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How to protect your marriage during the holidays

The holiday season brings with it fun festivities; but for many women, it also brings a sense of overwhelming stress. The tension of the holidays can have an impact on the health of your marriage. As you contemplate the upcoming madness of cooking, decorating and shopping, you should also take some time to focus on your marriage as well.

The fact that wives tend to take on more of the stress of the season can lead to a big sense of inequality in the marriage. It’s also a time when travel, in-laws, step-children, children, ageing parents and all sorts of other issues that already add pressure to your marriage come to the forefront.

But the holidays don’t have to put a dent in your marital relationship. Here are five tips to help your marriage survive and thrive during the holidays:

1. Don’t get sucked into the hype

There’s no question about it. The holidays are heavily marketed as a time when our families come together in perfect harmony. Typically, women are shown at the center of this idealized vision of the holidays. We are shown as being capable of keeping a beautiful home, baking delicious treats and projecting an image of a perfect family to the world. This vision is clearly false — most women are not pulling off anything close to the perfect holiday package. Your marriage and your family are not a Hallmark card. You are unique, and the fulfillment you seek individually and together as a married couple is different from what the TV commercials try to pass off as normal.

2. Plan a budget

There’s nothing like money to drive a wedge between an otherwise happily married couple, and there is a lot of pressure to spend money during the holidays. Many couples increase their spending during the holidays by as much as double. No matter how much money you make, doubling your expenses will make an impact! Plan a budget together, and agree on the amount you have available for gifts, travel, decorations, food and any other holiday expenses.

3. Speak up

In seeking the “perfect” holiday, many wives swallow their true feelings rather than talk about them. This is a dangerous habit that can wreak havoc on your marriage. Given the fact that you are likely putting a lot of effort into holiday planning, it’s important to find ways to let your husband in and share the burden. That doesn’t mean that you have to pass over the responsibility of baking cookies, but it does mean that you should at least let him know that you’re increasing your workload during the holidays. Many men are blown away when they realize what their wives do; they often have no idea how hard we are working because we just don’t tell them. As a couple, it is healthy to find ways to share your work with each other, especially when your workload increases.

4. Make a parenting pact

Having kids makes the holidays fun, but they also add to the stress of the season. From having two weeks off from school to wanting a boat-load of exciting and expensive presents, the burden of children during the holiday season can put a lot of pressure on your marriage. Discuss how you can share the parenting duties during the holidays, and don’t assume that you need to do it all. As a couple, you should be able to find areas to take individually, areas that you can share and things that you can just let go of. Remember, the greatest gift you can give your children this holiday season is a happy, healthy marriage.

5. Give thanks

Thanksgiving might be over, but the holiday season is an opportunity to constantly be thankful for what you have. By noticing what is good in your life and in your marriage, you will strengthen your spirit rather than deplete it. Consider taking the month of December to work with your husband and your family to be grateful for whatever you have. It’s a small action that can have a huge impact on your happiness today and in the future.

Of course, it’s hard to get through the holidays without feeling some stress, but I hope that you and your husband can go through it together, stronger than ever.

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