December is a month of celebrations with lights, decorations, presents and cheer! Christmas, Hanukkah, the holidays are almost here and let’s be proactive to avoid conflict, unmet expectations and disappointment. Around this time of year, many couples have holiday conversations. For some relationships it is a source of conflict. Whether it be how to handle some expected family drama, because there is some complicated family dynamics, to how do we want to celebrate the holidays? In my marriage therapy practice in Florida, I have the honor to counsel couples with all different backgrounds and traditions. Some of the couples that I work with are interfaith couples. Interfaith marriages are very common. With different upbringings and then coming together as one, understanding, negotiating and compromise will be important. Couples of the same religion usually have many commonalities and they also might have some different traditions, ideas and thoughts. So, there might be a need to figure out what the holidays will look like for their family. Interfaith couples come to the relationship with different holidays and traditions. If one person grew up celebrating Christmas with a tree, holiday lights and Santa and the other person grew up celebrating Hanukkah with a menorah, dreidel and latkes. There is a need to figure out what the holidays will look like for their family.

So… How do you navigate the holidays as an interfaith couple?

 

Three Tips to Navigate the Holidays

 

1. Open and Honest Communication is Very Important

Have conversations with your spouse asking curiosity questions. It would be ideal if these conversations happened before marriage and if they didn’t that is ok, have them now. Here are some questions that may help guide the Christmas, Hanukkah holiday conversation. • What is important to you about the holidays? • What traditions do you want to see in our home? • What is the story behind the ritual? • Are you looking for the religious meaning or are the holidays more about traditions for you? • What similarities do you notice in the two holidays? • What do you notice that is different about the two holidays? • Do you prefer when Christmas and Hanukkah overlap or do you like when they are separated by a couple of weeks and why? • How would you like me to participate in your holiday? • How can we make Christmas and Hanukkah our holidays so our kids can have a sense of both traditions in our family? • What are your expectations, hopes and desires this holiday season?

2. Set Boundaries with Extended Family Around Your Family Traditions

Talk about the difference and recognize the similarities. Figure out what works for you, your spouse and kids and share that with your extended families. It is ok to start your own traditions. It is ok to celebrate the holidays differently than some extended family members. Figure out what is best for your family of you, your spouse and kids, then celebrate and enjoy.

3. Embrace the Holidays

When you make the decision to marry someone, realize you need to be open to sharing different upbringings, traditions and views. If you are marrying someone with a different faith, there will be some differences that might not be familiar to you. One big similarity is that family is at the center of both holidays. Being together with your loved ones as you celebrate, enjoy, laugh and have fun, whether your playing dreidel, making latkes, wrapping presents, baking gingerbread cookies or waiting for Santa.

Time to Celebrate

My husband and I are an interfaith couple who have successfully navigated 19 years of holiday seasons. We talked about it before we got married and we have kept the lines of communication open all these years. We both have embraced the season full of lights, family and joy. I’m looking forward to celebrating and I hope you are too! If you and your spouse are living in Florida and are struggling to have the holiday conversation, any big conversation or want to improve your overall communication, contact me, I am here to help. I Transform Relationships, one relationship at a time and yours can be next. Wishing you and your family a warm, joyous and peaceful holiday season!! Your Relationship Expert, Michelle