Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Anthony Centore, PhD & Taylor Bennett of Thriveworks.com.
With the holidays fast approaching, it’s important to note that our marriages are definitely not immune to the stress the season brings with it. In fact, recent research from the University of Washington has shown that divorce rates seem to spike right after the winter (and the summer) holidays. According to the scientists involved in this study, this might be due in part to failed expectations and consequent disappointment, as well as financial strain surrounding Christmas.
Here’s the good news: you can take several measures to defend your marriage against stress this holiday season. If you want to sidestep this statistic, put a few rules in place for overcoming these stressors and keeping your marriage happy, healthy, and sexy:
Rule #1: Get the money talk out of the way.
The aforementioned study found that financial strain likely plays a role in the high divorce rates this time of year (as if we needed science to tell us money can wreak havoc on our lives). So, let’s nip this problem in the bud and lay down the law for holiday spending. Many of us spend more money during the holidays than any other time of the year, so creating a budget is important. Before your first trip to the mall this Christmas, have a talk with your spouse about how much money you’re both comfortable spending on presents, decorations, and anything else pertaining to the holiday season. As long as you both follow this budget, you’ll dodge a whole lot of arguing and get to focus your energy on loving each other instead.
Rule #2: Divide and conquer.
Money isn’t the only source of stress during the holiday season. Most of us are also pressed for time around Christmas, which can put some strain on your marriage if you aren’t careful. I mean, just consider all you have to get done: holiday shopping, present-wrapping, decorating, cooking, baking, cleaning, planning travels, visiting family. And that’s just the short list! Your busy schedule can quickly create a rift between you and your partner, especially if one of you is getting the brunt of all the work. So, make a plan to divide and conquer. Divvy up all that the two of you have to accomplish—one person bakes the cookies, while the other wraps the presents—so you don’t end up despising one another. Work as a team to check off all your to-dos this holiday season, and reap the benefits of a much happier, healthier, and sexier partnership.
Rule #3: Find time to connect, emotionally and physically.
Remember how I said many of us are pressed for time during the holiday season? This often accounts for a lack of intimacy this time of year. Which is why rule #3 is to make time for your partner, to connect both emotionally and physically. There is no excuse for putting love and intimacy on the backburner, as each plays a big role in sustaining the very foundation of your marriage. So, squeeze in a few more to-dos at the top of your list:
• Tell your spouse you love them, and don’t forget to say thank you.
• Plan a fun date night, out or in (or both).
• Get physical!
The thing with these to-dos is you don’t cross them off your list. Instead, you prioritize them—well, always—but even more so during this busy holiday season. These pro tips will show your partner he or she is loved and appreciated, help the two of you connect, and serve as an antidote for holiday stress… and if you ask me, the third to-do deserves an honorable mention. For those of you who don’t know, sex is proven to combat stress—as it stirs up those feel-good hormones (like oxytocin and endorphins)—and correlates with healing faster as well as living longer. Win-win-win!
Rule #4: Keep it all in perspective.
We get caught up in holidays well before they arrive—by early November we’re fantasizing about the dazzling lights, the Christmas movie marathons, and all the yummy treats. We look forward to all of the festivities, to the promise of holiday cheer; and we long for a little Christmas magic. The problem, however, is what we fail to remember: that it’s all fleeting. A lot of us are left feeling disappointed, depressed, and stressed after the grand holiday season has come to a close—all difficult emotions, which we tend to take out on those closest to us. That’s why it’s important you implement this fourth rule, to keep all of the holiday fun in perspective. You must make a point to remind yourself, and your spouse, that the real world is right around the corner. And while it’s perfectly okay to get excited for this eventful time of year, you shouldn’t blame or neglect each other when all of the holiday magic has come and gone; packed away again until next year. Instead, you should continue to embrace each other; and set out to make your marriages magical all year round.
The holidays are supposed to be packed full of love, joy, and fun… but stress often works its way into the mix as well. Thankfully, your marriage doesn’t have to suffer as a result anymore—so long as you implement the four rules that act as a shield against the typical holiday stressors: 1) get the money talk out of the way, 2) divide and conquer, 3) find the time to connect, and 4) keep it all in perspective.
This was a guest post from Anthony Centore, PhD & Taylor Bennett. Read more from them and find additional resources to help your relationships at thriveworks.com
 

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