Christmas is time when multitudes of families from all over the world gather together to celebrate. It’s a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ who came on this earth for our sakes. That should cause us all to celebrate and be joyful. But some family gatherings also include times that are not at all joyful. That’s the sad truth.
So, below are a few tips to help you and your spouse survive difficult family gatherings and even enjoy marital harmony despite them.
Even though they shouldn’t be:
• “Holidays can be stressful. We’re often with people who are difficult to be around. You don’t have to like what family members do. But you do need to show love and grace. Dr Minirth, a Christian psychiatrist, warns that this is NOT the time to try to fix your family. There are 364 other days of the year to address problems.” (Keryn Horwood)
Keep in mind at Your Family Gatherings:
• “You and your spouse don’t have to go to a party just because you’re invited to it. Be good stewards of your time and energy. Even Jesus, the Son of God knew He had to retreat from the clamor of the crowds for quiet times with His Father to renew His strength. Pace yourselves and find the balance between togetherness and separateness.” (Deborah Tyrell)
Please know that:
• “Spending time with each other’s families—even if you don’t get along with them—is part of the marriage commitment. It’s a way of showing your spouse that you care about what makes him or her happy. Try to see things from your partner’s perspective. If you wouldn’t want your husband to refuse to spend time with your family, then don’t refuse to spend time with his.” (Jenna D. Barry)
Also realize as you attend family gatherings:
• “Every family has their own ‘unique’ family members. Part of your plan should anticipate these family members and how you will respond to them when they show off just how unique they are. Plan these out ahead of time so no one is caught off guard. Also, make sure to plan out what time you’re going home. This gives you and your spouse an excuse to leave instead of getting caught as you make your way to the door.” (Aaron Anderson)
And if you do “get caught” in uncomfortable situations:
• “When you’re confronted with what feels like a no-win situation involving an in-law, use the ‘drop the rope’ theory. Imagine a rope, the kind used in tug-of-war. If you find yourself provoked, see that rope in your hands. You can choose to continue yanking on it —or drop it. Dropping it may sound as though you’re giving in or giving up, but it’s actually very empowering. It’s also much more effective than tugging back and forth.” (Romie Hurley)
• “Because unconditional love doesn’t naturally exist between in-laws [and some family members], it’s a decision that must be made and then acted on daily. ‘Love your enemies,’ we’re instructed (Matthew 5:44). This command crushes all our legitimate reasons for negative feelings toward an in-law. Regardless of those ‘feelings,’ we’re to act in love.” (Elisabeth Graham)
At your family gatherings, if you need to:
• “Take a break. At a family gathering, don’t wait until you’re so frustrated that you engage in a verbal conflict. If things start grating on your nerves, take a break and step away from the situation. A walk outdoors or a quick jaunt to the store can give you the breathing space you need to calm down before things get out of control.” (From the Focus on the Family – Canada article, “De-stressing Christmas: 11 Tips for Handling Common Holiday Tensions for Couples”)
• “Manage your expectations. Setting realistic expectations is the key to not getting frustrated or angry with your spouse’s family. It’s inevitable that there will be differences and disagreements, but don’t try to change them or assume that things will be different this year. Instead, strive to find some common ground.” (Terri Orbuch, Ph.D.)
At your family gatherings:
• “Look inward and upward: Sometimes, it’s not the in-laws who are grumpy and disagreeable. You may not be able to change them, but you can change yourself and your personal reaction to situations. Pray and meditate on God’s Word and ask for discernment, patience and wisdom.” (From the Focus on the Family – Canada article, “De-stressing Christmas: 11 Tips for Handling Common Holiday Tensions for Couples”)
And if there is a problematic situation:
• “If parents need to be confronted or informed, agree that their own child —not the son-or daughter-in-law —will do the talking. Protecting your marriage is a priority. Each spouse needs to know that he or she will be protected by the other, even if husband and wife disagree and the in-laws are meddlesome.” (Sandra Lunberg, from book, The First Five Years of Marriage)
• Make it a point to give your spouse some “good press” (talking well about them) when you’re with others. Try to be your spouse’s biggest fan. “Few things can boost a person’s self-esteem more than hearing that their partner has been putting them in a positive light to others. When 2 people are doing that for each other, they reap a double dose of love. So, consider making it your mission to spread some good press about your spouse.” (Les and Leslie Parrott)
But above all, put it all into perspective:
• ‘First and foremost, Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Christ. When we lose sight of that and focus on our family get-togethers and the obligations of smiling and hugging people with whom we hold grudges, we take our eyes off of Christ. When we remember that Christmas is about the celebration of the birth of Christ, we are able to more clearly see others through His eyes. This means that we aren’t as likely to see the hurt in our relationships but the way that Christ loves that person who has hurt or harmed us.” (Cheryl Dickow)
This applies whether it is family members that are causing problems or perhaps it’s even your spouse. Put it all in perspective. Celebrate Christ. Look over the tips again and do what you can to keep your eyes on Jesus so you reveal and reflect the love of Christ to everyone God brings into your life during this blessed time of celebration!
After Christmas, deal with what you need to. But during this time of celebration… celebrate Jesus! And may God bless you all the more as you do!
Cindy and Steve Wright
— ALSO —
Here’s another article that gives further insights in this matter:
And lastly, here’s a song that reflects the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do:
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Filed under: Dealing with In Laws & Parents