That’s the Way We’ve Always Done It

A couple of months ago my wonderful wife wrote That’s the Way We’ve Always Done It in which she talked about not continuing to do certain things during the holidays just because of tradition. This would be a great time to read that and apply it the next few weeks.

That’s the Way We’ve Always Done It

Beyond that, consider how tradition might be limiting or hurting your marriage. Are you doing certain things because that’s how your parents or his parents did it? What about traditions you formed when you got married that no longer make sense for the life you have now? How about the traditions of fear and dysfunction you both picked up as kids?

As Lori said in her post:

Traditions can be meaningful and deeply profound.

They can also be miserable and destructive.

Spend some time thinking about what tradition and habit are doing to you and your marriage. Then have a discussion with your husband about the issue. Ask him if there are traditions he thinks should be modified or dismissed and go from there.

~ Paul – I’m XY, and one of our traditions is hugging when Lori comes down the two steps from the bedroom/bathroom to where I stand at my desk.

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14 Comments on “That’s the Way We’ve Always Done It

  1. In business we call them “sacred cows” and the best companies in the world are the ones most adept at killing them, and doing what works best as opposed to TWWADI

  2. So, two things – one positive, one not as much! 😜

    The other day Lori posted a great idea about an ornament tradition. I loved the idea, but was sad because I’ve been married a while and figured it was too late to start a tradition. After Lori (who is awesome at encouraging) said it’s never too late, I’ve decided, maybe she’s right! Why not start some new traditions? So I’m thankful she wrote that post.

    On the flip side, the most awful tradition my family has is Christmas dinner at my MILs house. There are about 16 of us. There’s a lot of fighting and complaining. My boys are teens and keep mostly to themselves while we’re there, but most of the little nieces and nephews fight, complain, and cry. My BILs girlfriend and my MIL despise one another. It’s crowded. My MIL always gets overwhelmed and angry. But you must go. Last year, I discussed it with my husband, and then I politely told my MIL that we would be coming to visit in the afternoon, but we wouldn’t be able to stay for dinner. She FLIPPED out. She started screaming and crying and telling me that no one thought about her or did anything for her, ever. (Which is crazy because we spent the entire previous summer in the hospital with her and then at her house caring for her.) She is incredibly manipulative. We caved, and we went to the dinner. You might say, “why don’t you just stand your ground?” Two reasons. She’s not my mother. My husband won’t talk to her about it, he’s afraid of her reaction, I think. He just avoids it as much as possible. She won’t attack him as much as she’ll attack me. I’ll get the bulk of the screaming and the nasty comments. I’ll pay the greatest price. Is it worth it? I don’t know. My sister has always said I ruin Christmas. When we got married, my SIL told me I was ruining Christmas from now on by marrying her brother and having him move out. And my MIL will certainly tell everyone how I ruined Christmas by eating at home with my family. It’s no fun being the Christmas ruiner!!!

    So anyhow, that is one tradition I’d love to see end. And part of the time I feel annoyed that my husband won’t stand up to her, but on the flip side they were raised to fear her and do her bidding since they were little. I just wish he’d get past that.

    But I’ll try to make the best of it. My sons are getting older and have both asked me if they could skip it! But we will go, I’ll help her cook, I’ll try to keep the little ones from screaming, and I’ll try to repeatedly change the subject when my MIL and BILs girlfriend start. Joy. I’d absolutely love for us to have a quiet dinner at home. I’d take that as my Christmas present for the rest of my life!

    • Compassion dear B! My husband’s family was a different version of what you described. I would begin dreading the holidays when fall came every year. What changed it for me was prayer. I couldn’t change them so I asked God to help me deal with it. Simply being “cordial” was my goal. It still wasn’t enjoyable, but I tried, with God’s help, to keep it from ruining the entire season. When we arrived at their home, we prayed before we got out of our car—again, for our ability to manage.
      I would still let your husband know that not going would be the best gift ever—consider it planting a seed that will need time to grow.

    • While I believe that we do need to pray about changing our own thoughts and attitudes, there comes a time where we need to excuse ourselves from destructive situations, and this sounds like one of those times.
      Have you come right out and explained it all to your husband like what you said here? If not, maybe let him read what you wrote or write it out again and give it to him, explaining that you understand if he just doesn’t feel he can stand up to his mother and say no, but this is how you feel and you would love to have a relaxing dinner at home this year, and maybe from now on. Make new traditions with your children while they are still at home.

      Traditions are hard for people to break, especially the our parents who expect things to always stay the same.
      Amy recently posted…Speak the truthMy Profile

      • Amy, you have jiggled the cobwebs loose—we did make a decision after a time of dealing with it all to stay home on Christmas Day. We would go another day if they wanted (probably not a solution for B), but we began our own tradition of staying home all day on Christmas Day.
        I agree that abusive situations are different. I was not being attacked personally in our situation as B is. Part of our husband’s role is to protect us but they can find that very difficult when it involves family.
        Boundaries by Henry Cloud gave us very good guidelines.

        • Good for you, Ann, in being able to break free and start your own traditions. My heart goes out to B because she is being verbally and emotionally abused by her own family, and has this very difficult situation with her husband’s family too. It’s very difficult to stand up to one’s family, and sometimes more so for our husbands to take that stand.
          Amy recently posted…Speak the truthMy Profile

          • @Ann and @Amy, thank you for your replies. I’ve been thinking about this non-stop. My husband is never going to stand up to his mother. This problem is never going to be solved. I do believe it bothers him that he can’t solve it (short of dealing with his mom).

            And so, I’ve made a decision. Our family (in this house) will be having our Christmas celebration on Christmas Eve. We usually go to church and enjoy one another’s company, but this year I am also going to make us our own Christmas dinner and we will enjoy it – quietly – and while having rational conversation and rejoicing in the birth of our Savior, just the four of us. We will have our traditional Christmas breakfast and enjoy exchanging gifts on Christmas morning. We are going to enjoy ourselves.

            And then, yes, in the late afternoon we will have to trudge down the street and endure the chaos – I mean, festivities. 😊

            And yes, I will need to pray. For my own attitude, and for the ability to deal with it.

            This may not be the solution I’ve been longing for, but it’s better than staying cranky about it.

            • B, sounds like a plan! Yes, it would be wonderful if we could stand up and say no, but sometimes, well, it’s difficult and maybe depending on the situation, it causes more of a problem then it’s worth.

              I pray you have a wonderful Christmas and are able to just let whatever happens on Christmas evening go and not define how you feel about Christmas. And maybe when you get home after the chaos, er, festivities, you can end your Christmas by enjoying rest of the evening with your husband and boys. ;)
              Amy recently posted…Speak the truthMy Profile

    • @B – My suggestion is to plan a vacation for next Christmas. We did this with our son when he was 17 and it was great. Nothing expensive, we drove to a nearby seaside town and got two hotel rooms. We ate one meal at a local casino buffet, and then had a Christmas dinner of fresh crab, a bit loaf of French bread, and a whole lot of melted butter in our hotel room.

      BTW, you are not the Christmas ruiner – you have just been elected to that position by a bunch of messed up people who need someone to blame for their own problems. Do them, and yourselves, a favour and stop playing.
      Paul Byerly recently posted…30 Minutes of CalmMy Profile

      • That’s an awesome idea. It will still cause an unending amount of friction. I’ll pay for months. And I do have to give my husband a little credit. We do go away for Thanksgiving. This used to be every holiday, not just Christmas. It’s a little annoying that we have to run away to enjoy holidays, but my in-laws live right down the street.

        What’s crazier is, I do love my MIL. I just wish she’d be more rational and less controlling.

        I would love to stop playing. And I’ve tried. But I get sucked right back in. I can’t just cut them off. That wouldn’t be a good witness, and if I try to “not play” I will be harassed relentlessly throughout the year. Maybe I should move to a deserted island. 😊

        My husband was in a good mood tonight, and I tried talking to him about this. He just got really mad and kept yelling “what do you want me to do? Tell me what you want me to do!” It’s never a rational discussion. I think part of him knows what is happening is wrong and he feels badly that he can’t fix it. But the fear of facing his mother is worse. It actually very sad. He insists he isn’t mad at me, but he sure seemed angry. I apologized several times for even bringing it up. It’s just so sad that all I want is a peaceful Christmas, with some actual joy, and I’ll never know what that’s like.

        Trust me, if this made my MIL truly happy, and she seemed pleased and joyful to have her family there – I’d totally be willing to suck it up and go because it made her happy. But it doesn’t!! She will be miserable. She will be exhausted. She will scream and slam things. She’s mad when people are there and she’s furious if they’re not.

        I really think he should talk to her because she is his mother. But he won’t. I think he figures it’s just a few hours, so let’s just tough it out. My sadness, and our sons’ sullenness is easier to deal with than her wrath.

        But thanks for the suggestion. Maybe someday!

        • @B – “My sadness, and our sons’ sullenness is easier to deal with than her wrath.”

          Which is why she does it – it works. At least you don’t try to win by being a bigger pain.
          Paul Byerly recently posted…Her InsecuritiesMy Profile

        • Yesterday in the shower I was fantasizing about coming over to your MIL’s house with you and firmly sending her to her room when she yells and slams things. Explaining that she needs to go calm down ’cause she’s setting a bad example for the kids. And loudly starting a carrol anytime anyone looks like they’re starting in on anyone. And telling people their personal attacks are illogical and they should be quiet unless they can come up with something both rational and interesting to say. Or saying with a raised eyebrow “you are talking great nonsense?” Your idea of celebrating Christmas eve quietly is probably better :p

          I’m truly sorry for your bad luck in family. Hopefully you can get a chuckle out of the thought of me coming over and wrecking havoc with the usual dynamic. I’d do it too.

          • alchemist, I would like to go with you and help.

            B, I’ve read many of your struggles and hurt for you. Praying you have a truly Merry Christmas with your hubby and boys. Praying for you!

          • I think we should adopt B as a sister to help her out—but I want you in the mix to straighten them out!!

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