Holiday Stress: When She Wants Thanksgiving at Home (and he doesn’t)

The holidays are suppose to be magic. But the season of loved ones and tradition can create a landmine for family drama.

For example, take the couple that can’t decide where to spend Thanksgiving dinner. She wants turkey day at home. He wants it elsewhere—perhaps at his mother’s house.

Who wins?

Tina B. Tessina, aka Dr. Romance, is a licensed psychotherapist, successful author, and Redbook Love Network expert. Tessina offers these tips to navigate the “holiday destination” debate.

Grab your detective’s hat and magnifying glass.

“It’s very easy to present your ideas like a trial attorney trying to win over the Supreme Court,” says Tessina.

Instead, Tessina suggests couples seek the root of the problem.

There are many reasons a spouse may want to celebrate the holidays at someone else’s house, including:

  • It’s the only time they get to see their whole family.
  • They are worried that older relatives may pass away soon.
  • Skipping Mom’s dinner will hurt her feelings.

The spouse who wants Thanksgiving at home has their reasons, too. They may want to start their own household traditions or avoid certain activity at someone else’s home (e.g. excessive drinking, bad language, fighting, starts too late).

Become an expert diplomat.

Tessina cautions her clients not to speak their minds without consideration for how it will feel to their partner.

“You want to speak honestly but gently,” says Tessina.

This is particularly important when the discussion is about the spouse’s family. They don’t want their family criticized or made fun of.

Try these techniques to have a candid but gentle discussion:

  • Get your spouse to talk first by asking a question. For example, what do you think about dinner at your mother’s house?
  • Use your “I” statements. As in, I feel this way…not, your family is awful.
  • If the subject is too explosive, agree to write down your thoughts and exchange them. This allows each person to get that first reaction out of the way.

Compromise matters.

If mom’s house is nearby, the couple can do dinner at their house and dessert elsewhere.

If the folks live far away, they can agree to celebrate Thanksgiving at home and Christmas with extended family.

The key is to look at all the options. Don’t approach the situation with an all-or-nothing mentality.

Start new traditions, but keep the old.

“You don’t want to get into competition with what’s gone on before with your own family or your spouse’s family,” says Tessina.

Instead, Tessina suggests couples start some household traditions, even while continuing to attend large family gatherings.

Take a long-term view.

If one spouse doesn’t get their desired location this year, there are steps they can take for future holidays.

Talk about how you will spend the holidays this year, and how you would like to celebrate in future years.

Use this holiday season for fact gathering. Think about what you feel and why. Note the things you like and dislike about the celebration.

Start the discussion early in the year. That makes it less scary and less stressful.

“Remember, enjoying yourself as a family is the most important part,” says Tessina. “Nothing is as important as that.”

Tina Tessina is a licensed psychotherapist in southern California, with 30 years experience in counseling individuals and couples. She’s authored 13 books, including Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences, and The Commuter Marriage: Keep Your Relationship Close While You’re Far Apart.

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

About Nicole Robinson

Nicole Robinson is a Dallas-based freelance writer who specializes in college planning, parenting, women’s lifestyle, education, and self-help. But she's always hungry to munch on new topics. In addition to writing for The BookWormMama blog, Nicole provides content, copywriting and proofreading services for various publications.


Holiday Stress: When She Wants Thanksgiving at Home (and he doesn’t) — 12 Comments

  1. This was a problem for Melinda and I when we first got married because I was so used to my Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve and Christmas tradition but over the years we compromised and realized that certain holiday were going to have to be shared. Like one year we will do Thanksgiving at my father in laws and the next we will do it at my mothers. The only tradition we do not change is that we are ALWAYS home on Christmas morning for the kids so that they can open gifts at their own house in their pj’s. Marriage as well as the holidays is all about give and take.
    Rob recently posted..Sears #ConnectingFlightsMy Profile

  2. Since we only have a ‘very’ small condo and are 8 hours minimum from the rest of the family, we always end up in the middle of the road for big holidays. Talk about STRESS!!! I long for the days when I had my own T’giving and Christmas traditions. Really I do!

  3. This has never been a problem for us, unfortunately. My parents are deceased, my MIL is deceased and my FIL lives in Mexico. We have been enjoying quiet Thanksgiving dinners at home for years, and we really love it. We always head downtown Portland, OR for the Macy’s Holiday Parade the day after, and it’s EARLY, so we tend to eat early on Thanksgiving and then go to bed.
    Jennifer recently posted..Wordless Wednesday 11/14/2012My Profile

  4. Thankfully we don’t have to deal with which family we are going to, because we are going to start doing Thanksgiving at our house each year, but these are all really great tips!

  5. Oh gosh, I can’t imagine the drama this type of situation can cause for families. I got very lucky given the fact that my in-laws don’t celebrate any holidays so I can give my attention to my own family. Between my mom, my sister and I we all take turns hosting Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter dinners.

  6. We used to attend no less than three homes for every holiday back when we first became a family! These days we are less casual and either host our own get together or attend one other home for most holidays. I hate it when it turns into a competition or hassle but feel we need to visit family on the special occasions to keep tradition alive. Compromise is the best way to keep everyone happy!
    Henrietta recently posted..Two Gifts Ideas for New & Expectant Dads from DaddyScrubsMy Profile

  7. Great tips! Thankfully, we don’t have that issue anymore. My husband’s family doesn’t like to host, so if we didn’t host, we go to friends. So stress-free! (Now, when we move soon, back to where I have family, we will have family and friends to choose from, so we’ll be rotating and/or driving…but still no parents to choose from so while I wish we did, at least we don’t have the hassle like this!)
    Dee B recently posted..Homestead Views On a Country AfternoonMy Profile

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge