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Negotiating family traditions

We come into relationships with long-standing family traditions.  Hopefully, our family traditions dovetail nicely into our new relationship however sometimes our traditions do not mesh well with our partner’s family traditions.  When this happens, we need to negotiate existing family traditions:

  • Clearly define each existing family tradition, what the various parts of it are, rank the parts from most important to least important and include why each part is important.
  • Identify conflicts – dates, times, beliefs, etc.  If there are no conflicts, there is no reason to reject the tradition.
  • Negotiate any conflicts between the two of you.  You may need to alternate traditions per year (Easter with his folks, Christmas with yours then switch the next year).  You may need to dismiss the most objectionable part of a tradition or agree that only one of you will participate in it.  You may need to remove the less important parts of the tradition.  However, you must agree how the traditions will proceed or it will forever be a sticking point in the relationship.
  • Present a united front to your families as you discuss how you will be participating in family traditions.  Do this well ahead of any holidays.  Expect some anger and potentially some resentment.  Hopefully everyone will be adult enough to understand and accept.  If not, you may feel pressured to re-negotiate with your partner.  Handle re-negotiations rationally and without emotion.  This is not about winning.
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