The holidays can put extra stress on your marriage.

Make the Holidays Easier on Your Marriage

Marriage Dynamics InstituteCommunication, Conflict, Connection, Contentment, Family, Finances, Holidays, Quality Time

Does your blood pressure rise when you look up and realize there are Christmas decorations out at your local big-box store, and it’s only OCTOBER?  And feeling pressure to catch the Christmas spirit does not seem to make the holidays easier. 

Healthline surveyed more than 2,200 people and found that nearly 65% of people feel moderate or significant amounts of stress during the holidays.

Among the biggest stress-producers? Family, food, and finances. Can you relate?

You want to see everybody, but that seems impossible. You want all the fixings, but the five pounds you’ll gain don’t seem worth it and take months to lose. On top of that, the whole gift-giving thing may feel like it’s gotten out of hand.

We love holidays, but they can drive us nuts – and cause conflict in marriage.

Commit now with your spouse to use some strategies to make the holidays easier so your marriage doesn’t just get leftovers this season. A good plan will reduce the chance of a blow-up that steals joy from what can be one of the most satisfying and meaningful times of the year.

Realize you can’t be everywhere, see everyone, or do everything. 

If everyone lives close, it may be easy for you to spend time with both sides of the family. But if there’s a lot of geographical distance between all the different family groups, be realistic about what you can – and want – to pull off. As families grow, most find they can’t be with everyone on every holiday. 

If you can’t be there in person, schedule a video call to share holiday greetings. The kids can show off their favorite gift and you can trade recaps of your day. It’s not the same as actually being in the same room. But a video call can go a long way to keep distance to a minimum during the holidays. 

Develop a rotating schedule. Visit one family at Thanksgiving and one at Christmas. Switch year to year. This may be tough when there are lots of kids and grand kids involved. And you may not get to see all of your siblings or children every holiday. So make the most of the times you do all get together. (You may want to have a family chat about this, so you are all on the same page about how often it is reasonable and possible to all gather in the same place.)

Write a letter to the people you aren’t able to be with personally. The postal service still works (last time we heard). If you took the time to pen some heartfelt thoughts to the people you love, it might be something they cherish for the rest of their lives.

Make the holidays about relationships, not retail. 

Another way to make the holidays easier and less stressful is to set a cap on what you’re going to spend on your own family, and on others. We know what you’re thinking. You’ve tried this before, and the other members break the rules. They end up spending more than they were supposed to and then you feel guilty because they got less. You may have to just be okay with that if you want to avoid the stress of over-spending. Try making homemade gifts or writing the letter mentioned above. You might find these are more meaningful gifts because of the time and thought invested.

Limit food prep and clean-up. 

If you have always prepared every meal for your visiting family for several days straight during Thanksgiving or Christmas, you may want to rethink that. Be okay with ordering food from a favorite restaurant, asking others to pitch in and bring something, or even swallowing your pride to let others use your stove (gulp). With a large group and people going different directions part of the time, you might ask each family member to take care of breakfast or lunch on their own. Make the holidays easier by sharing meal responsibilities, with one group in charge of lunch and another dinner. Consider paper plates and disposable cookware instead of fine china. And if you’re the one visiting a relative’s home, by all means offer to pitch in and help instead of heading straight to the couch after dinner. 

Plan for rest and reflection. 

One of the big reasons to do less cooking, buy fewer presents, and go fewer places is to make sure you get enough down time over the holidays. Because we all need time to just be, and time to reconnect. You might want to take a nap every day you have off. Read books and magazines. Spend time in prayer and Bible study. This may also be a good time to talk with your spouse about your marriage. What do you want to see happen in your relationship in the coming months? Whatever you do, don’t miss the chance to recharge and take in the messages of gratitude and peace this season.

You may not want, or need all of these strategies. But one or two might make a difference for you. And of course you can discover your own ways to de-stress the holidays. We’d love to hear what you’ve done, or what you plan to do this holiday season. Let us know by commenting below.

Happy holidays!

About the Author

Marriage Dynamics Institute

Marriage Dynamics Institute (MDI) wants to cultivate healthy families, churches, and communities by helping create marriages full of joy, meaning, and purpose. Having served more than 75,000 couples since 1994, MDI offers workshops and seminars for marriages at every stage, including those in crisis.