Holiday Obligations: Decide When Enough is Enough, Say 'No' This Year The holiday season is around the corner. Don’t put your spouse on the back burner. Use these best practices to improve your marriage. BY SHARON RIVKIN, M.A., M.F.T.
Get closer to your spouse this year by making them a priority during the holidays.
“ If your good friend wants to meet you for chat time… take a moment and think about the consequences of choosing time with your friend instead of your spouse.”
Fall is in the air, and with the change of seasons, comes the realization that the holidays are fast approaching. So it’s really tempting this time of the year to say "yes" to every invitation and holiday project. But saying "yes" to 50 more things when you’re already overloaded with work, family, and friendships, can test even the healthiest of marriages. Why? We tend to put our husband or wife as the last priority on our long to-do list, which can cause hurt feelings, fights, and resentment.
But what makes us think it’s okay to put our spouse at the end of the list when they should really be at the top? We think that because we live together, we’re spending quality time together, but what we’re oftentimes doing is merely dealing with logistics and routine household maintenance. Moreover, we believe that our spouse will always be there for us, and that presumption somehow gives us a free pass to be completely ourselves, which may include unpleasant human foibles such as selfishness, impatience, anger, hurting and disrespect.
So even though you can be yourself, which is quite liberating on the one hand, there are nevertheless behavioral limits and personal integrity that you need to adhere to if you want to be respected by your spouse and have a happy and loving marriage. Your partner has feelings, and taking advantage of their position in your relationship is a dangerous maneuver.
So, if your partner is low on your list of priorities here are four important practices to initiate post-haste:
1. Treat Your Spouse Like You Would a Good Friend
Would you treat a friend the way you sometimes treat your spouse? If your answer is "no," keep that in mind when you’re trying to decide your priorities for the holidays. Instead of staying "yes" to Christmas drinks with your friend, plan an outing with your spouse. This gesture goes a long way because now your spouse knows you’re choosing to be with him or her, rather than someone else. You’ve now put him at the top of the list.
2. Choose Your Spouse Every Day
Let your husband or wife know, in some way, every day, that you’re "choosing" them as your partner… just like you did on your wedding day. How do you do that? Start with words of endearment, such as "Have I told you that I love you?" "Have I told you how pretty I think you are?" "I would marry you again today!" Appreciations boost the love level and warm the heart of the recipient. Words of endearment lead to feelings of endearment.
3. Attend Events Together
Look at your holiday timeline and together, as a couple, and decide how many outside events you want to attend. While deciding, let your spouse know that the most important thing about attending those holiday event(s) is going with him, not going to the event, in and of itself. This is a way of letting your spouse know he is a priority, which gives him a feeling of importance. When we feel important we are more apt to give that feeling back to our spouse. This creates security in the relationship, and deepens the love and the bond you have for one another.
4. Say "No"
A lot of us are people-pleasers. We sometimes want to please everyone, and we think we can do everything. Society puts pressure on us to do-do-do… if we’re not constantly filling our day with bus-i-ness, we’re perceived as lazy. The fact is that "too much" causes burnout, which ultimately affects not only you, but the relationship you have with your spouse. Do something different this year and learn to say "no"—and be okay with it. If your good friend wants to meet you for chat time and you’re about to say "yes," take a moment and think about the consequences of choosing time with your friend instead of your spouse. If you realize that your spouse has been a low priority, it’s time to say "no."
Too easily we take our partners for granted. This holiday season, choose your spouse over everything else. Putting your spouse first is a powerful act that nurtures your relationship, builds love not walls, and ensures a more intimate, happier marriage. What could be lovelier than a holiday season where your love for each other expands and mutual respect builds.
Also known as the "last ditch effort therapist," Sharon M. Rivkin, therapist and conflict resolution/affairs expert, is the author of "Breaking the Argument Cycle: How to Stop Fighting Without Therapy" and developer of the First Argument Technique, a 3-step system that helps couples fix their relationships and understand why they fight. Her work has been featured in Oprah Magazine, Reader's Digest, Time.com, Yahoo!News.com, WebMD.com, and DrLaura.com. Sharon has appeared on TV, was quoted on The Insider TV show, and makes regular radio appearances nationwide. She has also appeared on Martha Stewart Whole Living Radio and makes regular radio appearances nationwide. For more information, please visit her website at www.sharonrivkin.com and follow her on Google+.