The Most Wonderful (Stress-filled)
Time of the Year!
…the Naughty and Nice of Marriage at Christmas
By Ron and Ann Mainse
The Christmas season is like “the perfect storm” for stress in a marriage! From money issues to extra time spent with relatives to conflicting priorities pulling in different directions… ALL of these converge during the Christmas season, “so you’d better watch out” or you may land on your spouse’s “naughty list!” Let’s aim for “nice.”
If a couple is already under strain and feeling emotionally detached from each other, Christmas has the potential to make things much worse. To combat this potential ticking time bomb, a couple must agree on clear communication, patient respect, and an over-abundance of mutual compromise. And to be honest, this is difficult to do during even the most peaceful times of year in the healthiest of marriages. However, if a couple already has mounting stress, the outcome can be tragic. In fact, sadly, the busiest time of year for divorce lawyers is the first week in January.
So, we want to list the top 3 areas of Christmas stress for couples… Money, Relatives, and Priorities… and give some strategies in dealing with these areas…
1. MONEY – Not surprisingly, money is the #1 cause for arguments in the home at Christmas. This is because we are all well aware that in January, our credit card bills gets haunted by the ghost of Christmas past! Here are some MONEY stress-reducing tips…
- Make a list and check it twice: Work with your spouse to decide who you’ll bless with gifts. If your budget is tight this year, don’t be afraid to cut back. For example, you could give one gift per family instead of one to each individual. How about a family board game? Establishing a regular family games night is a gift for everyone.
- Remember those in need: It’s not just about the gifts but about the giving. One family we know sponsored a needy child through a charity for each of their kids. On Christmas morning, each of them unwrapped a photo and information about their particular child.
2. RELATIVES – Decking the halls is great. Decking your in-laws? Not so much!
No matter who you ask, it seems one of the most important parts of Christmas holidays is spending time with family, including extended family (which, when you think about it, can be both a blessing and a curse!).
- Remember, you are ONE - Acknowledge beforehand that you’re a team and a situation may occur that would put you at odds with each other. Decide beforehand that you’re on the same team. You are one.
3. PRIORITIES – From parties to pageants to shopping, there will be pressure to do too much and allow yourself to be pulled in too many different directions. While they’re all expected additions to the Christmas season, each of these have the ability to heighten stress in a marriage. It’s important that we prioritize our most important relationships… God, your spouse, and your own family. These are your top priorities all year long and they shouldn’t change during Christmas-time stress.
- God First… Don’t neglect your most important relationship… Purposefully acknowledge what you already know… Christmas is ALL ABOUT JESUS. Both as a couple and as individuals, be sure to maintain your daily quiet time with God. Christmas is about “peace on earth” (the Prince of Peace coming to earth)… and that peace begins in your home.
- Spouse Second… GRAB “just the two of you” time… Surprise your spouse by whisking him/her away for late-night walk through the snow… Or if you have small kids, surprise your spouse with their favourite tub of ice cream for a midnight date night… in front of the fireplace with all of the lights out…
- Family Third… Acknowledge that you have limited time over the Christmas holidays… whenever you say “yes” to one thing you are automatically saying “no” to something else. Make sure you say “yes” to your own family more than anyone else. As a couple decide to “protect family time” with your children.
So let’s all enjoy that “nice list” as we celebrate the birth of our Saviour, Jesus… Immanuel, God with us. It can truly be the most wonderful (peaceful) time of the year!
As always, remember… closer to God means closer to each other.
Ron & Ann