New home, new rules for the holidays?



Dear Carolyn:

We are in our 30s, financially independent with young children, in our own home. When we go to my in-laws’ house for holidays, we always abide by their rules, as in, no football-watching because the TV can’t be on during family time, games must be played after dinner, etc. They’re annoying and my husband would make comments about missing whatever game, but we went along with it.

Now my in-laws are coming for the holiday, as it’s much harder for us to travel with the kids. The in-laws have strongly hinted they want their traditions and rules, but in our house.

I think because it’s our home, we should be able to add my traditions and do things that make husband happy — like watch football while we make dinner. Husband agrees but is not thrilled about an argument. Thoughts?

— My House, My Rules?

Your becoming our-house-our-rules-type hosts would indeed be a replica of your in-laws’ holiday tradition, so, yes, please do something different.

A good place to start would be to approach good hosting as the overlap between self-expression and an effort to make your guests feel comfortable and welcome.

Singing “Ding-dong, your rules are dead!” over the blare of multiple screens, even just figuratively, does not fit that description.

Nor would it be in the holiday spirit to do things you know will irritate them just (or mostly) because you can.

But having a game on, one you actually care about and not just for the sake of a game on, and only during meal-prep or hangout time and not when you’re gathered for the actual feast, and only in one common space versus all of them? Sure. That’s fair.

So is incorporating your family’s traditions.

Where reasonable, adapt things to their sensitivities. And make flexibility the biggest new idea you’ve got. This is a big change for everyone, so be thoughtful, patient and slow.

If your in-laws challenge even a mindful, limited deviation from their norms, then they’re being rude. They can ask for lowered TV volumes, but they can’t ask for their recipes over yours. Not politely.

That’s actually both grounds for not arguing, and a template: “Our hosting is a big change for all of us. We’re glad you’re here, and hope you’ll give it time.” Go, Team Progress, go.

 

Hey Carolyn:

My boyfriend and I are committed to each other, but he’s terrible at being reassuring. When we talked last week about moving in together, he said, “Well, we spend most nights together anyway,” whereas I would like some reassurance that it’s a step toward marriage. He’s open to it, but seemingly incapable of verbalizing it the way I need to hear. Is this a deal-breaker? I want to accept him for who he is, but after years of breakups and near-misses, I guess I need a bit of reassurance.

— Go With the Flow?

Reassurance, even if you got it, would just be words.

The “breakups and near-misses” and “we spend most nights together anyway” and your daily lives together are your reality. Stop listening for the words, and hear what reality says.

Is it a reality you’d marry as-is? If no, then break up with it, because it’s not changing; if yes, then propose to it yourself.

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Carolyn Hax

Carolyn Hax

Syndicated Advice Columnist
Advice Columnist Carolyn Hax takes your questions and tackles your problems.