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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Stay Married for Christmas, Part 1

Okay, maybe that title is a bit extreme, but Christmas is a time during which a marriage can take some heavy blows.

Ironic, that the season of the Norman rockwell ideal of togetherness can drive couples apart.

This three-part series will offer some suggestion on how to steer your relationship through the Christmas Rapids...and, perhaps, come out stronger and closer.

We'll focus on three areas:

  1. The Dysfunctional Celebration - we all have something of an imprint, of how we hope and expect Christmas will be celebrated....and it always seems to fall short, so we blame (explicitly or implicitly) the closest available person...our husband or wife
  2. The Money Pit - anyone out there who's never overspent on Christmas?
  3. Walking parallel paths - the problem with parallel paths is that, by definition, they never meet.
Today we'll talk about the dysfunctional celebration.

Everything is more beautiful in retrospect, and this applies to the Christmases of our past. As we grow up, and leave our original families, we carry the inspiration - and shackles - of those traditions with us.

This is fine if we're single; we can build a single life as a monument to past traditions, in either a literal or symbolic way, but when we marry...surprise!..we realize that we're together with...or up against...someone with their own set of traditions.

Sometimes the traditions can be slotted together, to stand side by side in harmony, but all too often it becomes a power struggle, often made worse by pressure from parents and in-laws ("You mean you're not going to put up the wreath your little cousin made in Sunday School? It's your husband's fault, isn't it?")

What to do? The solution starts with cooperation, and continues through trust. You have to be willing to tell your spouse what parts of your Christmas traditions mean the most to you, you have to listen to what's important to your mate, and you've got to be able to trust that what you've offered as something of a vulnerability of your soul will be respected, and will be protected.

And then...implement those important traditions. Take up the "cause" of your spouse's traditions, and make sure they come to pass.

Set limits, though, to keep an approximately equal level of influence. Make the individual traditions a part of the celebration, but for the rest, make a deliberate effort to create new traditions.

Your own traditions, as a couple.

You don't have to create them all at once; that's a stress in itself. Instead, go to Wal-Mart or Hobby Lobby or wherever, and find something that speaks to both of you. (Find Christmas traditions in a store? Sure, and why not? The context of our lives comes from stores; Wal Mart or Neiman-Marcus, or, a century ago, the Sears Roebuck catalog. There's no shame in this, because it's simply the most convenient way to live, a way that affords the leisure to contemplate at length the deeper meaning of Christmas.)

Maybe it'll be a cooking project.

Maybe it'll be a board game, to be played during Christmas Week.

Maybe you'll choose to go to dinner theater, with a Christmas theme.

The point is to find something that you both like, and that you've never really done, at least not in the Christmas context.

If the in-laws or the parents turn up their noses, well, it;s none of their business, because it's your Christmas. It's time to agree on a united from, and to stay with it.

How do you and your spouse cooperate to share old traditions, and start new ones?

(If you have the chance, please visit my other blog, www.dailygracequote.wordpress.com, for a quotation and a short commentary of grace in marriage.)

This post is linked to Wedded Wednesday, a compendium of really cool posts on marriage. If you click on the logo below, you'll be taken to www.messymarriage.com, which is the springboard to a wealth of information. It's run by Beth Steffaniak, who has a heart for marriage and a soul for God!


  1. Ah, yes! The holiday traditions conflict! One of those things new couples never imagine could be an issue, yet almost always turns into an issue. As you say, it is a matter of expectations and valued traditions brought forward from childhood.

    I saw this most clearly a few years ago, when Sherri and I married. We both have children from prior marriages. Blended families are especially interesting...and expectations involve more than just the married couple...

    While I was willing to be flexible, our children could not imagine changing any Christmas traditions!

    For the first few years, we wound up doing two separate Christmas celebrations. Christmas Eve was focused on the traditions my children grew up with, while Christmas Day was focused on the traditions Sherri's boys grew up with.

    In the end, it worked out...

    Have a blessed Christmas, Andrew!

    1. The blended family - with children - issue is a tough one, and I'm glad you were able to work it out, It takes a lot of strength, humour, and forbearance.

      But it may be good practice for being in God's big, unruly blended family!