How to deal with family drama at Christmas - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Ask Mikey

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How to deal with family drama at Christmas

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Posted: Saturday, December 22, 2012 2:49 pm

Dear Mikey,

My fiancée and I are engaged to be married this upcoming July. We have been friends forever and dating for years and the time is right to finally tie the knot. Our families could not be more ecstatic and we are all looking forward to July.

This is the first Christmas where we are actually going to coordinate everything at our new house that we just bought not too long ago. It has plenty of room to fit both of our families for the holidays.

The problem is, my fiancée and I both come from broken households. My parents divorced when I was a teenager and hers divorced when she was a young child. Neither party gets along with the other and everyone has since remarried. Since they can’t stand one another or their new spouses we might have a slight problem having everyone over for Christmas dinner.

My fiancée and I want to have Christmas at our house with everyone to kick-start our wedding excitement, and we want our families to get to know each other better well before the wedding. We are trying to send our families a message that we aren’t going to have a broken home like the ones we came from and that we want everyone to come together as a family and just get along.

Is this a good idea or just a Christmas recipe for disaster?

— Stressed at Christmas

Dear Stressed at Christmas,

Congratulations to you and your fiancée for wanting to tie the knot. What an exciting time it must be for you guys right now.

I think it is wonderful that you both are trying to kickstart the wedding celebrations by having your first Christmas together with both of your families at your new house. I also admire the agreement you and your fiancée made about not having a broken home like the ones you both came from — it is a positive direction for your marriage to head towards.

Having get-togethers with family members who may have gone through a rough divorce or have even remarried can always be challenging, but there is always the possibility of them working out in a positive way if you follow a few helpful tips.

First, as you are telling your family members about the dinner you are planning, make sure you let them know that you and your fiancée want to have a nice, holiday festive dinner to let your families get to know each other. At this point, let them know that you are inviting all family members, whether that means new spouses, old spouses, and their divorced halves as they are all considered your parents now (moms, dads, stepmoms, stepdads). This way, you aren’t blindsiding anyone that shows up who thought the other half wasn’t invited.

Next, make sure as you are setting up your dining room table that you are not putting anyone near someone who they do not get along with, so issues don’t occur during dinner. Put new spouses with new spouses, and give plenty of space away from old spouses, especially if there are still issues/negative vibes between them.

Lastly, make sure that you also let your guests/family members know that this is not going to be a time for bringing up harsh feelings and issues from the past, but instead a respectful Christmas celebration of merging your family with your fiancée’s family. Ask them kindly to leave the past in the past.

If you do come across an issue a spouse has with a former spouse being there, kindly let them know that you guys are trying to just get all of the family members together for Christmas, and if they aren’t comfortable then give them the option that they do not have to come. If this is the case, then you all can reschedule a time to have a “Christmas dinner” on a different night.

If you follow these tips, you should be able to make it through Christmas just fine. Good luck, and Merry Christmas!

• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Michelle “Mikey” Arana is a 2003 graduate of Mountain Pointe High School. She offers free peer advice, however, Mikey is not licensed or trained, just a fellow friend to the community. All inquiries made to Mikey will remain anonymous unless legal issues occur. She can be reached at

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