Few seasons test the bonds of couples like the holidays. Santa's not the only one with a busy mailbox these days -- Wayne and Wanda have received several letters from readers who are already having holiday headaches.
Dear Wayne and Wanda,
I've been with my boyfriend for more than two years. We recently moved in together and things are more serious than ever. Everything is good except that we're having a huge fight about where to spend Christmas. I want to go to Seattle, where my parents are. He wants us to fly to see his family in Las Vegas. We both have huge families that live entirely out of state and we just can't agree on who "deserves" this more. How do we decide?
-- Split decision
Ooh, toughie. No one's love for his or her family is more important than someone else's. Look on the bright side: this disagreement is proof you both really care for your families and are super excited to blend your lives together. That's a good thing, and a sign of compatibility in your priorities and values. So how about a compromise: Spend Christmas with one family, and then hit up the second family for New Year's. I love Seattle at Christmas - and Vegas for New Year's? Yes, please!
The only way to settle this is to flip a coin... and then put that coin in a Vegas slot machine, baby! Seriously, though, Wanda nailed it. Best of both worlds -- quality holiday time with both families, quality bonding time for both of you. But if you only have the time or resources to choose one, you have to decide reasonably and fairly. If your relationship continues to progress on this trajectory, this is a decision you'll face every year. So stop fighting and start communicating like adults or you'll both get coal in your stockings.
Dear Wanda and Wayne,
I started dating a great girl this fall and we just made it official as an exclusive couple. We're both students and pretty much broke. What's the deal on Christmas gifts for new girlfriends? She has already said she doesn't want or need anything from me, but I've always heard from other men that that's never true and it's some kind of emotional trap. How can I make her happy without having to sell my Xbox or blood?
-- Clueless Christmas
Who the heck are your male role models? They certainly aren't Santa or the Ghost of Christmas Future. Since it seems you're new to the relationship game, here's a lesson -- trust your partner until they give you reason to do otherwise. In this case, believe her in that just being with you is enough to give her a happy holiday. That said, in the spirit of the season and to be an awesome boyfriend, it wouldn't kill you or break your piggy bank to get her a couple of little stocking stuffers or small gifts.
The holidays are stressful enough without having to go into debt over gifts. That said, put something for her under the tree by Christmas morning. True, she said not to worry about it -- and I think she meant it. Respect her request by not being extravagant. But a surprise gift will go a long way and be a sweet surprise. It doesn't have to cost a lot to be special. For example, a homemade coupon book for foot massages, vacuuming and boyfriend-cooked dinners would go a long way.
Dear Wayne and Wanda,
I met my girlfriend last year on New Year's Eve and we've had a fun year. She's so excited for the holidays. She keeps talking about how great our first Christmas will be and how we have to do something really amazing for New Year's Eve since it's our first anniversary. The problem is, I haven't been happy lately and I think I need to break up with her. Should I do it now -- which means she'll be totally sad all through the holiday season -- or should I stick with her through the holidays and break up with her after?
-- Breaking point
Oh, how big of you. You'd waste your holiday season to give your poor girlfriend the honor of your presence so that her inevitable misery will be delayed until 2014? Jeez, get over yourself. Your girlfriend will be sad whether you break up with her now or later, whether it's a birthday or a Tuesday or Election Day. Be a man, rip off the Band-Aid, get it over with, and treat her with the honesty and respect she deserves after giving you nearly a year of her life.
Before you make such a big decision, how about making an early New Year's resolution first: something like, "I'm going to be less of a self-absorbed jerk from now on." If it's truly over in your mind, make it official -- end it so you both can move on. And look at the bright side, Wanda -- at least he'll be saving her money on Christmas presents and a fancy New Year's celebration with this guy.
• Wanda is a wise person who has loved, lost and been to therapy. Wayne is a wise guy who has no use for therapy. Send them your questions and thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.