Marriage advice: Tips for couple's first Christmas together

Excerpt of Article By  
Terri Finch Hamilton | The Grand Rapids Press
Those “First Christmas Together” tree ornaments should come with a warning label: THIS MAY HAPPEN TO YOU:  Won’t it be fun, honey, to spend Christmas with my family? Wait. YOUR family? I thought we were spending Christmas with MY family? Um, well, your mom hates me. Well, maybe if you get her something really nice she’ll ... Yeah, well ... did you hear the part about how she hates me? Navigating the holidays for the first time as newlyweds can be stickier than your sister-in-law’s fruitcake. — from haggling over where to spend the holidays to figuring out gift buying to dealing with that new family member you just don’t get. So this is where we call on the experts... Valencia Agnew is a psychologist and therapist who, after 22 years of marriage to Darron, has this holiday couple thing all figured out, but admits she had part of it easy. “Because my husband likes to eat,” Agnew says, “the more family visits we can do, the better, he says. He collects dessert.” Early on, she realized Darron’s family has more holiday stamina than she does. “They can spend till the crack of dawn just sitting and talking,” she says. “But after a couple hours, the kids and I are done. So we drive separately. That way he can stay as long as he wants, and the rest of us can go to bed. “I’ll go to bed on my own family, too,” she adds with a laugh. “I’ll say, ‘You guys stay up as long as you want, but I’m going to bed.’” Agnew stayed awake long enough to share some tips on heading into the holidays as a couple, and Regester weighs in, too. “Remember to negotiate — that’s huge,” says Agnew, who works at North Kent Guidance Services in Grand Rapids. “Maybe instead of choosing which family to celebrate with, you host, and invite both sides. Realize you might not make both families happy.” “Respect both of your upbringings, rather than argue over whose is right,” Agnew says. “I often see couples who each want to follow the traditions of their own upbringing.” Take part of each and make it your own, she suggests. “One person’s needs should not be valued over the other’s,” she says. “It’s not going to be as easy for newlyweds as it is for couples who’ve been married for 15 years,” Agnew says. “Interview other married couples who you see doing it successfully. Learn from the wisdom of those couples.” “Stick together in your decisions,” Agnew says. “Don’t go to your mom and say, ‘Bob didn’t want us to come here — he wanted us to go to his parents’ house.’ That creates a distance. The in-laws start to view the spouse as the enemy.” Make a spending plan, then figure see out how gift buying fits it, Agnew suggests. “Does everybody get a gift? Is that important to you? Or maybe you only buy for parents and kids under age 18. Maybe you draw names.” ... “Take care of yourselves, as a couple", Agnew says. “The energy it takes to do the holidays can be exhausting,” she says. “It increases when your family grows, and suddenly you have to go to little Susie’s holiday concert and then to little Johnny’s. “Do something just for yourselves, as a couple,” she says. “That’s great if you want to bake cookies for the lady next door, but that’s not for you. Go to a movie, or just sit home and prop your feet up. As the stress goes up, your self- care should go up, too.” When your energy is depleted, you’re more likely to argue, she adds... The full article by Terri Hamilton can be found on


Contact Me