Let Christmas not ruin your marriage

Christmas and New Year is a great time of the year, especially for marriage counsellors. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against Christmas. In fact, our entire family looks forward to the holidays every year. But Christmas is a litmus test of a marriage’s health because while good marriages flourish during the holidays, to others it is the straw that breaks the back of many bad marriages. Two weeks ago, I received a letter from a woman who is anticipating another disappointing Christmas with an insensitive husband. She feels it may be her last. Joyce said this is the time of year that she hates the most. She is greatly disappointed and depressed.

After 20 years of marriage, her husband’s attitude and different view of Christmas hasn’t changed. Rather than remember Christ’s birth, George and his friends view Christmas as the time to to give each other silly gifts, get drunk and share profane “jokes” about almost everything including Christmas. He knows it offends her but has refused to change. So Joyce was inquiring if it’s possible to enjoy Christmas with her children so they can have the same good memories of the season that her parents gave her. Yes! Even if she sounded helpless, this Christmas will probably be the best for them all if she can follow my suggestions here

1. Negotiate. Despite the 20 years of marriage to George, it is obvious Joyce hasn’t learnt effective negotiation skills with him. If you are like Joyce and George, learn to negotiate every decision with your spouse. Christmas is a time of year when many decisions must be made where to spend it, who to send cards to, gifts to buy, which family members to support,how and when to decorate the Christmas tree, what food to serve and who to invite to your home for Christmas? These are but a few of the decisions that put huge pressure on most families. Once you ably make these decisions, you will have succeeded in getting your selves out of a painful experience that is repeated on the D-day.

2. Keep calm. If you and your partner have always had issues agreeing on how to or if you should celebrate Christmas, it is possible to change things and make Christmas 2015 your best ever. While negotiating, don’t bring your anger to the negotiation table. Calm down before you start talking to your spouse about whatever issues. Do not forget that the goal is to create peace, so you do not want to threaten to cause pain or suffering when you negotiate. Even if your spouse makes annoying remarks or the negotiations, remain calm. If you hit a deadlock, stop for a while and come back to the issues later. Under no condition must you be disrespectful or judgmental to your spouse’s opinions or desires. Your thoughts should accept and respect your differences. Otherwise, you will fail to make them pleasant and safe.

3. Give them space. The strength of a marriage is tested when decisions must be made. If a husband and wife can learn to discuss with respect for each other’s perspectives, avoiding anger, disrespect or demands, then your Christmas will be enjoyable. Find out exactly why you are failing to agree by getting to know how you both feel regarding the issue. What do you both want and why do you want it? Then find the answers to those questions.

4. Compromise. Sit together and compile a list of things to make this Christmas enjoyable for the whole family. However, scattered the solutions that are, you will find one that is mutual. Select the one that you both like the most and work around it. If none of them meets your needs, keep brainstorming and work as a team. That way, whichever way you both decide to spend Christmas, none of you will feel controlled by the other. After all none of you has been forced to do anything. You are simply preventing yourselves from gaining at each other’s expense. That’s not control, its thoughtfulness.

5. Have a plan. Look at what hasn’t been going right and how you would like things to change. Then also ask your spouse what they want you to do so you can incorporate both plans peacefully.

Jaq Deweyi, is co-host on the D’Mighty Breakfast on 93.3 KFM (Mon-Fri, 6am-10am).



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