Murphy’s Love: Advice on Intimacy and Relationships
My family needs some help navigating the holidays. We are a newly blended family. I have two kids from a previous marriage, and my new husband has two kids from his. All the kids are teenagers and we both have full custody. We are making plans for our holiday gatherings this year, and I am frustrated with my husband’s complete unwillingness to shift his “traditions” and create a new plan at our home with his new family. They always travel with extended family on Christmas, but I thought that with a new family come new plans – at least plans as a “family.” Am I wrong? Whenever I bring this up, I get the speech about accommodating the kids’ wishes and being patient until they are out of the house. I think they all should want to spend time with the rest of us – we should be creating new traditions, together.
-All I Want for Christmas is My Family
Dear All I Want,
You have left out a few key details. For instance, how long, and to what extent, have your families blended prior to your marriage? More importantly, why you aren’t planning to travel with him and his kids? As such, I can’t be sure if you are meeting his “complete unwillingness” with some stubbornness of your own, but let’s break this down.
Right now, you are combining households and assuming a completely new set of traditions will follow. This might have been possible if you were the parents of four kids under age 5, but you are the parents of four teenagers. Four teens with their own experiences and individual senses of displacement due to the new formation of your family. While all the storybooks would suggest that with just enough baking, decorating and general Christmas spirit, you might achieve the perfect holiday, the truth is that your goal should simply be enjoyable connection (at best) and overall survival (at worst).
This is not the time to assert yourself as the new matriarch. This is the time to be thoughtful with Husband, New Kids and with yourself. As long as you are communicating your feelings before/during/after, rest assured that this year’s schedule is not going to be the standard by which all future holidays are planned. Your attitude about being flexible, however, will be something they will remember. See how this goes and then have a gentle debriefing in January.
Stacy Notaras Murphy is a licensed professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship therapist practicing in Georgetown. Her website is www.stacymurphyLPC.com and you can follow her on twitter @StacyMurphyLPC. This column is meant for entertainment only, and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Send your confidential question to firstname.lastname@example.org.