christmas Eve this year (usually something we do with my side of the family) but she’s disappointed we’re not spending the night and staying for their meal Christmas Day. It will be a late night on Christmas Eve, but we’ll be able to relax and avoid traveling on Christmas Day. Next year will be the first we will have a child at Christmas, so we’re hoping to temper expectations. They are truly nice people, but we need to have our own family space.

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Green123 December 17, 2013 at 2:27 pm

“I am confused as to why OP and fiancé do not have proper transportation”

Perhaps they can’t afford a car, Dee… I’m assuming from the style and spelling that the OP is in the UK – lots of young people don’t have cars, and a motorcycle is certainly a ‘proper’ way to get around.

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Abby December 17, 2013 at 2:33 pm

I agree with Lacey. The family was clearly out of line, and of course as an adult OP and her fiance can decide what their plans are, but it does seem really odd to me to insist that you spend Christmas Day (all but one hour) alone. It would be one thing if in 2011 Fiance upset his family by deciding to spend it with OP’s family, or if OP and her fiance decided to go on vacation alone at that time and missed the family festivities, but to be at home, 30 min away from a large family gathering that was a tradition, and still insist on doing your own private day long celebration is weird to me. Most people associate Christmas with families.

Not saying this in any way justifies the family’s reaction, but I can understand the hurt feelings. Insisting, no, we want to be by ourselves! does kind of have an exclusive vibe to it. Also, it probably wasn’t a brilliant move on Fiance’s part to explain that OP had given up Christmas with her own family in order to have the private couple’s Christmas, as it did sound like OP was the one who had chosen the plan and Fiance was just going along with it.

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Kate December 17, 2013 at 2:47 pm

I had similar issues with my fiance’s family. We got engaged after a year together, and always intended it to be a long engagement – the reason we made that commitment when we did was because his family were always trying to exclude me and it was a signal to them this was a serious relationship and they had best get used to it.
The first Christmas, we had only been together a few months, and I was happy to spend it apart with our own families. The second, we were engaged and had been together over a year, but his mother still refused to have me come over until after 7pm, after the day was over, and would not allow him to leave either – which was tough because, working in retail management, I only had the one day. But we tried to be understand it was hard for her, he isn’t the eldest but his brother has never had a serious relationship, and this was new.
The third Christmas he argued with her, because he wanted to spend the day with me and do the morning with one family and the afternoon with the other, and his mother threw such a fit and dragged in his father and his brother until he gave up, at which point I threatened to throw a fit because I was sick of it – but once again we tried to be understanding and I didn’t visit till after 7pm. The fourth, I had a broken leg, and was unable to drive and was relying on lifts from my family so my fiance finally put his foot down and made it clear that either I was allowed to come and spend the entire day with them, or he would come and spend the whole day with my family, because it was impossible for me to come over for the evening and finally she let me come over.
The next Christmas we went ‘sod it’ and stayed home in our flat most of the day.
My Future M-I-L’s argument was ‘Christmas is a family day’ – which was what annoyed me the most actually. I was trying to be understanding that it was hard for her, with her son growing up, but I am going to be family. I was worried it would get to the point where, in the future when we’re married and have children, he and our kids would be required to be there all day as they are ‘family’ and yet I would still not be welcome.

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Shalamar December 17, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Gee said ” “Mom, I AM home for Christmas. My home is with my wife and children.””

Beautifully put. Some parents have a really tough time accepting that their children are grown up and married and have lives of their own – my MIL is one of them. It didn’t help matters that her younger daughter once had a tantrum at the thought of not sleeping over at her parents’ house on Christmas Eve, saying “It’s not Christmas morning unless we wake up at ‘home’!” I should add that this girl was in her 20′s at the time and her had her own apartment for several years.

I’m also reminded of when my sister-in-law invited my husband, children, and myself to her house for Father’s Day. SIL said “We’re going to have a barbeque for Dad, and we’re buying (blah) for Dad, and we’re doing (X,Y, and Z) for Dad.” My husband said “Thank you very much for the invitation, but I already have plans.” His sister was grossly insulted and said “What? How can you have plans for Father’s Day?” He said gently “(Shalamar) and the kids are taking me out for dinner.” There was a puzzled silence, followed by a grudging “Oh. I suppose YOU’RE a father too, now.” (Indeed. He had been for several years by that point, in fact.)

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Huh December 17, 2013 at 3:07 pm

@Gee – I’m slow clapping your BIL. Spot on.

Because yes, extended family IS important, but at what point does the family you make become YOUR family? When you get married? When you have kids? When do you stop being solely your parents’ child and become a full-fledged adult? Was OP’s MIL hauling herself, husband and sons over to her in-laws’ house and then her parents’ house every year on Christmas until they died? Or did she at some point start having her own traditions? That’s what I think she’s failing to accept – that son is grown and is starting his own family and his own life.

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