By 4 a.m. on Christmas morning, my brother-in-law’s house is bustling. Wrapping paper is flying, Christmas music is playing, and laughter is bubbling.
But it’s not the kids who wake everyone up at 4. It’s my brother-in-law. He does Christmas BIG.
My house is very different. We try to sleep in until at least 8:30 (my kids are grown, after all), and then we do stockings and get out the hot chocolate and take things very leisurely.
Much as I love my brother-in-law, I’d be driven nuts if I were married to him, because I just could never get that excited about presents. He, on the other hand, would likely be driven nuts by me because I’d be throwing a damper on Christmas.
Do you and your husband see eye to eye on Christmas, or do you do the Christmas Clash?
I had a wife tell me once that her husband bought her a digital bathroom scale for Christmas, which has to be the Worst Gift Ever. If your husband buys awful Christmas presents, especially if you drove yourself to exhaustion all month getting things perfect for Christmas, you’d likely be pretty ticked.
On Wednesdays I like to talk about a particular marriage theme, and this month we’re talking about boundaries. Let’s take responsibility for the things that do fall into our realm, but leave those that do not. Last week I talked about how to take a step back when there’s nothing you can do to change things. This week I want to do the opposite. Let’s actually be proactive where things ARE in our sphere of influence.
So if you want to avoid that ticked off Christmas morning feeling–Get proactive and do something about it now! Here are just a few thoughts:
1. To Avoid Awful Christmas Presents, Lay Out What You Expect for a Gift
If gifts are important to you, tell him what you expect. In detail. Don’t expect him to read your mind! Maybe you’ve been hinting for months that you want a Keurig coffee maker or a Kindle, but he hasn’t really picked up on it. A lot of guys don’t. I firmly believe in making it easy for people to buy me gifts. Here are just a couple of ways to simplify things:
- Create a Wish Liston Amazon and add anything you would actually like. They don’t even have to buy it at Amazon, but it’s an easy way for your husband, kids, parents, or friends to see everything, all at once, that you would enjoy.
- Start a Pinterest Board called “Gifts I’d Like”. You can’t get easier than that!
- Tell your best friend in detail what you’d like, and then tell your husband to ask her advice. Ditto for children, if your kids are older. My youngest daughter knows a number of possible gifts I’d like for her to tell her dad (and her sister!)
And have an honest conversation about it, too, where you agree on how much you’ll each spend on each other. If debt is a problem for you, and he’s really dedicated to paying it off, then he may honestly feel that it’s not right to spend $100 or more on something for you. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you; it may just be that he wants to be responsible. If you each agree to a spending limit, then there’s less likelihood of a big surprise (like you buy him a 4 wheeler and he gets you a blender).
My husband and I have the opposite problem. I’m really not big on gifts (gifts are a NEGATIVE love language; on the whole I’d rather not get them because I feel obligated or awkward, and I buy myself the stuff I do want anyway). So when I tell my husband to NOT get me anything, and we agree that we won’t, I often stick to it, but he doesn’t. And then it’s awkward all over again.
I’ve had to ask him to be totally honest with me about whether he’s planning on getting anything, and how much he wants to spend, so that I can then try to be creative with gift ideas for him. I think I’ve made his Christmas less fun in the past because I can be a bit of a Scrooge, so I’ve tried to get myself more “in the mood” over the last few years.
2. The Person Who Cares About It More Should Take Responsibility For It
Here’s another scenario: you have visions of the family Christmas carolling, and baking cookies, and going out shopping, you with half the kids and him with half the kids, as you work through a list together. At the end you’ll meet up for some hot cocoa in the mall, and you’ll have the kids sit on Santa’s knee. It’ll be wonderful!
But he really doesn’t want to go to the mall. He doesn’t care much about baking. Sure, he likes Christmas, but he’s tired, and he’d rather do his Christmas shopping in a hurry, without the kids to drag along.
Or perhaps you have a Christmas card list of 150 people, including many of HIS old university friends, and you’d really like it if he would sit down and do the Christmas cards with you, or at least address the envelopes. But it’s like pulling teeth.
Do you get mad at him for it?
I think that’s a little unfair. You have one vision of Christmas that involves a lot of activity, but he has another vision. And one of the things that we often get most upset about our spouse for is that they’re not excited about the things we’re excited about.
We want them to FEEL it, not just DO it.
That’s asking too much. If it means more to you, then you should take more responsibility for it. It’s not fair to ask him to be excited about something he’s just not excited about.
Now, if there are a whole bunch of things that must be done, like buying presents for his nieces and nephews and parents, or picking up all the groceries for the big dinner you’re cooking, or mailing packages, it’s perfectly reasonable to sit down and list all the things that need to be done and then divvy it up. But it’s not reasonable to ask him to do things that are “extras”–and Christmas cards and sitting on Santa’s lap are extras, even if it doesn’t seem that way to you–and to be excited about it. He may see Christmas in a very different way from you, and that’s honestly okay.
3. Create New Christmas Traditions
If you both approach Christmas differently, then what about finding a third way–another way to do Christmas that’s different from what either of you envisioned? One thing that our family has done for the last few years is Board Game Boxing Day, where we stay in our pjs all day and go through the board games we have (I usually buy a new one for the family each year). It’s really fun! And it’s not something either of us did as kids.
Another big tradition is the Christmas Eve service. It seems like all of us are involved in one way or another–my girls with music (and sometimes me), or any of the four of us in drama. So Christmas Eve has become not about presents at all, but about church and worship, and it’s wonderful. Now we have that to look forward to.
For many families, the biggest source of tension is that you CAN’T seem to create your own traditions because you’re expected to play musical chairs all through the holidays, visiting everyone’s family and never being at home. And if divorce was a factor in your parents’ marriages, it’s even more complicated.
Pick a time when you’re not stressed, sit down with your hubby over coffee, and ask, “what do we really want our Christmas schedule to look like?” When Rebecca has kids, for instance, we’ll be changing our Christmas schedule, because I don’t expect her to travel. We’ll rent an Air B&B and travel to them, rather than making them come home to see us. Talk it through with your hubby and see what you can come up with so that you both can look forward to Christmas. Sometimes one of the reasons we dread the season is all of the traveling. It’s okay to sometimes say no.
4. Leave Some Space to Breathe
Perhaps the most important thing about Christmas–leave some space somewhere to breathe–to have fun as a couple, and a family. To sit around in your pyjamas. To think about the meaning of the season. To not be rushing around to everyone’s houses trying to visit family, and you leave no time to enjoy your own.
You’re much less likely to be annoyed with your hubby if you have some downtime to spend with him.
When you’re making your Christmas plans, then, remember that your marriage is more important than all of this fuss. Make sure you do things this month to make your marriage smoother, not to put bumps on the road. And if that means doing Christmas smaller, do it. If it means doing Christmas bigger (like it does for me!), then do that too. But in all, keep the focus where it should be: that we have a loving God who left Paradise to live among us, so that He could make a way for us to live forever with Him. That’s a wonderful thing to celebrate, and don’t let bathroom scales steal that joy.
How do you avoid Christmas disappointment? Or how do you get over the Christmas stress of travelling? Let’s talk about it in the comments!