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Holidays, stress and marriage

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What a combination, right? Holidays, stress and marriage, these things can be a juggling act this time of year. The holidays are not meant to be stressful so why do we allow ourselves to become so over whelmed. The holiday season often brings unwelcome guests, stress and depression. And it's no wonder. The holidays present a dizzying array of demands, parties, shopping, baking, cleaning and entertaining, to name just a few.

We will run, jump and slide through the holidays, oh, and let’s not forget bending over backwards, that has to happen at some point. We do all of these things in the name of being “Joyful and triumphant” and we totally lose sight of those who are just not feeling it. The crazy thing about pain, physical or emotional…but more importantly emotional, is that it does not stop just because it is the holiday.

Are we giving our spouses the gift of “just get over it” this Christmas? No one is saying that you need to cancel Christmas because someone is depressed, just be attentive to them. No, the answer is not to cancel Christmas, nor is it to totally be oblivious to someone’s stresses, losses or illnesses either. Take into consideration where your spouse is, if they have chosen to push through whatever issue has them down spiritually or emotionally then yes help them through it.

But to totally deny the existence of their feelings only makes things worse. If it is you that is hurting, if someone close to you has recently died or you can't be with loved ones, realize that it's normal to feel sadness and grief. It's OK to take time to cry or express your feelings, no matter what time of year it is. You can't force yourself to be happy just because it's the holiday season.

Besides, wouldn’t feeling as though you had to fake it create some resentment later? How many times has a Christmas eve party or Christmas day dinner ended in an argument later, probably too many to count. The holidays don't have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones.

For example, if your adult children can't come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos. Another thing that creates holiday stressors is blended families. The last thing you need is to fight about where to go during the holidays. If your children are not adults yet obviously don’t extend your stress to them and make them feel guilty for wanting to be with other family members.

How much resentment will accrue this holiday season that will dictate how you treat your family this new year? Will your New Year’s resolution be to hang on to resentment until next holiday season? And while we’re at it one of the biggest things couples fight about is finances. Why put yourselves under more financial stress.

Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don't try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. Try these alternatives: Donate to a charity in someone's name, give homemade gifts or start a family gift exchange. All in all, pay attention to where your spouse is emotional and spiritually. Let’s face it, not all families like their new son or daughter-in law.

Negotiate time together; do not let your spouse get picked on. After all you have to go home with them. Set aside differences; Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don't live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes wrong. Chances are they're feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.

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