Last weekend I went out of town for a business trip. It was a good trip but an exhausting one, and by the time I pulled into my driveway I was ready to drop. After we got the girls in bed, my husband asked, “Do you want to watch a show or are you going to bed now?”
[He was being considerate, but I’m pretty sure he was also crossing his fingers that I’d vote for one more episode of Friday Night Lights, our most recent binge-watch series.]
I dropped down on the couch and he queued up our show. But then I remembered something I wanted to tell him. He paused the TV and gave me his attention. One topic turned into two turned into rabbit trails and problem solving and venting and story sharing. Four hours later as he turned out the light and said, again, “You’ve got to get some sleep!” I realized we hadn’t talked that long in . . . well, I couldn’t remember when.
My husband works nights and an extra-long shift, to boot. I work from home, and we have two children. Throw church, school and other extra activities into the mix and you’ve got two ships that would be thrilled to pass in the night just once this week. I bet some of you have your own version of this too-busy, over-scheduled life that makes couple time complicated at best and impossible at worst.
That’s why we need to put our marriages at the top of our holiday lists.
Life is busy in all seasons, but the holidays can turn that craziness up to 11. Whether you call it a bucket list or a to-do list or a countdown to Christmas or end of year chaos, it’s likely you have some sort of plan and at least a few goals for the last two months of the year. I do. Even though I’m trying to preserve my sanity and my budget by keeping plans simple this year, I still have new recipes to try, thankful trees to draw and fill up, gifts to buy (and wrap), family photos to schedule and take, cards to address and mail, schedules to coordinate and parties to attend.
If I’m not careful, Mark and I won’t have another chunk of time together (outside marathons of the aforementioned TV show) until 2015. And that thought makes me feel as grumpy as a pre-ghost Scrooge.
To keep that from happening, I’ve thought up a few ways to keep my marriage at the top of my mind – and my holiday list. Here’s what I came up with:
- Revive a pre-children tradition. The first Christmas Mark and I were married, we baked and decorated dozens of Christmas cookies. We had the best time – and I’m pretty sure we haven’t done it since! What’s something you used to do together to celebrate, perhaps during your dating days or before the kids were born? Whether it was picking a live tree or watching the Charlie Brown Christmas special or something completely different, try putting that old tradition back into the rotation this year.
- Schedule a holiday date night. Both my husband and I have December birthdays, so we’re even more motivated to make time for a night out around the holidays. But even if your birthdays are months away, it’s still worth it to find a babysitter and get tickets or make reservations for a special, holiday date. (Maybe this year will be the one we splurge on tickets to finally see Trans-Siberian Orchestra!)
- Plan an adults-only holiday party. This one is a little trickier, but you don’t have to coordinate an elaborate, fancy party. (Although you CAN…if you want!) But maybe you invite friends over for an afternoon open house with cookies and cocoa. Or what about chipping in for a babysitter for all the kids in your group of friends, so the grown-ups can have a Postage and Poker party (where your reward for addressing and stamping all those holiday cards is a fun game night with friends)? Really, though, you don’t have to get creative at all. Simply putting the kids to bed early, inviting friends over and ordering pizza to forget about the holiday stress for a couple hours will do the trick!
- Have your own thanksgiving dinner. You don’t even have to roast a turkey for this dinner. Just make time to sit down for one meal together, where you tell each other what you’re thankful for. (Remember, gratitude is the one surefire way to improve your marriage!)
- Team up for those other holiday to-dos. While it might seem more efficient to tear your to-do list or shopping list in half and attack those pesky line items separately, it might be more fun to do a few of those things together. Shop for your kids together, put up those lights together, even buy the holiday dinner groceries together. It might take a bit longer, but that time invested is worth it.
- Exchange gifts before the kids get up (or after they go to bed). I don’t know how it is at your house, but Christmas morning at mine is all about the children. If you and your husband exchange gifts, don’t let it get swept away in the chaos of giggles and wrapping paper fights. Stay up a few minutes late or (if you’re morning people) get up early and trade presents alone. That way the tie you put into finding something special for your someone special can be truly appreciated and enjoyed.
- Let the kids sit out on one of those family photos. If you’re having a new family photo taken for your holiday cards (or grandparents gifts!), make sure you get one of just you and your husband. Even if it doesn’t make the card this year, a shot of the two of you can still make it into a frame or your wallet or a canvas for the wall. (Valentine’s Day gift – check!)