Actually, we should title this Marriage Insight, “Reduce Marital Tension This Christmas, AND Beyond.” That is what we’re hoping you will do. If you haven’t reduced the tension yet, hopefully this can be a new beginning. We confess that throughout our marriage we’ve found ourselves battling with this situation.
We never set out to cause marital tension. But we sure did seem to fall into it more times than we’d like to admit. But we’re doing what we can so we can combat this situation, instead of each other.
Reduce Marital Tension?
Previously, as we tried to get everything done that hit our Christmas celebration expectations we often sparked at each other. (And it wasn’t the good kind of sparking.) Our busyness was definitely a contributing factor. The saying, “When you’re too busy to be kind; you’re too busy” hit home for us. There were many times when we were anything but kind to each other.
We acknowledge that our negative behavior was not God honoring. There was no “peace on earth” and neither was there “peace within our home” when the tension rose. But we’ve learned a few things along the way since our earlier days of marriage. And things are MUCH better in these later years of our life together.
Even so, we still don’t have it all together on this issue. Sometimes we allow our sinful desires to get in the way. But we’re learning to do things better. We fall less. And when we do fall, we get back into God’s alignment for our marriage a lot quicker. We hope you are, or can get there too. To help in this mission we’re going to pass a few tips to help reduce marital tension as you celebrate Christ this Christmas and the upcoming New Year.
Tips to Reduce Marital Tension
First, here’s something important that Bill Farrell wrote that we agree with:
“One couple I know decided to adopt the motto, ‘Our marriage gets the best, our parents gets the rest.’ When the marriage is young, many couples find ways to work in all the traditions from the homes they grew up in. But that becomes stressful. Usually out of frustration they conclude that they can’t do everything. No matter what they do, they’re going to disappoint someone. Once they conclude that someone is going to be dissatisfied, they decide their marriage must take precedence. As Genesis 2:24 states, ‘That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh‘ (NIV).
“…These couples ask themselves, ‘What do we want to do at Christmastime to enhance our marriage?’ That becomes the main priority, and they put it on the calendar before anything else. Of course, this can become a selfish pursuit if other relationships are simply ignored or if a negative attitude is involved. If, however, it is done with grace and a true sense of priority, most family members will eventually adjust and be supportive.” (From the Focus on the Family article, Coping with Family Tension at Christmas)
We know that’s not true of every family member, but all you can do is the best you can do. Ask God and then each other how you can best celebrate Christ this Christmas season. It’s amazing how, when we talk to God about these types of matters, we gain wisdom and peace. Try it!
Additional Tips to Reduce Marital Tension
And then here are 2 tips that Gaye Groover Christmus offers: First:
“Figure out what you and your husband [or wife] really want. What does an ideal Thanksgiving, Hanukkah or Christmas look like to you? What does it look like to your husband [wife]? Talk about it openly and honestly, and listen to what he [she] has to say. Don’t be surprised if your ideal holidays and his look very different. For example, decorating the entire house may be important to you, but mean nothing to him. And watching football with his family after Thanksgiving dinner may get him in the holiday spirit. But it may bore you to tears. So bring all of your hopes and expectations out in the open. And encourage him to do the same.”
Also, to reduce marital tension and family tension:
“Establish your priorities. Now that you know what’s important to both of you, establish priorities for your family. Make a list of the three or four things that are most important to each of you. Maybe for your husband it’s spending relaxed time as a family, choosing gifts that will allow the family to have fun together, and reducing Christmas stress to very low level. Maybe for you it’s starting the holiday season with a clean, uncluttered house, baking cookies with the kids, and entertaining small groups of friends. Whatever it is for the two of you, let each other know, ‘This is what’s most important to me over the next few weeks.’ Then agree to honor each other’s priorities and make them happen.” (From the article, “5 Ways to Take the Crazy out of Christmas this Year”)
Next: Simplify and Delegate to Reduce Marital Tension
A few weeks ago the ministry of Focus on the Family aired a 2-part radio broadcast titled, “Reducing Drama in Your Relationships.” Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory talk about holiday celebrations in this broadcast. It was a great interview. Concerning Thanksgiving and Christmas Kathi said that as a woman, she loved to make things beautiful. But the tip that she gave is this that we all can apply: Keep it simple. Simplify and work to reduce marital tension and family tension. She said:
“I’ve got this list of 1,000 things that need to be done, and here’s the thing—there are some people who can transform their house. They just have that gene. They’re the people who are the decorators and things like that. But when mere mortals get those ideas, what we’re doing is we’re killing ourselves. And we’re killing everybody around us. We think we’re just doing it to ourselves, but what Cheri was saying earlier is so true. When [asked what they most wanted to make the Christmas holiday a good one] her kids said we want to have a mom who’s present.”
Priorities to Reduce Marital Tension and Family Tension
Here’s what Cheri stated about what her children wanted. She said that she and her husband and children sat down. She said,
“‘Let’s talk about what we really need. Let’s all talk about what it really takes to make this a good holiday.’ But you know what? It turned out that what my kids wanted is a mom who was present and happy. They didn’t care about anything else. They wanted mom to be a lot less stressed.”
Her husband felt the same way. So Cheri started to put a list together to include others to help her do what needed to be done. (She also kept the list to use for the following year.) She cut the list down to simplify things (so going “crazy” was less likely to happen). And it worked out better than they thought possible. Her friend Kathi did the same with her husband and family. They decided to keep things simpler than they had before. The result was a much more peaceful holiday.
What Are We Trying to Achieve?
She then said,
“Here’s the thing—am I looking at impressing people or including people? And what’s the holiday that people are going to remember? It’s when they felt loved and included.”
That’s something we have learned. Keeping it simple helps us to better focus on Jesus Christ and what His birth means to us. It also helps us to better show love to our spouse, to our family and friends. This lines up with what Jesus told us, “Love one another as I have loved you. By this all men will know you are my disciples—that you have love for one another.” And isn’t that truly the point? It’s about loving one another as Jesus does.
As they see us during the Christmas season and how we interact with each other, do they see Jesus? Does our spouse and our family and friends feel His presence when we’re with them? Or do we block His message of loving one another? Do they sense the love of God within you?
It is our prayer that we all will do what it takes to live Christ every day—holiday or not. Celebrate, or don’t celebrate. That’s up to you. (Some people don’t celebrate Christmas.) Here’s our take on celebrating Christmas:
But whatever you do, “Do it all to the glory of God in Christ Jesus.”
Cindy and Steve Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
We give a lot of practical tips in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself (It’s available both electronically and in print form). Just click on the linked title or the “Now Available” picture below to do so:
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