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I love the holidays. It is seriously my favorite time of year, so naturally, I want it to be a time where I connect with my husband and we truly enjoy those moments.
But there’s just this TINY little problem. I love Christmas music and he…..doesn’t.
Now, he’s not a regular Scrooge or anything, he just prefers other types of music and FALL happens to be his favorite season. So when I want to start listening to Christmas music on November 1st, he feels like we’re skipping his favorite time of year.
In our 14 years of marriage, we have come to an agreement that I won’t listen to Christmas music IN HIS PRESENCE until the day after Thanksgiving. That doesn’t mean I don’t listen to it at all, just not when he’s around.
The funny thing is, he can always tell, because he’ll hear the kids singing jingle bells. But, that’s not the point.
In the midst of the holiday season, staying connected with your spouse is so important and can actually help BOTH of you (as well as your kids) enjoy things a whole lot more.
So today I’m sharing 6 ways to stay connected with your spouse during the holidays…whether you like Christmas music or not.
1. Have A Conversation About Expectations
One of the biggest issues that arises during the holidays is that we tend to have really high expectations, and our expectations almost never match reality.
Now imagine TWO people with unrealistic expectations. (Wait, we call that marriage anyway, right? Kidding…) Not only are you probably not going to meet those expectations for yourself, but now your spouse -who usually doesn’t even KNOW these expectations- is falling short of them as well.
It’s so important to openly communicate about each of your expectations for the holidays and how to support each other as a team.
Just start with a conversation. Make sure you listen to hear and understand, not to just get your point across.
2. Decide together what to stink at.
You simply cannot do everything well. You probably can’t even do everything poorly either. The point is…you just can’t do everything, and that’s okay.
The holidays have a great way of reminding us of this.
My personality is SUPER optimistic. I tend to overestimate
what I can get done in a very short amount of time and I almost always find myself running out of time or energy to get it all done.
Not to mention the fact that when you throw kids into the mix, nothing ever goes exactly as planned. If you had told me in my pre-motherhood days how much of my life would be spent finding shoes, hats, cups, and that ONE toy my child simply CANNOT sleep without…I would have looked at you like you had two heads.
If we’re not careful, we can end up heaping a ton of pressure on ourselves and then later a ton of guilt when we don’t live up to those expectations.
But, what if we approached the holidays a little differently?
One of the best things that my husband, Michael, and I do during busy seasons of our lives is that we decide together what we’re going to be BAD at.
This is actually just as important as deciding on what you’re
going to be GOOD at. Because what it really means is that you are “managing your yes” as author Danny Silk describes it.
You are choosing in advance what will be the biggest priorities for your holiday season so that you can say YES to those things that matter most to you.
Then, in turn, you have to decide what you’re going to say NO to.
Instead of laying out a whole bunch of expectations for the holiday season and all the ways you’re going to make it perfect, take a few minutes to talk to your spouse about what’s most important to each of you so you can get on the same page.
Ask each other these 3 questions:
-What are your top 1-3 priorities for this holiday season?
-What does that look like specifically or practically?
-What do we need to say no to or lower our standards on to make that happen?
Example 1: If one of your top priorities is to spend time together as a family enjoying the moment, then deciding what that looks like practically may mean lighting a fire in the fireplace and drinking cocoa together on Friday nights during the holidays. That means saying “no” to any other commitments for Friday evenings that come up. It may also mean saying “no” to baking 10 dozen cookies or sending Christmas cards. You may need to make some hard choices!
Remember that you do NOT have to live up to everyone else’s expectations. It’s so important to give yourself grace and permission to let some things go SO THAT you can focus your time and energy on the things that are truly important to you.
I promise that 20 years from now, you’re not going to look back and say, “Man, I’m so thankful I got 4 hours of sleep that holiday season so I could bake extra cookies and send a bunch of cards to people I hardly know anymore.”
No, instead, you can look back and say, “I’m so glad I chose to be present with my kids and my spouse that year and just enjoy each other. That’s what we needed most.”
3. Create boundaries with family.
One of the other huge topics that can cause tension in your marriage during the holidays is extended family. No matter how healthy (or dysfunctional) each of your extended families is, there are bound to be some areas
where you disagree. That can lead to stress, tension, unmet expectations, hurt feelings, and even some pretty toxic dynamics.
That’s why it’s SO important that you and your spouse decide to be on the same team and choose ahead of time how you will respond to toxic family members or awkward situations.
Don’t leave your spouse hanging. And don’t wait until things go wrong to respond or react to them in the moment.
Make a plan together.
Sure, maybe you don’t know exactly what someone is going to say, but if you’ve been married for any length of time, you know the TYPES of
issues or comments that are bound to come up.
Use those as examples and work through them together as a team.
BONUS TIP #1: It’s really important that, in this process, you don’t resort to name-calling or blaming your spouse’s family. No matter how difficult some situations may be, they are still family. And your spouse still loves them.
One of the best gifts you can give to your spouse is to speak about his or her family in a loving way and not in a toxic way. You can set healthy boundaries without resorting to name-calling or hurtful comments that will only make your spouse feel hurt and defensive.
BONUS TIP #2: As a general rule, each of you should be the one who communicates boundaries with your own family. It should not be the wife’s job to communicate boundaries to her husband’s side of the family and vice versa.
If your spouse is unwilling or unable to create and communicate boundaries in this fashion, you may need to limit your exposure to those toxic family members to begin with.
There’s no perfect way to handle things, so focus on connecting as a team and being gentle and loving towards each other as you work out family dynamics.
4. Schedule intentional time to connect as a couple.
The holidays can quickly become a flurry of things to do and it’s easy to become like ships passing in the night. And yet, for most of us, we would say that our #1 priority for the holidays is to be present and really
connect with our family — your spouse should be included in that!
Micro dates are perfect for the holiday season! With heightened
restrictions right now, options for eating out or booking a babysitter could be extremely limited. So think about how you can connect with at-home dates and micro-dates!
Here are a few ideas:
- Hang up mistletoe and use it! Let your kids see you kiss too!
- Turn something that has to be done into a date – wrapping gifts, shopping online, cooking, whatever! Turn on some music, pour yourselves a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, and do it together.
- Put the kids to bed early one evening or set them up with a movie in the other room and have a leisurely dinner together.
- Try some connecting questions or share some of your favorite memories from past Christmases. Grab a free copy of these 25 Holiday-Themed Connecting Questions for Couples that I made!
5. Tune in to your spouse’s needs.
We’re all going through something. And as joyful as the holidays are, there’s also a good chance that they stir up some negative emotions for you or your spouse. That may be grief, stress, anxiety, depression, or even past trauma.
In the past 2 years, my husband lost both of his parents. So even though he loves seeing the joy on our kids’ faces during the holiday season, it’s also a
very painful time for him. His mom LOVED Christmas. It was her favorite time of year and so many things remind him of that giant hole in his life.
Have an honest chat with your spouse about where each of you is at and how you can support each other through what could be a difficult season.
It’s important to remember in all this that you can’t argue with a feeling. Your spouse’s emotions, even if you don’t share them, are not up for debate. Instead, part of being on the same team means taking time to actively listen to your spouse, validate what they’re feeling, and ask them how you can support them in the midst of that.
Instead of me jumping in with putting up decorations early and planning out all our fun, family activities, I started this holiday season by asking my husband: “What do you need? How can we work together to have a good holiday season in the midst of grief? Is there anything you definitely want to do or would rather skip this year?”
Be sensitive to where your and your spouse are emotionally and choose to support each other through it. Being a “safe place” for each other this holiday season is one of the best ways to stay connected.
6. Respond to each other’s bids.
If you don’t know what a bid is, it’s basically a tiny invitation to connect.
For example, if we’re driving down the highway, Michael might point out the window and say, “Look! There’s a red-tailed hawk!”
Now, to be totally honest, I don’t really care about hawks. There are a thousand things I find more interesting. So a part of me may not care to look or even respond.
BUT this is a bid.
It’s a tiny invitation from my husband to enter into his world. So, instead, I look up and say something like, “I see it! Wow, cool!”
So many times, in the midst of our own busyness, we can get in the habit of ignoring these bids. But according to research, the couples who stay married (happily married that is) the longest, respond to each other’s
bids at least 87% of the time.
Here’s the crazy thing: most of the time it literally takes only SECONDS to respond to your partner’s bid.
And yet it’s a powerful investment into your relationship and helps your spouse feel seen and valued in a powerful way.
I also know that the next time I get excited about a new Hallmark Christmas movie, my husband will at least pretend to be a little excited too.
Responding to each other’s bids takes a small amount of effort but wields a huge result in your marriage.
In the midst of all the busyness, take time to connect and show your spouse how much you care this holiday season.
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