Daddy Talk: Christmas Can Pay Dividends
My wife and I were with a group at a friend’s house one evening when one of the ladies there interrupted my wife to say, “That’s the third time you’ve said that, you have to talk to Tim about that.” I guess that’s when it dawned on Ashley, and later on me when she told me the conversation, that we hadn’t really talked in over three days. It’s sad to admit that, but I think it’s a common story in marriages, especially ones where there are multiple young children or where spouses have conflicting work schedules. You end up getting through the day by simply taking care of responsibilities, and you don’t make time to share with your spouse things that you are thinking about, feeling, wishing for, needing. Sometimes you try to make time and simply can’t. At some point into that process, one of you becomes aware that you haven’t connected, and when this realization happens, it’s the next steps that make all the difference.
For me and Ashley, the typical protocol is that she brings up the idea that there’s a disconnection in our relationship, and then I immediately get defensive about it: “Hey, I’ve been trying to do things right,” “Do you see how busy I am right now with work?” or my personal favorite, “I emptied the dishwasher last Thursday. Isn’t that enough to keep you happy?” I take it personally when Ashley notices a “lull” in our marriage even when she doesn’t place any blame or guilt on me. So, from the onset, that’s a hurdle to fixing whatever the issue is.
If we can somehow get past our own defensive strategies, it becomes evident that, fortunately, we do actually want to have a strong marital relationship. Often, it is simply neglect, unawareness, or distraction—not some deep-seated animosity—that leads to our disconnection from each other in the first place.
We decided this time that in addition to doing the little, daily things that spouses need to do to stay on the same page—communicate more frequently, be more honest, consider the other person’s needs—we would also spend time during the holidays updating our bedroom together, as our Christmas gift to each other. I’m a bit embarrassed to say that since we have been homeowners (about eight years now) our bedroom had been the only room in our house that we have not put thought or effort into “fixing up.” We used secondhand furniture, had the previous owner’s paint on the wall, and cluttered up the floor space with items that we didn’t want seen in the common areas of the house. A box of decorations that we intended to hang on the walls sometime fifteen months ago sat in a little corner by my nightstand; I’m still not entirely sure what was in that box. We haven’t pulled an all-out Fixer Upper on the place by any means, but taking a little bit of ownership over that space has allowed us some relaxing breathing space and instilled some self-esteem into our marriage because we’re telling ourselves that our room is worth the time and the effort. In fact, our relationship is worth the time and the effort.
Those sorts of messages are the ones we want to tell each other in our marriage and, even more generally, in our family as a whole. We want our kids to see that we value each other and hold our marriage as sacred, and that message needs to be in our lives consistently in whatever ways are called for—fixing up our personal space or simply speaking kindly to one another in a chaotic kitchen just before supper.
In the days leading up to Christmas, our six-year old requested a mistletoe decoration from the store, and when we got it home, he hung it near the top of the Christmas tree and told Ashley and me to stand under it. He told us, “You can kiss, get married again, and have three more kids.” Ashley said, “I don’t think I want to do all that.” He scaled back the suggestion: “Well, then you can just kiss for fun,” an idea that Ashley was happy to oblige.
Tim Krason lives in Clinton with his family. His house is the one that still has the Christmas lights glowing.