I love the holidays! But not everybody does. The holiday season can stir up reminders of tough times, abuse, trauma, and scarcity for many, which can, in turn, have a negative impact on the present.
My wife, Angie, and I have had to face some of these ghosts of Christmas past in our marriage. This weekend I learned that the song “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” was a powerful trigger for Angie. She grew up with a grinch who always stole her Christmas, and that song—which to me was just silly and slightly annoying and infinitely overlook-able—always signaled to her that the most miserable time of her family’s year had arrived.
Initially, I had a hard time understanding her feelings about Christmas. My formative experiences were so different than hers. I grew up in a home filled with excitement and joy during the holidays, so in building a new home together with Angie, I went in with all those expectations. Over the decades, we have had some intense conversations and therapy about our various memories of the Christmas season. Because of that work, I’m thankful to say, we have been in a great place now for years.
With that in mind, I wanted to give you three things you can do to enrich your relationship over the holidays.
Gift # 1 – Turn
First, turn towards each other. It is so easy to be swept up in the frenzy of the season. One of the easiest things to do to have less stress over the next few weeks is to be sure to spend some time together as a couple. No smart devices! If possible, no kids, no distractions. It might only be a few moments in the morning or the evening, but make sure you get some uninterrupted time together.
NOTE: don’t think big on this. A few private moments can go a long way. I double-dog dare you to try this!
Gift # 2 – Share
Second, share the load. For many, the holidays can become a whirl of activities. As husband and wife, we must work together to share the burden and get through the season with minimal stress. When I was a teenager, my family had horses, and I remember talking to our local vet one time. He told me that two draft horses pulling together cannot pull twice as much as one. They can pull three times as much! The same two draft horses that can tow 8,000 pounds alone can pull 24,000 pounds by working together.
For us, this has meant that, as two very strong people, we will disagree and even fight. But we always make up and make it better. It also means that we are in a life-long journey of dealing with whatever life throws at us with the Lord’s help. Marriage is not for the faint-hearted and is certainly not a Hallmark movie, but we made a choice, and we will use the resources we need to use to make it work. We are working together, as life-long learners to finish strong. So share the load.
Gift # 3 – Encourage
Third, encourage one another. The word means to give courage, hope, and confidence. Here is a secret I have learned as both a therapist and a man married to the same woman for 49 years:
Men need three things: Feel needed, feel competent, and feel respected.
Women need three things: Feel valued, feel cherished, and feel secure.
If you think about these three needs, you will find it easier to be an encourager.
Feeling a little hectic this season, husbands and wives? Is the holiday pace or holidays past wearing on you? Remember, turning towards each other, sharing the load, and intentionally encouraging each other can go a long way in mitigating the season’s stress.
You might enjoy my podcast session: Lighten Up: 6 Ways to Add Humor to Your Marriage
I sincerely hope your holidays are filled with joy, contentment, and great memories.
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