Can the holiday season in sunny South Florida really be trouble in paradise? Is it really possible for relationships to strain when the holiday season is accompanied by the sunny, 75 degree weather that is the envy of the rest of the country? Believe it or not, yes.
The holiday season can be challenging for many couples as the hustle and bustle of and responsibilities of life continue along with extra financial strains, the pressures of making time for family, and the pleasure of hanging out with the in-laws. If couples are not proactive in their devotion to each other during the holidays their relationship can take a hit during what can otherwise be a wonderful time of the year.
Beth Steffaniak, a pastor's wife, counselor and life coach and creator of the Messy Marriage Blog, recently featured a list of six things couples can do to keep their relationship strong over the holidays:
- Set aside time now to talk about your plans, expectations and hopes. Find out what’s important to your husband and share what’s important to you. For example, many husbands would love to spend time relaxing with their family, enjoying some simple pleasures of the season. Many wives want to create lovely holiday memories and find just the right gifts for each family member. So talk about it and find a way to include things that are important to each of you. And, be willing to set aside some of your preferences, if necessary, so he can enjoy some of his.
- Use your calendar to “protect” your marriage. First, write down the required holiday activities, like your children’s school or church programs, your husband’s boss’ Christmas party, family dinners or travel. Next, schedule the things you and your husband really want to do – cutting down a Christmas tree, staying home for a family movie night, taking a drive to look at Christmas lights, planning some date nights – whatever will make the season fun and meaningful for the two of you. Then, write those things down on the calendar. Finally, when someone invites you to one more Christmas drop-in or church activity say, “Sorry, we already have plans!”
- Set realistic expectations. Some women feel compelled to create a “Pinterest Christmas,” with perfect decorations, gifts and meals. But it’s not realistic, and it causes a lot of frustration for wives and husbands. So this year, decide together what’s really important, and let go of the rest. When our boys were young, I imagined the perfect family Christmas tree experience. It involved going to a farm to cut down a tree, which they enjoyed, and decorating the tree together, which they did not. They tended to wander off or, if I made them stay, to create conflict with us or each other. Needless to say, we had a few Christmas tree fights before I backed off on my fantasy, which was really about me and not about them. If you have similar unrealistic pictures in your mind, let go of them this year and just enjoy the imperfect celebrations of an imperfect family.
- Exercise, eat well and get enough sleep. It’s easy to lose track of good health habits during the holidays, so take steps to help each other stay healthy. Make sure both of you have time to be physically active. Make a menu each week and organize your meals on the weekends, so you don’t end up relying on fast food or takeout. And get 7-8 hours of sleep most nights. Those handmade wreaths, perfectly wrapped gifts and exquisite cookies aren’t worth giving up 10 or 12 hours of sleep over the course of a week!
- Make sex and intimacy a priority. Over the next 6 weeks it will seem like you don’t have time for sex and intimacy. But sex isn’t just another task on your to-do list. It’s an essential way of connecting with your husband, the one that creates the intimacy, communication and joy you can only share with each other. And it’s a great way to reduce stress and have fun during a busy time of year! So figure out ways to make time and space for it, even if that means delegating some of your tasks, asking for help, saying no, or letting go of the need for perfection.
- Be kind to yourself. No matter how well you communicate and plan, the holiday season will be busy and somewhat stressful. So pace yourself and build in some downtime. Plan some activities you can each enjoy on your own and some you can enjoy together. If you don’t have time to be kind to yourself and your husband, your schedule is too busy. Go back to your calendar and make it work for you.