Planning how you’ll split up time for the holidays can be stressful – no matter how many times you have the conversation. I know my people pleasing habits come out strong during this time and it can cause some tension! I absolutely LOVE this article – it was actually just an email sent to our church’s community groups – and how it offers some really helpful tips if you’re not sure how to navigate the holidays. It says newlyweds in the title, but I think it’s helpful for everyone!
Helping Newlyweds Navigate the Holidays
“One of the disagreements my wife and I had early in our marriage was about the holidays and traditions, more specifically over the food we ate during the holidays. My own family has always been traditional with foods during these festive times like ham, dressing, and great desserts, so this is what I thought everyone ate during this time of year. To my surprise, when we showed up to my wife’s family’s house, I was informed we were having steak and shrimp! What? Who ever heard of carving the Thanksgiving or Christmas shrimp?! Don’t get me wrong, I love steak and shrimp but this is just not what I had expected for a holiday meal and we certainly didn’t talk about what the day would look like so it was a big surprise. Expectations & communication (how it is communicated or not) can be challenging for all new marriages, especially around the holidays.
As you head into Christmas, I wanted to share some ideas to help you navigate through the holidays as a newly married couple. These ideas have also helped my wife and I navigate these waters even after 22 years of marriage. We hope these are helpful topics to begin discussing with your spouse, foundation group, and leaders. This was you can not only survive the holidays but actually thrive and make some great memories.
Where to spend the Holidays? This can be one of the starting conflict areas just deciding where to spend the holidays or how to split time between families. If your family is “blended” or parents are divorced, there may be an additional layer of things to consider and communication that may be necessary. Something helpful to consider is maybe splitting Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays with the family. If both families are in town this may make this a challenge because both families will want to spend time with you. The key here this to make the decision together. A great perspective that my mother-in-law blessed us with was giving us “permission” to have the holiday celebration any time after the actual holiday. Her perspective was, “As long as we get to spend time as a family, we could have Christmas in January.” Keep in mind that you won’t be able to please everyone, consider all the needs of each family and make the best decision based on trying to spend equal time with each family.
Gifts: Another common conflict area might be who to buy gifts for and how much to spend. Should you buy for each parent or as a couple? If you have nieces and nephews, do you buy for each? One thing we have gone to is a “family gift” especially as our nieces and nephews have gotten older. Something like board games or video games that the whole family can enjoy. Talk together and set a budget for what you both decide is appropriate.
Traditions: For you, it may not be about having shrimp or ham like it was for us, but respect your spouse’s different traditions. If you gain understanding of where the traditions came from, it will help you to appreciate them more. This will also help you as a couple begin to think through which traditions you want to keep and which new ones you want to build together.
Being “One” when there are many: Especially when there are likely so many family members around, it would be a good idea to take some time for just the two of you. Whether it is because of family dynamics like crazy uncle Eddy, or just the relational overload, it might be a great way to serve your spouse by checking in on them and having some one-on-one time together. Some easy examples of this might be a 15-minute walk together or time on a family swing. Pray together and let your spouse know how important they are to you in the midst of the craziness and give thanks for these new memories your building.
Let your spouse be the hero with your family: A great bit of advice that has yielded huge benefits for us is this, “Let your spouse give your family any good news and if there is bad news that needs to be delivered, then you share that with them.” If you share bad news with your own family, there is more of a willingness to forgive and move on. When a new spouse gets in a conflict with the new in-laws, it may take longer to heal and get past. This is likely from the many years of relationship that was built within your own families. Be aware of any division or conflict that may be stirring, and make sure that you & your spouse have communicated with each other before sharing any type of news.
Perspective: Pray and talk before any family gatherings. Discuss how you can be intentional and share the love of Christ with your families as you visit them. I recently talked with a newly married husband and he said it was hard being with his new wife’s family and felt himself retreating from relationships and conversations because he didn’t have anything in common with them. As Christ followers, we have a great opportunity to be intentional with how we love each other’s families during Christmas. Corinthians 9:23-24 encourages us this way, “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”
The holidays can bring its own set of stressors, but don’t let them come between you and your spouse. Deal with any kind of tension head on and leave room for some peace and joy.
Praying for you always,
– Cait –