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5 Ways to Make the Holidays Good for Your Marriage

It was about a month ago that a fellow marriage blogger reminded me that this was the time to start writing Christmas posts. She followed up by saying that October would be fine too. My response? “October?! Who are these heathens?”

Blog post title + couple in winter clothes sitting on park bench with a present

Personally, I like to focus on Thanksgiving before moving on to Christmas, and I’m also known to be a last-minute gal in many areas of my life, including holiday shopping. I barely know what I’m doing tomorrow, much less exactly what’s happening in December 25.

And all the pressure of the holidays feels more stressful than delightful at times. I admit to having a few Grinch moments even, when I walk through a crowded store in December and think, “Oh the noise! Oh the noise, noise, noise, noise!

But the holidays present an opportunity to be particularly generous, to spend special time with family, and to focus on people in need and ones we love. All of those apply to our marriage. So, whether you’re as excited about Christmas as Rudolph or a little Grinch-like at times, how about five ways to make the holidays really good this year? For you and for your marriage.

1. Talk about what Christmas means to you.

I originally wrote talk about your expectations, but that’s only part of the equation. Yes, you should talk about where you two should spend Christmas Day, what kind of presents you want to give and get, and what traditions you want to establish or leave behind. But what really makes a difference in what you and your spouse decide to do for Christmas is what these choices mean to you.

Let’s pretend my family had a tradition of opening all the presents on Christmas morning, but my husband’s family opened one on Christmas Eve. We could negotiate that on the face of it and decide Christmas morning makes the most sense after all. But if he explains that one year, his uncle had an early morning Christmas accident and gifts were postponed until the following day, and so the only gift he had on Christmas Day was the one he opened the evening before … suddenly, I get it. I know what meaning that Christmas Eve present has and why we should continue that tradition.

It needn’t be anything that drastic, but discuss what meaning you ascribe to the decorations, events, and traditions you desire for the holidays. Talk about your deeper beliefs and feelings and then bless each other by embracing what gives your spouse special joy this time of year.

2. Know your mood triggers.

Despite Andy Williams singing, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” the Christmas season isn’t all joy and happiness for everyone. Rather, the holiday season can cause negative emotions and moods. It’s important to recognize what your triggers are and then do something to manage them.

Perhaps you know this season will stir up grief about the absence of a loved one, or you struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder, a type of depression that most often occurs in wintertime, or the sheer amount of to-dos overwhelm you with stress. Once you become aware of your triggers, you can take steps to deal with those issues. Maybe you need to simply clear some time to visit the grave of a lost loved one or make freezable meals in advance to get you through a calendar of work overtime.

Just as important is considering what your spouse’s triggers are. How can you help them deal with any negative emotions or moods that might visit this holiday season? Where can you be a balance and a blessing for your beloved? Consider how you can be his ezer kenegdo (Genesis 2:18), and then be that strong helper.

3. Say no so that you can yes.

I had an epiphany a few years back: I didn’t have to go to every Christmas event to which I was invited. This is hardly an earthshaking revelation, but to me it was a big deal. We came to realize that we had to say no to some things in order to say yes to having enough time with each other and our sons.

Likewise, you don’t have to bring cookies or cupcakes to every holiday activity that wants them, be it your kids’ school, your workplace, or a church activity. You don’t have to volunteer for every Christmas service project. You don’t even have to buy presents for every single person you did before. I’m not saying to shirk off the whole holiday season, but rather be intentional together in picking and choosing what you can and will do.

Make sure your choices align with what’s good for your own family and your marriage, not to mention your marriage bed. Too often, we get wrapped up in saying yes to everyone else that we’re out of energy altogether when our spouse would love to hear a yes to sexual intimacy. Think carefully about which yeses really matter and in which areas you can just say “no, thanks” this year.

4. Consider your love languages.

My top two love languages are Quality Time and Physical Affection, while my bottom two are Acts of Service and Gifts. Unfortunately, too many Christmases have focused on those bottom ones — with me running around doing things for people and agonizingly trying to find the right gift for each recipient. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Take stock of the love languages both you and your husband use. Then choose holiday activities that speak to those love-tank fillers. If one of you (or both) is a Quality Time person, schedule a time to attend a Christmas concert or the Nutcracker, take a drive and look at holiday lights, or head to a Walk Through Bethlehem event. If you’re about Acts of Service, work together on a service project like serving in a soup kitchen or putting together a Samaritan’s Box and look for ways to serve one another throughout the season.

I could go through more ideas for the other love languages, but you get the idea. Paying attention to the ways you express love and feel loved will keep your love tank filled during the holiday season.

Keep your love tank filled during the holiday season... Click To Tweet

5. Remember you still need romance and sex.

I put romance and sex together because they feed off each other, don’t they? And they both often get a backseat at holiday time. Consumed with to-dos, family gatherings, holiday events, and preparing meals that would make Ina Garten applaud, we can forget to pay attention to our Mistletoe Mister. But you can’t put your intimacy on a back burner for 4-8 weeks a year and expect a good result.

You can't put your intimacy on a back burner for 4-8 weeks a year and expect a good result. Click To Tweet

The word “Christmas” shouldn’t be synonymous in your spouse’s mind with “not getting laid for a month.” Nor should you skip investing in affection, flirtation, and romance that makes you both feel more linked and loved. Set aside time and make the effort to reconnect regularly with both romantic interludes and sexual intimacy.

If you want inspiration, check out the many dating your spouse posts from The Romantic Vineyard. And here’s my post on 10 Intimate Things to Enjoy for Christmas. Or hey, grab a copy of my book, Hot, Holy, and Humorous, this holiday season and read it together for some spicy ideas for your marriage bed.

I’ll be back soon with some practical Christmas ideas, but I wanted us to start with thinking about how to make the season as a whole something we look forward to, embrace with joy, and treasure for the good it does for our marriage as well as others.

10 Intimate Things to Enjoy for Christmas

The Christmas season focuses on parties, decorating, shopping, cooking, and big-eyed children with wish lists as long as pythons. (Some children’s lists may include “python.” I’ve heard they make good pets.) The holidays can become a time of stress and even conflict between married couples. But we want to stay focused on keeping our love and intimacy strong.

So I racked my brain long and hard — or at least hard — and came up with some things you and your spouse can partake in together to bring you closer, emotionally or sexually, during this busy season. Here’s my list of 10 Intimate Things to Enjoy for Christmas.

Married Couple in Santa hats, kissing

10. Take a Christmas Lights Tour. Jump in the car with your spouse and take a tour through the neighborhood to look at lights. Or head to a local attraction – the port, the town square, the park – that has a light display. Talk about what you like as you view the lights and let the wonder of the season give you both a smile. Click HERE for a list of some Christmas lights attractions.

9. Hang Mistletoe…and Use It. Mistletoe has a history of being considered a fertility herb and an aphrodisiac. The tradition of kissing under mistletoe actually has its origins in mythology. These days, however, we recognize it as a cute plant that we hang up and smooch under for the sole reason that it’s fun. So string it up around your house! On the tops of door frames, in entryways, or over your bed, put up a little mistletoe and invite your spouse to join you.

8. Listen to Love Songs. There are so many romantic songs for the holidays. From I’ll Be Home for Christmas to All I Want for Christmas is You to Merry Christmas, Baby to Santa Baby, there is a lot of wonderful music you two can share over the holidays. A few other favorites of mine include A Christmas Love Song, Baby It’s Cold Outside, and I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm. Make your own music collection and play some tunes as you snuggle by the fireplace in each other’s arms.

7. Visit a Nativity Scene. As you gaze upon the Christmas story represented by a baby, mother, father, and visitors, take a moment to think about the role of Joseph and Mary. Talk about a loving couple! If you read the accounts in Matthew and Luke, you see that both were unselfish and intent on honoring God. Can you imagine the loving relationship those attitudes produced in their marriage? I believe that on the night Jesus was born, Joseph and Mary did what other loving husbands and wives do when their firstborn arrives: They held each other, stared at their infant in awe, and felt closer for having brought a child into the world. (Then they went home and said, “What have we got ourselves into!” But that’s another story.)

White Christmas movie poster6. Watch Romantic Movies. Several romantic movies are set during the Christmas season. Here are a few titles to consider: Christmas in Connecticut (1945), The Shop Around the Corner (1940, the inspiration for You’ve Got Mail by the way), While You Were Sleeping (1995), White Christmas (1954), Holiday Inn (1942), and Miracle on 34th Street (1947, 1994). And for those who crave action and can look way past the language, there’s Die Hard (1988). (Okay, it isn’t technically romantic or Christmas-y, but those terrorists take over the office building on Christmas Eve and Bruce Willis wants to protect his wife.)

5. Wear Santa-themed Lingerie. If you’re game, you could play sexy Santa for each other. (Yes, I know that the real St. Nick was an actual saint, and I’m not trying to dis that image. But he didn’t wear red & white fur either.) You can find Santa lingerie at a lot of stores this time of year.

4. Add a Sexy Gift to Your Wish List. How about deciding that hubby and wife will buy each other one sexy gift this year? You can have your own private gift-opening on Christmas morning (or Christmas Eve for an early present). It can be anything from lingerie to massage oil to a sex toy. Or buy a book about intimacy to read together, or a game with sexy ideas (Married Dance and other Christian retailers offer romantic games). If you suggest the idea ahead of time, it will create some anticipation of what your sweetie purchased and how you can enjoy it together.

3. Wrap and Then Unwrap Your Bodies. There are plenty of places on your body where a bow can be strategically placed. You can simply opt for ribbon and bows, or wrap yourself up in a sheet and add a fabric ribbon with a bow on top. You could even buy one of those huge gift bags or a giant stocking and tuck yourself in. Add a message tag if you wish with a flirty line like “You’ve been so nice, it’s time to be naughty.” The fun part, of course, is the unwrapping.

O'Henry's The Gift of the Magi book cover2. Read The Gift of the Magi by O’Henry. I LOVE this short story about a couple who are strapped for money and want to get the best gifts for one another at Christmas. This is love at its best, least selfish, and most satisfying. You can read the full story HERE.

1. Make Love. Okay, this isn’t specifically a Christmas gift. It’s a wonderful gift anytime of year. But great sex in marriage comes with a giving attitude. Set aside a time for the two of you to be sexually intimate and try to outdo each other in providing your spouse pleasure. Merry Christmas, Baby!

What ideas do you have for making this holiday season a romantic or sexy one? How can you use activities or gifts to bring you closer at a time when busyness threatens to bring stress and conflict? Got any favorite holiday movies or songs? Chime in!

This post was first published in 2011 and has been updated.