TV’s Steph and Dom Parker, 53 and 56, draw on their 23 years of marriage to solve your relationship problems . . .
Q: Can you help us settle an argument please? Without talking to me first — I was at work — my husband has invited his parents and his sister, with her husband and kids, to come to ours for Christmas.
I have told him to cancel as I’ve been working flat-out trying to hold on to my job and I was looking forward to a quiet few days with my husband and our six-year-old daughter — not a madhouse.
He didn’t consider my parents. My mum is shielding, so they wouldn’t have taken the risk, but I don’t want to think of them alone.
An anonymous woman asked British TV’s Steph and Dom Parker for advice on her husband inviting family for Christmas without talking to her first (file image)
He says I’m overreacting and we can FaceTime them, but I can’t bear to hurt them like that. On top of everything, I’ll have to do the preparations, cleaning and the cooking and I just don’t want to. I don’t think I should back down.
STEPH SAYS: After almost three years, this is our final column for Inspire, and, before we explore our last dilemma, I’d like to thank our truly ‘inspirational’ readers’— especially those who have had the courage to write to us and share their deeply personal troubles.
Every single one of you who has written in has helped countless others struggling with similar issues — and you’ve also helped us with our relationship.
It has become natural for us to apply the issue to our own life together, and explore areas where we too have perhaps not communicated well enough.
So for that I thank you all very much. Dom and I are now better people for having pondered your stories and for that I will be forever grateful.
It is crystal clear that truth, communication and its delivery are the only ways to maintain a healthy relationship. So I urge you to be brave and show your vulnerability — honesty is the key to every obstacle. So with that said, I agree that your husband inviting his family without discussing it is a no-no. It suggests he knew it wasn’t what you would want — and that, in itself, is wrong.
Bullying you into doing something you don’t want is far more of a problem than who’s going to buy the turkey and make the mince pies. And that’s what you need to tackle.
Steph (pictured, with Dom) advised the reader to calmly explain to her husband that what he’s done is completely unacceptable
Tell him in no uncertain terms that what he has done is completely unacceptable.
He has decided that there will be nine people around your table this year. He has tripled your workload. At a time when you’re working flat out to hang on to your job!
The minutiae of Christmas is insane — and intense. Who is going to wash all the towels and find the pillows — for nine! — and buy the sprouts and the presents and think about tablecloths and soup spoons and loo rolls!
He’s sent you into a tailspin, which, as your partner, he should be doing everything to protect you from. He clearly has no idea of the kind of energy, both physical and mental, it takes to host Christmas. It’s time to tell him.
He’s bullied you into hosting – say No!
So, don’t stamp your feet, but explain to him, calmly, that you have a voice, too. Find a middle ground. They can come for drinks on Christmas Eve, or a walk and leftovers on Boxing Day, but the 25th? You’re exhausted. It’s your holiday as well.
I’ll be thinking of you and hoping you enjoy every moment, quietly, sitting down with a glass of wine and a mince pie — made by someone else and washed up by your husband.
DOM SAYS: And, just like that, Christmas has started. In my house I’m thought of as a bit of a ‘Bah, Humbug’ type, but deep down I love it. What I hate is the unecessary gluttony, waste and expense that gets thrown at it every year and, of course, the endless politics over who’s going where and staying with whom.
If not handled well, this issue will immediately cause friction — as it has in our household.
I sympathise with you as I don’t know at what stage a spouse finally realises that all decisions about Christmas have to be made together. Throughout the past three years of writing this column, one thing I’ve noticed is that the nub of most problems is communication.
Dom (pictured) asked how the family will be able to so social distance around the house as a group of nine people
Time and again, Steph and I have advised people to sit down and talk through whatever it is that’s bothering them. And here is that issue again. Your husband has forged on without you. He would do well to remember that a partner is just that.
In my mind, and I’m sure yours too, he has already ruined Christmas. He’s moved the goalposts and upped the pressure levels without discussing it with you.
He won’t want to cancel now because he won’t want to say: ‘My wife doesn’t want you to come to us.’
Not only would that be embarrasing, it also implies he isn’t the head of the household.
He won’t want to cancel plans now
The thing is, this is an annual issue. Who goes where, who cooks for whom, your parents, my parents,
But this year, of all years, one could have expected a bit of a break from those nightmare questions. We’ve all had a hideous time and we’re still enduring a pandemic. I am astounded that anybody is willing to open their doors without seriously discussing the implications of doing such a thing.
You’re going to be nine people, and personally, I can’t imagine how you’d be able to socially distance around the house, what with a table crammed full, not to mention shared bathrooms and cramped sleeping arrangements. I agree with you that it would be awful to see your parents left out.
Come all or come none has always been my philosophy — and as we’re limited to three households this year we must take great care of the feelings of those who don’t make it into those bubbles.
The other thing that you might point out to your husband is that lockdown has made us all more tense. This year we’re all going to have to try to hold our tempers over the table.
So, I’m right behind you. Tell him no. You have my full support — and my best wishes for Christmas to be just as you want it.