In less than twenty-four hours, Eric and I will be celebrating fourteen years of wedded bliss… well, fourteen years of wedded something. ~smile~ Typically, when someone who has been married more than two months says their marriage is blissful, I don’t believe them. However, when I meet a couple who has been married for forty years and they say their marriage is blissful, I do tend to believe them. Time told the tale! Hopefully that will be Eric and me one day – forty years of marriage and many smiles to share about the journey. ~smile~
Commemorating another trip around the sun together puts me in mind of the many celebration opportunities we have – not only in marriage, but in life. We gather around brightly decorated trees on Christmas and exchange gifts. We overeat, nap, and overeat again on Thanksgiving. On the Fourth of July, we watch with the wonder of a seven-year-old as fireworks burst into the sky. And, no matter how old we get, we still make wishes before we blow out our birthday candles.
Celebrations can be a joyous bonding experience in marriage, or they can cause tension. It depends on what each person believes about them and how they are handled:
- I am thirty-two-years-old! Why did you throw me a surprise birthday party?!
- But, it’s Christmas! I cannot believe you agreed to work all day on Christmas Eve. Now there is no way we can visit my parents on Christmas Day.
- You want me to spend $70 on fireworks? Are you kidding?!?
Celebrations, though lighthearted in nature, can lead to arguments and hurt feelings when couples do not agree.
Are you feeling a “You and your significant other need to talk about celebrations” coming on in this post? You would be completely right! Even the happy topics deserve their time to shine. Christmas, for example, can be a time of laughter, nostalgic foods, giddiness, and relaxation or it can be a time of resentment, aching hearts, and dashed hopes. When two people set out in marriage expecting their mutually exclusive traditions to remain intact, at least one of them will be disappointed. That is, unless they have already discussed it and worked out a plan.
- How do you feel about birthdays?
- How much money is too much money to spend on Christmas? Who gets presents? Who does not?
- Do you like large gatherings of people on New Year’s Eve? How do you like to celebrate it?
- Have you ever handed out flags on Memorial Day? We do it every year in my family. Would you be interested in adopting this tradition?
What Expectations Do You Have of Celebrations?
Do you live to celebrate life’s little joys, or do you have a hard time slowing down even for Christmas? Do you feel the need to go out for a post-exam dinner or do you see little sense in commemorating small victories?
When Eric and I were dating, he told me he wanted birthdays to be a big deal in our future family. At the time I thought, “No problem! I like birthdays!” Then, it came time to celebrate his twenty-eighth birthday – his first birthday since we started dating. Suddenly, my typical birthday celebration – a present, eating out somewhere, and a fun dessert – did not seem like enough. So, I spent hours putting together a fun day for Eric. In my determination to make his birthday big, I wore myself out worrying that it was not enough.
It turned out to be a fun day and Eric was pleased, but then his twenty-ninth birthday came! And, then his thirtieth! After his thirtieth, I slumped back into my old habits. A fun meal, a dessert (maybe), and a present. Happy Birthday. It took me a few years before I got back to planning fun birthdays for him, and from then on, I did not make myself so crazy.
Had I grown up with big birthday bashes, throwing them for Eric would not have been such a culture shock. And, if Eric had never told me how he felt about birthdays, he would have been disappointed year after year wondering when I was finally going to plan a nice birthday for him.
Whenever there is an expectation, it needs to be expressed. Otherwise, we cannot complain when our partners do not fulfill them. But, if he loved me, he would just know what I want! False. Love does not come with mind-reading. If not challenged to change, we stick to what we know. Since I had pizza, cake, and a present-or-two birthdays, that is what I would have given Eric. Unfortunately, many of our expectations are hidden and do not show themselves until they are violated.
- He did not buy me flowers for our three-month “anniversary!”
- She did not make me my favorite meal for my birthday. She has been to my mom’s house with me on my last two birthdays. Mom even taught her how to make it! How did she not know that’s what I wanted?
- Today is a special occasion for us and he did even not postpone his evening meeting.
Because our expectations tend to remain dormant until they are violated, it is wise to go hunting for them in advance. This is true on an array of topics, but today we will stick with celebrations. What do we believe about them? What do we desire from them?
Draw a Big Birthday Cake on Your Creed Notebooks
Take your trusty notebook off the shelf and ask yourself the following questions:
- What are my top ten favorite celebrations of the year? (Prioritize them from most to least important.)
- What non-calendar holiday celebrations do I enjoy? (e.g., Fridays, end of the semester, met a personal goal, completed a significant work goal, etc.)
- How did I celebrate holidays and accomplishments growing up?
- Do I want to continue celebrating in these ways?
- How does my experience compare to my boyfriend or girlfriend’s experience?
- Do we want to add new celebrations or ways of celebrating?
- What do I want to instill in my children about celebrating?
- If I could have the perfect celebration of the following, what would they look like?
- How much money do I think is reasonable to spend on each of the above celebrations?
- If I stopped celebrating holidays and events, how profoundly would it change or impact my life?
What Does the Bible Say?
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (I Corinthians 10:31, ESV)
And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. (Luke 15:23-24, ESV)
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4, ESV)
Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. (Luke 15:7, ESV)
This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24, ESV)
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. (Philippians 4:4, ESV)
Let the godly exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their beds. (Psalm 149:5, ESV)
God’s Word does not forbid celebrations. In fact, it encourages them! Heaven celebrates when a sinner repents. There are many feasts celebrated among the Jewish people. Scripture tells us to rejoice! Above all, we are told to do all we do for the glory of God. Are you celebrating something which goes against God’s character? Or, are you celebrating something true, honorable, and pure? (cf. Philippians 4:8)
What do you believe about celebrations? Do you consider them essential for a happy, healthy life, optional, or a waste of time? More importantly, do you and your significant other agree on the part celebrations should play in your lives and marriage? Before you declare a resounding yes, look at the evidence. Join each other at family events. Ask friends about past celebrations. If your girlfriend danced until 2am on her last birthday, then had cake for breakfast, followed by a spa day with her closest friends, she probably likes celebrations. If your boyfriend went missing from his family’s last three Christmas celebrations, he might not be the party animal he thinks he is (or, you think he is; or, he just may have a boring family).
If celebrations are important to the two of you, mark them in your notebooks and be sure to find a place for them in your personal creed and couple’s creed. I hope you find a place for festivity in your creed. ~smile~
Do You Need Boundaries Around Your Celebrations?
Before closing out this post, I feel compelled to ask: Have you had the all-important discussion, “Where will we spend Thanksgiving and Christmas?” In some cases, holiday plans work out smoothly, especially when parents live in different areas. For example, “This year we will do Thanksgiving in PA and Christmas in SC. Next year we will flip, and the third year, they will come to us!” But, in other cases, holidays are when the manipulation monster rears its ugly head.
- What do you mean you can’t come for Christmas? You have never spent a Christmas away from us. His parents have five children! Why should they get you, too, when you are the only child we have?
- Oh, it’s a shame you cannot come for Thanksgiving. We planned the whole menu around you and your allergies, but maybe they will take some of this stuff back. Or, we’ll mail it to you. Heaven knows we don’t need it.
- We are coming to your house for your birthday!!! I’ll bring all the food!!!
Overreaching family can put a young couple into a tight spot. They do not want to disappoint their families or each other. So, if you are planning to get married soon, it is time to talk about your typical celebrations, what is most and least important to you, and how you can compromise to make holidays less stressful. With marriage comes change, and one of those changes is how you celebrate holidays. Before bringing your family into the discussion, hash it out in private. Make a plan. Be a united front. This is not to say your plans cannot change if agreed upon; but, if you do not have a strategy going in, it will be easier for your families to pit you against each other.
Happy Anniversary, Eric!
My sweet man, I wish you a super Happy Fourteenth Anniversary! These years have been an adventure. Let’s see what else God has in store for us.
Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith “A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!” – Robert Browning
We were together. I forget the rest. – Walt Whitman
What do you each believe about the importance of celebrations?
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