How to Compromise On Family Functions

Dear Relationshipper,

I recently began dating a man who appears to be perfect for me. We get along very well, he's employed, does not abuse drugs or alcohol, treats me with much respect and consideration. We both were previously married and divorced with no kids. My parents both died when I was in my 20's and I have no siblings. His parents are both living and he has several siblings living near the family home. My problem? His mother is already planning on us spending all holidays at her house this upcoming year. She typed up a list and gave all of us a copy. She includes all birthdays, Easter, Mothers Day, Father's Day, Memorial Day, 4th of get the idea. While I don't dislike his family, I'm not accustomed to this much group togetherness for every little occasion and I don't know how to approach the subject with him. He hasn't said much and doesn't seem to mind the idea but I haven't brought it up as a heavy discussion topic. I'm perfectly willing to spend a couple of hours at her house for a real occasion but am feeling suffocated by the master plan of spending 4-6 hours there every time the list says it's necessary. Is this a common problem and what's a tactful, non-hurtful way to handle it?


Dear Suffocated,

Well, at the very least, you can be happy that his parents like you enough to want to spend every holiday with you!  I’m going to say that this degree of scheduled “togetherness” is not a common problem, but having family scheduling disagreements definitely is.

Firstly, you really should bring the topic up with him.  Tell him that you’d like to spend a holiday or two at a non-family function.  What did you do before he came along?  Did you spend holidays with friends?  Did you go somewhere?  I would tell him whatever it is that you would like to do.  If your friends have a 4th of July picnic, simply state, “I know your mother reserved us for the 4th, but I think my friends have a picnic that day, and I’d like us to go to that.  Speaking of the list, there are probably a couple of other holidays that I might have some other plans for.  Do you think your mother would mind if we can’t make a few of these?”

If your boyfriend has his wits about him, he’ll say no.  You could also ask your boyfriend if he’d like to go away for Memorial Day weekend, since you have the day off.  He’d be a fool to turn that down, right?

Canceling your attendance at a family gathering will now be in his court, so you shouldn’t have to deal with that at all.  If his mother gives you a guilt trip as a result of your cancellation, simply give her an explanation of your other plans.  Don’t show weakness, for guilt breeds on weakness.  You have nothing to feel guilty for.

Your boyfriend’s mother might just feel bad for you that you don’t have any family of your own.  She may be doing this all for what she thinks is your benefit.  If you show that you have other plans, she may realize that you aren’t a pity case that needs familial nurturing.  If handled with sensitivity and respect, things should definitely get less suffocating with time.

Best of luck.


What’s next?  Easter’s coming up.  Whose family do you visit?  Your own?  Your partner’s?  Or do you not celebrate the holiday at all?  Email me about it at:


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