Five days and counting til Christmas. Eleven days and counting til New Year’s. Our Jewish friends have already lit the last candle on their menorahs, but you can bet they’re going to going to be guests at many holiday parties. Our Orthodox friends won’t celebrate the birth of the Savior until January 7, 2013. Extra time to get stressed out.
Let’s face it. Frank Sinatra may sing about this being the happiest time of the year, but the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s – or even beyond! – can put a strain on just about any couple. A few weeks back, we looked at ways to lower the holiday stress level. Today, let’s zero on how to make the holidays a time for the two of you.
Delia Lloyd wrote a terrific piece last Christmas season in Huffington Post about just this issue. Let me share some of what she talked about, and add a few Wasatch Front-type, Utah-centric specifics that can make what she says apply to you and your loved one.
- Watch Your Checkbook! Lloyd points to a BYU (I told you there was a hometown angle) study led by Prof. Jason Carroll. He looked at 1,734 married couples, and tried to figure out the affect on their marriage of materialism. His bottom line, so to speak? Couples for whom money mattered less were up to fifteen percent higher quality than couples where one or both of the partners cared more about things. I would add that watching your checkbook doesn’t just mean be cautious about how much you’re spending on gifts. It means watching it to make sure it doesn’t take control of you.
- Talk About Work! The holidays are a time for vacations, and many offices and businesses slow to a crawl or shut down between Christmas and New Year’s. This could provide a welcome breather for you and your partner to have a calm, unhurried conversation about the place of work – and the home division-of-labor – in your lives. Most recently, the divorce rate seems to be falling in those states where married women work. Maybe not full time, but part time. I’d add that this make sense. There’s less chance for resentment when both partners are bringing home a paycheck, and even less resentment when home chores are shared.
- Take Some Space! Lloyd cautions about hyper-fusion in relationships, and I agree with her. Hyper-fusion never helped any couple, and especially never helped any couple’s sex lives. Maintaining separate interests and even some separate friends doesn’t mean you’re growing apart. It means that you’re willing to do what needs to be done to make your together time even more meaningful. Our great-grandparents used to say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Try it for a few hours, especially during the run up to Christmas and New Years. You may find you’re more grateful than ever for your partner’s company when you reunite.
- Have Sex! There are a lot of sexless marriages out there. I’ll be the first one to say that some of them are quite successful, but I’d also be the first to say that in the majority of cases, sexless marriages tend to be a red flag for one partner or the other’s unhappiness. If the sexlessness is the result of resentment, anger, or some other discernible cause, come to see me. I can help you. If it’s the result of just plain inertia, you know what to do. There is nothing wrong with locking the bedroom door for an hour. In fact, there’s a lot that’s right about it.
- Go Small! Little positive things can be like marital glue. A touch of the hand, a poured cup of herbal tea, an errand run without nagging or beckoning, a compliment on a new outfit, a thank-you when none is sought…all these things can bring a couple together again and again over the course of a day. Small is easier than big. It’s amazing how small things can add up to something huge.
- Forget It! This is my original contribution to the discussion, and it might be most crucial of all to couple togetherness during the holidays. Be willing to quit engaging in the same old fight. Just don’t do it. In fact, take a look in the mirror and try to figure out your part in it, and how that part can change. If you need help with this, come see me. But I’m betting that in the holiday spirit, this is something you can start to do on your own.
There you have it. Six tips to support togetherness during this holiday season. Any one of them will help you. All six? Well, that might just be a Christmas miracle.
Of course, this is the time of miracles.