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I Married A Grinch: Navigating the Holidays with a Less Than Jolly Spouse

My husband hates Christmas. 

Oh ho ho…ho … he’ll tell you that’s not true. He’ll plead traditional Christmas values; he’ll cunningly argue “not ’til after Thanksgiving;” he will espouse a movement away from commercialism. But the truth is: he’s a Grinch. 

Now, he LOVES presents. It’s his secondary Love Language. But he grimaces at jolliness. Sledding? No thank you. Drive around and look at lights? Why? He hates eggnog. Shudders at carols. Doesn’t much enjoy the cold.

GRINCH!

I, on the other hand, am practically Buddy the Elf. I want to decorate November 1st. I know and love every Christmas carol ever written (like EVERY ONE, check out Dominic the Donkey!). I feel awash in the glow of the holiday spirit! I delight in hot cocoa and crackling fires. I love giving the perfect present, and I want everyone to feel warm and squishy and loved.

So how in the name of Rudolph haven’t we divorced over this fundamental holiday discord?! That, my friends, is a sleigh-ful of hard work, a nutmeg sprinkle of compromise, and little bit of finger-to-the-side-of-nose magic.

If you are afflicted with a grinchy spouse, here are my holiday tips to get his or her heart to grow three sizes for you. 

Communicate how important the holiday season is to you. And why. 

Communication will always be my favorite marital advice because the truth is that only you own the body of your experiences. Only you know your intent. You have to express yourself to make others understand and hopefully appreciate where you’re coming from. My reasons for loving Christmas so much is that it was always a magically happy time in an often anxious household. My mother loved it, and so this time of year seemed to soothe her. In my family, we had deep and loving traditions that made me feel secure and joyful. Without painstakingly carrying those customs on, I feel a sad heaviness. Telling my husband that I love Christmas is one thing. Actually explaining that it makes a difference in how I feel for a full two months is another. 

Try to find the source of their grinchy-ness.

Does she hate crowds? Does money stress him out? Talk it out. Make a budget. Shop separately. Be a shoulder and an ear to family issues. They’re your spouse and you know them better than anyone. You know their baggage better than anyone. So listen, be kind, and try to alleviate the unease that is all too common at Christmastime. 

Set attainable goals/activities.

Make a list (check it twice) and then let him or her cross off a few. Yeah I know you want to look at lights, carol, sip cocoa, go to a tree lighting, take the kids to breakfast with Santa, get perfect holiday pictures for the perfect holiday card, enjoy the bustle of a fancy mall, go sledding, go skating, build a snowman, bake Christmas cookies, decorate the perfect gingerbread house, and make the whole family (including the dog) wear matching Christmas pajamas!!!!

Whew … that’s only part of my own list. I’m sure my husband is exhausted at the mere anticipation of allllllll the holiday activities that I pine for. It’s taken me 12 years of marriage, but I let him opt out now. Without a tantrum. Without holding a grudge. He can cross a few off of his list. There are things I can do with girlfriends. There are things I can do just mommy and son (or three sons in our case).

It is OK. Christmas is still merry if he doesn’t slap on a fake smile and dash through the snow with us. In fact, when he gets to invest in only a few things, he is genuinely more relaxed and happy. Plus, he’s never crossed “kiss me under the mistletoe” off the list, so I think we’re good. 

Start a tradition together. 

Begin something meaningful for both of you. When your newlyweds, it’s really hard to shed the, “but that’s not how we do things!”

“We” is no longer your fam, it’s him. It’s her. And that can be hard. But it also can be really fun. Maybe a Champagne dinner. Or Chinese takeout. Try trading couples gifts on Christmas Eve while the kiddos sleep. Or go to a movie on Christmas Day. Whatever it is. Make something for you both to look forward to. Something that’s all yours. It will make your grinchy partner have something to look forward to that is not a forced tradition, but something wanted and new. 

If all else fails, trade the holidays like baseball cards. Sure, Christmas is fa la la lousy to them. Buuuttt, maybe he loves the Super Bowl (or hunting season or a Fourth of July cookout or less expectation on Valentines). A good ol’ fashioned I’ll do yours if you do mine. It may sound unsavory to treat Christmas like a tart, but mmmm Christmas tarts. 

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