Here are some ways people make themselves miserable at Christmas time, just in case you would like to avoid them and boost your happiness level:
- Ask your very busy husband or wife to join you for caroling or Aunt Maggie’s Christmas Eve eggnog tasting without mentioning that sharing such events with your mate matters far more to you than a pile of gifts under the tree or help with the gift shopping. We all have different Love Languages, as Gary Chapman explains so well. Don’t keep yours a secret.
- Point out the odd angle of the reindeer when your husband invites you to admire his outdoor decorating. Husbands want to look good in your eyes. Emerson Eggerichs points out they find it much easier to show you their love when they know they have your respect.
- Stand near the mistletoe silently waiting for a chance to kiss your wife, who’s helping your nieces wrap their gifts while baking cookies for the folks at the nursing home (another Love Language mismatch). When she heads back toward the kitchen, ask, “What’s the matter with you? Are you blind?! Get back here and do the mistletoe thing, you miserable excuse for a wife!” John Gottman’s research shows harsh startups are one of the biggest clues your marriage is on its way down the tubes. The road to divorce is almost never a happy one. Don’t go there.
- Instead of telling your life partner how happy you are that your friends and family all eagerly agreed to the invitation to your place on Christmas Eve, share the news by handing over a to-do list. This way, you can be sure not to receive the active-constructive response that Shelly Gable’s research shows to strengthen relationships.
- Measure how good your Christmas is by how closely it matches the ones you remember fondly from your childhood (or, worse, your first marriage). Don’t allow your mate’s strengths, your financial circumstances, or your one shared Love Language to shape something new and different that brings the two of you closer together. Tap your foot impatiently until you get what you want and you will be quite unhappy. When you expect something particular, you cannot Expect Love and enjoy the fullness and richness of your marriage.
- Grumble to your spouse all day Saturday about how too much is made of Christmas in a country of so many religions. Or complain that Christ’s birthday has lost all its meaning. “In an experimental comparison, those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events (Emmons & McCullough, 2003).” Grousing’s effects on us are a bit less enticing.
I wish you a very Merry Christmas. Let me know what you do to make it even more delightful for yourself, whether you observe the holiday or not.