Mark: The holiday season is upon us. In just a few days family will be descending upon your home or you’ll be headed to Aunt Mabel’s house for Thanksgiving.
Jill: Yummy food and time with family beckons us while quite possibly, stress is waiting in the wings. The holidays are ripe for marriage miscommunication, misunderstandings, unspoken expectations, and the joys and stresses of extended family relationships.
Mark: The Bible talks about “leaving and cleaving” but the holidays often raise up challenges to truly do that well. Over the years, Jill and I have had to be intentional about sticking together during the holiday season. Acknowledging extended family desires while deciding what is best for our family, takes priority.
Jill: As you prepare for Thursday’s festivities, here are some “holiday communication” and “leave and cleave” principles to help you navigate the holiday season:
Talk with your spouse about what’s important to you for the upcoming holiday celebrations. Don’t assume he or she will know. There’s no possible way for him or her to read your mind. Talk about your expectations, wants, and desires for how the day or weekend will look.
Talk about what is needed to be done to prepare for the holidays. Does food have to be prepared? Are you traveling overnight and suitcases need to be packed? What division of duties assures that everything gets done and the responsibilities are shared? Fight the temptation to think that your spouse will think about the same things you think about as you think about holiday preparations. Talk to him or her to make sure they are on the same page you are.
Resist the urge to think “we’ve always done it this way.” Instead sit down and talk as a couple. What works best for our family on Thanksgiving? How long should we stay at Aunt Mabel’s? What do WE want our Christmas to look like? Just because everyone always goes to Grandma’s on Christmas morning doesn’t mean your family has to do that if you really desire for your kids to wake up in their own beds on Christmas morning.
Be prepared to make someone unhappy. If everyone dances around Uncle George’s drinking problem and you choose to have your family stay only two hours at the Thanksgiving celebration Uncle George attends, you may disappoint other family members. Remember that your immediate family (spouse and kids) take priority over your extended family (parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins). This is hard but it’s where “leaving and cleaving” really comes into play.
Protect your spouse. If your extended family is critical of your spouse, doesn’t include them in conversations, pretends they don’t exist (yes there are families that treat people that way!), be willing to protect your spouse and either address the issue before the holiday or choose to limit time or simply not attend a gathering with extended family that mistreats your mate.
Mark: It is possible to have happy holidays and a happy marriage, but you have to be intentional about making it happen. Jill and I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and an enjoyable long weekend with friends and family.
What about you? How do you make sure you have a happy marriage and a happy holiday?