Thanks for all your tips. Please keep them coming. Today’s tip comes courtesy of Susan and PL. Susan writes:
“My husband and I get through [holiday stress] by planning an adult evening when it all ends. When the going gets tough we whisper it to each other. A shared secret plan is great for your marriage/partnership.”
PL advises: “Flirt with your husband.”
Smart women. Yes, we think of the holidays as “family” time–stepfamily, extended family, my family, your family, his kids, her kids, grandkids, and more. And that means that at this time of year in particular, and in remarriages or repartnerings with children in specific, we might not be giving the couple bond the attention it deserves.
In general, I learned while researching my book and reading the studies about stepfamily life, remarriages with children are much more fragile than first marriages or remarriages without children. You knew that already. You probably also already know that too often, the couple (well, the husband) thinks it’s “wrong” to carve out couple time when his kids of any age are around.
Wrong. You don’t just deserve couple time this holiday season–you need it. Experts I interviewed told me over and over that their patients in remarriages with children who made a priority of weekly or even daily alone time face-to-face had happier parnterships and better adjustments to stepfamily life all around. For the partner who is a stepparent, it’s crucial to be connecting with your parnter and getting “together alone moments” during this time of year if you are feeling outnumbered, overwhelmed, or like an outsider in your home.
Simply retreating to your room at night doesn’t count. Take ADDITIONAL time together. A ten-minute walk in the midst of a huge gathering, a run to the grocery store together–these are little opportunities to connect. Promise yourselves before a morning of all-family pandemonium begins, “Okay, we’ll get five minutes alone together before lunch.”
If you think your husband or partner won’t cooperate, think again. He might be feeling as overwhelmed and disconnected as you are! And if you ask effectively rather than putting him on the spot (think calm and formulaic in order to keep the emotional temperature down: “I’d love it if we could work in ten minutes alone together every day. I think it would really help me keep up my stamina and help me feel calm and helpful around the kids”), it’ll be hard for him to refuse so reasonable a request. Especially if you’re wearing that sexy elf suit of yours. I’m just kidding.