Tips to Save Your Marriage from Holiday Stress
It's your job to make sure the holidays are a season of joy, filled with the warm laughter of family and friends
When you were a kid, making the season enjoyable for your whole family was your parents' job. Now it's your job to make sure the holidays are a season of joy, filled with the warm laughter of family and friends.
But the expectations, the extra responsibilities and expenses can also mean a time of great stress and conflict for your marriage. Here are some tips to help you win at creating a holiday season that is hopefully filled with cheer and a lot less stress.
Make a list and check it twice
A gift list is key in so many ways: you can make sure you don't forget important people, you can plan each present ahead of time, and you can come up with a total budget for all your gifts.
Money is one of the most common causes of arguments in Filipino relationships, so get ahead of the conflicts by making the budget and working on the gift list together. Can you get a less expensive present for Lola Nena so that Junior can have what he wants? Do your cousins really need individual presents, or can you send a gift basket for the whole family to save money?
Create a family calendar
Aside from the drain on bank accounts, the holidays can test your time management skills. So many people to see, so many parties to attend. Since COVID made it hard to see each other the past two years, people are aching to get together beyond Zoom, even with added precautions. How do you fit everyone in?
Create a joint calendar for the entire family and make sure that all events are visible to everyone. This forces everyone to let others know about their lakad, and also helps to prioritize the most important events. As with most things, discussion and compromise are key. Choose the events that make you happiest, and the ones that will be the most meaningful.
Center your family, not your relatives
It’s easy to lose track of your own family’s needs when you’re RSVP’ing different (and sometimes opposing) family obligations during the holiday. The expanded family is one of the biggest stressors of the Christmas season—but while stress may be inevitable, fighting is completely avoidable.
Learn to have a constructive conversation with your significant other about party arrangements. Will you have noche buena with your in-laws, or your own side of the family? Will you want to spend Christmas together, without the extended family? However you choose, your spouse needs to know that you’ve put their needs first—instead of your parents’.
Share the load
A study by the American Psychological Association showed that women tend to feel more stress around the holidays than men. That could be because many activities during the holidays are related to the home and household, which are traditionally seen as women's responsibilities. Yet women already carry most of the load around the house all year round, so it makes sense for married couples to band together and share the work during the extra-busy holidays.
Some things make sense to do together -- such as budgeting and scheduling -- but some tasks make sense to divide. You could split your gift list in half and each be responsible for buying certain presents. If you are hosting an event, split the party planning duties equally.
Make it your own
The holidays can sometimes feel like you're being jerked around by different groups all competing for your time. It helps to create traditions for your household that make the season feel special in your own way.
Seasonal activities that give you a holiday high without spending a ton of money or overeating will be a welcome break in a schedule packed with stressors. Make decorating the Christmas tree a special event with music and hot chocolate. Or watch your favorite holiday movie together every year.
Does it spark joy?
Keep in mind that family and each other are the most important things during the holiday. No matter what other commitments you may have, the biggest commitment of all is to your life partner. Make sure you save space on your calendar and budget for each other.
And remember that many of the demands that come up during the holidays are optional. Give each other permission to say "no" to some things. And if something comes up that you don't think will spark joy, say it.