|Photo by AussieGold. Used with permission
from Flickr Creative Commons.
Christmas, Hanukkah, and the other festivities we celebrate can be beautiful expressions of our faith; terrific excuses to gather family around us; and gentle reminders to give more to others. Or the holidays can be a living hell. It just depends.
No where is this felt more than in your marriage. So to help avoid the worst, here’s Six Ways the Holidays Can Hijack Your Marriage.
1. Money: You never have enough of it at the holidays, right? Honey-baked Ham takes some serious coin. As do gifts for the kids’ teachers, booze for the office party, and that new Lexus we’re apparently supposed to have waiting in the drive on Christmas morning.
Marriage researchers always put money at the top of the “what couples fight about” list. It goes without saying that fighting often intensifies during the holidays. Avoid the fighting by setting a budget today, and sticking to it. Divide the purchasing so that neither of you has to feel like Scrooge. Suggest you draw names for extended family gifts; go in with another parent on teachers’ gifts. And skip the Lexus.
2. Time: Like money, there’s never enough time during the Christmas season. And while the first few holiday parties can be fun, baking cookies at 2 a.m. for tomorrow’s Christmas party usually isn’t. Most importantly, the busyness of the season sometimes keeps us from actually enjoying it with the ones we love. So before you book the calendar, block out some time for you and your spouse to watch your favorite Christmas movie alone; or plan a date night to Zoo Lights, without the kids. Fill in the calendar with things that are fun and/or unavoidable, but don’t add more than is necessary.
3. Food: We wait all year for the first handful of Puppy Chow, the first sip of Egg Nog. But of course we don’t stop at the first bite. Freshmen Fifteen has nothing on the Holiday Love Handles that develop by the time the New Year rolls around.
One of the side benefits of marriage is that your spouse is legally obligated to love you in spite of the love handles. Just the same, there’s no sense in giving your partner more to love this Christmas season.
4. In-laws: The one thing I remember my parents fighting about throughout my childhood was how to divide our time at Christmas between both sides of the family. And my two sets of grandparents lived 10 minutes a part. Multiply that by hundreds of miles, or multiple faith traditions, and it’s no wonder that figuring out the in-law thing can be a major marital headache.
And it’s not just who you spend your time with that can be a marriage hijacker. Does one side of the family give lavish gifts that you can’t compete with? Are there family traditions that should have died a decade ago? Brother-in-laws that pick fights about politics? (Side note: The Onion recently ran a headline something along the lines of, Area Man Withholds 75% of Opinions During Thanksgiving Visit to Parents. Yep, I get that.)
When you’re tempted to side with your side of the family, remember to have your spouse’s back – especially in public. If you’re both flexible, you’ll figure out the extended family drama with less drama of your own.
5. Division of Labor: On average, 10% of men feel the division of labor at home is unfair; 60% of women feel it is. Ouch! Add in the extra holiday responsibilities of shopping and wrapping and baking and cleaning and decorating … and it’s easy for one spouse to feel over burdened. Men, make a point of taking responsibility for extra tasks (it has the side benefit of almost certainly guaranteeing you a little extra nooky, see link above). Women, let some of the tasks go, be willing to surrender control of the ones you hand over, and take a task or two off his plate too.
6. Dissatisfaction: Finally, the last big factor in marital holiday hijacking is that this season is designed to remind us of what we don’t have: a house big enough to hold the extended family, a new car in the drive, jewelry boxes wrapped and waiting under the tree, an iPad hidden in the rafters for a Christmas morning surprise. It’s easy, in a season of consumerism, to start counting what you don’t have instead of what you do; dissatisfaction can quickly trickle down to your marriage, too.
The antidote to this, of course, is remembering what the season was originally designed to celebrate (and the answer is not Santa). Practicing gratitude together can be a place to start. As is mindfully lighting the Menorah or Advent candles. However you get through the holiday season, commit today to getting through it together, with your spouse.
What hijacks your marriage during the holiday season, and how do you avoid it?