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This year I suggested that we make the 19 hour drive to go see my family. Travel Saturday and Sunday, and then travel back the next weekend. My wife seems to be on board with it, however, she still wants to celebrate Christmas with her family which is four hours away, either the weekend before or after the big trip.

I am against this, because I believe it is excessive. We will be traveling to see her family twice in November and again in January. Ever since we have been married (8 years this past August), we have celebrated Christmas completely with her family, even when we lived far away (I was active duty). I have never complained, because I know it means a lot more to her than me. I began experiencing Christmas away from at least parts of my immediate family from about the age of 10. She has never.

Other than my older brother and my mom, I haven't seen my family since Thanksgiving 2014, and since being married, never actually on Christmas. I kind of think it is time. We also have three kids, ages: 1, 4, and 7. And they really don't know my side of the family, and have only known Christmas with her side. She initially said that the kids would be upset about not celebrating Christmas with the cousins that they know. I said they would probably be fine, and that she was the one that would have the hardest time with it, she conceded that was probably true.

I don't really like driving, so spending 3 weekends in a row in the car does not appeal to me. I don't think asking her to give up one Christmas with her family is asking that much, especially when considering how often we see them already compared to my family. She argues that my family never comes to visit, which is true, though not completely fair. Both our parents are about the same age (60ish) but mine are still looking after kids (adopted and my special needs younger brother), and my sister has a large family, so making a 19 hour cross country trip is a bit more involved than a four hour jaunt without kids. Also, the only one of her siblings that have visited us, only has 2 kids, so I don't think that argument holds as much weight as she thinks it does.

How do I talk to my wife about this so that we can find a solution which make everyone happy?

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    Is this a strict either-or situation, or would it be possible to celebrate with both families (at your place or somewhere else)? – Arsak Sep 26 '18 at 16:01
  • @Marzipanherz, she wants to do both, I want to just go see mine, since it is such a long drive. – Alex Sep 26 '18 at 16:11
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    Asking "Am I being unreasonable is off-topic here" and asking "What should I do" is also off-topic. Since you already have many answers, I decided to edit your question to try to make it on-topic. Feel free to edit back to ask another on-topic question instead (interpersonal.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic) – Ælis Sep 26 '18 at 17:03
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    Has there been discussion about the amount of driving in a condensed period of time feeling like too much? It may help her sympathize that you're not trying to exclude her family, you're just trying to retain your sanity. Also, is it possible to celebrate Christmas in your later November or January trip? – Xrylite Sep 26 '18 at 17:43
  • Are there any other forms of transportation that you could consider? Do you need to go as a family on each one of the trips? Perhaps you could stay at home with the kids while she visits her family. – Sazanami Sep 27 '18 at 5:48
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Her wanting to see her family for Christmas is reasonable, and I would suggest avoiding approaching this as a zero-sum game where one person has to "get" the visit they want around Christmas and therefore the other has to "lose." (I think you are already doing a pretty good job of this and have clearly taken into consideration the different valuation you both put on Christmastime visits).

You wanting to see your family on Christmas is also reasonable, and it seems like your wife is not opposed to this, so that's great.

However, not wanting to make 4 trips in 3 months to visit family 4 hours away is also reasonable; I think if you want to make a stand that only the Christmas visit is the one that can't happen, you are probably not being reasonable.

It might be difficult for my suggested approach because of commitments you already made, but if possible now or in the future try to frame the negotiation about the number and occasion of visits to her family, rather than "hers" versus "yours" around a single event.

It seems like you are most bothered by taking so many trips to her family, rather than the Christmas visit itself. Perhaps she would be willing to skip one of the other trips if it means you don't mind doing two circa-Christmas trips. If the question is instead "do we visit my family on Christmas or do we visit them for grandma's birthday in January?" you may find it easier to compromise.

Another alternative to consider is that you may not both need to make every trip there.

For both of these approaches, the general concept is a negotiating strategy that provides choices to the other party while establishing your needs rather than trying to convince someone that your solution is best. In the end, that lets both of you feel good about the eventual outcome: if your wife gives up one of the other visits, she might feel like she both got what she wanted (Christmas with her family) and also gifted you what you wanted - she can feel good about both parts.

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    I like this answer, but there's one caveat to watch out for. If she gives up the January visit now, she may try to negotiate or "weasel" it back in later. Also, one option you missed is the 4 hour away family coming to the OP. That way the trip is done by the parents & any siblings, and no-one has to give up any other trip. One side of my own family is kind of spread out, so we take turns hosting Thanksgiving. It's a given that someone is going to be driving, but it doesn't always have to be the same person/people. – computercarguy Sep 27 '18 at 17:20
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I'm going to challenge your frame here in a big way.

Why go at all? Your family now is YOUR family. It's your wife and kids. You can visit Grandma and Grandpa at any time. Plus, and you know this from your experience, traveling with kids is a pretty big ordeal. Whether it's 4 hours or 19 hours, the amount of logistics is incredible.

All this travel makes holidays stressful. Couples argue over whom to visit and when, like you are doing now. The simple solution is simply to agree between the two of you: We are celebrating with our family now. Make plans on visiting the family at a time that works better for you, with less argument about the date and conflicts with other relatives.

We have done this, and it's made the holidays a lot less stressful. One of our parents tries to lay on the guilt about not being there, but we don't accept it and respond with "if it really matters to you to see us, you come here."

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    oh man, I could certainly do this, my wife however, I don't think would ever agree to it. Like I said, she has never not spent Christmas with her family. So, while I think this is a good suggestion, I don't think it will work in my case. Thank you though. – Alex Sep 26 '18 at 16:20
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    The point that this answer is making, and that you could try making to your wife, is that by staying home, she will be spending Christmas with what is "her family" now. – Jörg W Mittag Sep 26 '18 at 17:25
  • The question makes it obvious that the gatherings are relatively large events that involve a number of extended family members that are probably not as easily accessible "any time." – jpmc26 Sep 27 '18 at 3:45
  • you might include the rest of the big family with modern technology. instead of driving hours you could invite them to your christmas by video calls. set up a laptop with skype (or similar) and share your home with their home. – Bernd Wilke πφ Sep 27 '18 at 7:41
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    @JörgWMittag That might not be a point his wife agrees with, though, and he'd know that better than random people on the Internet. From her point of view it may very well be "I've gotten married and had kids. That means my family is more people, not different people." Not really possible to argue with that. – Anthony Grist Sep 27 '18 at 13:01
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tl;dr: Endure the additional drive to see her relatives, or visit your relatives at a different time

(Note: I'm trying to use "family" to describe you, your wife, and your children, and "relatives" to describe your and your wife's other relations)

This is a very asymmetrical situation, and my read is that there are several distinct but intersecting considerations which are confusing things:

  1. Christmas with one's relatives is a lot more important to your wife than to you
  2. You don't see your relatives often, and they don't really see your family
  3. You see your wife's relatives often
  4. You don't like driving very much

Your question seems to assert that (2) and (3) are blended with (1). I do not think that this is the case. Consider: if your major complaint is that you, your wife, and your children don't see your relatives enough, then it's totally reasonable to want to plan a visit (especially if it's difficult for your relatives to come see you). But there's no particular reason that that visit needs to revolve around Christmas. For you it sounds like it's important to see your relatives; for her, it sounds like it's important to see her relatives for Christmas specifically. Her preferences don't allow for much flexibility in timing, but yours do.

You don't indicate whether or not Christmas is an important thing for you, but spending it with your relatives seems not to be. Conversely, Christmas with her relatives apparently is very important to your wife. So you're effectively asking her to give up something very meaningful to her in exchange for something that is not so meaningful to you. That doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't get your way here but is important to keep in mind.

So you're set on seeing your relatives on the actual day, and your wife is (at least mostly) OK with that. She's floated a compromise in which you all still see her relatives around the same time, but not on the actual day. Now it's no longer "her relatives or mine", but "her relatives or my preference for my relatives this year and also not driving". That's harder to defend. I'm right there with you that long road trips are not fun, but is your desire to not be in a car for an additional 8 hours after being in one for 38 hours (baked in for seeing your relatives) that much stronger than her desire to see her relatives for a special holiday gathering, as she has done in an unbroken tradition spanning her entire life?

It's not crazy to recognize that your wife has gotten her preference every year so far (though it doesn't seem that that is something that bothers you very much on this topic). But that's not a great rationale for her getting none of what she wants this year just so that you can have something arbitrary and not as meaningful to you. Unless the Christmas element is a lot more important to you than your question lets on, you can easily satisfy everyone (and all four items in my list) by bending on the day: visiting your relatives for Thanksgiving (or any other holiday, or even any arbitrary day) and hers for Christmas seems like it would completely eliminate the issue while maximizing what everyone wants and minimizing what everyone doesn't want.

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    Since the trip to see my family is so, long, I was trying to maximize free time off (daughter's school, Wife is a teacher). Otherwise, taking the trip doesn't really make sense till summer. – Alex Sep 26 '18 at 16:35
  • @Alex Would there be a problem with that? Again, if the actual day is not so important to you a summer visit to your relatives should be equally attractive as a Christmas visit would be. – Upper_Case Sep 26 '18 at 16:38

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