Whose Is Better? How to Blend Family Traditions as a Newlywed Couple

December 8, 2018
newlywed-couple-portrait-holidays

Traditions can be a touchy subject, especially for newlyweds. When I first married my husband, there was an awkward period of figuring out how to celebrate the holidays together. Most of our family traditions didn’t match, making it a game of deciding whose traditions were better.

For example, Valentine’s Day for my family meant wearing red and pink, baking heart-shaped sugar cookies, and watching chick flicks. When I married my husband, he couldn’t understand all the hype. In the same vein, Halloween for my family meant eating lots of candy and turning off the lights to avoid trick-or-treaters. For my husband’s, it meant dressing up in ridiculous matching outfits and attending my mother-in-law’s annual Halloween bash. I, for one, hate dressing up and don’t do well in settings that involve freestyle dancing.

My husband and I have had to learn how to overcome the disagreements and tension when trying to decide which traditions we would keep, which we would toss, and which we would start new. For all those newlyweds out there, here are four tips on how to resolve conflict when trying to blend traditions.

Communicate

“If you don’t know how to ask for what you need, you are less likely to have your needs met,” says Dr. Suzanne Gegges White. That is why it is so important to communicate with your spouse. And this doesn’t just apply to discussing the number of kids you want, the career path you will take, or your top 10 pet peeves. Communication also applies to discussing how you and your spouse will incorporate past family traditions.

Be open about what your expectations are for the holidays and be willing to listen to your spouse’s expectations. If your family has a huge reunion every Fourth of July (as mine does) and that is something you would like to attend every year, communicate that to your spouse. If you don’t, there is a chance that you will end up frustrated as you sit at home watching fireworks on the TV wondering why you aren’t in the mountains with your cousins.

If you don’t know how to ask for what you need, you are less likely to have your needs met.

Setting holiday expectations with your spouse is especially important if you both come from different religious backgrounds. Be respectful of your spouse’s upbringing and be open to incorporating new traditions into your future family that may not reflect your beliefs. Marriage isn’t just work: it’s teamwork, and it requires that both participants be caring, respectful, and open.

As you and your spouse communicate, you will be able to understand where the other person is coming from, making it easier to decide how you will celebrate the holidays each year.

Compromise

Believe it or not, there are families who open their gifts on Christmas Eve. My family happens to be one of them. My husband, on the other hand, is the type of person that won’t even look at his wrapped gifts under the tree in fear that he will spoil the surprise.

This past year, we both opened one gift early. Would it have been a big deal if I didn’t get to open a gift before the actual day of Christmas? No, but my husband recognized that this tradition was something I had always done, and so he incorporated it into our married life.

Acts like these, while small, will create a feeling of equality and love between you and your spouse. When starting a new family, be willing to change and reevaluate how you celebrate the holidays.

Embrace differences

Some of your spouse’s traditions will most likely reflect his or her culture. One piece of advice Robin McGraw—wife of Dr. Phil—offers to couples is to embrace your spouse’s differences rather than begrudge the qualities that make your partner who he or she is. Learn to appreciate the unique outlook that your partner brings to your relationship.

For example, I am used to singing the “Happy Birthday” song in English. My husband, whose grandparents emigrated from Sweden, sings it in Swedish. Since getting married, I have attempted to learn the Swedish version. Although I hardly sing half of the lyrics correctly, I have found an appreciation and a love for this tradition. With it comes countless endearing stories about my husband’s ancestors and their way of life.

Embracing the fresh outlook your spouse brings to the table will open your eyes and help you appreciate the beauty of diversity.

Chances are there were a few traditions that you hated to do while growing up. Getting married is a perfect excuse to say goodbye to them.

Create new traditions together

Start new traditions that you and your spouse can pass on to your children. Chances are there were a few traditions that you hated to do while growing up. Getting married is a perfect excuse to say goodbye to them. That’s right, folks: no more having to sing “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” a million times or participating in the family talent show despite your protests. Now is the time to start new and exciting traditions that you actually like with the one you love.

According to HuffPost Life, your first holidays as a newlywed couple should be treated as a test run. In other words, you and your partner should try new activities and decide whether or not they are worthy to be added to your tradition list for the next year.

It is important to choose activities that are meaningful to you and your spouse and that express your identity as a couple. If you both love music, consider caroling as a family during the month of December. If you both are adventurous, take turns creating a scavenger hunt that leads to chocolate gold coins every St. Patrick’s Day. Creating new traditions will help you and your spouse move away from your childhood and embrace the road to adulthood.

When in doubt, shake it out it with a Magic 8 ball

If you and your partner absolutely cannot decide, let the round ball of fortune decide for you! While this idea is a little ridiculous and impractical (half of the answers are some version of “Ask again later”), it could still be worth a shot to mitigate disagreement, limit tension, and bring some humor into your relationship.

Marriage is a balancing act, especially when trying to decide how you and your spouse will blend traditions. When the holidays come around, make sure to communicate, compromise, appreciate differences, and create new traditions together. Doing these things will hopefully prevent you from having to seek advice from a 10 dollar ball of plastic. More importantly, though, they will help you and your partner create memories that your future family will cherish for a long time.

Marisa Gooch is a writer and editor who lives in sunny Southern California. Her Favorite hobbies include listening to podcasts, hiking in the hills behind her house, and attempting to surf alongside her husband who has years of experience. 

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