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Your First Christmas as Husband and Wife - Making the Holidays Fun, Memorable and Stress-Free
by K. Jason Krafsky

During marriage prep sessions, I give every engaged couple the same warning when we cover expectations: "when you get married, take control of the holidays or you will feel like the Grinch stole your Christmas!"

The reason? With the first Christmas, too many people have too many competing expectations for the newlyweds.

Both sides of the families want to spend the optimum Christmas Day time with the couple, brothers and sisters want their now married sibling to be a part of the family traditions, and the new bride and groom may even long to take part in many of their own family’s holiday rituals.

As if the family expectations aren’t enough, couples also have to juggle the demand of attending special church services, neighborhood White Elephants, work holiday parties, decorating for Christmas, and of course, shopping for presents on a limited budget … there is just too much to do and too little time to do it!

Come December 26th, the new husband and wife can feel as deflated as Frosty the Snowman without his magic hat on a sunny day.

But don’t fret! Every Christmas story has a happy ending (Santa invites Rudolph to pull his sleigh, the Peanuts gang find the true meaning of Christmas, and Ralphie gets his Red Ryder BB gun). And your Christmas story can too. Here are some tips to ensure your first holiday season is “merry and bright.”

Decide on Your Holiday Season Festivities – As soon as possible, discuss what each of you would like to do, experience or attend over the holiday season. Talk about old family traditions you want to keep and new rituals you want to start. Do you want to go off and chop down a tree, pick up a live tree at the local store, or get a fake tree? Are there Christmas shows, plays or movies you want to see? You may want to make a list (and check it twice) of everything you and your mate want to do to celebrate the Christmas season.

Protect Your “Us” Time – Pull out the December calendar and mark the dates and times of firm activities (such as the work holiday party) and reserve times for other activities (such as visiting relatives and friends). In the midst of all the festivities, be sure to reserve dates for just the two of you to be together as a couple. While your time together may or may not involve Christmastime activities, it is important to protect your “us” time.

Make a Christmas Budget – Nothing adds more stress to a relationship then debt. The fun and frolicking of December gift buying can give way to anxiety and stress in January when the bills start arriving. Set a budget based on what you can afford. Keep in mind that gifts are just one part of the equation. Money is spent on decorations, the tree, Christmas clothes, and Nutcracker tickets, etc. Budget for all of it, and best that you can, stick to it!

Prepare for Someone’s Feelings to Get Hurt – Now that you know what you need and want to do over the holidays … you need to tell those closest to you what your plans are and how it may affect their expectation for you. This is never easy, especially the first time around, but it is a necessary conversation to have. Because change is never easy, be respectful, listen to their concerns and empathize with how they’re feeling. It may take a little time for them to understand that your choices are pragmatic, not personal.

Keep in mind that every classic holiday story involves a conflict that gets confronted (Kris Kringle deals with Burgermeister and the Winter Warlock; Ebenezer Scrooge faces his past, present and future; and Ralphie stands up to Scut Farkus). In the end, the hero, the villain and everyone in-between benefit from a resulting greater good.

Start Your Own Traditions – A marriage is the conceiving of a new family with the continuation of old traditions and the making of new ones. Since you are a new family (that will likely grow in size in the years to come), create traditions that are your own. Whether it’s buying an annual personalized tree ornaments
, watching a recent or classic Christmas movie, attending a special Christmas event, or serving the needy during the holidays, this is the time to launch new traditions that are uniquely yours.

Don’t Try to Cram Too Much Family Into Too Little Time – I’ve seen some post-Christmas newlyweds who look like the grandma who “got run over by a reindeer”. Because everyone wanted to see the newlywed couple “on Christmas Day”, the poor couple shuttled around from her parents place to his dad’s apartment to his mom and stepfather’s house. The couple spends more time in the car then with people. And when it comes time to leave, they get guilt tripped about how little time there was to spend together.

To avoid this chaotic guest appearance schedule, spread out the traveling, the visiting and the various Christmas celebrations over the course of days rather then hours. Each year, swap which side of the family gets you on Christmas Day, Christmas Eve or the day after Christmas. By taking a step towards sanity, everyone will benefit.

Being Santa’s Little Helper Doesn’t Have to Be Stressful – One of the self-inflicted stressers couples put on themselves (not to be sexist here but it is usually the wife) is to find the “perfect” Christmas present. It’s really doesn’t have to be that complicated. Here’s some links to some pretty cool gift ideas. There’s something for everyone on a range of budgets.

Get a gift that...
>> Captures memories all year around with a Video or Digital Camera
>> Helps you communicate better with a Smart Phone, iPhone or Cell Phone
>> Reflects the strength of your love with Special Jewelry and Bling
>> Keeps the honeymoon going and going with Christmas Sleepwear for Him and Her
>> Makes your house a home with Personalized Home Decorations
>> Directs you to the right place every time with Precise and Exact Coordinates
>> Allows you to burn some calories with Activities for Both of You

Reflect on Your First Year and Plan for the Year Ahead – Spend some time looking back on your life together since the wedding. What has surprised you the most? What has the transition to married life been like? How do you think the rest of your first year will go, and why? With Christmas being so close to the start of the New Year, make some resolutions for your relationship. Commit to read a marriage book together, attend a marriage conference, or download a podcast of a relationship speaker. Do something in the upcoming year to invest in the health and quality of your relationship.

Remember What Christmas is All About – In the midst of the lights, the eggnog lattes and the familiar songs about snow and chestnuts, take some time to read the original Christmas story in the Bible (Luke 2). Read Matthew 1 and 2, and Luke 1 to get a broader perspective before and during the time of Jesus’ birth. Look at the story from the perspective of a couple and talk about the relationship of Mary and Joseph and what they may have been going through during this significant moment in history.

While the holiday season is a jumble of memories, traditions, expectations and experiences, we shouldn’t lose sight that Christmas is about celebrating God’s greatest gift to mankind: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

Your first Christmas together as husband and wife should be nothing short of fun, memorable and stress-free. And it can be if you take control of it.

____________________________

K. Jason Krafsky is the author of Before “I Do” – Preparing for the Full Marriage Experience (Turn the Tide Resource Group – www.FullMarriageExperience.com). As a marriage junkie, Jason supports his habit by training leaders on marriage issues, writing articles and books on marriage and family relationships, coaching communities, churches, and ministries on marriage strengthening strategies, and teaching couples about relationship issues (check out his blog at www.MarriageJunkie.com). Jason’s ultimate fix comes from his wife Kelli. They live in the foothills of Washington’s Cascade Mountains with their four children. Contact him at kjasonk@fullmarriageexperience.com, MySpace (marriagejunkie), or Facebook.

Copyright © 2008 by K. Jason Krafsky - Permission granted to use and reproduce with proper source citation.




© copyright 2005 K. Jason Krafsky | photographs © copyright 2005 Jeff Culp Photography

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