Happily Married Holidays
by Susan G Mathis
Holidays offer a great time of celebration, but the busyness of the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and even the New Year season can stress marriage in so many ways. Preparing for the holiday season—before it hits—is a good way to keep the “happy” in your marriage, whether you are a newlywed, have children at home, are a blending family or are empty nesters. It’s wise to annually reevaluate your holiday plans and consider making some adjustments that will make your marriage and this season an adventure.
Be a team
Dale and I love working together through all the aspects of life, but we especially enjoy the holidays. We see our commitment to teamwork as an asset in accomplishing the stuff of daily life, but the holidays can require extra measures of teamwork. So we’ve found that choosing to have a “go-team” attitude really helps us to accomplish much more than we could if we were more concerned about what’s fair and right for me as an individual.
We do just about everything as a team. I bake lots of Christmas delights (and make lots of messes), and Dale happily cleans up. We do the decorating together, inside and out, and when one of us sees something else that needs doing, we just do it, regardless of whose regular job it tends to be.
We are Team Mathis, and it’s great! There are times when one of us is busy or sick or tired, and the other has to pick up the slack for a while. But we try to remain flexible—I know there’s nothing Dale wouldn’t do for me, and vice versa. For us, the holidays provide more opportunities to show each other we love and care for one another, and that is a gift that keeps on giving.
Make a new tradition
Dale and I love traditions, but it’s easy to get stuck in a rut, and that can make holidays rather ho-hum. So every year, Dale and I try out a new tradition. Some stick; some don’t. But trying new things keeps our holidays from becoming mundane.
From the beginning of our remarriage, we’ve enjoyed some yearly traditions—writing a holiday newsletter, hosting a Holiday Open House, making Grandma Jennie’s butter cookies for Christmas, doing Operation Christmas Child and having a candlelit dinner at home on New Year’s Eve. But a few years ago, we started serving as Salvation Army Bell ringers and found it to be one of the most romantic dates of our holiday season! There are many traditions, large and small, that can help make your holidays unique, and these can draw you close in surprising ways.
What new traditions could you start for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s that might strengthen your marriage? And if you’re a blending family, what will make blending your holidays special? Do you want to start, keep, or stop, the fruitcake tradition your great grandmother started? Is the football-watching marathon a must for Thanksgiving, or might a hike in the woods create a special memory? Are there boundaries you need to make on the kids’ activities so you’ll have margin for couple time? Could Christmas caroling, bell ringing or serving the community in some way ignite your marriage? Dream together, and consider what you two can do together this season.
Keep your marriage first
Being with extended family is natural, familiar and often comforting, and getting together with family is part of what make the holidays special. But both sides of the family can sometimes place unrealistic expectations and stress your marriage. And as a blending family, there can be four or more sets of extended-family expectations! You, too, can create your own stress by demanding to be with your extended family during the holidays, or the kids can put undue pressure on you as well. All this can potentially lead to offense, misunderstanding and frustration, and draw you apart instead of close together. And sometimes it’s necessary to make a change.
Work on your holiday plans together, before others pressure you into their plans. Beyond Thanksgiving and Christmas, explore which holidays are important to each of you and why, and then adjust your plans accordingly. Once you decide on what’s best for you two, communicate your decisions with both families. When you keep the “happy” in happily married, the truth is, everyone will be happy you did!
Here are some ways to keep the “happy” in your marriage all year ‘round!
• Be servants. Find ways to serve together whether it’s at church or in the community. It really does draw you closer.
• Be social. Get involved in a Bible study together, and spend time with other couples who can journey with you through life.
• Be supported. Find a mentor couple with whom you can be honest, open and accountable to help you grow in your marriage, a couple who is a real-life example of a healthy marriage.
• Be aware. There are seasons in marriage when romance may wane or challenges may be overwhelming. Never give up on your marriage; work through any trials as a team until you come to a place of mature, unconditional lifelong love.
• Be a lifelong learner. Read books, go to marriage enrichment conferences and retreats, and keep on learning about your marriage and blending a family your entire life.
Susan G Mathis is author of The ReMarriage Adventure: Preparing for a Lifetime of Love & Happiness, and Countdown for Couples: Preparing for the Adventure of Marriage with her husband, Dale. © 2012, all rights reserved. Visit www.SusanGMathis.com for more.