Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Weekend Open Thread: Holiday Bickering

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For the last year and a half, Drew and I have been collecting our change in a couple of different piggy banks we keep in our bedroom. It wasn’t a conscious effort to save our change for so long — we’ve just been too lazy to turn it in for cash. But this week, Drew finally hauled two bags of change to the bank and was handed over $200 in cold hard cash. We decided to spend the money on a Christmas tree, brisket for a Hanukkah dinner (we celebrate both occasions in our family) and Chinese food on Christmas, and thus, a new tradition was born. Every year, we’re going to save our change until December and then put it toward various holiday-related treats.

This weekend, we’re going to buy said tree and decorate it. We’re also going to write and address our holiday cards — another first for us. Once you have a baby, it’s the law that you send out those photo holiday cards featuring the whole family, you see. Luckily, there isn’t much disagreement in our relationship when it comes to this kind of stuff. The biggest holiday “argument” we’ve had this year is whether to buy Jackson gifts. I say “no” (especially since my parents will already be getting him so much; they’ll be meeting him for the first time in just a few days!), but Drew thinks we should. Other than that, it’s pretty smooth sailing around here.

But a clip on the “Today Show” the other morning suggested that the holidays make couples bicker nonstop, from arguments over which family members to spend time with, to disappointments over the gifts they’re given. Add some strong egg nog into the mix and you’ve suddenly got a potential catastrophe on your hands. So, I’m wondering: if you’re in a relationship, what holiday-related issues are you having? Do you have recurring arguments you deal with year after year? And besides egg nog, what helps you survive holiday bickering?

93 comments… add one
  • Imsostartled

    Imsostartled December 9, 2011, 5:26 pm

    Hi, First time commenter here, but I’ve followed Wendy since “The Frisky”!

    This year it seems the thing I bicker about the most with my live-in boyfriend is presents. The who needs a present, how much should we spend, do we have enough type of thing. My family has been expanding (it seems like exponentially lately) and he has a large Italian family to begin with. We’re a bit financially strapped this Christmas, so I really wish we could just draw names and just get a few people presents, but that’s a big no-no in his family where everyone gives and gets presents. I know they do it out of kindness but it’s stressful.

    The way we’ve solved our bickering (and money!)problem is by making some of the presents ourselves. This year we’re infusing vodka with different things (ie. pineapple, coffee, berries etc.) for those who drink, and infusing olive oil with herbs for those who don’t. It’s been a really fun process and since it’s helped us on the money front, we’ve been able to stop stressing so much and enjoy our time together during the holidays.

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      cookiesandcream December 9, 2011, 6:43 pm

      I like your solution! I hate getting presents for people because I never know what to get, so I think I might have to try out your olive oil infusion!

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      amber December 9, 2011, 7:37 pm

      i think i need some pineapple vodka for myself!

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      kali December 10, 2011, 12:48 pm

      You can infuse vinegars too – flavored vinegars or oils make terrific salad dressings or marinades. We make a lot of our Christmas gifts too. All the dogs get homemade doggie cookies (paw print and bone-shaped) too!

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        Lindsey December 11, 2011, 5:20 pm

        Yes, making presents is so much fun! This year I’m a bit poor so everyone is getting a scarf!

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      Splash December 12, 2011, 8:25 am

      I LOVE this idea! Especially if you were to decorate the bottles

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    AKchic December 9, 2011, 5:49 pm

    HA! This comes at a great time. Right now, I’ve put my foot down and refuse to separate my kids (older three from the youngest) for the holidays, so my SO’s mother is having to suck it up and come to my house this X-mas, and my family is doing the same. Unfortunately, my mother bought my sister a plane ticket to come “home” for X-mas, and now I have to re-evaluate the whole SO side meeting my side because, frankly, my youngest sister is an embarassment beyond all belief, and I unequivically do not want her in my house pulling her usual antics. Especially since I have a few other people attending that AREN’T family, one of which is in transition and is also in recovery and so we are having a SOBER holiday. One must be inebriated to tolerate my sister for any length of time.

    *sigh* And our STD rates were starting to drop too… why did she have to come back?

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      Painted_lady December 9, 2011, 9:09 pm

      God, I so feel you on the embarrassing sibling resentment. My younger brother is so difficult to enjoy anything around. He always has some massive drama going on, but it’s worst at Christmas, and of course it’s never his fault, poor baby.

      Although at least everyone’s agreed to a sober Christmas in your family. My uncle the alcoholic gets shitfaced on the alcohol the rest of the family insists on bringing (“I can have a glass of wine with dinner if I want to, dammit! I’m an Amurrican!”) and then my mom and I, usually the proponents of sober holidays, end up having to carry him upstairs to sleep it off.

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        AKchic December 12, 2011, 12:42 pm

        My SO and I are the main drinkers in the family (we even home brew). My sister isn’t supposed to drink, even though she does (uncontrolled diabetes). One of my guests is “on the wagon” for a variety of things, so I am making my home sober this year. All alcoholic drinks (home brewed or not) will be moved to the basement until everyone is gone. Even our home brewing supplies will be moved out to the shed or basement, to ensure that it’s “out of sight, out of mind”.
        My mom drinks wine on occasion, and I brewed a chocolate wine (first attempt) that I hope turned out well. I have to sample it in a few days to see if it turned out well. If it did, she’s getting it for Christmas. I’ll give it to her Christmas Eve so there’s no alcohol in my house Christmas Day.

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    kare December 9, 2011, 6:26 pm

    Wendy, get Jackson a 1st Christmas ornament with the year on it. He won’t notice whether he has toys or not at this age but it will make a nice keepsake. Or a stuffed animal with the year.

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      amber December 9, 2011, 7:39 pm

      this is what a lot of my friends are doing and i love the idea. i have an entire collection my mom started when we were growing up.

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        cdubs December 10, 2011, 2:50 pm

        Me too!

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      Splash December 12, 2011, 8:27 am

      Love this also! My parents also did this for me and my brother. The back of the ornaments have my name engraved.

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      Riefer December 13, 2011, 3:40 pm

      He’s too young for this yet, but when I was growing up, we had two Christmas trees – one in the living room, and one in the “playroom”, which was where all our toys were. We got to decorate the playroom tree ourselves, and it was all with kid-safe toys – plastic and wooden and knitted and felt ornaments, some of which we made ourselves. It was so fun, and no worry about breaking anything. And we got to put as much tinsel on as we wanted! I’m sure the end result was hideous, but we loved it so much. 🙂

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  • GertietheDino

    GertietheDino December 9, 2011, 6:59 pm

    My biggest holiday fight (every year!) is with my mother in regards to the holiday card/newsletter. I am 30 and really don’t think people care what I am doing or how I look – they want to see and hear about the baby (my nephew). I wore her down this year and they are going with family reunion/wedding pictures this year. Ha ha. Victory is mine!

    PS – I was gifted with my “Baby’s First Christmas” ornaments when I moved into my first place after college – They are 2 of my most treasured possessions and have a place of honor on my tree.

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    cookiesandcream December 9, 2011, 6:59 pm

    I don’t really have any holiday bickering because it’s always been just me, my brother, and my parents for the holidays. I think that combined with the fact that we don’t really exchange presents is why we don’t have any holiday drama.

    I have an off-topic question, and I’ll post it here since this is an open thread. Several years ago I saw this documentary about this camp/workshop type thing where teenage girls confront teenage boys who mistreat and don’t respect women. The girls talked about how they’ve been mistreated/abused by boys and what they’ve been through. I remember one scene where the teenage boys were sitting in a row while the girls circled around them hissing names that they’ve been called by boys so that the boys would know what it would feel like to be called names. Another scene is where the boys were crying and saying how they didn’t realize the impact their actions had. Does anyone know what I’m talking about? I’ve tried Google for the name of what I saw, but I haven’t had any luck. I figured I’d try here to see if anyone out there knew about this!

    Thanks so much!

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      Painted_lady December 9, 2011, 8:54 pm

      Oh my god. I’ve never heard of it, but you MUST post it if/when you find it. Sounds wonderful!

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        lumpie December 10, 2011, 3:27 am

        It was on the Oprah Winfrey show. I remember it well because it had such an impact on my teenage self at the time.

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      Splash December 12, 2011, 8:29 am

      I see what they’re trying to do with that workshop thing but it kind of gives me the creepies! I think I would feel very uncomfortable watching that.

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  • fast eddie

    fast eddie December 9, 2011, 7:03 pm

    I’m out of place here, we haven’t got anything to bicker about.

    Re: Gifts for Jackson. What color Harley Davidson motorcycle would go with his eyes? The deposit’s paid but the dealer needs to know details. 😉

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      AKchic December 9, 2011, 7:41 pm

      A Harley is ALWAYS awesome.

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      • fast eddie

        fast eddie December 9, 2011, 8:07 pm

        Unless Wendy and Drew feel otherwise, I’ll go with Baby Blue and Bad Ass Black trim.

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    LennyBee December 9, 2011, 7:14 pm

    We’re lucky to be able to avoid most of the common bickering topics from the video. My boyfriend’s parents and my parents live in different countries, so we alternate years. And since we’re unmarried and childless, we never host (it just wouldn’t make sense). So we can avoid fights over who to spend time with. If we’re at my family’s, I make the plans, if we’re at his, he does. And instead of gifts to each other, we usually plan an outing together. I enjoy the holidays, but I can certainly see how they would add a lot of stress if you had families nearby to juggle, kids to organize, and a ton of people at your house. When you’re always the visitor, it’s a lot less work and stress.

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    lemongrass December 9, 2011, 7:37 pm

    I’m kinda lucky on the no-bickering part with my husband about the holidays. We live at the bottom of an island, my parents in the middle and his at the top. My family does xmas dinner on Christmas eve, his on Christmas day. So on the eve we drive to my parents (3hrs away) and do dinner and xmas morning there, then we drive another 3 hours to his parents and do xmas dinner there. 2 dinners and no cooking! However once we have kids (maybe even next xmas) we plan to stay home every year. Christmas morning is just better at your own house. We figure if they want to come over, wonderful! If not, that’s okay too.

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    silver_dragon_girl December 9, 2011, 7:40 pm

    No real bickering (yet- *knock on wood*) between my bf and me this year. Of course, we’re long-distance and have only known each other for three months. We’ve had some playful discussions about Christmas gifts for each other, but nothing that verges into argument territory. The only issue has been when we will see each other. I will be home from Dec. 24 through Jan. 2. I’m spending Christmas Eve and Christmas with my parents, but after that I’m not sure what to do. Do I head for the bf’s on the 26th, to spend as much time with him as possible? Or do I stick around my parents, who are more centrally located, and visit my sister and another friend first? What if they’re not available the 26th-28th or so? Also, my more distant relatives won’t be around until the 30th-31st, and I want to spend NYE/NYD with my bf.

    So really, I’m bickering with myself over this 😛 My family is laid-back, and won’t put pressure on me to do one thing or another, but I’ll feel guilty if I just run off to see my bf as soon humanly possible. Of course that’s what I want to do. I can always drive back and forth a few times, but I’m on a budget and that is quite a bit of gas money.

    Decisions, decisions. Also: #firstworldproblems, I know. Wait, is that still a “thing?”

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    amber December 9, 2011, 7:43 pm

    my husband and i aren’t really bickering but we are trying to figure out when to go where. his family hasn’t planned their christmas yet so that makes things hard. before this year we’ve always lived by family so we’ve never had to really deal with this. i’m also not super excited to spend the night with his family, hopefully it’s not as bad as i’ve imagined it in my head.

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      AKchic December 9, 2011, 8:07 pm

      You can come provide “immoral support” at my house 😀 Almost always guaranteed to be moose in the yard. Last year’s little guy has a big rack this year. I need to get pictures.

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        Bethany December 9, 2011, 9:27 pm

        You need to start a blog or something! I would love to know what a typical Christmas Day in Alaska is like!

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        AKchic December 12, 2011, 6:54 pm

        I have one, but it’s set to “friends only” on livejournal. I’ve thought about starting another one, but the idea kind of scares me when it comes to my 1st husband. You spend years hiding from a person, it tends to become ingrained.

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      Ally December 10, 2011, 7:29 am

      I feel your pain, my own parents are just not planners! Where as having dealt with that, I much prefer to have things settled in advance. Very frustrating. Last year my boyfriend and I ran about trying to see everyone and it was awful, so this year with a better plan hopefully it will go well. Really hope you get it all settled and manage to enjoy yourself! Trying to please everyone isn’t much fun.

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    Bethany December 9, 2011, 9:26 pm

    My husband and I haven’t had any holiday bickering yet… Fingers crossed! Last year we did 3 Christmases in 1 day (in 2 different states). It was a little much. I think he knew how much all of that disappointed me, because Christmas is my favorite holiday, and it didn’t really turn out how I had hoped. This year we’re spending Christmas Eve and Day with my family, and the day after with his. It was his suggestion and it made me very happy 🙂

    Ooh- I totally realized I just lied!! We are having an issue!! It’s about whether or not to get a tree. 2 years ago we had “The Great Bug incident of 2009”, where about a million teeny black bugs hatched out of the tree. Since then I have been anti-real-tree and wanted to get a fake one with no bugs. Last year he went out and bought a live tree anyway. So far this year we’re still tree-less. We’ll see what happens with that one 🙂

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    • MELH

      MELH December 9, 2011, 11:08 pm

      The same thing happened my husband and I last year! The tree made it until the day after Christmas, then I started seeing all these black bugs. And after some searching, I looked at the tree and it was swarming! We pulled all the ornaments off and tossed it over our balcony!

      We have a real tree this year…..fingers crossed we stay bug free!

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    • katie

      katie December 9, 2011, 11:26 pm

      ok i didnt know that this happened and now i will forever be paraniod…. thanks lol

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        Bethany December 10, 2011, 9:09 am

        Apparently it’s not typically a problem, but we had out tree inside for about a month (I like to drag it out, cause it’s so pretty!) and it was right by the heater. My husband said the prolonged exposure to the heat caused all the eggs to hatch way before springtime. I made him take the tree, fully decorated, out onto the deck, where it sat for like 3 days until I was convinced all the bugs had frozen to death. I also vacuumed the area where they were about 47 times. It was gross!

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      • MELH

        MELH December 12, 2011, 9:18 am

        My parents have had real trees for the past 30 years, never a bug. I get one the first year I live alone, bugs. I’m not sure what caused ours, I guess our condo was just warm enough, though we keep it cooler than my parent’s house. so far, so good on the bigs this year, but last year they didn’t appear until after Christmas.

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      Lydia December 10, 2011, 2:01 pm

      Right now I am SO glad I grew up with fake trees and thus have never ever felt the need to get a live one – I spent fifty euros on a fake tree and will be good to go for the next couple of years, no bugs and no excessive vacuuming required.

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        cdubs December 10, 2011, 2:54 pm

        I would much rather get a fake tree (I grew up on them also), but I have no place to keep it in the off-season in my apartment. So I’m try to decide if we should get a real tree (now I”m paranoid about bugs too!!) or just skip it. We aren’t even going to be home ON Christmas, but it would still be nice to have a tree up before-hand 🙁 I’ve never gotten to hang all the ornaments my mom has given me over the years!

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        Riefer December 13, 2011, 3:51 pm

        Fake tree all the way! No muss, no fuss, no dead tree. It makes me so sad to see people taking their trees home this time of year, knowing that in about a month they’ll all be dead and sitting out on the curb. What a waste. And haven’t you all read the story “The Fir Tree” by Hans Christian Andersen? I don’t think I could ever have a real tree after reading that.

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  • katie

    katie December 9, 2011, 10:00 pm

    the only thing i have fought about so far is how much our christmas tree cost…. 75 for a freaking tree??? are you serious! i wanted to leave and go find another place that wouldnt be so expensive but he found one he liked…. stupid boys. lol

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    callmehobo December 9, 2011, 10:53 pm

    Me and My bf both have birthdays close to the holidays (his at the end of November, and mine is in a few days), so instead of stressing the double gift thing this year, we decided to not buy each other gifts for our birthdays- opting to have a nice dinner with the respective families.

    It’s a weight off of both of our shoulders, which means less bickering! (AND more time to find a good gift)

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  • CatsMeow

    CatsMeow December 9, 2011, 11:01 pm

    RELIGION comes up as an issue with my family when it comes to holidays. My grandma is a strict (rigid) Catholic and lately can’t seem to accept that anyone else in the family might feel otherwise. She’ll always confront us about going to church and having the Lord in our hearts, which we’re used to, but…. now my boyfriend’s in the mix and I know he’d be uncomfortable if she cornered him and badgered him about his religious beliefs (or lack thereof). Also, she’s had some strokes which have left her a little kooky so it’s hard to just tell her when she’s acting inappropriately; she really has no self-awareness whatsoever.

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    • CatsMeow

      CatsMeow December 9, 2011, 11:03 pm

      AND I have no idea what to get my boyfriend!! He says he thought of something that he KNOWS I want and will like… and also hinted that it’s expensive. I feel awful because I don’t really have a lot of money to spend on him. Not only that, but when I ask him for ideas, all he can think of is socks and underwear. And maybe a plant. Uhhhhh…

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      • FireStar

        FireStar December 10, 2011, 12:44 am

        I sympathize. My husband is murder to buy for too. Wants nothing. Needs nothing. Would be totally fine if I didn’t buy him anything. Though I actually found sonething good for him this year – I bought him motorcycle gear and armor since he shipped his bike up. I’ve been living in fear he would have bought some of that stuff for himself so I recruited his brother to dissuade him if he started talking about it. It’s the one gift I know he will like so now I don’t want him ruining it!
        Is there an ‘experience’ you can get him if not a physical thing? Tickets to something? A pass for something different and fun? My husband took me zip lining last winter and it was crazy fun!

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        Marcie December 12, 2011, 10:16 am

        I’ve been with my husband for 8 years, and he’s so hard to buy for too. We usually don’t give each other gifts for Christmas anymore. We set a budget, and pick out what we both want within that price range. It works out really nicely. We both get what we really want, and don’t have to worry about the pressure of us liking or not liking what we’ve picked out for each other.

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        DebMoore December 12, 2011, 5:05 pm

        Thats what my husband and I do as well. We set a budget and make a list. While it might not be exciting (as I usually know what he is giving me) we always get what we wanted and nobody outshine the other. Our budget changes every year depending how we are doing.

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        Me December 10, 2011, 7:36 pm

        I’ve been with my fiance for 8 years, and i’m out of present ideas. Out. You name it, i’ve bought it. he isn’t acquisitive, and he doesn’t need anything. so, as cheesy as it sounds, i’m filling his stocking with coupons for his favorite dinner that is super time consuming and difficult to make, doing the laundry for a week (which i HATE doing), etc. That, and gift cards to starbucks, subway, au bon pain, etc.

        another idea for the person who doesn’t want/need anything: lessons! like, if your SO wants to learn how to play the guitar, travel to spain, etc etc.

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        honeybeenicki December 10, 2011, 8:40 pm

        My husband is hard to buy for because he’ll show me all the stuff he likes/wants in the months leading up to Christmas, but always buys them himself right before Christmas. My MIL and I don’t agree on much, but we definitely agree that he is a pain to buy for because of this.

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      • katie

        Katie December 10, 2011, 9:38 pm

        i dont know if this gift would work for a guy, but i just made a “why I love you” for my mom for her birthday… she cried when she opened her card! its just a little paper pouch and i decorated it to say why i love you, and then i cut little slips of paper and i passed them around to everyone i could think of to write something that they loved about my mom….

        maybe too sentimental for a guy?

        but you could put a funny spin on it and do something like why I put up with you or something more funny….

        just a thought!!

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        Painted_lady December 11, 2011, 3:12 am

        Love. This. Totally stealing it.

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        Splash December 12, 2011, 8:32 am

        My b/f is much more well off financially than I am. I know I have spent less on him than he has on me, but it isn’t a big deal…I try to find things I know he would like rather than worry about a difference in present price.

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        Sara December 12, 2011, 2:13 pm

        Same! It can make holidays a bit more awkward, especially when I put a cap on a budget which I follow and he multiplies by 3. Heh.

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    Addie Pray December 10, 2011, 4:07 am

    No bickering this Christmas. Why you ask? Oh thank you for asking, I’ll tell you. Well, I’ve been in trial all week, and, after 5 hours of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict in favor of my client on her gender discrimination and retaliation claims to the tunes of $1.5 million!!!!! It was a stressful 5 hours while the jury deliberated, but we felt optimistic when the jury asked if they could borrow a calculator. I would have updated the DW community earlier, but I had a lot of champagne to drink. $1.5 million. Did you hear that? I’d like to thank my family and friends, my colleagues without whom I could never have third chaired that trial, the client of course for fighting the fight, … This is embarassing, I have no speech prepared and know I am leaving someone out. …. Tra la la la laaaaaa. Oh my god I’m so drunk.

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      Addie Pray December 10, 2011, 7:41 am

      It’s too bad [later when you’re sober] that you can’t go back and edit your DW posts. But, man, what a day.

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        ForeverYoung December 10, 2011, 11:50 am

        I actually look forward to your drunk dearwendy-ing. You’ve been slacking on that front lately.

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        Addie Pray December 10, 2011, 12:59 pm

        oh god don’t encourage me! 😉

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      McLovin December 10, 2011, 7:58 am

      Well done Counselor. I’ll drink many cervezas tonight in celebration of your victory.

      BTW, I could get behind a Dear Wendy version of TextsFromLastNight for occasions like this.

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    • katie

      Katie December 10, 2011, 11:42 am

      good job!! thats amazing. and dont feel bad about the celebratory post… you deserve that!!!

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      Addie Pray December 10, 2011, 3:24 pm

      Hey, guys, remember that one time a jury awarded my client $1.5 million? I remember too. It was pretty sweet.

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      honeybeenicki December 10, 2011, 8:41 pm

      Congrats 🙂

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    Gimme Nothing Leave Everything December 10, 2011, 9:52 am

    My drama stems from the traditional “mama’s boy” christmas. He MUST see his family on Christmas Day, where mine gets shuffled around. We’ve been celebrating Winter Solstice anyway, but still, an actual Christmas would be nice. Last year, I was uninvited from attending Christmas with his mom (his folks aren’t together) in St Louis because she wanted it to be “just family”. Great. I’m not family. Thanks for reminding me your son is terrified of marriage. And this last Thanksgiving, I was accidentally (he says) left off the guest list and I didn’t have time to fly home for my own family’s. His dad’s family is much more accepting of me. At least I’ve got half…

    Rumor has it that his mom wants him home for NYE, sans girlfriend, of course. I put my foot down and said either I’m coming along, or he’s not since that’s our 5 year anniversary.

    Is it wrong to want to wrap her in Christmas lights and roll her down a hill?

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      Painted_lady December 10, 2011, 11:00 am

      She sounds like my grandmother, except she tried it on my mom and her siblings AFTER they were married as well. So I don’t think it’ll change much. You know what everyone did, though? TOLD HER NO. My uncle even went so far as to stay away one Christmas because my grandmother wouldn’t play nice.

      I think you should debate whether or not you want to deal with someone who invalidates you this way for the rest of your life. Because she certainly isn’t going to stop, and it doesn’t look like he wants to either.

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      Addie Pray December 10, 2011, 11:01 am

      Yikes, you’ve been together 5 years, and you get excluded from holiday gatherings because you’re not “family”? And your boyfriend lets his mother treat you that way? I’d tie them both up in Christmas lights and roll them down the hill together.

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        Painted_lady December 10, 2011, 11:35 am

        My thoughts exactly. I bet if he said “She comes, too, and you’re treating her like family, or we won’t be there,” she’d change her tune. My grandmother did the year my uncle didn’t come. She’s being awful, but it’s working.

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        ForeverYoung December 10, 2011, 11:38 am

        Yeah it sounds like she is awful – but your boyfriend is enabling her to act like this by giving in to her. He needs to put his foot down and say you’re coming or he’s not.

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    • katie

      Katie December 10, 2011, 11:44 am

      your boyfriend allows this to go on??? wow….

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      Sarah December 10, 2011, 11:14 pm

      My sister has he same problem with her husband’s family. They go to Hawaii every Christmas, and for years while they were dating, he would go and she would stay with us because it was just “family” and she was never invited. For five years. When they got engaged, they said she could only come if she stayed in a separate hotel away from her fiance and his family. Not a different hotel ROOM, a different HOTEL. Like she’s a whore. A junkie whore. She refused and her fiance stood up to his family and now he spends Christmas home with us while his family goes to Hawaii without the both of them. Frankly his parents are really cold and distant (old money), so I get a feeling he prefers hanging with us anyway.

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        WatersEdge December 11, 2011, 10:21 am

        Wow… that’s insane.

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        Painted_lady December 11, 2011, 10:59 am

        That’s fantastic your sister refused to accept that treatment. I know a lot of people would think it was crazy but would go with it because they were afraid to make waves, but it just sets such a bad precedent.

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        Sara December 12, 2011, 2:19 pm

        Same situation with me re: the exotic trip thing. I’m always invited, but can never go bc of financial reasons. Fine for now bc I enjoy spending the holidays with my fam just fine. Also experience distant/cold vibe from the mom and a warm/welcoming vibe from the dad. Perhaps this has something to do with their divorce 😉

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    Painted_lady December 10, 2011, 11:29 am

    Here’s my Christmas drama: my brother is a massive loser. I mean, high school dropout, can’t keep a job, no class, kind of a dick. He and his trailer trash entourage usually show up a day or two before Christmas expecting to be fed, and by Christmas day one of them and my brother have a major throwdown (usually his gf, and she starts in on my parents as well), so everyone leaves but my brother who then spends the few days after Christmas trying to con his way into staying at my parents’ indefinitely OR a massive amount of money (usually it’s his condition for leaving at all). It’s always embarrassing and infuriating because he’s twenty years old. His lack of stable income is entirely his fault as he’s had no fewer than eight jobs this year – two of which were the sort of jobs you could make a stable career out of – and he’s QUIT each one of them within 72 hours, usually because someone hurt his feewings. He always needs money for his truck, too, as he’s pissed someone off enough they’ve hit it, or knocked out (in one case, shot out) his windows when he isn’t there.

    So I can’t stand him. And here’s my dilemma. My mom takes the line that “I’m happy to have him around when he’s pleasant,” but her level of tolerance is much higher than mine, and if he starts being a dick while he’s there, it’s hard to make him leave. She has, however, invited Painted Dude and I up Christmas Eve for a nice dinner and drinks and Christmas movies at their house, which is two hours away, so far enough we couldn’t just leave and come back the next day. I don’t know if my brother will be there, nor does my mom, though she thinks maybe not because they spent their Christmas money for him in September, paying for equipment for a job he didn’t even keep 24 hours, so he knows he’s not getting anything. But if he does show, we’re stuck. I thought about making a rule that, other than Christmas Day, I won’t be around him. I hate watching my parents enable him – they’ve gotten better, but even $30 for gas to get back home makes him drive up anytime he needs gas. And if they don’t give him money, you’d think he’d been beaten as a child for how he goes on about them being terrible parents. I want to spend time with my parents over the holidays, and my boyfriend is looking forward to actually getting a Christmas this year as his family doesn’t really do holidays. But I would like it to actually be enjoyable and not spent navigating the tantrums of a 20-year-old man.

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    • katie

      Katie December 10, 2011, 11:47 am

      yikes…. i guess, at 20 years old, a lot of people dont have their lives figured out. but man, sometimes you just gotta cut the cord and MAKE them figure it out!! lol

      i dont think anyone would blame you for leaving if he gets all toddler-like. sometimes, you just gotta make a decision for yourself, you know? you deserve a nice christmas too!!

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        Painted_lady December 10, 2011, 1:44 pm

        Yeah, I don’t expect him to be a completely responsible, fully functioning member of society just yet, but for the love of all that is holy, how come he can’t figure out that to have money, you need a job, to have a job you have to stay there, and to stay there, you have to occasionally put up with people being assholes? And if you’re pissing people off so badly that they’re damaging your property – and it’s several different people, and it’s been going on since he was 16 – maybe you ought to quit acting like such an asshole. If it were one crazy person, I could understand, but it’s got to be at least three or four people who have done this. Dude, IT’S YOU.

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      • katie

        Katie December 10, 2011, 9:41 pm

        kind of reminds me of the new years LW a couple days ago… there is nothing that HE can do to remedy the situation, poor him…. when in reality there are like a million different ways he could be helping himself out.

        excuses, excuses….

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    ForeverYoung December 10, 2011, 11:33 am

    My husband and I don’t really bicker about the holidays, but this year we do have some added drama. I have mentioned my issues with my mother-in-law in the past and within the last 6 months we have figured out where a lot of her crazy/manipulative behavior comes from – turns out she is a closeted alcoholic. Like vodka shots at 10am alcoholic. I guess we missed the signs because she isn’t really the sloppy drunk, like her signs are more based on how she treats people as opposed to slurring and stuff.

    So my question for everyone is how do you deal with an alcoholic at family functions? She is definitely on a downward spiral with her husband flat out telling her she isn’t allowed to drink, but she will find ways to do it in secret (well she thinks it’s secret…but we all know what she’s doing when she disappears for 45 minutes). I am anticipating an intervention after Christmas…but how do you deal in the meantime? I am getting increasingly uncomfortable around her because now that she knows everyone knows she has a problem she will make jokes about it as a way to lessen the seriousness of it all – but no one really thinks it’s funny.

    Any experience or thoughts on the issue? I guess I really just don’t know how to respond to her awkward jokes about being a drunk and whatnot. I would say something but I feel given our history it is not my place – that should come from her husband or parents.

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      Painted_lady December 10, 2011, 11:48 am

      My uncle is an alcoholic, and my family has been dealing with it for years. Usually any inappropriate comments are completely ignored, as in, pause, silence, and then whoever was speaking goes on with whatever they were saying. If he gets insistent, someone reacts with a nonsequitur like, “How ’bout them (sports team name)?” or my cousin’s favorite, getting fake-weepy and turning to someone at the table and going, “I *love* you. SO MUCH!” because it’s something my uncle does when he’s drunk. He gets it eventually – we think he’s pathetic enough that we won’t address him if he’s so drunk that he can’t gauge appropriate conversation. It’s better than direct confrontation if she’s only trying to diffuse tension. My last straw, though, is when my uncle gets confrontational, which rarely happens. Usually a very firm, “You’re drunk, it’s obvious, and you’re making everyone uncomfortable. Please stop, okay?”

      Good luck – hopefully she’ll get the help she needs.

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        ForeverYoung December 10, 2011, 11:57 am

        Did y’all ever try an intervention at one point? Or has he just always been like this? Does he want to change or is he okay with being the family joke? I have so many questions about this stuff – she is the first person i’ve known that really really has a problem. Not just like a problem drinker which I think a lot of people go through a phase in their lives like that (like pretty much every 21 year old I know) but like she is no longer drinking because she wants to – she is drinking because she has to.

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        Painted_lady December 10, 2011, 12:51 pm

        There’s never been many conditions put on him in the family – no “If you keep drinking you won’t see us anymore,” mostly because the couple of times people have done it (his ex, his former best friend, a cousin) he cuts them off before they can do it themselves. The moment my immediate family started putting conditions on him, he moved across the country, so everyone knows this won’t do much good. He has stopped drinking for a few months at a time, usually when he has a health scare, but he always relapses, and by the time anyone realizes it (he’s stopped contacting my mom other than a quick text every few weeks), he’s so deep back in it he’s back to whatever prompts him to stop again. He’s basically arranged his life so that no one can stop him from drinking. His last serious relationship ended because of his drinking, and every guy he’s dated since him has been both much younger (I’m talking maybe old enough to drink; he’s going to be 49 in May) and much less financially stable, so the relationship is entirely on his terms.

        Sounds like your mother-in-law has a lot more to lose. She’s married and lives near family, so she can’t just up and leave, nor can she completely avoid people who will hold her accountable. The whole issue with my uncle is that he has no trouble cutting us all off so he can be alone with his vodka.

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    • katie

      Katie December 10, 2011, 11:49 am

      i would say just definitely not to laugh at her jokes…. that seems like it would justify her behavior in some way. i would give her a cold look and maybe a “its not funny that you _____ (fill in the blank about her drinking). that is a serious problem.”

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        ForeverYoung December 10, 2011, 11:55 am

        Yeah I definitely don’t laugh, it’s awkward. I just want to get through this holiday season because i’m pretty sure something will happen in January. Whether that is an intervention or a hospital visit or a dui or whatever, she has got to be close to rock bottom. I thought she hit rock bottom when she started throwing up every night, but apparently she doesn’t care about that. Or I thought she hit rock bottom when her daughter told her she refused to be around her when she was drinking (in other words she wouldn’t hang out with her at all), or when her husband had to begin treating her like a child and throwing out all the alcohol in the house and forbidding her from drinking, but I guess she can go lower. Everyone is getting really sick of it and we don’t want it to turn into just accepting the way she is. She needs to get help, I don’t want this just to become the norm. The thought of a vodka shot at 9 am everyday seriously gives me a gag reflex.

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      • katie

        Katie December 10, 2011, 9:33 pm

        im glad your not the kind of person to just try to laugh off what is happening- especially when she trys to make jokes about it. i know people laugh when things are awkward sometimes, so its good that you take it seriously enough not to laugh!

        i have never had to deal with alcoholism, so i can only imagine how terrible it is… i wish you the best of luck in whatever ends up happening, whether it be an intervention, DUI, or whatever. i think she probably doesnt see or understand the severity of it (especially if she makes jokes about it), so something drastic will have to happen. unfortunately, for a lot of addicts, thats what has to happen.

        just remember that her problem doesnt have to influence your happiness! try to have a good holiday anyway.

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      GatorGirl December 10, 2011, 9:07 pm

      I have an severly alcoholic uncle. My extended family all lives on one large property (I’m talking grandma and 4 of 5 siblings plus 6 of their children on 65 acres) so we have to deal with him all the time. We also run three family businesses on the same property…so he’s pretty much a constant nuecense. He has been an alcoholic for over 20 years and has created countless embarrassing, awkward, uncomfortable and annoying moments. Not to mention the time when he was too drunk to realize his dog was in the processing of bleeding to death, directly causing the death of a recovering alcoholic by providing him with alcohol, and countless drunken car accidents he asks the family to cover up. The family has staged multiple interventions, he’s gone to rehab four maybe five times, he’s been kicked out of the family multiple times, etc etc etc. He has no rock bottom.

      So this year we cancelled Christmas. My parents and siblings and myself will not be going to my grandma’s for Christmas day in order to avoid him. Clearly ForeverYoung this isn’t an option for you and your MIL. We ignor my uncle when he is around, I leave the room when he walks in. I really don’t have any positive advice, but I do encourage y’all to stage an intervention. When you do, she needs to immediately get in a car/plane/etc and go to a treatment facility. Your family needs to be very clear on their bottom lines and actually keep them if she relapses. Alcoholism is a horrible disease, I wish y’all the best of luck!

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    kali December 10, 2011, 12:52 pm

    Suggestion: instead of feeling like you have to send out holiday greeting cards, use smilebox.com (or something similar) and make a Christmas/Hannukah/winter solstice card with a whole slide show of pictures. There’s room for a caption for each photo and everyone gets a bunch of photos instead of a few. That’s what I sent this year. SO much easier than the dreaded holiday newsletter.

    For the non-tech relatives in the crowd (altho even my 77+ year-old parents are online), you can print out the slide show and mail it to them – or to save it for posterity.

    Just an idea…

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    honeybeenicki December 10, 2011, 3:21 pm

    Our biggest issue every year is where to go for holidays. For the first 4 years of our relationship, I didn’t put up a fight and just went to my husband’s mom’s house for every holiday (Thanksgiving and Christmas every year), but it got really hard for me to miss out on my family’s celebrations. After that four years, we decided to split it up – half the day of Thanksgiving at his moms, the other half with 2 parts of my family (and then day after Thanksgiving with my mom and sister) but his mom threw a FIT that we were leaving at 1:30pm. That year we also do Christmas Eve at my family’s events and Christmas day at his family’s house. Again, there was another whine-fest.

    From then on out, my husband told his mom that we are going to alternate holidays (so, if we’re there for Thanksgiving, we stay the whole day but do Christmas with my family on Christmas Eve and spend Christmas day at our house with the kids and she is more than welcome to join us for that) or we won’t come at all if she is going to complain about it. Now, there are just a few passive-aggressive comments about it but no outright whining and she has yet to take us up on the offer to come for Christmas at our house (or any other event – 6 years together, she’s come to see us 3 times and one of those was for our wedding).

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      ForeverYoung December 10, 2011, 3:53 pm

      Passive-aggressive comments are super annoying. If you react and make any comment back defending yourself they will act all hurt that you took it that way. If you don’t react at all and just take it you feel walked all over. I wish people would just say what they had to say or keep their mouths shut, because at least if they come out and say it you can respond without looking like you’re the one making a big deal out of nothing.

      End rant.

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        honeybeenicki December 10, 2011, 8:37 pm

        My MIL is the queen of passive-aggressive and overstepping boundaries. Sometimes she is very much up front, but usually about things she has no say in. There was one time when she told me on a family camping trip with my brother in law who was home on leave from the Marines that my husband and I shouldn’t have kids and I should just be happy with the ones he already has. She said this without any prompting and we weren’t even talking about kids – we had been talking about apartments/houses/etc and how we wanted to keep our options open in case we needed more space. She said it when my husband wasn’t around and she knew I wouldn’t say anything to him right away because he only had the day to hang out with his brother.

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  • JK

    JK December 10, 2011, 3:37 pm

    Our arguments around Christmas have to do with presents… my husband´s family (father and sister) never buy us anything (not even our daughters, not even for their birthdays), my family (brother and mum) go all out for birthdays, christmas and just about every week as well.
    In my family we´ve always exchanged gifts, mostly for the kids, amongs adults a gift for the household. Every year my husband says not to get anything for the adults, but if I do get things, then I´m supposed to get things for his father as well (and spend the same amount as I do on my mum and her husband).
    This really pisses me off, the guy couldn´t care less about us, not to mention my SIL, she didn´t even ring my daughter for her birthday (which was last tuesday), and on top of that since my MIL died, no presents have appeared from my SIL either (confirming my suspicions that all the gifts supposedly from SIL were actually from MIL). I really wouldn*t give a sh*t about this, if it werent for the fact that her kids (12 and eight) ask us for expensive presents for every gift giving occasion, and my husband of course goes running out to get them just that. And our 4 year old later asks me why her aunt doesn´t come to see her or give her presents. 🙁 Thank goodness the baby is too little to notice as of yet.

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    Lolabeans December 10, 2011, 9:56 pm

    My bf and I are going to our hometown for Christmas this year from the 23rd-29th and then hopefully back to Toronto for NYE.

    We just found out my bfs mom is going for hip surgery on the 21st…. So I’m not sure how to handle it as she is single and has nobody to care for her.

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  • Lyra

    L December 10, 2011, 11:14 pm

    I just got back from Christmas shopping with my boyfriend and his mom. It reminded me of why I would much rather go Christmas shopping alone. We had to wait in each store until everybody was ready to go which was just frustrating and stupid, we had no real plan for today so we were just flying by the seat of our pants which did not go very well, and she is SO INDECISIVE. Urgh. I love my boyfriend’s family, but today I just about blew a gasket today. I didn’t get any of my shopping finished; I will do that next week when I can do it BY MYSELF. *End rant*

    Thanks for reading. It’s been stressful.

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    • Lyra

      L December 10, 2011, 11:42 pm

      Correction: boyfriend, his mom, (for the lack of a better term) boyfriend’s stepdad, and his “stepdad’s” two daughters. 6 of us total. Urgh.

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    vizslalvr December 10, 2011, 11:34 pm

    The great thing about being an atheist engaged to an atheist with two largely secular families from totally different backgrounds (mine, Roman Catholic; his, Jewish) is that the only holiday we really have to share between families is Thanksgiving – and all of our families are a maximum of forty five minutes apart.

    So, Christmas is free game to spend tons of time with my family. His parents and the younger crowd (my and my brother’s old friends) come by after gifts and dinner for the drinking and card playing. Absolutely nothing to bicker about, not that we do much of that regardless.

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      SpaceySteph December 11, 2011, 8:02 pm

      Well I’m not an atheist but the two families of different religions (mine Jewish, his Catholic) sure does make holidays easier.
      This year for Thanksgiving we went to his parents for the second year in a row but he/they invited my parents to come too. My parents love to travel and hate to host the holiday so they happily accepted. We probably do have to go to my parents for the holiday next year though since that’s 3 years in a row I haven’t been home and my grandparents are getting grumpy about it.
      Some years I work Christmas (as token Jew, its kinda my lot in life) but this year I am off and going home with my boyfriend. I’m pretty excited, actually, because some of my favorite childhood memories are of Christmas at a Catholic family’s house- my mom’s friend and her family, the youngest boy was best friends with my little brother for years. The food, the tree decorating, the festive lights! Yup, I’m a terrible Jew.

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        vizslalvr December 11, 2011, 10:09 pm

        Haha, you’re not a bad Jew. Every year 3-4 of my Jewish friends end up at my parent’s place by the end of the evening (you know, after gorging on Chinese food and catching a movie) and they always tell me how much they love Christmas with my family. My fiance has really embraced it as well – he even brewed a Christmas Ale months back to share with everyone on Christmas.

        But I totally agree that the differences in religious background makes things a million times easier. How nice for you to have the day off this year! Congrats and enjoy!

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    ChemE December 12, 2011, 11:16 am

    My husband and I don’t bicker too much, and nothing completely seriously. I LOVE decorating, and I always try to get him to put them up before he goes on his Thanksgiving camping trip – so far no luck!
    When we were first married, and eventually living together, we were broke (still not all that better today) and couldn’t buy anyone gifts, so we made cookies for everyone. Now it has become a tradition, instead of gifts we give everyone a basket of cookies. His family gets more since his brothers still spend the holidays there, so I make them bread, fudge, and pies as well. I still feel weird getting gifts from people and all I have is cookies to give, but they all love them. I wrestle with those feelings sometimes, on one hand, it is maybe more effort and thought into making their favorite cookie but maybe someone doesn’t see it that way and prefers a material gift. So far no complaints!
    And as far as where to go on the holidays, when we became a family, I decided that I didn’t want to go everywhere every holiday. I did that enough as a kid with divorced parents and I hated it. So we spend Christmas Eve with his family having dinner and playing games. Then Christmas day I might see my families (since my dad passed away my mom and sister kind of abandoned me, but that’s a whole other topic!), but we tend to end up at home enjoying ourselves and our kitties. This year we’re going to Puerto Rico that week for our anniversary!!

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