Q: Hi Meredith,
My boyfriend and I have been together for a little over a year and we have an incredible relationship. We grew up really differently -- I'm from just outside the city, have traveled extensively, and it was always assumed I'd go to college, while he is from a tiny town a couple of hours away, is just starting to discover the magic of travel (he's taken his first big trips while we've been together), and he's the only one of his siblings who went to college. We also hail from different religious backgrounds. We both identify and celebrate the major holidays, but neither of us is really religious. I've spent some time with his family, and while they're perfectly nice, I don't feel especially close to them. They've never been particularly curious about me. I always carry the conversations and they don't ever ask questions. I'd be surprised if they know what I do for work or anything about my family. I've definitely struggled with this -- I've always loved the idea of being close to my significant other's family -- but I realize I love him and am dating him, not them.
None of this has ever been an issue until recently, when a friend and I came up with the idea of taking a trip abroad at Christmas. Neither of us celebrates Christmas, so we figured it could be a perfect opportunity to get away and score some great travel deals. My boyfriend was supportive at first, but it came up in conversation that it "would really mean a lot to him" for me to be with his family for Christmas. I did spend last Christmas with them and as usual, I carried most of the conversation and was slightly uncomfortable, but all in all it was a nice afternoon and I was happy to be there. I told him I know it means a lot to him and I did consider it (which I did!) but that travel is really important to me and I have such limited opportunities to do it. On top of this, he just skipped out on a family dinner for the biggest religious holiday I celebrate due to a crushing amount of grad school homework. Understandable, sure, but it did give me pause -- he had mentioned he knew it was an important holiday.
I know that if I don't go on the trip, I'll feel resentful towards him. Unfortunately there's no way schedule-wise to do both. Should I feel obligated to stay? Is it selfish of me to go? Is it fair of him to ask me to stay? Help would be much appreciated!
– Love or Travel, Boston
A: My thoughts? You've already committed to the trip in your head (and maybe to your friend), so go. But let your boyfriend know that you now understand the expectations for Christmas. You guys were a new couple last year, so you're still figuring out the routine. So is he. After all, he was supportive of this trip at first.
Tell your boyfriend that you'd like to make up for this by spending time with his family before or after the holiday. Maybe you can have a nice meal with them before you go. Or maybe you can buy them some souvenirs from the trip and have a mini-Christmas after you get back.
I'm not endorsing the trip because of his passive family (that shouldn't matter). I just get the sense that you and your boyfriend are still a bit transient (grad school, etc.), and that this actually might be one of the few times you can get away this year.
I'd say, "We both blew it for holidays this year, but we'll make up for it in 2014." Then tell him that it's really nice to know that he wants you around. Because it is.
Readers? Any reason she mentioned their backgrounds? Should she cancel this trip? Should she tell him that this is the equivalent of him missing her holiday? Is it a bad sign that she wants to go, or am I right to assume that this is about their place in life? Help.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.