I grew up with a real tree and the belief that it isn’t really Christmas without the smell of a fresh tree. I make my husband and children a bit crazy because of my insistence at picking out the perfect tree. I pull the branches to check the freshness of the needles and stick my nose deep into the tree to find the perfect smell. My husband, who grew up with an artificial tree, has generously supported my family’s tradition of a fresh tree for the last twenty-seven years.
In many ways, dealing with the holidays as a married couple has been relatively easy. My family is on the west coast and my husband’s on the east. It made choosing who to spend the holidays with a simple choice, especially once we settled on the east coast ourselves. For most couples, however, holiday plans aren’t that manageable.
With one holiday down and another on the horizon, this is the time for new couples to determine what they want their future to look like. Combining your lives, traditions, and families is an important step for you both. How you handle this endeavor will go a long way in determining the smoothness of your marital course.
Here are some things that you, as newlyweds, might want to consider for your first holiday as a couple:
What are the traditions that are the most meaningful for you? What traditions matter to your spouse? Rank them in order of priority and set aside a time to talk about them. Pay attention to the deeper meaning each tradition has for you and the emotional memory each evokes. Be open to ways to recognize those memories and meanings differently when your traditions are in opposition.
How much do each of you like to do? The decorating, shopping, cooking, partying can be stressful for some and invigorating for others. You might want to experience every possible event during the holiday season while your partner may be more interested in quiet times at home together. Be honest and open about what works for you, but be willing to negotiate for what works best for you both.
Whether it is at home, across town or across the country, deciding where to spend the holidays is crucial for your relationship’s health. This decision may be the hardest because it has the greatest impact on others. Each of you may feel pulled to do what each of your families want and there may be varying levels of pressure to appease those families. Deciding what works best for the two of you, and then gently relating your decision to your families, is a good way to start. You’re walking your own path and your families will support you if you have clear boundaries.
If you haven’t set your way yet, it might be helpful to pay attention this holiday season. Take some notes about what works and where you or your partner have difficulties. Make sure you are taking time to be together, just the two of you, even if you are held close by your families. Staying connected is the best gift you can give or receive.