We get it.
The holidays can be hard on relationships. It’s not always smiles and sparkles.
Today, we’re honoured to introduce you to our badass friend, Meredith. (Check out what she’s up to in Vancouver below!) She’s bravely sharing her story around how the holidays are horrific, how getting married was a catalyst for change, and her advice for relationships and how not to turn into a one-woman-army defending the horrors of the holidays.
Without further ado, let’s get to it.
We’re Around Dec 18th, as the holiday events start building up, everyone becomes my enemy. I am a one woman army defending against all the horrors of the holidays.
Christmas, for me, has always been difficult. For many different times and for many different reasons. It all came to a point one Christmas when my hopes crashed and burned (again). But this time, with my new husband, I was determined to make some changes, survive the holidays, and stay happily married.
Here’s some backstory:
While living in the family home growing up, Christmas was about yelling.
My mom LOVES Christmas. She would get caught up in the enthusiasm of the season, offer to host Christmas dinner and forget just how stressful it can be. The sign it was all falling apart was mom in the kitchen turning in circles, one quarter turn at a time.
Surveying the stove top, potatoes need draining, quarter turn, the oven, turkey needs to be basting…stuffing, quarter turn, the island counter top and sink, bowl for salad, forgot to make the salad.
With every quarter turn there comes orders for what I needed to do to help. The orders would pile up, I’d be in the middle of doing one and get the next order. Just as I’d start to say “as soon as I’m finished…” the yelling started.
Now, there would always be a lovely meal afterwards, and we’d be happy again. However, it set the pattern for my relationship with holidays. As much as my mother couldn’t control her enthusiasm, I couldn’t control the dread that would set in once it was announced we were host for yet another holiday dinner.
Then there was the year I got home from a day snowboarding, they told me to pack a bag we were going to Vancouver, Uncle Allan had died.
Then my father died.
The last Christmas we had together we didn’t know was the last.
As memory often does, it has shaped that Christmas in my mind as the best Christmas, the only Christmas that wasn’t stressful and didn’t include being yelled at or anyone else dying. I don’t remember the dinner that year, I don’t remember the gifts, I only remember one moment captured in this out of focus image.
There was Bailey’s and coffee and gifts freshly opened. My father says “Well, it’s Christmas!” and pours himself a breakfast glass of wine.
Then, there were many years of avoiding Christmas. In my father’s absence, Christmas was never the same.
When I met and married my husband, Doug, and we became our own proper family, my sister had her first child. Life started to feel settled and more than that, good. We were going Kelowna for my niece’s first Christmas.
I had high hopes.
Christmas morning straight out of the gate it was bad. My tolerance has lowered each and every year since leaving the family home especially for my mother’s teasing. Buoyed by the excitement of her first grandchild, she was on a roll. My husband took the opportunity to join in the fun. Cue the crashing and burning. Fast forward until we finally get to be alone; it’s yelling, crying, apologizing, explaining and, then, a decision.
I immediately thought to myself, “I can’t let my holiday horrors into my marriage, too.”
That’s when I realized:
1. You can’t change who you are in 20 minutes.
Although I went into that Christmas feeling better you can’t erase 30 years of habit and learned behaviour. By default I went into safety mode, which is guards up, defenses ready. (Oops).
2. Communication, because, of course.
I had the foresight to tell my husband I needed his support. I hadn’t thought to explain what ‘support’ might look like specifically. (We’ll get to that in a jiffy).
I was an adult and it is entirely possible (and crucial) for me to set boundaries in my relationship with my mother and family.
So, how do we survive the holidays and stay married?
3 Things we do:
1. Prepare. Turn vague into a clear vision.
Recognizing that I needed to not only ask for support but specifically tell him exactly what I meant and how I would like that support to look, changed our relationship entirely. Recognizing that we might have different definitions for terms like ‘support’. Bonus: It trickled out into a million other areas of our relationship.
I told my husband that, while I don’t expect him to always agree with me, or be on my side all the time, the holidays were an exception. In this brief period each year, I need him to champion and back me up on everything I do, feel or say, right or wrong, over reaction or not, at least in public. There could be no other position than on my team. That is what support looks like to me in that time. We now have the briefest and most casual conversations IN ADVANCE of Christmas: How can I help you, or this is what I think I will need.
2. Prioritize. Let go of dumb stuff.
Recognizing some things are not as important. Seriously. “How can you possibly use 6 different cups in one day and not one ends up in the dishwasher!” became “I don’t care about cups because my husband will never tease me in front of mother again and that is everything I need to keep sane.” Priorities, friends.
3. Acceptance. What is and what is not in your control.
My mother continues to tease, and I continue to hate it, but I know it is not my responsibility to make her change this behaviour. I can set some boundaries around my relationship with my mother and how I spend the time with her.
My husband didn’t change his behaviour because I yelled at him, he changed his behaviour because he found out how it affected me. He cares about me enough to change it on his own and I can help him to know how he could best help me.
I never know which Christmas will be good or which one might crash and burn, but I do know that I have a teammate who has got my back either way.
My feelings around the holidays continue to be complex but we’re much better prepared now and know that our marriage will survive it. My hope is if there’s any of you out there feeling like a one-woman/man-army defending against the horrors of the holidays, you know you’re not alone. Pour yourself a breakfast glass of wine and let your teammate show up for you. (It makes all the difference, I swear.)
How real is that.
Thank you, Meredith, for sharing your heart and story with us. We know you’re not alone in navigating the holidays as partners and trying to prevent becoming a one-woman-army! It’s our honor to share stories and advice like this on our platform.
If you’d like to share your story with us, chat with us here.
Hi! I’m Meredith. I love sci fi and dinosaurs. I’m also the founder of Hervana, a coworking space created just for women entrepreneurs. I’m a wife, an aunt and a dog mama.
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