There’s an old saying that “traditions are meant to be broken.” And while I think I agree when we are talking about someone else, I struggle when it gets personal. Selfishness erupts when we are talking about breaking MY traditions!
I grew up with numerous holiday traditions around Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I hold dearly to them like they were the last brownie left on the plate. The problem is that my wife has her own set of traditions. The rituals and memories my parents gave me are NOT the same as my in-laws, and there isn't room for them all. When we were first married, we had tough negotiations regarding whose traditions we would honor and which families we would see and when and for how long. And even to this day, a decade and a half later, I still don’t have my Christmas Eve tradition here at home (not that I’m bitter or holding on to that)!
We have these beautiful and wonderful nostalgic memories that we simply don’t want to let go of--we feel that if we don’t keep moving on with those feelings of the past, then they will cease to exist. And when we hold tightly to our own without allowing space for our spouses’ heritage, then we signal that mine is simply better than yours. Is this really where we’re trying to go? Is it really worth it?
Proverbs 18:2 states that, “fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their opinions.” The fool simply wants to speak and have their opinion heard as opposed to hearing what someone else has to say. A good reminder when we are passionate.
Marriage is about compromise; listening, hearing, speaking into, and coming together in matters. It’s a partnership for a reason. It’s taking two distinct and unique people and creating something beautiful out of the two. It’s about taking a history, past, memories, and traditions from one and smooshing them together with your partner’s history, past, memories, and traditions--all with the hope, desire, and understanding that something new is being made. And let’s be honest--the traditions YOU were raised with were ALSO a combination of two different traditions! And even THOSE traditions morphed and evolved over time too.
What this really boils down to is asking “is it worth it?” Is it worth winning the battle if you lose the war? Is it worth the arguing, the fighting, the unhappiness that will result from a selfish decision? Is your spouse worth the new memories, joys, laughter, and traditions that await when new traditions are forged in community? Care about the opinions of others and value their input. Work together to create the best situation for everyone involved.
For my wife and me, it was a matter of finding what worked for us--and to be honest, what worked for us as newlyweds was vastly different than what worked for us once we had kids! And then once I became a minister it changed again! Be honest about the needs of this season. A surgery or a childbirth may mean a change in tradition for a year. Give yourself grace to acknowledge the needs of this season.
Keep in mind that ultimately, it’s not the nostalgic memory of holidays past that you are holding to--it’s the people you’re doing it with that the memory is sealed in. Philippians 2:4 instructs, "Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." Care for one another as members of God's family. God has placed us in community and blessed us with opportunities to forge relationships, so get creative with one another and create new memories!
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Rev. Deb Koster