The Christmas Test: His Family or Hers?

Dear Anthony,

I’m getting married in June to the most wonderful man in the world! But we are having a disagreement about how to handle our last Christmas as a non-married couple. We can’t make it to both our families, but we cannot agree on whose family we should be with. I assumed he would want me to be with my family, but I was wrong. I feel guilty about considering going to my parents’ without him. What should I do?

Every year around Christmastime, I get asked by couples how they should handle Christmas. Some are not sure if they should introduce the person they are dating to their family at the Christmas Eve gathering. Some are concerned whose family they should travel to visit. Some are just nervous about how their family will treat the person they are dating, or what the person they are dating will think of their family members

Isn’t it amazing how at the time of year when we celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace we can have so much anxiety?

On the surface, your problem seems to be deciding whose family you both should visit for the last Christmas before you are a married couple. But the underlying problem is more likely your decision to visit your family without him and what will be the fallout of this decision.

First, it is important for you to accept that your desire to see your family for Christmas with or without your fiance is a natural one, and you should not feel guilty about that. Christmas is a very powerful time of year, and we are all strongly compelled to want to experience Christmas the way we are used to experiencing it. The thought of Christmas without visiting the family you have seen every year of your life seems an impossible thing to accept.

It is a very selfish thing to want to be home for the holidays, in the best sense of the word “selfish.” However, being selfish is not a very charitable thing to be, and Christmas should prompt us all to be the most charitable we have ever been. So perhaps there is a quiet guilt in both of you for feeling so selfish about your desires for Christmas.

It’s possible that either or both of you are secretly considering this some kind of a test to see if the other really loves you. I am smiling as I write that last line because it is funny how true it is that we all try to put someone we love to the test. In this case, you expect your fiance to concede to visiting your family.

That’s very romantic and chivalrous. But it is still an expectation, and when we expect something of someone, we set ourselves up for disappointment if they don’t come through. The fact is, he probably expects you to drop your notion of seeing your family and express how happy you are for you both to visit his family, and pass his test.

I think you should both share these hidden concerns and have a good laugh about them. One, it will put the truth on the table, which is always important if you are going to grow as a couple, and two, it shows you both just how human you are, and being human is always funny.

From there, you can approach the problem head on because you don’t have to keep so much bottled up and assume things of the other. It’s important that you both share how much you want to go to your own family’s house for Christmas. Show each other that there is nothing wrong with feeling this way. It has nothing to do with not loving the other, but everything to do with loving your families. And what is wrong with that? Nothing!

Talk about the traditions you love from each other’s past Christmases. Share what it means to each of you to be with your family.

Talk about how you can see yourselves handing the future Christmases as you become your own family and have your own children and your own traditions. Talk about how you will deal with visiting your families, and how you might not be able to do that for too long as your family grows.

This is an opportunity to grow together as you discuss what Christmas really means to each of you. No matter whose family you end up visiting, you will have done something so valuable for you as a couple that will prepare you better for marriage.

It’s also an opportunity to focus on the heart of Christmas, which is celebrated no matter where you are or whom you are with. It is imperative that you both see Christmas first and foremost as the coming of Christ in history but also in your own hearts and lives. Couples who fight and even break up over Christmastime are likely not living the spirit of Christmas in their own lives.

As a final thought, I would suggest you both consider agreeing to visit your own families separately. This is your last Christmas as single people. And there is something to the concept of spending it one last time as you have always known it, because Christmas will never be the same again. You will soon be bonded as a family who can never be separated. It is something to think about.

Some couples will decide that they cannot spend Christmas without the other even at this stage, and that is completely understandable. But no couple should feel guilty about spending their last Christmas before marriage with their own families—unless it is done in disharmony. It has to be mutually agreed to, and you both have peace about it. Otherwise it is wrong for one of you to impose it.

I hope your Christmas is filled with every blessing in Christ, Who came to bring peace to those of good will who seek and desire peace. No matter what you decide, both of you should pledge as a gift to each other, as well as a gift to the Christ child, that you will always be a source of peace to each other, and renew that pledge every Christmas for the rest of your lives.

God bless you and Merry Christmas!

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  • krby34

    I might also suggest if it is not financially restrictive that you consider spending Christmas with both families. The sacrifice comes in deciding what days of Christmas to spend where.

    Remember that the world presses us to push all of “Christmas” into a single day. The Church celebrates the Christmas Season, a period of 12 days up to the 6th of January, Epiphany. The twelve days of Christmas is not a countdown to the 25th but rather the season for us to celebrate. How could be contain all that we should be celebrating about Jesus humbling Himself to become man for us? I know our family cannot!!

    Note: Epiphany is celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church on the Sunday between the 2nd and 8th of January, this liturgical year if falls on the 8th of January 2012.

    I agree especially with the comment that one last Christmas as “individuals” should be considered. It also gives the opportunity for you to share/remind your families that things next year will be different and they to can be prepared to accept this change as well.

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