Tag Archives: holidays

Aim for Meaningful, not Perfect, Holiday

Christmas tree Salvatore Vuono freedigitalphotos.netIf the holiday season makes you jump for joy, you just might be in the minority. I work very hard to get into the “holiday spirit” and keep a positive outlook even as the season becomes busier. However, we should all remember this season is a time of struggle for many.

Following the Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year celebrations, January rings in the highest divorce rates of the year. Could it be too-high expectations that go unmet? Or holding it together so the family can enjoy one last holiday together? Or is overspending in December creating additional stress in the New Year?

Even if your marriage is strong, be aware of setting unrealistic expectations during the holidays. For example, if you are hoping for a certain kind of gift, make sure it is within your family budget and let your spouse know. He or she is not a mind reader. Try not to aim for perfection with decorating, entertaining, gift giving, etc. Instead, focus on the deeper meaning of the holidays to you. For us, religious significance and celebrations are key.

In addition, try to focus on generosity toward individuals in need or charities that help those in need. It’s well known that helping others will give you a boost in happiness. Helping as a couple or a family can give you a collective boost while also doing good. These acts keep us focused less on creating the perfect material holiday and more on what the spirit of the holidays should be about.

Social connections are good for our mental wellbeing, and in general the holidays and their respective gatherings are helpful to those who are isolated or who suffer from depression. (It’s a myth that suicide rates are highest during the holidays.) However, you probably know many people who long for family members who are no longer around to celebrate. Try to include a neighbor or friend in your gathering who doesn’t have family nearby. Listen to those who are grieving and offer a hand to someone who seems overwhelmed.

Many people are struggling financially during the holiday season, either unemployed or underemployed, or simply living beyond their means.  So even if you manage to put together an extravagant holiday, don’t post about in social media. Instead, focus on gratitude not just for the material things you have but for the meaningful relationships with which you have been blessed.

Let your spouse know that just having them nearby makes each holiday a time of joy for you. And may you and your family be blessed this Christmas.


Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats atwww.LoriDLowe.com.  Great for holiday stocking stuffers! Contact me if you would like one mailed in time for Christmas.

Photo by Salvatore Vuono courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Add a Little More Joy to Your Family’s Holiday

“Tidings of comfort and joy.” Yeah, right. So many wives I know view the holidays—starting next week—as a time of overwhelming responsibilities. They feel the weight of creating a magical experience for their husband and children, and sometimes for other family members. Comfort and joy might be the last things on their minds. Husbands and wives have a responsibility to change the tone of the season.

I’m planning to do a few posts on this topic to help minimize stress during the holidays, but if you hope to have any energy and joy to infuse into your holidays, now is the time to do something differently. Put comfort and joy back on your radar this year.  Would you like the enjoy the holidays more, and see your spouse enjoying them more?

Find the Joy
Whether you have positive or negative memories of the holidays growing up, chances are you can think of a few things this time of year that excite you. Brainstorm ideas on your own about things you would like to do during the season, and then ask your spouse for input on what is important to him or her. The key is to get those items on your calendar before the extraneous events begin to crowd out what you find joyful. Do you love food, travel, religious services, or musical performances? Make time for the things you enjoy. Cut down on the obligations you don’t enjoy.

Even small things like scheduling time to make a gingerbread house or drive through the Christmas light displays can put a little jingle in your step and give you a great memory to treasure.  Schedule an evening to watch old Christmas movies while cuddled up with your sweetheart and the kids (or the dogs/cats). Think about annual traditions you would like to begin. They don’t have to be like everyone else’s traditions, but they should incorporate what you value most. If faith is important to you, schedule ample time for religious traditions. Keep some family traditions for the two of you as husband and wife. If you have always spent holidays with extended family, don’t forget to create some of your own unique traditions.

Schedule It In
One you have all your “want tos” and “have tos” on a list, get them onto the family calendar. You may find some things you have done in previous years have to be deleted to make room for new fun. That may mean you may not have time to prepare homemade food baskets for your neighbors or for knitting scarves for all your friends (unless this is what you enjoy most). You might have to skip a few holiday parties, or just stop by for 30 minutes instead of spending the entire evening. Do you really need to write a four-page Christmas letter or develop custom cards? Must you decorate three Christmas trees?

Try to do the things you decide to keep on the calendar with more joy. If your wife needs help putting the lights on the tree, try not to be a grouch. If your husband has done all the shopping and asks you to pick up one item, do it with a smile. If your kids need help writing letters to Santa, give them your full attention, and savor the memory.

Revise the Gifting
Part of the stress of the holidays is the overwhelming gift giving. Talk to your spouse about paring down the list of presents you’ll each need to purchase. Offer to help so one person isn’t expected to do all the planning, shopping, wrapping, cooking and entertaining. If you have young children, let them help you plan creative gift ideas, or give charitable gifts. Last year, my kids and I surprised my husband by secretly practicing and performing a song together. We also had them each select a charity for a family donation. Kids can help write notes to grandparents that are treasured more than an expensive gift.

If you like to give lots of gifts (and you have the funds), schedule time to select and wrap them, so that you’re not stressed at the last minute. Spending more than you budgeted for will just create more stress in January, so buy accordingly.

Avoid unrealistic expectations about gifts from your partner. I know men who try very hard to select a romantic gift, only to be rebuffed by their wives. Either tell him exactly what you want, or treasure what he gives you. Anything less is a form of rejection.

Share With Your Partner
Talk to your spouse about your expectations for the holidays (for yourself and for each other). If you feel responsible to create special memories, explain your feelings. If you feel overwhelmed, share why. By connecting with your spouse during the season and sharing how you are feeling, you can help maintain intimacy. Ask for specific help when you need it rather than complaining that you are doing it all alone. Remember the true reason for each holiday you celebrate, for example to give thanks for what we have on Thanksgiving, not to stress out about our home’s décor or cleanliness.

Step one: Schedule time to create your ultimate holiday to-do list with your spouse. With Thanksgiving next week, there’s no time to lose. Do you feel you could make improvements on the amount of joy and comfort in your holiday season? What tips do you have for increased enjoyment of the season?

Photo credit: ©Michah Jared/PhotoXpress.com  

7 Last-Minute (Free)Thoughtful Gifts for Your Spouse

Christmas is less than a week away. If you want to avoid the malls or the large credit card bills in January, consider some of these thoughtful gifts for your honey:

  1. Write a love letter—Always my favorite choice.
  2. Schedule a night away with your spouse, and make a coupon or card with the details. If you don’t want to spend the money on a hotel or a sitter, offer to trade overnight childcare with a friend so that you each get a night at home alone.
  3. Make coupons for things you provide that your spouse loves—massages, their favorite dinner, breakfast in bed, ironing for a week, etc. Coupons for “intimate” services will probably be your hubby’s favorite gift.
  4. Offer to watch the kids while your spouse takes a long bubble bath or goes shopping or watches football with friends.
  5. Vacuum and wash the car.
  6. Ask your spouse what would make their holiday special or memorable this year, then try to make that happen.
  7. Even if you have to wait until after Christmas, spend some quality time with just the two of you reconnecting. Sip a warm drink by the fire, take a drive to look at Christmas lights, play your favorite game together, or go to bed early.

What’s your favorite gift to give or receive? Have a blessed Christmas with those you love.

Are In-Law Troubles Troubling Your Marriage?

The holidays are nearly upon us, which for some couples brings excitement and others dread. At the recent request of some readers, I researched ways to improve the notorious mother-in-law relationship. Stress and strain between spouses and in-laws causes a good deal of division and strife in marriage. If your relationship with in-laws or parents is less-than-perfect, maybe this is the year for change.

After reviewing several resources, I came across an excellent post written by Gretchen Rubin, a best-selling author who writes tips for improving your happiness.  Rubin’s article “Ten tips for getting along with your mother-in-law” contains a gold mine of sound advice on how you can make your interactions much more positive and pleasant. Give it a read. Even the commenters added more good tips, such as, “No matter how much they drive you crazy, remember that they’ve been driving your spouse crazy much longer. Don’t take out your frustrations on your spouse; they’re probably as stressed out as you are.” If your issue is another family member, Rubin also has a good post on “7 tips for getting along with difficult relatives.”

I once heard the suggestion to act as if you have the relationship you want, and start cultivating that ideal relationship. While that may not always work, Gretchen suggests putting yourself in a friendly, calm frame of mind before you get together with in-laws. Instead of avoiding your mother-in-law, seek her out and be friendly. Basically, put yourself in a better mood before you get there, so you are not so easily offended.

One of her insightful tips is to “mindfully articulate, and act in accordance with, your own values.” She explains, “If you know your own values and live according to them, people’s pointed remarks don’t sting nearly as much, and strangely, they often back off.”

If a difficult situation fails to improve, you can still be in charge of your own reactions and behavior. You may need to bite your tongue for the benefit of your spouse. “Sometimes you can behave nicely for someone else’s happiness, even if you’d be very happy to pitch a battle, if left to your own devices,” says Rubin.

Rubin’s blog has other helpful and tested strategies for improving your own happiness, which can be beneficial as long as you are clear on the difference between seeking happiness and seeking joy.

So, are you looking forward to Thanksgiving with extended family, or are you considering flying to Tahiti instead? Do you have any great in-law tips to share?