Holiday-Hopping Hot Buttons

By Melodie Tucker

giftsWho’s going where and doing what for which holiday when?

Whose turn is it to spend time with whom?

As a Mars Venus relationship coach, these are questions I often hear around this time of year. With the holiday season upon us, the challenge for couples is to determine how to divide their time between family and friends and choose activities that will please as many as possible.

The scheduling issues are only compounded within blended families that must take even more people and households into consideration. No matter what choices you make, there’s no way everyone will end up happy all of the time and, without a doubt, someone somewhere will be disappointed.

So how can you minimize the emotional stress and maximize the holiday fun for all?

This year you can create a plan!It begins with you and your mate recognizing and acknowledging that each member of the family has differing yet valid opinions (based on past holiday traditions and experiences) of what constitutes ‘fun’.

A good exercise is to start with a family meeting. Give everyone in your household (if in a blended family, you may want to include those members, too) a notebook and ask them to prioritize the upcoming holidays in the order of most importance to them (ex: Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Yule, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, etc).

Then ask each person to write down where they want to spend each holiday and 3 activities that they would like to do to celebrate each one. Some examples might be:

  • Watch sports
  • Open presents
  • Cook or Eat (turkey, ham, steak, lasagna, tamales, seafood, etc)
  • Go to church
  • Party with friends
  • Sleep
  • Visit mom, dad, or grandparents
  • Go skiing in the mountains or snorkeling in the tropics

Next you’ll want to organize all this information on a spreadsheet–either on a giant-sized piece of paper or with Excel if you’re computer savvy. You may happily discover that each family member has a different favorite holiday or similar expectations.

If not, then it’s time for negotiation. Instead of arguing when family members’ conflict on how/where to spend holidays, you can choose to vote, come to a consensus, or assign a leader to make the final decision (you can even assign different leaders for different holidays).

Agree before you begin, that if the discussions start to get heated, you will take a ‘time out’ before the shouting starts and reconvene later after you’ve both had a chance to calm down. The most important lesson here is that expectations are set in advance and results are fair.Once your immediate family has finalized their decisions, now is the time to notify extended family of your choices.

Whenever difficult communications is required, remember it always works best when ‘blood speaks to blood’. In other words, if the joint decision is that you’re going skiing for Thanksgiving instead of to his parent’s house for dinner, then it is best if he tells his folks.

If you’re staying home to open presents with the kids on Christmas Day instead of traveling to her parents, then she’ll want to break the news. If you anticipate disappointment, be prepared and be firm. Perhaps you may consider inviting them to join you instead or offer to spend an alternative holiday together. Sometimes you may be pleasantly surprised, because they may have felt stuck in a holiday tradition and will welcome a change, too!

If you’d like to learn more about how to use Mars Venus skills to negotiate instead of argue when you don’t agree with your partner, just send me a question at [email protected] I’m grateful for the opportunity to help and wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving.



Melodie Tucker

Melodie Tucker is a Mars Venus Success Coach and Seminar Leader, trained by Dr. John Gray, author of the world famous "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus" series.She has helped men and women all over the world create great relationships that last.

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