Before my husband and I could get married, we had to go see Brother James for “The Talk.” The sweet and gentle preacher from my teenage years became an unyielding guardian of the gate. Gandalf stonewalled the Balrog with less vigor. I remember him stating that he wasn’t going to officiate the ceremony if he didn’t feel we were ready. Marriage is forever and Southern Baptist preachers don’t play around with their approval.
That talk ranks up as one of the most awkward and painful hours of my life. I would volunteer to be tased before I would have that conversation again. But it made an impression. He said people get divorced for 4 main reasons. Money, sex, disagreements over their children, and stresses from extended family.
Not to be a Grinch but Christmas is the perfect storm of marriage conflict.
If you happen to drive this Christmas season to your holiday destination, just take a look into the cars driving next to you. I would bet at least 50% of the people in the cars are fighting. Someone is yelling, someone will have that furiously silent face, some people are waving their arms in exclamation, and you will see quite a few people staring out their window with tears streaming down their faces. I watch for this every year. Every year, during Christmas, the highways are a hot mess of conflict. Forget worrying about people texting, the bad weather, you worry about them swerving because someone’s about to get violent in the car.
Those that aren’t fighting in the car are fighting at least once the season. It still counts as a fight if you are suppressing your rage deep down into your soul, yet never let it out. That totally counts. You aren’t fooling any of us. Others of us just experience one long extended fight the entire holiday. Good times. Good times.
Let’s break it down.
Money: Do I even need to go into detail? Your bank account is bleeding. Travel, oh my word travel. No matter where you go or what method you use to get there, it’s going to cost money. Gifts for family, friends, co-workers, workout pals, church group, teachers, that crappy boyfriend your cousin insists on bringing to the family gathering, neighbors, ornament exchanges, food for holiday parties, you are supposed to tip service people like your mailman, every business wants a donation, that very persistent Salvation Army guy ringing the bell, and those of us that have December birthdays. I’m sorry my birthday is in December. Trust me, it sucks worse for me than it does for you.
Sex: If you have found a way to have a “moment” in a hotel room with your spouse while three kids are sleeping in the same room – I don’t want to hear about it. I really, really don’t. Then factor in your exhaustion levels, the fact that your spouse is probably the most irritating person to you on the planet at this moment in time, you are already stressed about money and you are probably not feeling all that well from all the food you’ve been consuming. Plus, when you eat weird, you get gas. Bad gas. Offensive gas. I can’t possibly think about sex with you after smelling that, type of gas. Someone is going to be upset that the “moment” isn’t happening. Maybe both of you are upset that the “moment” isn’t happening. Doesn’t matter, because the “moment” isn’t going to be happening the way you are wanting it to happen.
Disagreements over your children: This has too many scenarios to adequately cover. Let’s just assume you and your spouse are on the same page over your kids right now. Good for you.
But it’s the holidays. Jesus is the reason for the season but we have zero time to show that example unless we cancel multiple other commitments. I’m just being honest at this point. So now what? Church on the fly? Add in the purchasing of gifts: How much should we spend? This child hasn’t earned the trust to handle that electronic, why did you buy it without discussing it with me? I feel this one shouldn’t get that toy. You’ve bought too much, they need to learn how to give graciously. Are we teaching them to be inconsiderate and selfish? This child is upset should we turn this into a life lesson? I’m too tired to turn this into a life lesson. It’s your turn to take them to the polar express. Will anyone know if I skip the Polar Express? I’m totally skipping the Polar Express. Homework, extra activities, parties, parties, parties. Frankly everything could become a fight over the children as the holidays put a magnifying glass over your parenting. Stress and judgment are an ugly combination. Ugly.
Stresses from your extended family: Let’s face it, you married your spouse despite the horror show of their family. You can put lipstick on a pig all you want, but those people are not like your family and everything they do is different and a “situation” to translate so you can partially understand why they did or said something or act a certain way. I’m no different. The family I’m bringing to the marriage table is just as much of a train wreck as everyone else’s. Maybe even more so.
So now it’s the holidays. Cousin Jethro’s impromptu beer run with my 10-year-old child might possibly cause a tsunami of rage from my husband that not even I can stop. That hasn’t actually happened and I don’t have a cousin Jethro – but it could happen. I’m just throwing out an example and stating that leaping over a coffee table to choke the life out of your spouse’s family might cause a brief rift in the family dynamics. Quietly dragging your spouse into the bathroom to whisper WTF are they thinking, your family should all be committed, I will NEVER do this again, I think you are spawned from the devil is also not helpful.
It can be a Merry Married Christmas, it really can. Surely it can. Jesus can be celebrated, traditions followed, goodwill towards man. It can happen. It just has to happen in the middle of the storm. The Christmas Marriage Storm. The no money, no sex, you are failing as a parent, drama-in-law Christmas Marriage Storm.
Good luck out there.