For the first few years of my adult life, I was dating someone from my hometown. While it was possible to always see each other AND our families for every holiday, I later experienced the extreme opposite in a long-distance relationship, with my husband, Alex. I offer you my advice from both experiences, having experienced the good and the bad of each scenario.
My first piece of advice is going to oppose your every natural instinct, and that is, don’t pressure each other to see one other for these holidays. I understand the resonance of Thanksgiving. The mistletoe at Christmas sings romance and longing to share it snuggled with your love and hot buttered rum in front of a crackling fire. The cinnamon and sugar overload from baked goods is dizzying enough, and now you’re in love!
Christmas is an overly romanticized commercial holiday, and many people wear rose-colored glasses while dating or engaged. Every Hallmark and Hollywood movie talks about blooming romances and sharing special moments. Hands down, this is one of the most joyous seasons. We are celebrating Christ’s birth, after all. I’m not trying to take away from the momentous event that we are brought back to every December 25th. In fact, I’m trying to steer you back towards it.
In preparing for Christmas, prepare for making room for Christ in your life. This means putting aside what would make you feel good for the moment, clear out the clutter of tinsel, twinkling lights, and reflective globes. Stare into the face of the Christ Child, and remember He is your King. Pay Him homage by offering your every act throughout the day for Him. There are plenty of opportunities to be distracted from Him when you’re married with children for good reason. Once vows are exchanged, these people become your first responsibility, and through fulfilling your obligation to them, you still pay homage to Christ.
Instead of trying to see one another in person, use this time as a gift for your family. So while you don’t have to ignore each other, spend some time apart to really reflect on what God wants in your life. Take this great opportunity to spend time rekindling your relationships with family.
In bringing up family, I’m brought to my next point.
Every family has their own eccentricities. Take off your rose-colored glasses, and have mercy on everyone. Christmas brings out more stress in people than any other holiday. The days are colder, the sun sets sooner (except for you lucky folk near the equator, so jealous). There is literally less day time to get an insurmountable amount of tasks completed. And while most of these holiday preparations are fun, they are still stressful. Don’t drag your significant other through your family drama front and center. They can have a balcony viewing from your phone or email, but there’s no need to sit them in the spitting and sweat droplet row—not just yet.
I get it. The holidays provide a great opportunity for him or her to meet EVERYBODY. Yes, a great opportunity to meet EVERYBODY AT THEIR WORST. So be merciful, be gracious in spending that time with your crazy family, because you’ll love each other anyway.
Once you’re married, and even more so when you have kids, your relationship with your family takes a dramatic back-burner, and your spouse and kids become your primary concern. Spend this unmarried time fruitfully with your siblings, parents, cousins, aunts and uncles, and if you’re lucky enough to still have them around, your grandparents.
As you begin your life in blissful union through marriage, you also diverge yourself from the rest of your family. Before you make that vow, spend one last Christmas with them. Who knows where you will all be the following year? If the relationship is meant to be, he or she will be there to support you and pick you back up on your feet after you’ve soaked yourself with tears, or have been soaked by someone else’s. Other arrangements can be made for your new beau or belle to meet extended family, even if it’s seemingly more difficult. Be fair to your family, and keep their insanity private. Do your best to unplug for a few days. Be present with your family in the moment.
After having reconnected with your family, and Christmas has passed, make plans with your significant other for New Year’s Eve! You’ll both be grateful at this point to take a break from your respective families, and you’ll have a greater appreciation for each other without having to strain your relationship any further than distance already does.