Holidays as a Couple

Well, it’s that most wonderful time of the year.  (Stop right there before you pull out your Christmas stockings and holly and go read my last post).  But it’s true – Thanksgiving will be here in just a short nine days, and after that, blink twice and you’ll be cleaning up the wrapping paper from your living room. 

Yet for some, the holiday season can become more stressful than necessary due to the s word.  No, not snow.  Sharing.

Sharing the holiday as a couple can be challenging and a new experience depending on how long you and your significant other have been together.  Going through this experience for the first time myself has not been nearly as worrying as I anticipated and it’s for a couple of reasons that I’d like to share with you.

Communication

The way you spend your holidays together starts long before the holiday arrives on the calendar.  Have a conversation with each other about when and if you want to spend the holidays together.  If you’re just brand new to dating, it may be spent differently than if you’ve been dating each other for a while.  You may both have family traditions that happen at the exact same time.  So to avoid the chaos and stress that comes from the holiday season, start talking and opening up to each other about what you would love your holidays to look like together. 
 

Don’t Overload

It’s easy once you’ve talked about sharing the holidays to automatically want to share all of the holiday experiences that you treasure with your significant other.  But if you say yes to doing everything with each friend group, work group, family group, and each other, then you’re going to find yourself with a schedule so packed that you’re going to have to pencil in time to sit down and catch a breath.  While it’s true that the holidays are supposed to be about family and friends and a shared experience, it’s also ok to know what level of interaction you’re comfortable with.  Also take into account each other’s personalities.  If you’re favorite tradition is a loud family gathering with all of your twenty-seven cousins (thirty-three if you count the once-removed ones) and your significant other is an introvert, than it is critical that you don’t overload him or her with the experience.  Which brings us to the next tip…


Speak each other’s language 

I don’t know if you’ve read Dr. Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages, and if you haven’t, grab a copy and make that your holiday reading goal.  In his book, Dr. Chapman reveals the five love languages that everyone speaks.  Sometimes the problems with couples arise when you simply don’t speak each other’s love language.  Don’t let your excitement over the holidays get lost in translation when relating to your significant other this season – especially if your boyfriend or girlfriend’s love language is different than that of your own.  So, once again, keep lines of communications open with each other and make sure each other’s love tank is full going into the holidays.  It’s stressful enough to be in new situations and interacting with new traditions – but you don’t have to feel out of of place during them if each of you is aware of the other’s needs as part of a couple.

Don’t idolize each other


Just like it is easy to idolize the notion of Christmas and the traditions or rituals that go along with them, it’s also easy to idolize and idealize the person you spend the holidays with.  Although it is incredibly important to appreciate each other and your talents and shared experiences, it is equally if not more important to remember the reason why you are celebrating – which is Christ’s presence in a broken world.  

Turn your joy outward 

C.S. Lewis, you’ve got to love him.  He has this beautiful quote about love and says, Lovers are always talking to one another about their love; Friends hardly ever about their Friendship. Lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other; Friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest.”

It is easy to make the holiday about yourself and your boyfriend or girlfriend.  Even when you include family in the celebrations, it’s easy to fall into the trap of self-absorption. The way to remedy this is to turn your joy for Thanksgiving and Christmas outward.  Maybe that means volunteer work together while you’re free during the week.  Or maybe it’s taking each other’s little siblings outside after dinner and enjoying quality time with them.  It could be pulling away from conversations about yourself and being interested in the lives of those around you.  In whatever way you choose, make sure this holiday season is not about you….it’s about how you are Christ to others.

So holidays as a couple are not something to stress over – they are something to enjoy.  After all, the greatest holiday experience is to spend the season with those you love.


So start talking, pull out your planner, take a deep breath, pour yourself some eggnog and Be Not Afraid. 
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Before You Light Your Christmas Tree

Merry Christmas from 20 Terrific Creatives - My Modern Metropolis: Call me Scrooge and shout “Bah Humbug” as I pass by, but I’m not ready for the Christmas season.  I cringe as I grocery shop around inflatable snowmen and posters of Santa’s arrival at the mall make me want to avoid the area.  When commercials for Christmas came onto my social media feed before Halloween had even occurred, I really started to think about why the concept of such an early preparation for a celebration didn’t sit well with me.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy the Christmas season, don’t get me wrong.  It’s actually my favorite season of the entire year.  My family has some amazing traditions (granted, I’m highly biased) and nothing makes it ‘feel like Christmas’ than bundling up in pajamas, stuffing all ten of us in a car and going around looking at Christmas lights while eating ice cream.  Or putting up the Christmas tree on the Eve of Christmas Eve and lighting a fire while reminiscing about Christmas past.  And my favorite part of the day is when I am sitting with my family late on Christmas night and opening gifts made by the hands of little siblings.

Yet the beauty and significance of the holiday has lost its meaning in a world mesmerized with the money to be made in a season – instead of discerning the reason that there are gifts under a tree on the morning of December 25th.

I celebrate a liturgical feast where I am enamored with a woman, full of grace, who said yes to a plan of radical love despite social expectations and reactions.  I love the presence of a man who said yes to the responsibility of being an earthly father figure to Our Lord and the protection of a Holy Family.  I am head over heels for the lowliest of the low of society, shepherds, being the first to hear a call of “Be Not Afraid” and then be transformed into missionaries who spread the word about a God became Man.  I love a weary world rejoicing in the love of their long-awaited Savior.

Because even if there were no trees, no festivities, no lights on Main street, the beauty of the Christmas season is not found in things…it’s found in relationships.  In the wise words of my favorite saint, “People are meant to be loved and things are meant to be used.  The confusion in this world occurs when things are loved and people are used”  (JPII)  So my love for Christmas time is not wrapped in paper.  It is found in the beauty of family gathered around a dinner table.  It is found in a Mass at midnight, lit by candles and the joy of a family who has been spread out over the country finally getting a chance to come together.

There doesn’t need to be snow on the ground or lights on my porch banisters for Christmas to occur.    Christ came in the form of a baby, and then lived on the earth and gave us His body and blood regardless of our appreciation or celebration.  His quiet sacrificial love is something that should be emulated in each and every day of our life, not just for thirty days in the winter months.

So when November 26th draws to a close and the rush ensues to trim a tree and hang the stockings, you won’t find me there.  While Christmas carols will gladly be filling my house and thoughts of how to best surprise people and show them how much I care about them will occupy my thoughts, the person who will be at the forefront of my mind is not a man in a red suit, but a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes.  The rest of the world will call me crazy, but I’m looking forward to celebrating the birth of a God who died to get to know me, and I don’t need an eggnog latte to make that official.