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The holidays can make your marriage feel like it may not survive. 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 another 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, and I have already purchased some gifts. I don’t get overwhelmed thinking about what’s left on my list. It’s amazing 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 keep your marriage from surviving during the holidays. They don’t make for very happy holidays.

 

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Are you thinking about getting engaged during the holidays? Christie and Jim celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday with both of their families. Just before the meal, Jim began to tell Christie how thankful he was for her.

A bit embarrassed, she asked him if he realized he was talking to her in front of their entire family. With a smile on his face, he responded, “Yes”. After a few more moments of sharing, Jim asked Christie to marry him. She said yes, and everyone applauded.

According to WeddingWire, almost 33 percent of marriage proposals occur between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

“There is something special about celebrating the big moment with family and friends who are gathered together during this special time,” says Dr. Greg Smalley, co-author of Before You Plan Your Wedding…Plan Your Marriage. “However, the memories of the ‘moment’ are often shoved to the backseat as many of these couples hurriedly launch into planning for a June wedding. Since they only have six months to get ready, they spend all their time planning for the ‘day’ instead of doing things that will help them stay married for a lifetime.”

Smalley contends that many couples mistakenly think they have all the answers for marital bliss. Then they find out they were wrong.

“We see so many couples who clearly want to have successful marriages,” Smalley says. “The good news is most of them can be successful as long as they get the right knowledge and skills. Research shows that couples who succeed gain the knowledge they need before they settle into destructive patterns that often lead to divorce.”

According to Dr. David Olson, studies indicate that 80 percent of couples who participate in premarital preparation report higher marital satisfaction. Additionally, studies show that couples who participate in premarital preparation are 31 percent less likely to divorce.

“Most newlywed couples are clueless that they are getting ready to face enormous adjustments like managing expectations, dealing with disagreement and disappointment, household issues, financial decisions, intimacy in their relationship, in-laws, how to spend free time, personality differences, re-orienting old friendships and more,” Smalley says. “The key to successfully navigating these adjustments is: A) attacking the problem and not each other, and B) feeling emotionally safe with your spouse.”

People who feel emotionally safe in their marriage are much more likely to reveal their deepest thoughts, feelings and desires because they know their partner will still love, accept and value them.

When couples can share at this level, they’re much more likely to get to the heart of issues and work through them. Interestingly, communicating at this level actually increases marital intimacy. Couples learn these skills through premarital preparation.

“You can have a ‘perfect’ wedding day and a safe marriage relationship. It just takes some additional effort,” Smalley shares. “Building a safe relationship is key to a strong foundation for your marriage. Ideally, your marriage should feel like the safest place on earth.”

Are you planning for the day, or are you planning for a lifetime?

Build an Unbreakable Marriage Right from the Start! 

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Preparing for Marriage is an online course that will guide you and your bae on a journey to build a solid foundation for your marriage! From communication to intimacy, conflict to in-laws, we unpack 8 fun and fast-paced lessons in short videos that will provide you with all the essential tools to create a thriving marriage.

Plus you’ll have access to healthy relationship experts, Reggie & Lauren, by email every step of the way to answer any questions or just give you a little encouragement!


*Must live in a qualifying state where a discount is offered on your marriage license for completing premarital education or counseling.

How to Choose a Christmas Gift for Your Wife

These helpful hints can make shopping a breeze.

‘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’s not alone. Most women say if it’s practical, it isn’t something you should give as a gift.

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

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 your wife for a list of things she would like as a Christmas gift. 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 to help you find a Christmas gift for your wife:

  • 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’re still at a loss, ask her to go with 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!”

Scott (not his real name) will get his fill of turkey this Christmas at three different homes with different sets of parents and relatives. He’s not happy about moving from place to place, but he really doesn’t have a say.

“It is not unusual for children of divorced parents to celebrate holidays multiple times,” says Rev. Dick Dunn, retired minister of singles and stepfamilies and author of New Faces in the Frame and Willing to Try Again: Steps Toward Blending a Family. “Often, parents are so caught up in their own feelings of grief and loss or wanting things their way during the holiday season, they forget how hard it is on the children.”

For example, one child said she wanted to go visit her non-residential parent, but when she is with that parent, she misses the other parent. Going back and forth is better than nothing, but it is very hard on children. It’s helpful if parents recognize this.

“Every time they go back and forth, they relive the divorce,” Dunn says. “A lot of the acting out that occurs in preparation for a transition, especially around the holidays, is a reaction to the gut pain, hurt and anger children feel. The best thing parents can do is help their child make the transition from one house to the other as smooth as possible.”

Dunn’s suggestions can help children transition from house to house during the holidays:

  • Acknowledge that transitions are difficult. Talk about holiday plans ahead of time and get your child’s input. Sometimes acknowledging the reality of the situation can make things better for your child.
  • Strategize with your child. Ask them what would make the transition easier. They may not know at the moment, but asking them can make them feel good. When they suggest something, try it evaluate how it worked together.
  • Keep commitments. Your children are depending on you to do what you say you will do.
  • Don’t play games with your child’s emotions. Children learn relationship skills from watching their parents and they often question their parents’ love and care when things do not go as planned. Do not put them in the middle or use them to hurt the other parent.
  • Be prepared. If plans change often, get your child ready for that. Then make a back-up plan and understand their disappointment.
  • See acting out behavior for what it is. Ask your child, “What would make going easier?” or “How can we make your return go smoother?”
  • Stay in the parent role. It’s normal to want to be your child’s best friend, especially when you only have him/her for a day or two. But once you cross this line, it is very difficult to go back to the parent role. Your child is depending on you to be their parent.
  • Remember, you can celebrate the holiday when you want. Celebrate according to what works best for you and your child.
  • Consider how making or changing plans will affect your child beforehand.

“The key to pleasant holiday memories for children who are moving back and forth between homes rests in the hands of the parents,” Dunn says. “Regardless of the situation, focus on solutions and staying whole in the midst of craziness. Parents have the responsibility and privilege of setting the mood for the holidays. Being considerate of your children as they adjust to this situation will help them create pleasant memories. Including them in the planning process will encourage communication that makes the holidays easier for everyone.”