Trivial things can ramp up my anxiety - silly question but hoping someone can offer another perspective
Hi there, as mentioned this is probably silly/trivial but I find these things to lead me to start spiralling with my anxiety, which I'm worried affects my views of such things as my relationship.
Short story is my partner's family do the same things every year for Christmas and Easter and other long weekends - they have a holiday house, I guess is the easiest way to describe. There's a strong culture around visiting there and other partners prioritise going there over spending time with their own families often.
With this coming Easter, as with any long weekend, I like the idea of planning these with my partner as they are holidays for both of us, but she has stated that she's open to other ideas but wants to go to the holiday house for 'as long as possible'. It just really gets me down that this is the same /every time/ and she's quite forward in being quite disinterested in planning anything else together. Her default position is that if I don't come up with anything more interesting (on my own), she'll just go to hang out with her family.
They're a great family, and sometimes I go, but I am really keen to have a shared life (although it is /most/ of the time as we live together) and plan things together for holiday periods etc. - I realise that time-wise, we already spend a lot of time together and I'm open to taking separate holidays, but I just want others' perspectives on my 'right' to want to plan things together or my 'lack of right' to expect that when that family time is important to my partner - I think working this out my help me put my anxiety and sadness around it into perspective.
Thanks in advance for your thoughts!
I don’t think it’s a trivial issue at all and I’m glad that you posted. I think most couples grapple with this issue, so it will be interesting to learn about how others figure it out.
My husband and I have always alternated the years we spend Christmas with each other’s family. This is because it is the most special holiday for both of us. My family lives overseas, so this worked well for us.
As for the other holidays, like you, I sometimes wanted to avoid the big family event and just spend the holiday with him and then with him and our children when they came along. It was really about carving out our own traditions and reconnecting within our relationship. So, our strategy was to alternate the holiday time.
Over time, a small group of friends became my “Aussie” family, so time with them also got worked into our plans. This worked really well for us but I know that his mother had a hard time understanding.
I guess what I’m saying is that I think that you both have equal “rights” to plan the holidays and that means compromise. I really don’t think it’s a fair expectation that you automatically go to her family’s holiday house for every occasion.
Hope this makes sense. Kind thoughts to you
My partner offered to alternate holidays but really, if I'm not planning something with my distant and disjointed family, or a specific group of friends, she will default to her family's activities. On one hand, I think that's fair, on the other, for example, I can't wish for us to have a nice long weekend at home for example, as that's 'boring' - there's a lot of FOMO in her family culture also.
But that all said, I don't want to be controlling about it, but yeah do expect kind of a fair arrangement around 'us' wanting to plan together, and don't see taking separate holidays as a new norm or solution ... - the other complex part is we have two cats who are rescues and thus not vaccinated when young enough to go to shelters (we wouldn't want that anyway), so unless we can get house sitters, one of us has to stay home - usually it's me, because I have less external influence etc. etc. and "staying home is what you wanted anyway" kind of response.
Thanks again - your thoughts are much appreciated 🙂
My partner only responded with her being honest, saying her preference would be to go do her family thing the whole time and she and I could go to a hotel and have a mini holiday like that a different long weekend.
It's reasonable enough but still bugs me! I don't know what to do from here.
The conversations you’re having with your partner sound great. It’s healthy that you two can talk about issues and problem solve together.
I could be misunderstanding but it sounds like you made progress and achieved a “win win”. That’s because I read your post as your partner proposed a compromise, the two of you go together to the holiday house for Easter and then the two of you spend the next long weekend alone. That’s real movement for your partner.
So, why is it bugging you?
Perhaps it’s bugging you because you really just don’t want to go to the family Easter. I get that, four days in the same house might feel like too much.
I mentioned earlier that our family used to travel overseas ever year for an intense four week holiday with my family. For financial reasons we stayed with members of my family for many years.
Now they were my family and I loved them to pieces but it was still hard at times. Loss of privacy, loss of control, loss of independence. When we were able, we organised a hotel for hubby and I. Kids stayed with Grandma or my siblings and their cousins for maximum visit/fun time but we had some privacy.
This arrangement reduced tension and stress for everyone, as it’s not easy hosting a family of four and managing all the different personalities. My mum felt hurt at first but soon enjoyed the benefits and the change was accepted.
What I’m saying is the two of you staying at a local hotel isn’t a bad idea for Easter. Gives you room to breathe, some alone time and you get to enjoy the family fun together at the same time. Would she stay at the hotel with you?
But I think you staying alone at the hotel and her leaving early to join you will cause issues with her family. It will become a “thing” and the focus will be on why you aren’t staying the entire time. Because they will know you’re in the vicinity, they may assume you just don’t want to be with them.
It’s a lot easier to explain you can’t go at all because of the cats or work or health or whatever. It’s also easier to explain a couple needing more space. How would you explain your proposal to her family?
I think the first step is for you to understand why the proposed “alternating” solution to the holiday issue as it stands now bugs you.
Then you can either take the win you’ve got and “suck it up” for Easter knowing big picture wise you’re in a better position, or go back to talk about what’s really bugging you.
Hope this makes sense.
Kind thoughts to you
Glad to hear from you again, Stevolica. Sounds like not much has changed since last time we chatted.
If I may speculate, you would really like to be the centre of your partner's attention and affections for most, if not all of the time; and these regular family occasions seem to shut you out (despite you being welcomed and involved, there seems to be no perceptible evidence of intentional ostracisation) from the attention of which you feel entitled as the significant other. That's okay, your needs to spend time together may be stronger than your partner's and you might be feeling less securely loved whenever this is not the case. This family reunion represents part of your partner's past - when you weren't around, which leaves you feeling like an accessory; and your partner revels in these spirited encounters either with or without you, which only serves to confirm your feelings of being secondary to purpose (at least during these events).
I feel this may be playing out in your head more so due to comparison with your own family, which I believe you said was not that close . Your partner's resolution and apparent denial of your preference may be feeding into a feeling of rejection linked to your own family experience and how you may wish things could have been with them. Sorry if this sounds confronting and I will happily stand to be corrected by you if it is indeed not the case.
The point is, however, your partner has thrown you a bone: "Put up or shut up" (again, sorry for any offence, but it's the best way to view it). You have much to overcome as this 'family do' is a big thing for your partner and you'll have to come up with a doozy to trump her current setup (hey, from what you described, I'd even like to go!).
How about a balloon ride, skydiving, snorkeling, a horse and carriage weekend getaway, or anything that pushes you out of your comfort zone? It'll keep you on your toes thinking of something at least once a year but I feel that could be good for both of you - and perhaps it's really all your partner is seeking: she wants you to become the exciting centre of her interests and affections.
Either way, I hope your anxiety levels settle - that gnawing feeling might be your conscience telling you what you need to do...