Q: My wife and I got married over the summer. Her family lives three hours away, and my family lives four hours away in the opposite direction. Both families want us to come home for Christmas, and we're literally caught in the middle. Help!
Jim: We hear from many couples who struggle with this dilemma. The wife's parents might insist on having their little girl at home on Christmas morning. But the husband's mom is fixing a huge turkey dinner and says she'll be hurt if he isn't there to share it. Just wait until you have kids -- things can get downright ugly when grandchildren are involved!
To help navigate this minefield, it's important to remember two principles: be fair, and be flexible.
When it comes to being fair, try to come up with a solution that works for both of your extended families. That might mean spending Thanksgiving with one family and Christmas with the other, and then switching off the next year.
When it comes to being flexible, think about what is in the best interests of those around you. Perhaps spending half the holidays on the road is not what your budget can handle right now. Don't be afraid to tell your extended family that it's honestly not a good idea for you to travel this year. There's nothing wrong with you and your wife having Christmas at home and starting some traditions of your own. Just be sure to communicate your decisions early so your family members can plan accordingly. Don't wait until the last minute to tell them.
Whatever you decide, just make sure that you and your wife are engaging in healthy communication on the subject. Don't let pressure from extended family members undermine the fact that you and your wife are on the same team!
Q: My husband and I were recently married. We're very happy and have a great relationship, except for one thing: I don't get along with his friends. This has led to arguments and tension between us. Is there a way to solve this problem?
Dr. Greg Smalley, executive director of marriage and family formation: Many newlyweds find themselves faced with challenges of this nature soon after the wedding, and their ability to work through them together is an important measure of the strength of their relationship. This issue can provide you and your husband with a great opportunity to learn what it means to compromise and be flexible.
You didn't mention what it is about your husband's friends that bothers you. Are they engaging in behavior that is immature, irresponsible or immoral? If so, we'd suggest that your husband has a responsibility to confront this issue. He needs to ask himself whether these friendships are truly good for him and for your marriage.
However, if the issue is simply that you have different tastes and interests than your husbands' friends, we would challenge you to do the hard work of finding common ground with these folks. For example, let's say this group loves football and monster truck rallies -- things that don't interest you in the slightest. Would you consider biting the bullet and learning a little bit about the NFL and oversized trucks -- if only for the sake of your marriage? To do so would certainly represent a compromise on your part, but it would also send a signal to your husband that you're willing to set your interests aside once in a while for the sake of his.
Hopefully he'll do the same thing for you on occasion -- perhaps by letting his friends go to the next event without him, and instead taking you out on a quiet date.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.