Articles for Married Couples

Everything listed under: holidays

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    Tips for Caregivers During the Holidays

    If you've ever spent the holiday season caring for a sick loved one or friend, you know how stressful it can be when caregiving tasks already fill your day. Heap the expectations of a joy-filled season on top of that, and there is real potential for feelings of guilt, anger, resentment and complete fatigue to take over.

    Many caregivers are constantly exhausted, and sometimes just putting one foot in front of the other seems daunting. It can be tempting to hide away until after the holidays to avoid dealing with the added stress. If you can relate, these suggestions may help you navigate the season with a different mindset.

    • Give yourself permission to put self-care at the top of the list. You probably know that you can’t give what you don’t have to others, but that is just plain easier said than done. Some family and friends may have more flexibility to give you much-needed breaks to exercise, sleep, treat yourself to some time with friends or to just do nothing. 
    • Instead of trying to do it all yourself, let someone help. Driving to doctor visits, picking up prescriptions, changing beds, grocery shopping, fixing meals and keeping the house clean can keep you going 24/7. Friends are usually looking for ways to be helpful, especially during the holidays. It will bless you both if you take them up on their offers or ask for what you need. 
    • Think about what makes your heart happy when it comes to celebrating the holidays. Do those things and eliminate the rest even though you might want to do more. Instead of doing all the decorating, ask a friend if they would do it for you. Send an email instead of cards or have someone help you address envelopes. If hosting the annual holiday gathering feels like too much to handle this year, ask someone else to host. If you still want to host but want less responsibility, let others bring the food.
    • Take control of your mind and guard against negative self-talk. If you typically do everything yourself, this can be a particularly complicated time of year. On one hand, you know you need help, but on the other hand, you hate to seem needy. Healthy people ask for what they need and don’t feel guilty about it.

    Caring for a loved one goes on for a season, and that time period may be months or years. Whatever the time frame, most people understand how hard it is, and there are often many people in your life who are willing to help you shoulder some of the load so that in the end you don’t end up sacrificing yourself in the name of caring for the one you love. 

    Click here to read the entire article, which was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on December 9, 2018.

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    5 Tips to Help Your Marriage Survive the Holidays

    One year, Jayne Griffin looked at her calendar and realized she didn’t have a free weekend until after January 1st. She was hosting the family Thanksgiving meal and taking her grandbaby to see Santa. Then there was the staff party at her house, her husband’s office party and the church Christmas gathering. Plus, she planned a trip to see friends and committed to working two of the weekends.

    While commitments are great, it’s easy to stress about what to do when you have little downtime. And the most likely person to experience the brunt of that stress? The husband.

    “For many years I refused to start planning too far ahead of time for the holidays because I felt like I was giving in to the commercialism of it all,” says Griffin. “So I would end up doing things at the last minute when I was already exhausted. If my husband wasn’t doing what I thought he should be doing to help out, things could escalate pretty quickly between the two of us.”

    While everybody’s “to-do list” may look a bit different, most probably have one thing in common - it’s the big fight. It's not the one on television, but the one between you and your spouse as a result of poor planning, running at breakneck speed and communicating in shorthand.

    “For too long I put off the secular in order to enjoy the sacred, but I actually ended up squelching the joy of the sacred and the secular celebration, and it definitely took a toll on my marriage,” says Griffin. “Over many years of marriage I think I have finally learned that I can plan ahead without giving into the commercialization of the holiday.”

    Now, the Griffins sit down and discuss the schedule for November and December. Together they decide how they want things to go. They highlight the especially crazy times that would require extra finesse to keep the lines of communication open and attack problems instead of each other.

    “I am not dreading the holidays,” Griffin says. “In previous years I would wait until the week of a party to plan my menu. I now spend a couple of hours making my plan including menus for various parties, my gift list and other miscellaneous items. I have already purchased some gifts and I don’t get overwhelmed thinking about what’s left on my list. I am amazed at how different I feel. And, most importantly I am not at odds with my husband!”

    These tips can help you conquer the holidays. They can also help you enjoy them and keep your marriage healthy at the same time:

    • Consider fine-tuning your communication and conflict management skills by taking a marriage enrichment class. That can help prevent you from making mountains out of molehills.
    • Keep your attitude in check.
    • Plan out the next seven weeks together so the chaotic pace doesn’t blindside you.
    • Make decisions based on what is best for your family.
    • Remember, you do have control over how you choose to spend your holidays.

    Be mindful of the things that hinder your joy and put unnecessary strain on your marriage. They don't make for very happy holidays.

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    How to Choose a Christmas Gift for Your Wife

    'Twas four days before Christmas when all through the house, no one was stirring, not even your spouse. Stockings were hung by the chimney with care. What should you get her? Buyer beware!

    Your wife all nestled snug in your bed while visions of diamonds danced in her head. The dog had his bone in front of the fire while you shopped online before you retired. So many choices. What do you see? "A blender, a vacuum or something for me!"

    On Christmas morn, you’ll awake to a clatter and spring from your bed to see what’s the matter. When what to your wondering eyes will appear, your wife with a look that is very clear...

    We’ve all heard horror stories of gift-giving gone bad. One newlywed, recalling the look on her mother’s face when she received an appliance for Christmas, told her husband if she could use it in the kitchen or for cleaning the house, it did not qualify as a Christmas present.

    Believe it or not, she is not alone. Most women say if it’s practical, it isn’t something that should be given as a gift.

    December 25 will be here before you know it, but it’s not too late for you to find a great gift.

    Remember, men and women think differently.

    When choosing a gift for your mate, consider how she will interpret the meaning behind your gift. When in doubt, ask one of her friends or don’t run the risk. What men often don’t understand about gift buying is this: Women see the creativity, effort and gift itself as a direct reflection of how much her husband loves her. Men see a gift as a gift.

    Whether you think it makes sense or not, there is a lot riding on gifts in general. So if you aren’t planning on taking up residence on the family room couch, you might want to take your gift buying seriously.

    Be a good understudy to your wife. Listen carefully to what she says. Pay attention to the things she enjoys and the way she spends her time. Does she like to cook, garden, sew, read, run, knit, go to the movies or ride bikes? You might even ask her for a list of things she would like for Christmas. With a little investigative work, you can uncover some helpful hints to guide you in your gift-buying.

    When some women were asked what they would like for Christmas from their husbands, here's what they said:

    • Buy a gift certificate for a massage, manicure or pedicure.

    • Make plans to take the children out for the evening, allowing your wife to stay at home in peace and quiet.

    • Purchase a gift certificate to her favorite restaurant for a date night.

    • Plan a romantic getaway and take care of all the details. Give her hints about where she will be going and what she needs to bring for your getaway.

    In case you are still struggling a bit, here are some more helpful hints:

    • Purchase some of her favorite “go-to” items like special lotion, fragrance, candles, books, tea, and/or coffee.

    • Plan a surprise date night to see a play or concert. (Don’t forget to line up the babysitter. It’s not a real date if the person receiving the gift has to do the work to make it happen.)

    • Do you have a crafty skill like woodworking or making stained glass? She might enjoy something you made specifically with her in mind.

    • If finances are an issue, believe it or not, a handwritten letter expressing your love for her and how she makes your life rich is a priceless gift.

    • Throw practical out the window. This is the time you give something that you know your wife would never purchase for herself.

    • Take her on a window shopping date and pay attention to what catches her eye.

    • If all else fails and you are still at a loss, ask her to accompany you on a shopping spree to find the perfect gift.

    If you already have her gift, you could start having a little fun now and leave clues in unusual places where you know she will find them. Creating anticipation can make the gift seem even more special.

    So...with a gleam in your eye and a plan in your head, you know that you have nothing to dread. Your wife will proclaim with a smile shining bright, "Merry Christmas, honey. You got it just right!"

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    Changing Family Holiday Traditions

    Early in their marriage Susan and Scott* wanted to please both of their families when it came to how they spent time together over the holidays. Her mom wanted them to celebrate Thanksgiving with her. His mom celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve, so her mom requested Christmas Day at her house. 

    Despite some angst over changing things up, it worked fairly well until their first child came along. Then they realized that traveling late on Christmas Eve was not ideal. Once again, they found themselves stepping out and messing with tradition. 

    After negotiating, Susan and Scott decided to stay home for Christmas. Anybody who wanted to join the celebration was welcome. While not without its challenges, this adjustment to tradition held for a number of years - even as siblings married and added more in-laws into the mix. 

    Now Scott and Susan’s children are adults with jobs and lives of their own. Once again, Susan and Scott find themselves in a situation where what has worked in the past for holiday celebrations doesn’t seem to fit their current needs. While their parents still want time with them, Susan and Scott also want to celebrate with their own children. Except now, their grown kids only have the actual holiday off. 

    How can they be considerate of everyone as they plan to spend time with the ones they love?

    Change can be complicated, and trying to please everyone can create a stressful holiday season for sure. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a clear understanding of how families can easily transition from one phase to the next?

    Since that is not the case, here are some suggestions for navigating change and experiencing a special holiday season, no matter what stage of life you are in:

    • Instead of pressuring your grown children to keep things the way they have always been, give them the flexibility they need. 
    • Communication is key. Many misunderstandings surrounding the holidays happen because family members base their decisions on assumptions. Instead of being silent, request a family conference call or send out an email telling family members that you can adapt or adjust if necessary.
    • Take responsibility for your own emotions. Change is often difficult. The older you get, the more you realize you have limited time on earth. Although you want to spend more time with family members, they often have busy lives of their own. Acknowledging these feelings is important, and connecting with friends in a similar situation can help.
    • If you are the younger generation, recognize that holiday celebrations/traditions tend to be filled with emotion for everyone. In the midst of trying to juggle everything, be patient with your extended family. 
    • Even if being there on the actual holiday isn’t possible, make it a point to celebrate at a different time.

    In the throes of preparing for the holidays, it can be easy to get all worked up about what everyone expects from you. Take a deep breath. Remind yourself that family members are probably not intentionally seeking to complicate your life. Take some time to talk with your spouse and/or family to brainstorm possibilities. Then build a plan that works best, knowing that everybody may not be 100 percent pleased with the end result.

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    Make Holiday Memories, Not Misery

    Although it has been many years ago, Deanna Brann, clinical psychologist and author of Reluctantly Related: Secrets to Getting Along With Your Mother-in-Law or Daughter-in-Law, has no problem recalling "The Thanksgiving from Hell."

    It was the first Thanksgiving she and her husband spent with her son, new daughter-in-law and granddaughters. Although looking forward to seeing them, Deanna was quite uneasy. Her daughter-in-law was apprehensive, too. The stress and tension on both sides caused a huge explosion. That's why that particular holiday is remembered as hellish by both women.

    There have probably already been a few interesting discussions about this year’s holiday gatherings with the in-laws. While a first holiday together can be awkward for everyone, you may also be dealing with the stress from annual pressure from both sides of the family. Maybe each side wants you to be there because, “It just won’t be the same if you aren’t here.” Yet trying to please everyone can make the whole season miserable.

    If you are the in-laws, remember what holidays were like when you were newlyweds or raising children. What would happen if you backed off on the pressure to be at your home on a certain day? Everybody might enjoy celebrating the holidays more when there's a little flexibility.

    For couples trying to navigate the holidays with in-laws, Brann offers tips to help you create great memories instead of misery.

    • Have realistic expectations. Hope for the best, but be realistic. Families are families - and they are going to act how they act.

    • Don’t take it personally. Stressful times and tension can cause behavior to be exaggerated.  Remember that your in-laws’ indiscretions are more about them than they are about you. And your mother-in-law is probably not trying to get on your nerves. Keeping this in mind can help maintain the peace.

    • Be a team player. Remember you really aren’t on opposing teams. Different opinions about certain aspects of the holiday are okay. Find ways to share the workload. Plan fun outings that can help keep people out of trouble.

    • Hunt for humor. Finding humor in situations can help maintain your sanity by helping you create enough emotional distance so you won't take people’s words and actions so personally. Plus, you'll have some great stories to tell your friends.

    • It's just one day. You can make it through one day of just about anything. Knowing that there is an end to the evening - and that soon you'll be seeing their taillights (buckling your seat belt) - can make all the difference. If you or your guests are staying overnight, you can close the guestroom door soon enough.

    • Plan your exit strategy in advance. Visiting couples should agree beforehand how long to stay - and then leave at the predetermined time. If you're traveling, getting a hotel room or staying elsewhere can lessen the stress.

    Don’t let others steal your joy. A little advance planning, along with a good attitude, can make for a pleasant holiday season.