How to Nurture Your Marriage This Holiday Season
A strong marriage is built on friendship, partnership, and intimacy, three things that often take a backseat when life gets busy and challenging. The holidays can add even more weight to an already heavy load and distract us from the very relationship we treasure the most. Just as it is important to safeguard your own well-being during this extra busy season, it is also important to nurture your marriage through the holidays.
We want to maximize opportunities for celebration, fun, and joy without risking strain on our marital relationship. We can do that by taking small steps to focus on our partner and by practicing self-care that safeguards their well-being, as well as, our own.
Here are 10 ways you can nurture your marriage through the holidays. Each suggestion corresponds to one of the 10 paracords, or areas of self-care, in The Parachute Project™:
A great way to unwind and nurture your marriage, at the same time, is to get outside and participate in a physical activity together.
Nothing gets us out of the hustle and bustle and slows us down like being outside. It reminds us that the world is much bigger than our responsibilities and perceived expectations. There are several health benefits of getting outside that have significant impact on our well-being. Spending time in nature allows us to enjoy a slower and more balanced perspective, reducing anxiety, boosting self-esteem, calming stress levels and more.
Research shows that participating in physical activity with our partner increases our emotional bond, reinforces a sense of contentment in our relationship and even boosts physical attraction. Taking a walk in the snow, hiking, skiing, snowmobiling or biking are all great ways to get out of the house and away from the demands of the holidays for a little while.
Choose an outdoor activity both you and your spouse enjoy. Make it a priority to find some time to reconnect in the great outdoors this season.
Communication is vital to clearing the mental congestion that the holidays often bring. You may both have differing expectations for what the holidays will include based on the traditions that you enjoy and want to share with your family. You may also be feeling additional pressure to meet expectations and commitments to others. It is important that you decide together which events, gatherings, and activities are going to be a priority for your family, this year, and how you are going to work together to make them happen.
Once you are both on the same page about which events, gatherings, and activities will be included in your celebrations, schedule the when and where. Then, coordinate what role each of you will play in following through on those plans. If you are hosting gatherings make sure that you are clear on what tasks need to be done and who will be doing them.
Coordinating your plans, in this way, prevents the additional weight of the holidays from falling primarily on one person. The whole purpose of the holidays is for you both to enjoy time with your children, your family, and making memories together. This season may be a rare and much needed respite from your everyday circumstances and it is important that it is positive for both of you. This only happens if the work is shared as well as the fun.
More than any other time of the year, the holidays when parents are feeling the pressure to meet everyone’s expectations with magical celebrations, thoughtful gifts and all the trimmings. It is a time that can easily leave them feeling overwhelmed, and wondering if anyone even notices.
During this demanding time of year, you can reassure your partner that their efforts are valued and that they are succeeding in providing quality experiences and memories for your family. Don’t hold back on words of praise and appreciation.
Let your partner know how much you appreciate how hard they have worked to provide the financial means to fill your family’s wish list. Let them know how much you appreciate the thought and care that went into the decorations and the meal and the gifts. The list goes on and on.
Acknowledge the good things your partner says and does and don’t be shy about saying it in front of your children, family and friends. Often the efforts of parenting, keeping a home, and earning a living go unacknowledged and so, we assume, unappreciated. A little bit, better yet a lot, of gratitude goes a long way in making your partner feel valued and loved.
If you share in the same spiritual practices as your partner, this one is pretty straight forward. You can nurture your marriage and your faith, at the same time, by attending holiday services or spiritual concerts/events together. You could also share in following an advent prayer or devotional. Ideally, you will want to do this in person. However, on busy days, this can be as simple as texting a verse or a prayer back and forth.
If you do not share the same spiritual practices as your partner, consider joining them in these traditions anyway. These are important aspects of your partner’s holiday celebrations and it does mean a lot to have you willingly by their side on these special occasions. (It is also a bonus for your children to have you there for these core memories as well) Even if you are not getting anything out of the service/activity itself, consider the powerful impact it will have on your connection with your spouse. Hopefully, this will encourage them to do the same for you in return.
Note: You can also give your partner the gift of truly enjoying the services, etc. if you take on the care of your child’s complex care needs during these activities. We certainly want our child to part of our spiritual celebrations no matter what challenges that might present. Yet, if we’re honest, often the care they require distracts from the experience. On special occasions, it is nice to have the chance to participate uninterrupted. If you and your spouse take turns giving each other that opportunity, you can nurture each other’s faith and that of your child as well.
Holiday gatherings can provide a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with family and friends and to build up those relationships we value and rely on. Ideally, these interactions would all be positive, encouraging and uplifting. Ideally, we would look forward to every gathering with anticipation and excitement.
Unfortunately, holidays can confront us with situations, and with people, we would rather just avoid. When we are dealing with complex circumstances that other people just do not understand, it is bound to cause some uncomfortable and even hurtful interactions. Parent caregivers are often confronted with unwanted advice, judgment and criticism. This can be very painful and ruin even the most joyful celebration.
If you know that you or your partner will be confronted with a trigger at an upcoming holiday gathering, work together to strategize a game plan for how you will handle a difficult scenario. This reinforces your partnership and helps you to present a united front, that communicates to others that you are a team. It is much easier to walk into a potentially uncomfortable situation knowing someone has your back no matter what.
There are a lot of extra demands placed on your attention around the holidays and it can be easy for them to distract you from your partner and the relationship you share. While most of the suggestions in this post help to keep you connected and close in the midst of it all, this section is where you want to get serious about setting aside time to nurture the exclusive intimacy the two of you share.
There are a lot of creative and fun ways to re-focus your attention on each other and build intimacy during the holidays. Consider creating a holiday tradition, as a couple that you can both look forward to, with anticipation, when life gets hectic. Here are some suggestions for how to do that:
Sexy Stocking Tradition – I originally saw this idea at thedatingdivas.com – Sexy Stocking Stuffers for Husband and Wife – This is a fun tradition that helps to keep your thoughts on your partner and to build anticipation for quality alone time during the holiday season. During the month leading up to Christmas, both you and your spouse will fill a stocking with small gifts and items that you can enjoy together during a future “date” night. Naughty or nice, the items you choose are up to you, but no peeking until you empty the stocking together.
12 days of Christmas – There are all kinds of creative ideas out there for how to do a “12 days of Christmas” countdown with your spouse. Generally, the idea is to surprise them with a small gift every day, for the 12 days leading up to Christmas.
Christmas Party for Two – After dedicating so much time to celebrating with your kids and your family and friends, it is nice to have some time set aside to celebrate this special day with your partner. Use this time to rest and relax, open your sexy stocking, exchange gifts and kisses, etc.
Plan a Date – Squeeze in a date during the weeks leading up to the holiday. This is the perfect opportunity to re-focus your attention on your relationship, reconnect and get on the same page, before all the craziness begins.
Plan a Getaway – After a month or more of shopping, preparing, and celebrating, you deserve a couple’s getaway to recover and re-connect. Use the flexibility of winter break to send the kids to “Grandma’s” for a couple of days and enjoy a night or two away.
For more on how to plan a romantic escape for you and your partner, check out The Couple’s Getaway Challenge, and learn the three simple steps to planning your holiday getaway.
Holidays provide precious opportunities to build family memories. It is very important for your kids to see both parents interested and involved in sharing these moments and memories together as a family, but it is also important for your marriage.
When both partners participate in the family traditions, gatherings, and events you both agreed would be part of your holiday celebrations, it prevents too much of the holiday load from falling on only one parent’s shoulders. It also solidifies both of you as present in the memories you and your children will carry with you. Sharing both the responsibilities and the memories, re-affirms your partnership and sets a valuable example for your children. This is a powerful way to strengthen your marital and parental cords at the same time.
Financial stress can be a significant source of strain on your marital relationship. You can prevent the financial demands of the holidays from causing unnecessary friction by working together to plan ahead. Talk about who will be included on your gift list, what your gift giving expectations are and how much you will spend. Finally, do your gift shopping for family and friends together. Not only will this help you to share the responsibility and keep each other on budget but it’s also a great way to spend time together during the busy season.
Exchanging gifts as a couple can be a wonderful way to express your appreciation and communicate love for your partner. You want to able to allow for spontaneity and surprise in your relationship. However, if you are exchanging gifts with each other, make sure that you are both on the same page in terms of expectations and budget to eliminate anxiety about overspending.
There are many parents who will be sacrificing their holiday celebrations, and time with their families, to serve others through their vocation.
Recognize that, under these circumstances, there are challenges for both the parent who has to work and for the one left to care for the kids while their partner is away. Neither position is an easy one to be in. Yet, it is easy to get caught up in the sacrifices we are expected to make and forget to see the situation from our partner’s side.
If your partner needs to work through the holiday, recognize that they are likely feeling left out of the celebrations. They are missing being part of memories that may be especially precious. You can help to make your spouse feel part of the holiday with a few thoughtful gestures. Send pictures or texts throughout the day and be sure to bring home treats and stories to share. Make sure your children know how hard their parent is working to provide for your family and nip any guilt trips in the bud.
On the other hand, if your partner is the one who is left on their own to manage the logistics of navigating the holidays with kids, recognize that this is challenging and lonely for them too. They will be managing your child’s complex needs, other people’s reactions to those needs etc. without the benefit of your reinforcement. Acknowledge that they are taking one for the team as well, and that it isn’t all parties and presents for them either.
Despite our best efforts to plan and prepare, it is still likely for circumstance to come up that will cause feelings of anxiety, stress, and frustration. Even under the best of circumstances, holidays can be stressful. With the additional sacrifices, accommodations, and challenges that your child’s complex care requires, these feelings may be that much more difficult to manage and that much more persistent.
We all need a safe place to express our deepest feelings and frustrations. It can be difficult to feel comfortable sharing with just anyone and yet holding those feelings back takes its toll on our wellness. Being the person that your partner can rely on most, is extremely important in building emotional intimacy. Be ready to just listen and allow them to express the thoughts and emotions that they need to release in order to feel better and move on with renewed strength and perseverance.
You can’t change the circumstances of your child’s condition, for you or for your partner, but you can provide each other with a secure and supportive friendship, partnership and intimate relationship. As with self-care, every little action you take makes a difference as you nurture your marriage through the holidays and beyond.
However, as with self- care, it is not about the quantity but the quality of the actions you take that make the most impact. One small choice can make a big difference in nurturing your connection with your spouse when it is done with consistency and intention. Choose just one of the suggestions above to put into practice with your partner this season and you will enjoy the rewards of nurturing your marriage through the holidays.
Self-Care Action Discussed in this Post:
Use these suggestions as inspiration and choose just one self-care action to put into practice, with your partner, this holiday season. Keep this list on hand as a reminder to connect with your partner in the future.
- 5 quick Tips for Holiday Self-Care
- 5 Quick Tips for Marital Self-Care
- 10 Paracords of Self-Care
- How to Practice Gratitude