The holiday season, from Thanksgiving through New Year’s, is supposed to be one of joy, peace, gratitude and giving. Unfortunately, we put so much pressure on ourselves and on the holidays themselves that we often end up stressed, exhausted and depressed. If we’re not careful, we can also put so much stress on our marriages that they have trouble recovering.
Marriage and family counselors Sheri and Bob Stritoff offer some very good tips on how to protect your marriage from holiday stress in an article called “Holiday Marital Stress – How to Survive the Holidays.” There are some very good points made about the problems that couples have during this time of year and how to resolve them in a way that brings you together rather than pulling you apart.
As they point out, there are three things in general that cause extra stress during the holidays:
- Decisions that need to be made.
- Things to do that are added to already busy schedules.
- Added financial burdens and expectations.
The stress of the holidays can be surprising for newly married couples especially. When you join two lives together, you then have to consider each other’s traditions, families, financial styles and expectations. The tips offered in the article can help the newly married and those who’ve been together for years.
The Stritoffs explain that there are several danger signals that you should watch out for during the holidays. These can be signs that the season is taking a toll on your marriage. Some of the most common are:
- Retreating from each other.
- Being especially irritated with each other.
- Feeling overly tired or depressed.
So how do you protect your marriage from the stress of the holidays?
Agree to compromise when conflicts arise.
If your families are spread out and each of you wants to spend the holidays with your own relatives, find a compromise that works. You can alternate years with each side of the family, agree to spend Thanksgiving with one and Christmas with the other or celebrate Christmas Eve with one set of relatives and Christmas Day with the other. At first, you may feel upset about getting what you want only half the time, but half the time with an intact marriage is better than all of the time with a marriage that’s falling apart.
Make a financial plan and stick to it.
Overspending during the holiday season is a huge source of conflict in many marriages. Sit down long before the season begins and agree on a budget and stick with it. Don’t feel that you have to give a gift to everyone you know or that every gift must come from a store. Also be sure that your motives for giving are the right ones. Don’t put stress on your marriage by trying to impress others or keep up with the Joneses.
Choose to do only those things that are most important to each of you. Sit down with a calendar of events and any invitations and decide together which ones you can do without exhausting yourselves and taking much of the joy out of the season. Let up on your expectations, too. Not every hall has to be decked, not every cookie has to be homemade. Make sure you have time to rest and enjoy the holidays or they’ll become a burden rather than a joy.
The holidays can and should be a time to reflect on all of the wonderful things and people in your lives and to enjoy each other’s company. The gift of being able to enjoy this time is the best gift you can give your spouse and yourself.