When Your Dysfunctional Family Takes All the Fun Out of the Holidays

Johnny Carson, the famous late night television host of the last generation, said the holidays are when we go home to be with our families to remember why we do it only once a year.

As if Christmas itself didn’t have enough pressure, adding the pressure of going home and being with our families in all of their dysfunction is enough to send a lot of us into a deep depression. Now, let’s understand—every family is dysfunctional. The only difference between families is HOW that dysfunction is manifested and the DEGREE to which that dysfunction affects the lives of the family members.

Now, understanding that and also knowing that most of our family members—barring a direct hit from a bolt lightening from God—won’t change, how do we prepare to go home for the holidays?

First, you have to make the decision of whether or not to go home for the holidays at all. Now, I know people are going to be mad if you don’t go home, but chances are the same people are going to be mad about something anyway. Does it really matter what they’re mad about? You can only answer for you. Is it in your best interest to go home? You can always choose to go another time. There’s no law that says you HAVE to go home. If going home is going to make you crazy, don’t go.

But if you do go, adjust your expectations. If your dad has never told he loved you, he probably won’t tell you this time either. If your mom doesn’t like your spouse, then she probably still doesn’t like her. There’s a reason Norman Rockwell painted those beautiful family scenes for Christmas; they don’t exist in real life. So understand your family is going to act just like they’ve always acted. You shouldn’t expect anything different.

  • Protect your boundaries. (Henry Cloud’s book, Boundaries, is a classic on this issue.)
  • Decide to be happy. (Yes, this is always your decision and yours alone.)
  • Keep your focus on the real meaning of Christmas. It’s not about presents. It’s about Jesus.

And Jesus won’t mind if you stay home and have a quiet Christmas without all of the dysfunctional drama.

What a Gift Can’t Do

We’re getting down to the last few days of Christmas shopping and now, some of you guys are starting to panic. What are you going to get her now? What does she really want?

Now, add to this panic a heaping helping of guilt. Your job was a little more demanding than usual. You were tired when you got home. Fill in your own list of reasons/excuses for why you weren’t as attentive to her or your marriage as you should have been.

Now, you’ve set yourself up for a double whammy. For one thing, you’re going to spend way more on a gift than you should. This one will kick you in January…hard!

Second, the gift won’t do what you want it to do. No gift can make up for attention you didn’t give, time you didn’t spend, or affection you withheld. In fact, the gift just may backfire on you. The expensive gift may just remind her of all of the times she felt neglected, and then, she’ll get mad all over again.

So, what can a guy do in a crisis like this?

Let me offer this suggestion. Give your wife “moments” in the coming year. I know, most of you are thinking about giving your wife more time, but moments are different from time. Time is just ticks on the clock. Moments are what you do in that time.

Here’s what you do.

Sit down together and get out your calendar. Go over your year a month at a time. Plan dates with your wife, anniversary celebrations, birthdays, vacations—all a year in advance. Pay special attention to those times of your year when you know you’re going to be extremely busy. (For example, if you’re a CPA, this would be tax time). Plan something before you get busy and plan something to celebrate the end of your busy season. You can do the this for your whole family, but for this exercise, just focus on your marriage.

You’ll accomplish a couple of things by doing this:

1. You’ll make your wife the priority of your time. After all, you planned your time with her first.
2. You will give her something to anticipate. Remember being a kid at Christmas? Waiting for it is half the fun.
3. You won’t have to worry about it for an entire year. It’s already on your calendar.

Yeah, I know. This doesn’t sound very romantic, but sometimes you get the feeling and then you act. Other times, you act and the feeling comes later. Whether or not you “feel” like going out when the date comes up, once you get into the moment, you’ll be glad you planned ahead.

So, give it a try. Over the next few days sit down with your brand new, mostly empty 2017 calendar and plan your special days. Let me know how it works out. Something tells me, if you do this, Christmas will be a lot easier for you next year!

Merry Christmas!

Uncle Mike’s Shortcut to Successful Christmas Shopping for Your Wife

Uncle Mike’s Shortcut to Successful Christmas Shopping for Your Wife

The Christmas holidays bring a lot of stress to our lives. We pack up the family for an exhausting drive to see our families. Nothing says “Merry Christmas” like several hours in a car with over sugared, hyped up kids. We have to listen to the same stories from the same relatives. After all, it’s not Christmas unless you’re trapped in a small living room with a few dozen of your relatives.

And then there is the torture of having to buy a Christmas present for your wife. All of us guys have had that moment listening to a friend of ours who gave his wife hedge trimmers for Christmas. That ended up ruining Christmas and most of January too. There’s so much pressure to NOT get the WRONG gift is makes getting the right gift seem almost impossible.

But there IS a way…and here it is.

First, your wife tells you all year long what she wants for Christmas. You just have listen…and take notes. Whenever you’re with her and she says, “I would like to have…” or “One day, what I really want…” Make a note. Sure, not all of these statements are realistic. Some are just wishes, and you know they’re never going to happen (like wanting the Falcons to make the Super Bowl), but others have a grain of truth.

When it comes time to buy a gift…all you have to do is check the list and choose one. Which means—and this will shock you—a vacuum cleaner is a perfectly legitimate gift if (and this is a big if) it’s something she really needs and has mentioned. You can give practical gifts. That’s fine. Just be sure that’s not all you give. At least one of the gifts has to be to her as your girlfriend. I don’t care how long you’ve been married; you have to keep dating.

A great gift does two things: first, it shows you’ve been paying attention. Second, it shows you know her. So, let’s think back…what has she said she really wanted this past year? Start there.

Now, what is it about her that makes her “her”? Is it her perfume? (Yes, you should know this.) Does she keep a journal? Does she give and give and never think about herself? Write down what makes her “her” in one sentence. Now, what gift best expresses or complements that? That’s what you give.

Does she collect anything? Jeannie loves Teddy Bears. A bear is always a winner.

You see, Christmas doesn’t always have to be a disaster. It doesn’t have to be filled with anxiety or stress. You can make Christmas work. All you have to do is listen a little bit, think a little bit, and then, do what you know to do.

But trust me, you can make the moment happen. You know the moment I’m talking about. The moment when she opens the present and realizes the care and thought that went into the gift and knows that no one knows her like you do—that no one loves her like you do.

It doesn’t matter what’s in the box. If she feels known and loved when she opens it, it’s a great Christmas!