by Andrew Cromwell
This week I learned the first business day in January is known in some circles as “divorce day" because of the number of divorce filings that happen on that day. It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out why. The holidays are some of the most stressful times of the year. Beginning with Thanksgiving and running through Christmas and New Year’s, the last two months of the year are ripe with opportunities for relationship hurts, family drama, and offense. Whether we are hosting events in our own home or visiting relatives, the stress tends to lead to short tempers and sharp tongues. We are often not at our best even as we are trying to look like we are.
It doesn’t take long and we find ourselves frustrated with our spouse: wounded by their looks or words and adding up the offenses. Throw in our tendency to avoid real conversation until a “better time“ and you have people holding on just so they get through the holidays (because no one wants to have that difficult conversation in the middle of what is supposed to be a happy season). By that time, many couples are so frustrated and so fatigued they begin to believe the only way out is divorce.
Don’t let it happen to you!
As we roll into this holiday season, I’d like to encourage you to not become a statistic. I believe by intentionally doing three simple (but not necessarily easy things), your marriage can become stronger in spite of the stress.
First, expect that things are going to be stressful and that you and your spouse are going to react in less than perfect ways. Stop idealizing and romanticizing the season. While the holidays present us with amazing opportunities to enjoy family and friends, they are also riddled with land mines waiting for one small misstep. So don’t be caught off-guard this season. Prepare for things to go less than perfectly. Anticipate that your spouse is going to run out of patience at some point and they are going to look at you cross-eyed and maybe even say something hurtful. OK, now that you’re prepared, decide right now to extend extra grace and forgive. Instead of getting your feelings hurt just forgive and move on. That one little decision can save your marriage.
Second, keep the air clear between you and your spouse. This will require you to make an effort! Check in with your spouse in the morning or in the evening (or even both). Ask them how they’re feeling, let them know how important they are to you, and even ask for forgiveness for being a jerk that day (because you probably were). Talk about the calendar and the stress and the kids and the gifts and the expectations. Remind yourself that you are on a team together. This proactive move will keep you connected to each other and help you to come through the season united and ready for the new year.
Third, ask God to help you! Don’t ever underestimate God’s power and desire to help your marriage. He is ready and willing to help. Ask Him to change your heart, help you to forgive, help you to serve, and help you to love better! Ask Him to bless your spouse and your marriage. Invite Him in and then go and walk in His strength.