Dear Wayne and Wanda,
I’m super-frustrated that my girlfriend is super-frustrated at me for saying no to going to Thanksgiving and meeting her family and old friends in Ohio. We’ve dated around a year and pretty serious, and under normal circumstances I’d be there. But nothing is normal right now. I just graduated from UAA and my summer internship turned into a job. Sweet but I have almost no vacation time and it’s expected that I stick around during the holidays while the senior leaders take time off with their families. Besides that, I’m broke. Between college, credit cards, an apartment and going out with my girlfriend or friends when I do have any spare time, I’m barely breaking even. That will change with the job but I can’t afford to fly anywhere much less at peak holiday prices.
We talked about everything above and I told her 100% that I want to see where this relationship goes, I want her to be happy, and of course I want to get to know her family and meet her friends, but she just can’t move on. She’s spent the past two weeks being distant, sad or disappointed, and even making snide and passive-aggressive remarks which is not like her at all. I know she’s hurt but she has to understand, right?
She also says it’s totally unfair since she knows my family pretty well now because they all live here or in the Northwest and come up a lot. I’ve ‘met’ her parents and sister on FaceTime two or three times, so it’s not like we don’t already have a connection. It even sounds like it’s not a big deal to them — they’re happy I got a job in the career I love and they said they know that life is a lot of sacrifices right now. And they said they might come up and visit next summer.
Anyway, I feel like I’ve said and tried everything I can with her but am I missing anything? And at what point do I stop taking punishment and start defending myself? I don’t want a bigger mess, but I also don’t think it’s fair to spend the next two or three months in the doghouse or even being made to feel like crap about something that I can’t do anything about. I’m trying my best to be calm and understanding but I’m getting to the point that I don’t understand. Any suggestions?
Well sure, it’s upsetting, but she’s doesn’t need to be a big turkey about this. Too early for Thanksgiving jokes, Wanda? I know you’re thankful for that.
My friend, I truly don’t know what else you can do. It sounds like you’ve thought it through and talked it out, and it makes perfect sense to me. You aren’t making excuses, trying to avoid meeting her fam, or gaslighting her — you literally can’t make it happen. And while I can appreciate a certain level of “aw bummer” disappointment about that for your girlfriend, I can’t understand her overreaction or her refusal to just be cool with it.
If you’re both on the same page about this relationship having potential, this shouldn’t be a draw-a-line-in-the-pumpkin-pie moment. If she can visualize a future with you, you should be able to handle a small sacrifice in the present. And if she refuses to get over it and continues making you both miserable, maybe the honeymoon phase is officially over and this is a view of the real future of your relationship and the way she will respond when things don’t go her way. And maybe that’s something you can be thankful about learning now instead of in two years and a wedding ring from now.
Your situation is probably super-relatable to many a young Alaska couple: Normally one half of a duo has family here while the other is Outside. Bonding with a significant other’s relatives is so much easier when they’re relatively geographically close. When they’re in the Lower 48, it means taking vacation time, buying airline tickets, and possibly investing further in rental cars and lodging.
All of that is more expensive during holidays. Add to that the fact that you face (and are willing to tackle) pressure to work said holiday while colleagues are away.
So don’t go for Thanksgiving. Go in mid-October. Go in early December. Plan a trip in mid-January. Look for shoulder-season opportunities to earnestly visit and connect with your girlfriend’s kin. Clearly it’s very important to her. If your concerns are skipping holiday work duties and increased seasonal costs, this is a respectful compromise.