Christmas is one of the most romantic times of year. At least that’s how it appears on Hallmark holiday movies and all the recent knock-offs.
The plots are similar. Key characters are lonely. But there is a prospect for romance, either new or rekindled. Then some great challenge threatens to end the would-be couple’s relationship.
But in the course of a ninety minute Hallmark movie, the problem is resolved. Couples discover (or re-discover) an undeniable soul-mate connection. Sparks fly. And it snows.
Life is almost never like that.
Because relationships are complicated. People are different. And navigating those differences can be tricky.
Then there’s the reality that two individuals bring more than just themselves to a relationship. (And there’s no time to explore all those dynamics in the average Hallmark movie.)
During holiday seasons, you learn a lot about each other as you blend traditions from two different families of origin.
And that’s one of the reasons Christmas can be tough. This is especially true for newlyweds, and for couples in a major life transitions, like having children.
Holidays can bring out the best, and the worst, in families. Sometimes it’s impossible to manage all the expectations.
So in this post holiday season, take some time to check in with each other about how things went this year.
Try these four guidelines for a post-holiday check up:
Make time for a conversation.
This could happen over dinner if you don’t have kids, or later in the evening when you have some time alone. You should be relatively free of distractions.
Take turns asking questions.
Don’t assume you know what your spouse is thinking, or what may have been particularly enjoyable or stressful for them. Ask questions like, “What’s your best memory from this season?” or “What do you wish we had done differently this holiday?” It’s always good to start with positive comments, and then move to what you would like to change.
Listen carefully to your spouse’s responses.
Demonstrate understanding. You might respond by saying something like, “Okay- so I hear you saying …” Then explain what you heard to make sure you do in fact understand what your spouse is saying.
Make a plan.
Agree on what you want to repeat, and what you would like to change, before the next holiday season rolls around. This may include incorporating more time with extended family, or less. Maybe you want to scale back holiday meal preparation, or ramp that up a bit. Would more time for intimacy, or perhaps some individual time alone make the holidays more manageable? Perhaps you have discovered new traditions to include in future celebrations.
Be sure to take notes about your ideas and plans for future holidays. Then file them away for the next holiday planning season.
Holidays are probably always going to bring on some stress. And rarely will things wrap up as neatly as they do in a Hallmark movie. But when you take a few minutes to be intentional about evaluation and planning for the future, you mitigate stress and invest in your own ongoing love story.
And you demonstrate care for your spouse, by listening to them and working together toward even happier holiday seasons in the future.
Want to be intentional about growing your marriage all year long? Try a nine-week marriage course like Dynamic Marriage or United.