6 Ways to Keep Your Marriage Strong and Happy During the Holidays

Today we’re honored to have Gaye Christmus of Calm.Healthy.Sexy as our host for Wedded Wednesday and our guest writer on such an important topic this time of year! In addition to Gaye being such a sweet and encouraging friend, I really love her blog! Every time I visit Calm.Healthy.Sexy, I feel like I’ve learned something new or been challenged to attend to a specific area that I’ve overlooked or simply didn’t know how to tackle. My hope is that you’ll find her post today to be just as inspiring and useful, especially as we head into the busy holiday season.

mulled wine at christmas fireplace

For many couples, the season that stretches from Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) through Christmas is one of the most stressful times of the year. Their day-to-day responsibilities continue unabated, while new responsibilities, expectations and financial strains jump on board and make themselves right at home! As a result, patience can run thin, tempers sometimes flare, and the connection between husband and wife may go missing in action.

Fortunately, you can avoid much of the holiday stress and the toll it takes on marriage by taking a proactive approach to your schedule, commitments and relationships. Here are six ways to reduce stress and keep your marriage strong and healthy during the rapidly-approaching holiday season:

  1. 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.
  2. 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!”
  3. 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.
  4. 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!
  5. 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.
  6. 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.


What additional ways have you found to be helpful in lessening the stress at the holidays?

 

Which of these six ways that Gaye listed above, do you most need to improve on?

 

 Photo credit:  ASK-Fotografie – Fotolia

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  • Thanks a lot for these helpful tips Gaye, I must manage this holiday so that my marriage and I will not be stresses. And thanks for hosting us again Beth.
    You two have a super blessed day!
    Love

    • Gaye @ CalmHealthySexy

      Thank you, Ugochi. I need to do all these things too. In some ways this post is a memo to myself! Have a wonderful day.

  • Spouse Dates

    Great advice, Gaye! The holiday season can easily become very stressful. It should not have to be that way. Thank you for sharing these tips on how to reduce the negative stress. With some forward thinking and intentionality the holiday season can be an opportunity to deepen our relationship and grow closer. Excellent tips!

    • Gaye @ CalmHealthySexy

      Thanks Steve. Yes, being forward thinking and intentional are so important, in this and other areas of our marriages. Thanks so much for your kind words.

  • bluecottonmemory

    Getting those expectations on the same page makes a huge difference! That includes, like you mention, calendar expectations! Wonderful list!!! WIshing you a healthy, joy-filled holiday season!

    • Gaye @ CalmHealthySexy

      I agree – getting on the same page is key. I’ve been surprised in my own life at how often we forget to talk through important things until they’re right on top of us! Thanks so much for stopping by. I hope you have a lovely holiday season too.

  • Kim Adams Morgan

    Hi Beth, Hi Gaye – Love your topic today. Expectations and extra stress around the holidays can make for a very unhappy home if we are not careful. Talking about what your ideal holiday is will be so important to newly married couples. I came from a home where Christmas was a magical time of year and my very large family got together to celebrate. I couldn’t imagine any other family not doing the same. My husband’s family was very small and times were not so happy around the holidays due to family stress. He’d just as well sleep through Christmas and Thanksgiving when we were first married. I’m sure he wanted to stuff me into one of my “merry stockings.” It never occurred to me to ask. The lessons we learn during marriage are priceless. Blessings to you both!

    • Gaye @ CalmHealthySexy

      Hi Kim – Oh, that’s quite a discrepancy in celebration styles! I imagine that was a huge challenge for the two of you as a young couple. And “it never occurred to me to ask” really resonates with me. I have made so many mistakes in marriage because it “never occurred to me” to ask or bring up or address a certain issue. So many problems that could have been avoided!

      Thanks so much for stopping by.

  • This is so good, Gaye. Stress happens at the holidays. And even more so when someone we love is ill or financial disaster has struck or the family dynamics have drastically shifted since we last all gathered round the turkey.

    http://creeksideministries.blogspot.com/2012/12/drastically-altered-holidays.html
    I’ve been there, done that. And have a feeling it won’t be long til it happens again. And I know I’m not the only one …

    • Gaye @ CalmHealthySexy

      Hi Linda – Taking into account illness, financial problems or changes in family dynamics is really a good point. (And who hasn’t dealt with at least one, if not all, of those things!) When we are dealing with one of those issues, we probably need to give ourselves and our spouses even more grace and patience during the holidays, and put even more effort into talking things out ahead of time.

      Thanks so much for sharing.

  • I really love this list, Gaye and I love how you keep us living in intentionally positive ways, my friend. I know I need to focus on “setting realistic expectations” since I do get caught up in a “Pinterest Christmas” for myself and my family and friends. I’m planning to “try” and simplify this year–“try” being the operative word here! 😉 Thank you so much for being our sweet guest and host today here at Wedded Wed!

    • Gaye @ CalmHealthySexy

      Thank you, Beth. I am so thrilled to be here today and am enjoying interacting with your readers.

  • Twingle Mommy

    My husband and I swear by our calendar. We have one for the family and one for us. We’ve learned that if you don’t schedule things like watching our favorite Christmas movie and eating popcorn as a family it might not happen. Plus since it’s planned we don’t feel guilty about telling people that we have plans that night. I keep telling him that getting into pjs and watching a movie is a plan.

    • Gaye @ CalmHealthySexy

      I love the idea of having 2 calendars – one just for you and your husband! What a great way to prioritize your marriage! And yes, getting comfy and watching movies is definitely a plan!

      Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Christa Sterken

    Smart advice, I hadn’t really considered this aspect. As I read I am reminded of how many years I made things harder by anticipating the “perfect” holidays that exist only the focused memory of childhood (when someone else did all the work 🙂

  • These are all terrific, Gaye! When our girls were little, we didn’t plan our schedule ahead and would end up overbooked, overtired, and very cranky. Ugh.

    I love the idea of using the calendar to budget your time. What a life and marriage saver! I would add to budget for Christmas events and gifts, and to stick to that. Spending more money than you have adds such stress to a marriage!