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?”
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.