Peace in Your Heart for the Holidays
By Dr Noelle Nelson on November 30, 2012
“Compromise!” Your spouse says. “We’ll compromise! We’ll go to your folks for Christmas Eve, and my folks for Christmas Day. That way everybody will be happy – your family and mine.”
Yeah, you think, everybody except me!
All you want is some peace and quiet with your own husband and kids. You don’t want to be running around schlepping tired, sniveling children from one household to another. But you also don’t want to be responsible for any in-laws (yours or his) holding your holiday choices against you. “That wife of his, she’s so selfish!” “Our daughter! She never cares what anyone else wants.” You can hear it already.
So once again, in the interests of “everybody happy,” you compromise.
A word you have learned to hate. “If you want a good relationship, a good marriage, you have to compromise!” we are told over and over. Yet to you, “compromise” feels like “sacrifice” and you’re the one getting the short end of the stick.
When you get sufficiently fed up with the short end, you explode, and then things have to be your way - 100% gosh darn it!! - for a while. Until you feel guilty about that, and return to sacrificial lamb status. Ugh. Not a pretty picture either way.
But what if you retired the word “compromise” entirely from your and your spouse’s vocabulary, and thought of resolving conflictual situations from a new perspective? What if you took Vince Lombardi’s famous words “Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work,” and applied them to your marriage and family?
Individual commitment to a group effort: well, a marriage is a group of two people. And any time you are looking to do something together, it’s a group effort. With this approach, the Christmas/Holiday conundrum can be resolved differently. For example, the situation is: we have 3 families to keep happy over the Holidays: yours, mine and ours. Start with “ours.”
Ask of yourself what you want, and more importantly, why you want it that way. Then ask the same of your spouse. Assume that you are creative enough between the two of you to find a way to satisfy you and your spouse (and children), in a way that will satisfy enough of your respective families as well.
Then be prepared to listen, to seek to understand why your spouse feels the way they do, and ask of your spouse that he or she do the same for you. You’ll find most of the time, that behind why your spouse feels a certain way, is a “something” that is bigger-picture important to them, something that you will find you can respect.
For example, perhaps what comes through is that for your spouse, family connection is the “something” that makes being with extended family at the Holidays is so very important. To you, having quiet, close personal time with your spouse and children is key to Holiday joy. Now that you both know what is significant for the other, and are willing to give that “individual commitment to group effort” out of a new found respect for each other’s deeper needs, you will find creative ways to make that happen.
You can agree to making a certain portion of the Holidays that close personal time, your spouse being very aware of how special that is to you, and you can make another portion of the Holidays “extended family” time, you now being aware of how special this is to your beloved.
Now you are not “compromising” in the sacrificial sense of the term, but honoring each other in a very real and practical way. And if other family members question your decision, you can calmly explain it, from the united place of a decision made together without “giving up” or “giving in.”
Now you have peace in your hearts, a true reflection of the Holiday Spirit, indeed.