Between Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year, you’re crazy busy. And if you’re married, that might mean the holidays take priority over your spouse for two months of the year.
It’s easy to fall into that trap. But the last thing you want is for the holidays to sabotage your marriage. And since this time of year is notoriously stressful and hectic, keeping an open line of communication with your spouse from Thanksgiving to New Year’s is more important than ever.
You both want what is best for your family—and each other. But when you’re trying to schedule Christmas parties, order gifts for your kids, and get the house ready for your visiting in-laws, you might forget your spouse is actually your teammate.
But here’s the thing: You’re going to have a better, happier holiday if you make sure to prioritize your marriage during the holiday madness. Your family and your relationship with your spouse will be better if both of you are on the same page and working together—instead of running opposite directions.
Here are three specific things you and your spouse can do right now to keep your marriage in perspective . . . and keep the seasonal stress at a minimum during this busy time of year.
1. Set realistic holiday expectations.
Sit down with your spouse and set realistic holiday expectations for your family this year. The key word here is realistic. You don’t have to say yes to every party or attend every extended family gathering. Don’t feel like you have to try to cram everything in. If that means something has to give, so be it. Letting some things go this time of year will help you both keep your sanity . . . and actually enjoy the holidays.
Here are some questions to consider: How are we going to split our time between each of our families? What are our priorities this year? How many Christmas parties are we going to attend? Then, once you have a plan, stick to it!
2. Decide how much you’re going to spend on gifts.
Determine how much you want to spend on each other and the kids. A simple rule of thumb for holiday giving is to stick to four gifts: something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read. This sets expectations and helps you (and your kids) focus on the real reason of the season instead of concentrating on how many presents are under the tree.
And because giving is the most fun you will ever have with money, discuss budgeting some extra money for random acts of kindness. Maybe you can spend $50 to fill up a stranger’s gas tank, leave a gift in the mailbox for your mailman, or give an offering to a specific ministry that is near and dear to your heart.
3. Schedule weekly date nights.
It’s easy to get caught up in holiday chaos and not make time for your spouse. But that’s a slippery slope. You need to prioritize quality time together. Going solo on a regular basis—and especially during the holidays—will leave you feeling like you’re running on empty. But quality couple time will remind you both you’re in this together and can depend on one another to pick up the slack. And that’ll fill up each of your tanks better than anything else.
So commit to a weekly date night throughout December. Sit down together and pick out four nights for the month. Write them all down and stick to it. This intentional time together is just as important, if not more important, as buying milk and cookies for Santa or getting the guest room ready for your out-of-town visitors. And no, the company Christmas party doesn’t count as date night.
Having these conversations with your spouse will keep you on the same page and remind you both you’re in this together. You’re going to be less stressed if you know you’re working with the same goals in mind. That frees you to enjoy the holidays rather than stress about how you’re going to get everything done.
And keep this in mind: You don’t have to do it all. You can make the holidays memorable without making them perfect . . . and that’s perfectly okay.
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This article originally appeared on Stewardship.com. Used with permission.
Image courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com