Wondering how to navigate the holiday season with your new spouse? My interview with @nytimes gives newlyweds practical tips for managing major holiday decisions with ease. #newlyweds #holiday #NewYorkTimes

Abby writes, “Melding traditions and splitting your time between families can often lead to more dread than jolly. Here’s how to prepare for some of the common pitfalls of the holidays.

The main issue looming over Erica and Aaron Weiss this holiday season: whether to hide a bear or pickle ornament on their Christmas tree.

It’s not as peculiar as it may sound. The couple, who married in October 2021, grew up in homes with deeply rooted holiday practices. In Ms. Weiss’s family, the children hid a tiny teddy bear-shaped ornament on the tree. In the few weeks leading up to Dec. 25, each sibling would move the knickknack to a different spot. The last person to do so would get to open the first gift on Christmas morning.

In Mr. Weiss’s family, one of his parents would hide a pickle ornament somewhere in the house. The person who found it won $10.

Of course, the Weisses, o live in Smyrna, Ga., can choose to honor both traditions. And their ornament dilemma is certainly not as fraught as, say, trying to determine where to spend Thanksgiving and who to include on a gift list. Still, it’s part of the madness known as the “melding of the new family” during the holiday season. And it can get complicated.

“Each individual has a different concept as to what this holiday means,” said Susan Winter, a relationship expert in New York. “One partner’s idea of Christmas might be massively decorating the house, lights everywhere, gift giving, while their partner wants to stay home with eggnog.”

Therapists often earn their second homes during this time of year, as tensions (and blood pressures) reach a boiling point. It’s understandable: Many newlyweds now contend with two or more sets of families with different values, customs and assumptions. The stress of splitting or merging longstanding traditions, combined with expectations to attend multiple events or even host them, can make for a less-than-jolly holiday season.

Perhaps no time is this more pronounced than the first year of marriage, “an official transition from being the child of your nuclear family to being the head of the family you are creating with your partner,” said Elizabeth Earnshaw, a marriage and family therapist in Philadelphia.

So, how do you survive your first holiday season together as a married couple? And how do you prepare for the common pitfalls, like choosing where to celebrate, hosting your families for the first time, budgeting for gifts and events, and domestic drama?

Create a Plan for Gifting

Another issue is gifting. Does everyone in the family get one? Just the parents? Just the children? Ms. Morse-Croce and her husband discussed that, too.

For the first time ever, Ms. Morse-Croce’s immediate family agreed to no presents; they’re opting for a Secret Santa instead. It’s also worth noting that not all gifts have to cost money or come in physical form, especially if there are budget considerations.

Ms. Winter believes that couples could take care of their primary gift recipients first, and then acknowledge the others in another way — say, with a handwritten note, a video card, or an experiential present, like a home-cooked meal or a visit to a theme park.

“I like the idea of a blank canvas,” she said. “You had your life before you met, now you have a chance to create a new template for the life you want to live.”

Be Selective About Gathering

The same applies to social events. Rather than accepting every invitation, you now have the chance to figure out who you actually want to see.

During the holiday some friends or family members may “drink too much, they have bad behavior, they’re a little too volatile,” Ms. Winter said. “This is where we need to refine what we want to experience together with our partner.””

Continue Reading: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/23/style/holiday-season-newlyweds.html