Q: Everybody talks about Christmas joy and good cheer, but I don't feel it. I usually just fake it because all of my holiday memories are bad ones. How am I supposed to get in the "Christmas spirit"?
Jim: My heart goes out to you. For every joyful carol and festive party this Christmas season, there will be someone who barely makes it through for various reasons. And, sad to say, some won't make it through; unfortunately, depression and suicide are not uncommon this time of year.
For those suffering heartache -- loneliness, financial hardship, loss of a family member, etc. -- the Christmas season can lose its meaning and feel cold and empty. In fact, sadness and grief can quickly turn into despair when the rest of the world seems so happy and joyous.
If your dreams of a white Christmas feel cold and blue instead, I encourage you to reach out to someone. Spend extra time with family members or get together with a group of friends. It's important to let them know you're going through a tough time and could really use their support. If those types of connections aren't readily available to you, I hope you'll call a counselor or a pastor. They understand how tough this time of year is for many people, and they can help your holiday shine a little brighter.
Our counselors here at Focus would be happy to come alongside you. Give us a call at 1-800-A-FAMILY, or visit FocusOnTheFamily.com for information.
And a final note -- if you're reading this and doing OK yourself, try to think of someone who might not be. Maybe there's someone who you suspect will be alone for Christmas. Invite them to join you for dinner. It could make the crucial difference for a person who needs a friend.
Q: My wife and I have had a rough year relationally. Things are improving, though, and I want to give her something extra-meaningful for Christmas. I'm stumped -- any ideas?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: I'm going to suggest something that may sound a little crazy. Write out a heartfelt card and include a "coupon" for 10 minutes of your time every day for the whole year (and then follow through).
Sound too easy? Dr. John Gottman, a widely respected marriage therapist, has published research that shows couples can dramatically improve their relationship if they devote at least 10 minutes throughout the day to one another.
What happens in those 10 minutes is where the magic happens. It's where couples "turn toward" one another. That means both husband and wife shift their focus away from work, kids and other distractions of the day and turn their attention toward their spouse. It could be a conversation over dinner. Additionally, look for connection moments throughout the day. It could be as simple as complementing your wife on her appearance or giving each other a kiss goodbye as you're both heading out the door. Even in brief exchanges like these, you're choosing to turn toward each other.
Believe it or not, it's not lavish vacations or extravagant gifts that best help relationships to thrive, but small, everyday acts. Happy couples take time to talk to one another, to laugh from time to time, and to pay close attention to what the other is doing or saying. Those seemingly insignificant actions are actually powerful moments that keep couples emotionally engaged and stoke the fire of romance and passion in a relationship.
No matter how busy you may be, never be too busy to "turn toward" your spouse on a daily basis. Ten minutes -- that's all you need to help move your marriage from "surviving" to "thriving."
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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