You can also check out our podcast episode 102 “Ways To Handle The Stressful Holidays Around Extended Family”
If you are like most people, the holidays are a time that cause a lot of stress and division in their marriage. You have the financial stress of presents, your time, and of course being around the extended family which is probably the most feared or problematic for most couples!
There is a reason that National Lampoons Christmas Vacation is so funny… because most people can relate to it. Crazy uncle Eddy (have one), the in-laws together, the chaos and contention it causes between you as a couple.
The holiday season for many people is a “love-hate” thing. It is a great time to be together as a family and enjoy the time together… but it also is extremely stressful being together and a family and spending time together. There are expectations, different traditions, people with different opinions and personalities and bringing them all together is bound to have chaos. So how do you get through this crazy several months together as a couple and not allow it to negatively impact your marriage? Here are some suggestions:
Address the concerns before they happen
Before you get thrown into the craziness of the holidays and spending time with family, talk with your spouse about how you are going to work through the times together. As I come from divorced parents it makes if even more difficult. More people to see and more people to make happy. Talk about who you are going to spend time with, how much time your are going to spend, and put a game plan together.
Many times if the concerns are addressed beforehand, then they don’t even become concerns.
- Are you going to be buying extended family presents?
- How much are you going to spend on them?
- How much time are you going to spend with them
- What is expected of you and your wife?
Be united together (in agreement) in all things
It is amazing how quickly you can your spouse can be put in a position that will cause conflict Dont’ throw your spouse (or each other) under the bus. Be united in all decisions even if you may not see eye to eye. Sometimes parents or inlaws will try to manipulate one of you, or get one of you take sides. Be a team and don’t let this happen.
Whatever decisions you are making, make them together and be in agreement.
Make your spouse the #1 priority
It is so easy to find “other” priorities during this seasons. Sometimes a spouse may intentionally find other things to do, or disappear at a family partner just to avoid any drama. Don’t prioritize other things and leave your spouse low on the list. Make them #1 and support them, even if it’s not the most comfortable or funnest thing to be at. When your spouse sees you supporting them and making them a priority even in less than ideal circumstances, this will strengthen your relationship big time!
Create healthy boundaries for your marriage and family
It is amazing what one spouse or another will allow their parents or inlaws to do. If your family or inlaws are coming into town to stay, or you are having a party, or whatever the case may be, set boundaries together and make your expectations clear with them up front and be in agreement together as a couple.
For an example, if you are hosting a party, be clear as to how long the party will last, who is invited (or not invited), and the expectations. Don’t allow your parents, in laws or extended family to cross the boundaries or expectations you have set.
Make communication your top priority
To get through the absolute madness, you are going to need to make communication your TOP priority! Talk about EVERYTHING together. How you are feeling about things, what you expect or how you might handle certain situations. Communication is the key through getting through the craziness AND not letting the chaos negatively impact your relationship.
Be helpful and kind
As hard as this may be, be helpful and kind around the extended family. If you are having a party at their place, help with the cooking and dishes (or at least offer to do so). It is so easy to kick your feet up on the couch after stuffing yourself and letting someone else do the work. Help out with things and you will be amazed at how far this will go to help keep away any contention.
Let’s face it, there are family traditions in just about every family, and some of them are weirder than others. Maybe it’s festivus with a pole where you vent your grievances for others (like Frank Costanza on Seinfeld), or an ugly sweater night. While you may like some and not the others, it’s important to realize that everyone comes from different backgrounds and experiences and their family traditions are VERY important to them. Participate in their family traditions… and make your own family traditions as well for others to share in with you.
Realize they are your family too
Often times at holidays, we look around and think “How in the hell am I related to these people.” as if we think we are any better. They are probably thinking the same thing about you. At the end of the day these people are your family and as crazy as they may be (or think you are), they are a part of your life and are going to be for a long time. Try to enjoy the time with them and get to know them. Look for the good in them. And if they are crazy, enjoy it :).
Make some alone time for each other
As life isn’t already crazy busy as it is, the holidays and time with extended family can make it even crazier and busier. Unfortunately what typically happens in most marriages is they feel their time with everything else and put “their” time as a couple at the bottom of the list. And in many cases, there is seldom any time for “their” time left. It is vital as a couple to make sure you are spending time together to connect emotionally and physically. This can also help you reduce stress and connect as a couple. There is nothing more important than your marriage and staying connecting through the crazy holiday season.
For other great ways to connect, check out the Ultimate Intimacy App! It’s FREE to download and will change your marriage with over a thousand helpful resources, games, quizzes and chat feature!