How to create a shared meaning as a newcomer or newly engaged

The wonders of the holidays feel special to those who are just getting engaged or who are celebrating for the first time as a bride and groom. Couples may feel happy and potentially anxious about using them as a springboard to create meaningful memories and celebrate them in a way that uniquely defines them as a couple.

Traditions: past, present and future

Many of us grew up celebrating with our parents or grandparents. They set the tone for connecting behaviors or rituals during this special time of year. Traditions such as decorating the tree on Christmas Eve or leaving cookies for Santa Claus developed as a custom. They are usually rooted in the values ​​and beliefs of the family of origin. They are symbols of what they wanted the holidays to mean.

Now you and your partner are part of the family you choose compared to the one you were born with. What traditions or events will represent who you two are and what do you want to symbolize to move forward?

Sometimes anxiety happens to couples when they feel pressured to do what was expected of them when they were single. Newly engaged or married couples should often be given permission to make some changes in traditions this year to make room for new traditions to develop that include building new shared meanings about the holidays.

This can cause discomfort to parents or extended family members who will be disappointed and hope that their holiday traditions with you will last forever. However, healthy couples can tolerate the disappointment of their families and will commit to setting boundaries around the needs of their new relationship. The things you did when you were single and the ways you identify with the holiday customs created in your original family may seem different once you commit to someone else.

Commitment and creation of something new

You and your partner will need to find areas to agree on what traditions you want to incorporate into your vacation as a couple. These negotiations should include consultation with each other to find out what your dream vacation is like and what it means to you if you do not honor that dream.

Find ways to show the world how your new family celebrates the holidays. For example, if one of you thinks that decorating a gingerbread house represents the holidays and the other partner thinks that having a snowy adventure is important, then find ways to combine the two. The compromise could be that you both rent a cabin that includes a kitchen so you can go skiing during the day and bake gingerbread at night. Another example is that maybe one of you grew up with freshly cut trees every year and the other one grew up with artificial trees. How about taking turns alternating fresh and artificial trees, or having one of each?

The goal of this spirit of commitment is to find something that combines the personalities and values ​​of each of you to create new holiday symbols.

This is not to say that you should reject your celebrations as an extended family. Introducing your beloved family traditions from your past to your partner is part of building love maps together. You just won’t want to switch to autopilot waiting for your new partner to adjust to the way you’ve always done things.

Acknowledging changes in your family situation means incorporating desires so that you both feel comfortable and represented.

The Marriage Minute is an e-newsletter from The Gottman Institute that will improve your relationship in 60 seconds or less. More than 40 years of research with thousands of couples show a simple fact: small things can often lead to big changes over time. Do you have a minute? Sign up below.

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