Dear Carolyn • My significant other loves Christmas but I don't. Unfortunately, I have to drive the bus of "Noel's"* Annual Holiday Expectations, i.e., do all the decorating, baking, shopping, etc. BY MYSELF. If I don't, it won't get done and Noel will sulk and hide until I cave. Noel refuses to celebrate with family without me and maintains that it's only one day a year, I should suck it up, I can handle one church service, etc. (I'm an atheist.) This is a very rare instance of Noel's not budging but I don't know how NOT to feel pressure and an insane amount of resentment. Please advise!
Do ... Not ... Want!
Dear Do ... Not ... Want! • I believe you're feeling a sane amount of resentment. Noel is being a complete child, as you know, and Noel knows it's not "only one day" it takes weeks to put on the kind of Christmas you're talking about. And it's not weeks of joyous voluntary labor, but weeks of crowds, compulsory KP duty and forced cheer. That means you have three choices: Suck it up, go on strike or conjure a new approach. Most people reading this will think, ugh, go on strike already, it's years overdue. And they'll be right. But marriage isn't a single-answer institution; it's a compilation of deals two people make, and each is unique. If telling Noel where to stuff this stocking isn't the deal you want to make, then you're right to seek alternatives. One possibility: This year, let Noel know this is going to become a joint effort: baking together, decorating together, shopping together. When you say, "OK, let's bake some cookies," and Noel resists, say, "If you want cookies this year, then this is how it's going to happen; I also really would like your company." Bring as much fun to these things as is realistic after years of sane resentment. If Noel refuses to do any of these things, then the thing in question doesn't happen. No to team baking? Then don't bake. No to team wrapping? Then gifts get delivered unwrapped. Should this firm position result in no Christmas anything, and if that results in pouting, then you're down to the other two choices: caving or going on strike. *Name added as relief from the term "significant other."
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