5 Ways to Protect Your Marriage This Christmas
Sparkling lights, hot cocoa, woodsy smells, traditions and…stress. While Christmas is full of celebration and joy, it can also be a time of strain on a marriage. It’s important to prepare your marriage for Christmas and protect it from unmet expectation and overload.
The day after Thanksgiving, we hunted for the perfect Christmas tree just like we always do. We traipsed through the entire farm, and then came back to one of the first trees we saw, cut it down and hauled it home. We had the traditional homemade cocoa and cinnamon pecans, and we sang Christmas carols as though no one else was around. Just like every other year.
Only it wasn’t like every other year.
This year, we were missing our oldest son, who was married just a couple of months ago. He and his wife opted to skip this tradition and join us later to decorate our tree with the mismatched assortment of ornaments we’ve collected over the years.
It felt a bit odd without him there to chase his little sisters down the rows or pack the tree out on his strong shoulders, and I missed him. I like things to stay the same. I am at peace with the familiar. And yet, I understand that deciding what traditions to hang on to and what to let go of are all part of a process he and his wife have to go through to become a new family, unique to his or hers. While I was sad for the letting go, I was happy that he’s willing and able to embrace something new.
Christmas provides a great opportunity for couples to strengthen their marriages as they embrace old and new traditions and make new memories. But unfortunately it is often an opportunity for conflict about what traditions to embrace, how memories should be made, who to make them with, and how much money should be used to do it. This can often be a yearly battle for some and cause rifts in a marriage that are hard to mend.
So if I were talking to my son and his new wife (ahem), I’d give these 5 simple ways to protect their marriage (and yours) this Christmas and avoid unnecessary hurt feelings and disappointments.
1-Decide together what you want Christmas to look like.
Too often we assume our spouse is on the same page and end up angry when we discover that what we value is not the same. So talk about it and determine what fits into both of your images and expectations of Christmas.
2-Value your relationship over tradition.
Ok this is really a hard one for me. I love traditions and believe they cement values and create lasting memories that draw a heart home. Still, traditions are not more important than peace in your relationship. His family is important, and so is yours. But it is not more important than your marriage. Hang on to some family traditions–they matter–but let go of some if they create strain between you.
3-Keep your personalities and likes in mind when planning.
For couples with an extreme introvert or extrovert, this can be a tough one when one loves to party and one is exhausted by it. It’s important to be sensitive and take care not overwhelm an introvert or bore an extrovert. Give up some things for the sake of each other and for the sake of peace.
4-Make a budget and stick to it.
Christmas is meant to be a time of celebration and joy, not a time of stress and going into debt. Decide together what to spend and how to spend it and then be true to your word. It isn’t constraining, but freeing.
5-Keep the main thing the main thing.
In all the activity and excitement, it’s easy to lose sight of the “why”. Christmas isn’t about presents and parties. They are merely ways to help us celebrate a God who loves us so much that He would choose to live among us.
“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). (Matthew 1:23)
Wow! It still amazes me. Immanuel. God in the flesh. God the Son came to His creation and confined Himself to our world in order to make the way for us to enter His. I never want all the glitter of the festivities to blind me to this profound truth. And I hope you don’t either.
Blessings on your marriage as you celebrate the joy of “God with us.”