And It Only Took 9 Years of Marriage…

When Chris and I were first married, one of the biggest challenges we faced was figuring out how to split holidays between our two families.  After about three years of just leaving it up to whoever won the argument that year, we finally got a system in place.  We agreed that we would do Thanksgiving with one family and Christmas with the other, and then the next year we would flip.  So, we would either have Thanksgiving OR Christmas with our families every year, and then the next year we’d get the other holiday.

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Choosing a set schedule has worked out really well for the past six or seven years.  It keeps us from having an argument about it, and it also makes it very easy to plan.  We know where we’ll be for the next few years out, and we think our families appreciate being able to plan that way, too.  When my sister got married a few years ago, she and her husband jumped on the band wagon, and now we are synched up so that Ginny and I get holidays together with out families, too.

BUT HERE WAS THE CATCH:  The person whose family we were seeing for that particular holiday had to make the plans.  Which meant when it was my family’s holiday, I made all the plans, and when it was Chris’s family’s holiday, he made all the plans.

Sounds good, right?  In theory.

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The reality has been that Chris is not a very good planner, which meant that every time it was his family’s holiday, we never had it all together.  We didn’t know where we would be spending the holiday (would they be coming here?  would we be going there?).  We never knew which side of his family we would be seeing (mom?  dad?  aunts/uncles/grandparents?).  We usually ended up coming into town for about 3-5 days and then running ourselves back and forth between his mom’s family and his dad’s family (his parents are divorced).  It was always good to see them, but it was stressful for Chris.

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Inevitably, we would end up spending a crazy holiday with his family and then Chris would get so frustrated that the next year, he would forfeit his holiday over to my family just so he didn’t have to make the plans.

AND HERE’S WHERE I MESSED UP:  I would always let him forfeit.

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But what I realized this year after our colossal date night fight at Bone Fish, was that just because Chris isn’t a good planner doesn’t mean that he should have to give up seeing his family.

My mom told me one time that marriage is not 50/50 all the time.  When she said that, my first instinct was to argue, “Well, it should be!”  But she went on to explain that each person in a marriage has their own strengths and weaknesses, and those don’t always fall evenly.  The thing about marriage is that you should balance each other out by giving more sometimes.  Especially, when giving more is in an area where you are stronger.  And, in this case, I am the better planner.

(sigh)

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So, this year, without even telling Chris, I called his grandmother.  I love his Grandma Brown, but I am not usually the one who calls her and makes plans.  I think it surprised her as much as it surprised me.  I told her that this year I was going to make the plans for Thanksgiving with her family, if that was okay.  And we talked for about 20 minutes and got our little schedule of events together, and then we talked loosely about Christmas and I told her I would call her to plan that out, too, in a few weeks.

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I felt better already by just chatting with Grandma Brown.  It made me excited to see her and the rest of the Brown clan at Thanksgiving.  But I was not expecting the response I got from Chris.  I told him that night that I had taken care of our Thanksgiving plans and I gave him the window for the Christmas dates for his family.  He sort of sat there for a minute, stunned.

“Wait,” he said, clearly confused.  “YOU called Grandma?”

“Yeah,” I said.  “It just seemed like the simplest thing to do.”

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And then his face relaxed and he smiled more genuinely than he has smiled in a while.  He was so relieved that he didn’t have to make the plans.  Since that call, I’ve also noticed he is more excited to see his family since the dread of the planning isn’t hanging over his head.  It’s all taken care of, and he really just has to show up and enjoy being there.  I had no idea what a relief that would be for him.

A few years ago when I was sitting in a deep hole of depression, I will never forget what it felt like to have Chris take over a specific task that I was struggling with.  He just took over that one particular chore in our family that was really weighing on me at that time, and it was such a sweet relief to know that someone else had taken care of it for me.  I know that taking over holiday plans isn’t huge for me, but I also know that it IS huge for Chris.

For the first few years of our marriage, I thought marriage should be fair.  We each had our equally divided chores and responsibilities, and that was fair and equal.  But the reality of marriage is that sometimes you take on responsibilities and tasks for your spouse simply because, in doing so, you make their lives easier.  And, really, that’s the greatest gift we can give to each other, isn’t it?

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19 Thoughts to “And It Only Took 9 Years of Marriage…”

  1. I’m SO GLAD that marriage isn’t fair! Brad covers for me all the time {and vice versa}. Honestly, thinking about it, we’re so completely opposite that if we even tried to map everything out to be fair and balanced, we’d both be incredibly miserable.

  2. Christine

    As someone who is getting married in just a few months, this was a very good post/reminder to read. Thank you for sharing 🙂

  3. Katie. I could kiss you for this post. I won’t. It’s just a saying. But ya know what I mean. I’ve been struggling with the “even” thing and the “but it’s unfair” thing. And this? Gold.

    Also. My mobile phone, iPhone, hates your new site’s mobile site. Which is why I’ve been slacking on commenting.

  4. Meghan

    We flip flopped before kids, but since kids we have generally spent Christmas Day in our home with our tree, our little family’s traditions, etc. It was important to me to start having Christmas in our home, instead of schlepping somewhere every year. We’ve always made it clear that our families are invited to our house if they want to experience Christmas morning with our kids, but that we preferred to be in our home for that day. We have typically gotten together with one or both families after the actual holiday (either right after or a couple of weeks after), but I really appreciate being in my own home for Christmas now!

  5. LindseyLindsey

    Nailed it!

  6. You are a good wife! It really sounds like y’all have things figured out and going smoothly. Nice!! 🙂 We are still in the miserable abyss of figuring out each holiday as it comes along, mostly be because my husband’s family insists on seeing us every holiday at two different times (so we can get his mom’s side of the family and his dad’s side). It’s incredibly stressfull and has made me dread the holidays. Maybe when we are at the nine year mark, in two years, we will have it all figured out. 🙂 Thanks for the post and ideas! Hope you have a wonderful, stress free Thanksgiving!

  7. C

    LOVE THIS!! In the beginning of our relationship I had to stress to J that we each have our strengths, we are a team & we will be balanced if not always ‘equal’.

  8. Andrea

    Our good friend Pioneer Women wrote once that she actually views marriage as 100/100. This has changed the way I approach my husband and marriage in almost every way. You and Chris are good examples of that, even if you’ve never noticed. Thanks for writing and letting us read.

  9. I love this post–I really think your blog is the best glimpse of a REAL marriage I’ve ever seen.

  10. […] your parents discussing these issues when you were a kid.  I’ve found some good posts here, here, here, and  here about dealing with the issues holidays […]

  11. Brit

    The closest my husband and I ever came to breaking up (while engaged) was over Christmas plans. My family has had more divorces which equals more Christmas gatherings. We kind of have a system where we stay with one fam through Christmas Eve then the other an equal amount of time from Christmas Day on. We get to attend whatever dinners happen to fall during each visit. I don’t really like it but I choose to pick my battles and that isn’t one of them. The most important thing is getting time with my immediate family which we cover. We now have a baby this year though so we will see how it goes…all the grandparents want the new addition to be at all dinners.

  12. LIssa

    Nicely managed and nicely written. Thanks Katie.

  13. Heather

    Thank you again for being so honest and open. Somehow, your brilliant insight is almost always just what my marriage needs!

  14. This is so sweet! Great reminder about complementing each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

  15. Thanks for sharing! Your post was quite inspirational. I have a similar situation with three families to visit. My husband and I are also on a rotating holiday schedule that started before we even got married. Except that we never sat down to decide who plans the trip. Then vacation comes and we have nothing to do and sometimes fight because we feel that we are wasting our time off. For example his whole family is staying with us for a week at Christmas and we haven’t decided how to keep them busy yet! Even though I have good ideas about fun things to do (hiking, tea room, etc) I don’t do it because I feel like I am doing all the work. I really should be more mindful that planning is one of my strengths and just call up his Mom to discuss fun day trips.

  16. Jen M

    I tell my husband all the time that it’ll all balance out in the end. It just depends on the time frame you look at. I choose to look at a 50+ year time frame, already after 4 years we’ve gone through times when he’s done more (my pregnancies) and right now I’m doing more (it’s a crazy busy time at work for him).

  17. Kristine

    This is such a perfectly timed post. I needed to remember this; I am definitely the planner in our family, but it’s so true…just because my husband is not the most detail minded person, doesn’t mean he should have to sacrifice his family time (which I know he needs).

  18. Erin W

    I ove this post! I’m a long time reader, first time commenter. I always say that 50/50 never works. Instead, you just each give 100%, and somehow it all gets covered. We’ve been married 8 years, and we have 3 kids. It’s worked this long, so it seems to be pretty sound advice :). It’s hard to resent the other person when you know he is giving it his all.

  19. Not directly related… but here’s my idea anyway… I think YOUR MOM should also start a blog. I love reading your blog, but also love when you mention the marriage advice and tidbits she shares. Having come from divorced parents (yug), I always soak in her little words of wisdom… I’m sure there are plenty of us marriage orphans (ha) out there that would love to hear more too!! 🙂 I hope you guys have a wonderful thanksgiving!!! -AK

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