From an adult woman in France: My boyfriend and I have been living together for 2 years. We live overseas but he is very close to his Mom. We spent our first Christmas together last year as I went to his family home. He was worried about breaking the news to his Mom that he might not spend every Christmas at home anymore but told me that if we spent last Christmas with his family he would gently break it to her, over the course of the year, that this Christmas would be spent with my family.
Christmas is really important to me but not to him. He thinks it’s perfectly normal for couples to go their separate ways for Christmas and does not expect me to spend them at his family home, unless I want to. To me, it’s important to spend Christmas with my partner. Neither of us have any desire to get married so, as far as I am concerned, we should be considered married, as a cohabiting couple. I think most people would find it strange for a married couple not to spend Christmas together and I can’t see how we are any different.
This year, my family are coming to us for Christmas but my boyfriend is definitely going home. I would love my boyfriend’s family to come too but, for various reasons, they can’t. There has been no debate, no apology for telling me that he would spend this Christmas with my family, just a declaration that “it would break my Mum’s heart if I wasn’t home for Christmas”. His Mum actually asked him what he will do this Christmas, which gives me the impression that she is prepared for him to not always spend it with her. When I questioned him on this he responded by saying that he wants to see his friends from home too as it’s been a while.
He knows how important Christmas is to me. This Christmas is especially important as it is the first I will spend with my brother in 14 years (he always spends it with his wife’s family), and the first I will spend with both my Mom and Dad since I was a child, as they are long divorced. I feel as though I have accepted him prioritizing his Mum’s happiness over mine but him wanting to see friends he could visit any time over spending this Christmas with me and my family makes me question where I come in his priorities.
He calls me dramatic and thinks we should both do whatever we want and that the two don’t need to correlate. I’m not sure I should invest anymore time in someone who doesn’t put me first.
Thank you for writing. You and your partner are in your 40s. For that reason, I don’t think this is about who your partner puts first. I think the discussion over Christmas is really a discussion about the nature of your relationship. You want to be treated as if you are a married couple. Your boyfriend is making it clear that he doesn’t share that point of view. Rather, he thinks the two of you should be making independent decisions and should support each other’s independence.
My suggestion is that you stop arguing about Christmas and start talking about your assumptions and expectations for what it means to be living together. You don’t seem to be on the same page now. But maybe, with some clearer discussion, the two of you can come up with a mutually agreed upon way to be both independent and together.
I wish you well.