DEAR AMY: I can’t really complain — my new husband and I both have very loving families, whom we are both close with — emotionally and geographically. The problem is that now that we’re married, a competition for family events has erupted. The week before Christmas we had two evening holiday parties, a family brunch and then a merged family party after brunch at my parents’ house. This doesn’t even include Christmas; both families held separate celebrations. It’s totally out of control. How can we navigate the holidays better next year? I feel overwhelmed. — X-massed Out
DEAR X-MASSED: Your families may not be competing — it’s possible that both families are simply doing what they’ve always done, only now that you two are married, you have each gained an additional mandatory local family celebration.
This Christmas season has left you both feeling like a spent piece of wrapping paper, so you’ve already reached the first level of change: exhaustion. Hold on to this feeling — you’re going to need it next holiday season.
Options for you are dividing and conquering, alternating years or hosting your own merged events. To divide and conquer, you two split up to attend your family’s party (while the other spouse has a free evening to do some shopping or simply sit exhausted at home). You could also choose to alternate years where you attend one party together.
Carve out time for you two to create your own holiday tradition.
Most important is your willingness to let families know by Thanksgiving that you won’t be able to do everything. You should maintain a neutral and positive attitude about it, and assume that they will understand. Consider this important training for those years when you might have young children in the house.
DEAR AMY: I am in love with an amazing, compassionate and caring man. We have been dating for over a year and I couldn’t ask for a better companion. We are extremely serious and constantly talk about our future together. The problem is making room for his dead fiancee, who died fairly suddenly almost five years ago. I try to be as considerate and sympathetic toward his situation as possible, making sure not to be pushy about items he has kept that were hers and even meeting her parents, whom he is still very close to. I can’t imagine the pain they have all been through and try my best to be supportive and understanding. He asked me if I wanted to spend Christmas evening with her entire extended family. I was surprised that he would ask that. He seemed equally as surprised that I said no and seemed slightly offended that I didn’t feel comfortable. I can’t imagine having this conversation every holiday season. This makes me think that I will always need to make room for her and her family in our life and that he will never move on. How do I tell him that I worry about having to make room for his dead fiancee for the rest of our lives without being insensitive? — Running Out of Room
DEAR RUNNING: Maybe your boyfriend is moving on — and this is his way of doing it. He is attempting to fold you into this important friendship connection, including you in a holiday get-together that is part of his life. He may see his relationship with this family differently than you do. Is it possible for you to form an independent friendship with this other family, disregarding the awkwardness you perceive? Are they nice people?
This family seems very open to you, and perhaps you should respond in a spirit of openness toward them.
This is an important issue, and the best way to discuss it is to be honest about your reaction and your own vulnerabilities. Express this in the kindest way possible and pay close attention to his response. A counselor could help you both to move through this honestly and with compassion.
DEAR AMY: I am intrigued by the many letters you receive from people who never receive a thank you for a gift they’ve given. I’ve got one for you. The worst one I ever heard about was after a gift check was sent and not acknowledged: “But Grandma, I wrote ‘thanks’ on the back of the check when I endorsed it!” — Canadian Reader
DEAR READER: This begs the question: Is a bad thank you better than no thank you? I’ll let readers decide (and also send me more “bad thanks,” if you have them).