Sue had always loved the holiday season. Like so many people, she had warm memories of Christmas trees, cold weather, special foods, presents, Christmas movies, and all those things that go into making the month of December “the most wonderful time of the year.” But a monkey wrench got thrown into the works when she married Bill. Bill had been married once before and had grown children from the previous relationship. Now, making Christmas merry was more of a challenge. In addition to having a blended family, they had to figure out how to blend divergent holiday traditions. Sue had always opened presents on Christmas morning. Bill’s kids had always opened them on Christmas Eve. Sue’s tradition was a large Christmas day meal with turkey and dressing. Bill’s kids were used to steaks cooked outside on the grill. Sue savored settling into a chair to watch a certain set of Bing Crosby movies. What meant “Christmas” to Bill’s kids was watching football. It’s not that one thing was right and the other was wrong but that it was different. They had to figure out how to handle those differences.
It’d be wonderful if there was a “one-size-fits-all” solution to this dilemma but there isn’t. While there may not be universally agreed upon solutions, there are healthy ways to address these differences and unhealthy ways. The first year they were married, Sue and Bill found themselves engaged in the unhealthy methods. There was no mutual agreement forged out ahead of time so Christmas that year was characterized by hurt feelings and unspoken tensions. It was miserable. But they used that misery as an impetus to not let that happen again. Long before Christmas arrived, they sat down and made a plan so that everyone was on the same page with respect to their expectations. That helped. It wasn’t perfect but it also wasn’t miserable.