As Christmas rolls around, it can either be a season of cheer or a season to fear. The stress of the holidays, with all its planning, negotiating - what presents to get and which friend’s party should you attend this year? - and the financial strain of gift-giving can cause a lot of tension between couples.
Don’t let Christmas pull you and your spouse apart!
A stress-free holiday is not impossible. Instead, with careful planning and open communication, you and your spouse can truly celebrate this joyful season of loving and giving together.
The giving of gifts
The gift-giving tradition can put a lot of financial and emotional stress on a couple. On a psychological stress scale, Christmas traditions are listed as more stressful than minor law violations while financial difficulties rank equal to the death of a close friend. Dealing with both the stress of upholding traditions and watching one’s holiday expenses can be such a bummer to an otherwise jolly and merry season! Here’re some practical tips on de-stressing Christmas:
Set a budget: Keep the “ghost of Christmas past” from haunting your credit card statements and your thoughts. Look at your finances together and create a realistic spending limit for the Christmas season. Account for any upcoming expenditures you may anticipate in the new year. Marriage therapist Marion Goertz recommends enlisting an objective third party if you and your spouse can’t agree on a budget.
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 take cost-cutting measures. For example, you could give one gift per family instead of one to each individual.
Get creative: You don’t have to buy your presents from the shopping mall. Baked goods and handmade crafts can be budget-friendly and memorable.
Don’t wait until December 24th: Last-minute shopping is rushed, stressful and often offers up nothing but the slimmest of pickings. Keep an eye out for sales all year and store the gifts until Christmas. “Christmas...doesn’t sneak up on you,” writes David Ramsey, author of The Total Money Makeover, saying that there’s no reason for not being prepared. If you plan in advance, you’ll not only save money but also save yourself from unnecessary anxiety and tension!
Visiting the extended family and spouse’s friends
It may be the most wonderful time of the year but holiday stress, paired with disagreements with or about your spouse’s parents, relatives and friends, can make you want to climb up the chimney. Annie Chapman, author of The Mother-In-Law Dance, says that anyone who's been married for longer than one Christmas knows just how taxing it can be. But don’t let it spoil your Christmas cheer!
- Talk to your spouse: Disagreements with or about your in-laws, extended family and friends can make your spouse feel threatened or defensive, and likewise for you if your spouse doesn’t get along with your parents or friends. Make it clear that you love your spouse unconditionally and that any holiday tensions, big or small, don’t change that.
- Take a break: At a family gathering or Christmas party with friends, don’t wait until you’re so frustrated that you engage in a verbal conflict. If things start grating on your nerves, take a break and step away from the situation. A walk outdoors or a quick getaway to the shopping mall can give you the breathing space you need to calm down before things get out of control.
- Plan ahead: Waiting until the Christmas season to announce that you’re not planning to attend Christmas dinner can create disappointment or resentment in your in-laws and friends. Plan your holiday schedule with your spouse months in advance and alert each set of in-laws and friends about your plans.
- Set aside time for reflection: Sometimes, it’s not the in-laws or friends who are grumpy and disagreeable. You may not be able to change them, but you can change yourself and your personal reaction to situations. Reflect on how you can better manage your emotions and plan how you will react if certain situations that can potentially lead to frustration and conflicts.
Enjoying Christmas together
The snowflake decals sprawled over glass windows at shopping malls, the Christmas songs in TV commercials and the everyday busyness of the holidays can diminish some of Christmas’ joyful tidings. Rediscover the true meaning of the holidays together as a couple.
- Discuss expectations: Most people have different childhood traditions or expectations that define the holiday for them. Talk to your spouse about the seasonal practices and traditions that mean a lot to you. Together, you can create new family traditions that encompass both of your expectations so no one’s left feeling like the holiday lacked lustre.
- Share the to-do list: Whether it’s hanging up the lights or decorating the Christmas tree, share the common Christmas tasks. Not only does it make the work fly by faster, but it’s also an opportunity to spend time together, enjoying another treasured aspect of the Christmas tradition.
- Be generous: By blessing others during Christmas, you can capture the true essence of Christmas – the joy of giving. From distributing food to the needy to volunteering with a charity, getting involved in the community reminds us all of what Christmas really means.
© 2014 Focus on the Family Singapore Ltd.
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