Carolyn Hax: Holiday problem is hers, not his

  • Article by: CAROLYN HAX
  • Updated: November 25, 2011 - 10:51 AM

She must pick her battles.

Dear Carolyn: My boyfriend and I have been dating for 10 years. We started dating in high school and have always had a wonderful, drama-free relationship. We grew up, went to different colleges, graduated, and a year ago I relocated to another state to be near him.

The problem we are having is how to be taken more seriously as an adult couple. We get along great with each other's families, yet holidays have always been a source of contention. My family believes "the more the merrier" and has always invited my boyfriend over for family gatherings. They have also taken a flexible approach to scheduling so we can easily attend both families' gatherings.

My boyfriend's family only invites me to join them long after all their family events are over. Last year they even changed their long-standing tradition of opening gifts on Christmas Eve because I was coming over and my boyfriend's mom felt bad that she didn't have as many gifts for me.

I have explained to my boyfriend that I would like for us to be together during the holidays, and that not being included makes me feel left out. It seems silly to me that we have made significant strides to be with each other daily, but when the holidays come we are separated.

He believes it is unintentional. I have asked him to speak to his mom, but he doesn't like confrontations and I don't think he will do this. Any suggestions on what we can do to avoid another "Blue Christmas"?

Carolyn says: First, you can mind your I's and we's. The problem "we" are having is actually an "I": Your boyfriend accepts the holiday status quo, so, the problem is yours alone. And, "we" didn't make "significant strides to be with each other daily." That, too, is an "I," because you're the one who schlepped to be with him.

Since I'm rolling, let's also look at the "we" in your drama-free relationship. Granted, the survey sample is too small, but with the information given I can theorize an "I" at the heart of that situation, too: Where you and he differ, he stays put and you close the gap. Look, Ma, no drama.

But if the only way to avoid drama is for you to absorb all areas of disagreement, then pretty soon there won't be any you left, either.

The way to avoid that fate -- the only way -- is to figure out which battles matter to you, and to fight those battles.

People who "like" confrontations are outliers; the rest of us simply put up with them when the alternative is to tiptoe through life, never articulating where you stand or what you need, and accruing the dissatisfaction of never setting the terms. A suspicion of drama can be healthy, but the moment something needs to be avoided at all costs, then healthy no longer applies.

If your boyfriend chooses not to talk to his mom, then your boyfriend will have told you in all but these explicit words that he'd rather disappoint you than upset his mom or inconvenience himself. That makes you an adult couple in chronology only -- and challenging that strikes me as a battle worth fighting, no matter where you open your gifts.

E-mail Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com, or chat with her at 11 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

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