Integrating two different families is perhaps one of the most interesting and challenging parts of getting married. It isn't that it is bad. However, you and your significant are creating a new family that combines ideals and traditions of two other families that are often drastically different from each other in almost every regard--the particular traditions that the families celebrate, the different ways that families spend their free time, and sometimes even drastically different cultural backgrounds.
The first and most important thing is to set one boundary in particular: the two of you make a new family. It seems obvious at first glance, but after spending your entire life answering to your parents first, it can be difficult to realize that you no longer answer to your respective parents first. You answer to each other first. No longer do you ask your parents' opinion and then your significant other. Your responsibility is first to each other. Everyone else comes second.
The list of changes this can cause is practically endless. It means that, especially when surrounded by your family, your significant other comes first. You defend him or her before anyone else. Making sure you are both comfortable around your respective family lines becomes important.. And it isn't easy--trust me. I'm still working on it. No longer can you randomly wander around family gatherings from one group to another (a fairly old habit of mine), but you need to stay with your significant other. Remember--it is possible that he or she feels really uncomfortable around your family even if the reverse is not true.
Now, some of the issues you have to deal with are pretty straightforward. The question is not whether or not you need to divide up the holidays but how. Which family will you go visit and when? But the harder part is remembering to help keep each other patient with the differences between your previous families. Some families spend their time at home being around each other and playing as many games as possible. Some families tend to spend time apart from each other and gather for particular, arranged events. And then there are so many different cultures and traditions. Some families are very structured with a strong male presence leading the family. Some families have a strong woman directing a lot of what happens in a family. Families have different cultures and different ideologies. And there are so many different ways and varieties that families are different that it is impossible to prepare for all of them ahead of time and often surprising when some of the differences can cause friction.
However, what is important to remember is that you are no longer defending how "your" individual families do different things. Instead, you are combining your two families and creating an entirely new way of doing absolutely everything. Now it is about defending how your family decides to do things (sometimes against your previous families).
Oh, and just so you know: it's okay for the two of you to leave the house if you need some time--whether it is positive or negative, some developments are just surprising. Starbucks is a great place to get some time for the two of you.
(For Court's page, click here)