It’s funny how the holidays change over time. During childhood, it’s usually about fun holiday traditions and of course, the presents. However, when you become an adult, the added responsibilities of the holidays can sometimes be quite stressful for families.
There are several potential sources of stress for couples during the holiday season. The holidays can take a toll on a family’s finances. Attempting to keep the peace with extended family can be a challenge for some couples. Rushing from one family member’s home to another can certainly incite more panic than joy. Not to mention the extra workload. For many people the holiday season means working harder than ever.
And there’s the holiday shopping rush combined with holiday parties and full schedules that can make it impossible to spend quiet time together as a family. If couples aren’t careful, the holiday season can lead to increased arguments and a lack intimacy. There are steps couples can take to ensure that the stress of the holidays don’t cause them marital distress.
1. Stick to a Budget
Set a budget before you begin shopping. Work together to decide how much money you can spend this year on gifts for the kids, family and friends. Even more difficult than establishing the budget is sticking to it. It may mean you can’t buy everyone everything you want, but it’s more important to live within your means. A few minutes of overindulging in December can cause you a lot of stress down the road if you don’t keep your spending habits in check.
Be honest with one another about your spending. Lying about how much you spent or trying to keep secrets will only damage your relationship. Check in frequently about your holiday expenses. Keep in mind that there may be extra expenses besides gifts. Holiday party food, extra gas, decorations and other expenses add up quickly.
2. Set Realistic Expectations
Holiday movies often portray a fairytale like experience where the ending is magical. The holiday decorations are perfect, everyone seems to have plenty of time to spend with one another, and families get along in the end. However, reality is often much different.
Set realistic expectations about what you can do. Also, try to focus on what is important. If the house isn’t perfect or you aren’t able to spend much on family, give yourself a break. Can you remember what people gave you for gifts last year? Or what about the year before? What you buy for gifts is far less important than who you spend the holidays with and how you spend your time. Keep focused on what is important to you about the holidays.
3. Set Limits with Family
Being married means having to make choices about where and how to spend your time as a couple. Work together to decide where you want to be on the holidays and who you want to spend it with. Don’t feel like you have to say yes to every invitation or that you have to make everyone happy.
It’s essential that you both talk about any differences you have about how to spend the holidays. When one partner wants to spend it with his family and the other prefers to spend it with her family, anger and resentment can build if it is not discussed. Try to focus more on empathy for your partner rather than demanding you do “what is fair.”
4. Take Time Out as a Couple
Don’t forget to focus on one another during the holidays. Sometimes couples are so busy rushing around that they forget to celebrate with one another. Set aside some special time together to enjoy one another’s company. Take a breather and relax together.
5. Establish Holiday Traditions
Holiday traditions can be a great way for a married couple to really bond. It’s never too late to start a new tradition either. Having your own traditions is a great way to really feel like you are a partnership and it separates you from the rest of your family. Get creative when it comes to events you attend, meals you eat, and ways that you celebrate the holidays and it can give you something to look forward to every year.
6. Support One Another
Find ways to support one another during the holidays. If your spouse is stressed out about the holiday baking, instead of saying, “It’s not a big deal,” ask, “What can I do to help?” Remember, that if it is a big deal to your spouse, it’s important to be helpful rather than critical. If you work together as a team you’ll be much more likely to feel satisfied with your marriage and you’ll make it through the stress of the holidays much easier.