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 | By Steve and Bridget Patton

He and She Say: We’re Dreading Going Home to Either of Our Families for the Holidays

We know we’ll have to deal with nosiness from both sets of parents, especially about when and where we’re going to “settle down” and hinting about how much they’re looking forward to being grandparents.

Rejoice that you feel this discomfort; it’s a sign your marriage is healthy. Sadly, other couples – and not just newlyweds – suffer from failing to protect their couple space from entanglements and influences of their families of origin. To find a solution, start with gratitude.

Granted there is some self-interest in your parents’ intrusiveness, but at the core they want good things for you: stability and children. Indeed, as great a gift as your marriage is, an even greater gift may lie ahead: “Children are the supreme gift of marriage and contribute greatly to the good of the parents themselves.” (CCC 1652)

Next, out of respect for your parents, take the risk of expressing this gratitude to them. St. Paul extols the benefits of the Fourth Commandment: “Honor your father and mother.’

This is the first commandment with a promise, ‘that it may go well with you and that you may have long life on earth.’” (Eph 6:2-3)

Then, after you have expressed your appreciation and respect for them, gently express your own desire for appreciation and respect from them. Namely, you need both sets of parents to appreciate that you are responsible adults, and to respect that you want and indeed need to make such highly personal, big life decisions on your own. Moreover, let them know that notwithstanding their good intentions, whenever they offer their uninvited input about your big life decisions you feel pressured.

Assure them that you have heard them and – if it is true – that you share their underlying desires for your good. Maybe even assure them that you may come to them later for advice. “But until and unless we do, please refrain.”

It could help to agree upon a light-hearted way to deal with these situations, maybe a playful phrase to flag what you perceive as a nosy moment, something like, “Mom! Red light!”

Finally, consider staying home, just the two of you, for at least some of the holidays. Even if this might be somewhat motivated by wanting to avoid your parents’ nosiness, you don’t need to communicate it to them as such. Rather, do it sincerely to build and strengthen your couple bond, and your couple boundaries. That alone will communicate volumes..

Steve and Bridget Patton hold master’s degrees in theology and counseling and serve as family life ministers in the Diocese of Sacramento.

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