Q: Dr. Hurd, I want to spend Christmas on a Caribbean island with my husband. I don’t want to be with my family or his family; he agrees. Yet I feel guilty. Nobody will be left alone, or anything like that. It’s just that we won’t be taking part in the festivities this year. What should I do?
A: It’s your life. Do what you want. When you were born, nobody attached a legal requirement to you for spending every single Christmas in a certain location. Even if they could, there would still be no moral requirement. Your life is your own, just as everyone else’s life is his or her own. If you disagree with me on this point, then read no further. You don’t owe anybody anything. Don’t come across as defensive about this. Just be calm and assertive in stating this is what you want to do. Don’t explain why. Nobody really cares “why.” It’s just a statement of fact. If your family time is important to you–and I’m guessing it is, for you to feel guilty–then propose an alternative. OK, it won’t be Christmas Day. Celebrate upon your return, or before you leave. Work to compromise and accommodate in that context, but still do what you want. Obviously you and your husband gave this idea some thought, and it’s what you really want to do this year. Your family will know that whenever you are with them, you truly want to be with them, which is a lot better than being together every single Christmas day out of duty and obligation. Think about it. Would YOU want someone to spend time with you, knowing full well that person resented it and didn’t really want to do it?