Christmas cards line my window sill, familiar carols jingle from the radio, lights twinkle through the windows, darkened from the night sky, and hot chocolate spills on the couch as the kids cuddle close. It’s Christmas time! This season ushers in plenty of warm, cozy feelings, but also spreads a blanket of anxiety. We rush from church activity to school activity and store to store shopping for bargains at the biggest sale of the year. We search for the perfect gift for the perfect party. Pinterest floods our inbox with magnificent, museum quality, must-have decorations that leave us feeling less-than if we don’t download and make them right now. With all this pressure it’s easy to lose the holiday cheer. By the end of December, our relationships with those we love most feel the strain.
How do we navigate the holidays and keep our marriage thriving?
- Keep Family Margins
When I was in school, I remember my English teacher stressing the importance of writing within the margins. She took points off the paper if I wrote beyond either red line. She said staying within the margins made the paper neater and easier to read.
Staying within the margin is important in life too. It can make life neater and easier to handle. Margins give us room to breathe. We can freely fill in the lines with enjoyable activities, but leave room in the margins to breathe.
Let’s face it: So many activities appeal to us during the holidays. We feel like we must do them all, but we can’t. We can pick a few favorites and do them joyfully, and then gracefully say no to the others and take some time to rest, relax and read a book. There’s no reason to rush so hard that it takes you till February to recover.
For example, my husband isn’t much for crowds. It really drains his energy. In order to keep his spirits up and our relationship working smoothly, I try to make our group outings manageable for him. That tells him I value his well-being and our marriage above all the noise and expectations around me.
I want to do memorable, holiday outings with the kids, but it does need to fall in order of priority. The schedule must work for the parents first, or the experience won’t be the kind of memorable I’m hoping for! I try to do what I can with the kids during the day, and limit our family activates to a couple nights a week, because that’s what works for us. Our attitudes head south when we’re hurrying to get in the car every night.
What about you? How can you create margin in your schedule and keep the personality of your family?
- Agree on a budget
I am an only child, so growing up, naturally Christmas was all about me! I probably had ten gifts under the tree just at my house, and I didn’t have to take turns opening them with anyone. Our big Christmas at my Grandparents house just added two younger cousins. So even then, there were only three kids to divide the present opening between.
Adam, on the other hand is number four of five kids. You can imagine the different experience he had growing up. He did not get to open 10 presents at one time with all eyes on him. And his big Christmas was just that – BIG!
So, when it came to Christmas, we had some differences to reconcile and choices to make about how our family would celebrate this holiday. We cannot buy our three children ten presents each. We couldn’t even do that when we just had one child! So we resorted to budgeting either a certain number of gifts or a specific dollar amount, that way we had some freedom with boundaries.
Another thing about my husband is he doesn’t really buy gifts. Gifts giving is not high on his love language, so I have to take that into account and not be offended that he’s not jumping in line on Black Friday to help me buy all these presents.
I do most of the actual shopping, but I do include him in on what my present ideas are and ask his input. If we’re looking at adding a trampoline to the back yard or buying an iPad, I want his input. That way, at least we’re on the same page.
What about you? How did you celebrate Christmas? How did your husband? How do you budget for gifts?
- Make Your Husband’s Favorite Goodies Too
I enjoy cooking all year long, but especially during the holidays. Pumpkin bread with cream cheese filling, cherry cheesecake, chocolate crinkle cookies, chocolate truffles, they all scatter flour all over the counter and fill the air with a sweeter scent than any candle.
I like to bring the kids in the kitchen and make a holiday basket to take to the neighbors, or Team Members at the office, or to a Christmas party.
But I noticed I easily get carried away making everyone around me special treats and my family is left nibbling on the crumbs at the bottom of the basket.
For some reason I think it’s noble to make goodies to share with others, but when it’s just for our family I need some special reason.
My husband helped me realize this last year when he meandered into the kitchen looking for some warm cookies and I had to tell him to back off because this batch is for someone else. I realized I say that more than I don’t. I know, I could keep a few cookies back from each batch, or make a double batch, one to keep and one to give away, but I never do. I had to do something though, because I was tired of the sad puppy dog face.
I decided to make his favorite dessert, just for him, just because.
When I handed him the warm, chocolate cookie, he said, “You made this just for me?”
“Yes,” I said with a smile.
“Thank you!” he responded with a bigger smile.
During a month where I’m knee deep in projects and trying to think of others over myself, when I do something just for my husband, just because, it says to him he is still more important to me than all the other stuff.
You thought about me when you had all this to do? Thank you!
I learned I don’t need a special reason to do something that blesses my marriage.
What about you? What blesses your husband? How can you intentionally bless him?
- Take time to connect as a couple
It seems like connecting as a couple should be easy during the holidays with all the nostalgic music, the flirty mistletoe, the heart-warming movies and days off to spend time with family. But it’s not. Thanks to gift wrapping, house cleaning, terrible traffic and sugar highs, the mood is pretty much killed by the end of the day.
I think to myself that it shouldn’t be that hard to spend quality time with Adam. Surly I can just leave one night a week, get the kids to bed (or at least in their bedroom) and sit down on the couch with my husband where we fold our hands together in a room lit by Christmas tree lights, the TV and phones off, and let our shoulders down while we discuss our day. But it’s hard!
I’m learning, though, if I want my marriage to flourish during the busy holidays I have to intentionally plan time to connect with him.
My highest love language is quality time and my husband’s is that plus physical touch. That means, for us to feel loved by one another, we need that time I described above. I probably need it more during the fast-paced holiday season where so many things tug at my heart and seek to separate the connection Adam and I have, yet this is the hardest season to achieve it.
What about you? What are your love languages? How can you take time to connect as a couple?
When I told Adam I wanted to write a post about keeping your marriage thriving through the holidays, I asked him if he had anything he wanted to say. He said this: “Just know it doesn’t have to be perfect. Christmas will come and go, but our marriages continue all year long. “
That is so true.
There will be a batch of cookies that don’t turn out right or got left on the counter by mistake. Your husband might grab dark brown sugar instead of light brown sugar, or whipping cream instead of half-in-half. It will be OK.
When we create margin, make a budget for time together and gifts, remember our husband when we bake, we relish our marriages and keep them thriving through the holidays.
And just for you, just because, I made a book mark that you can download (click the link below) and print out to keep your marriage thriving through the holidays! You could even print out an extra and give it to a friend.