Do you smell that? It smells like the roasting of a delicious turkey, stuffing gently placed on the table, the holidays beginning to permeate the air. All the while your marriage is thrown into a jolt of chaos because routine has been obliterated. From mandatory holiday parties to staying up late so that you can get that green bean casserole done for tomorrow’s event. The holidays have a unique way of taking mild-mannered people and converting them to sleep-deprived zombies that could co-star on the set of The Walking Dead.
One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Benjamin Franklin: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” What most of us don’t realize is that same principle applies to the stresses that are bound to surround us during the holiday season. From early November to about mid-January the thought of a normal routine feels nearly impossible.
So, the question becomes: What can you do to save your marriage from the stress of the holiday season?
1. Get down to business. As a couple, schedule one or two meetings between now and Christmas to discuss your calendars as well as the budget for the season. Heck, get crazy, set an agenda for the meeting so that you are sure to cover everything that needs to get done. Make sure both people get to talk, and that you can have the meeting uninterrupted. Also just to be clear: THIS IS NOT A DATE. This does not count as a date. Yes, you still have to date.
2. Date one another. Have I mentioned how important this is for your marriage? Dating reminds you that you have romantic interest in one another. Put the date on your calendar and get excited about it! Dating is the key to sanity when life feels like it is on the verge of getting crazy.
3. Practice politeness. When stress starts to mount it is easy to forget the general principles of humanity. Things like “please” and “thank you” start to become pleasantries and in that moment you forget one important fact: You both are on the same team.
4. Put the home team first. No matter what happens, always side with your spouse. Commit to putting her/his needs before everything else. And in that moment when that strange uncle starts to run his mouth, come to your spouse’s defense. It is easy to jump on the “let’s make fun of someone” bandwagon, but when that someone is your spouse I can guarantee you won’t be laughing very long.
5. Intentional touch. I’m not talking about sex. What I am talking about is being sure to engage in intentional touching to remind your spouse that you are in this together. Hold hands, rub feet, put your hand on the small of your spouse’s back; intentional touch closes the distance when stress has you feeling miles apart.
Soon, the holiday season will be over. The family will return home, the gifts and decorations will be put away, but the one thing you’ll have left is your relationship. Doing the hard work now will set you up for a successful relationship on the other side of the chaos. If you are anything like me, then you know she is definitely worth it.