Everyone can agree that communication is crucial when it comes to marriage, and communicating expectations during the holidays is no different.
We all come from different backgrounds, different life perspectives. We enter into marriage with different ideals, different goals, different expectations.
It’s a lot to blend into a marriage!
So it’s no surprise that a big area where communication often falls short is around holidays.
Facebook is flooded every holiday with wives in mom groups complaining. Feeling frustrated. Disappointed. Let down. Even unappreciated and sometimes unloved!
Holidays can be a time where our well-meaning husbands can either knock it out of the park or royally screw it all up. And often? They don’t even realize it!
This is something we’ve personally dealt with a good bit in our marriage.
My love language is gift-giving and the trouble with that particular love language is it’s not REALLY about the actual gift and is instead about the thought and care that went into choosing the gift.
I also come into our marriage with a good bit of what I call baggage. I can spiral down a path of feeling like my husband doesn’t love me pretty easily.
That combo can be especially tough at holidays when raw emotions are often super close to the surface.
Basically we’ve had a LOT of struggles during holidays. So much so that we actually decided to take an entire year off from gift giving all together.
We’ve done a lot of talking and self-reflecting and evaluating about ourselves and our marriage and have realized that communicating expectations with each other leading up to holidays is SO valuable and truly makes THE difference in a happy day vs one that ends in disappointment, frustration, tears, bitterness, or anger.
So if you, as a wife, have ever felt like communication has failed during the holiday season, here are some tips on communicating expectations to your husband so you both can enjoy the holidays to their fullest!
Communication Expectations: Set Aside Time in Advance to Think Through Things
This sounds super simple but it really isn’t.
In our busy lives, it’s EASY to forget to sit down and truly THINK about what WE want and what WE expect.
Stop and think.
Heck, we’ve been living in quarantine where life is WAY less busy than it EVER has been yet I still dropped the ball and forgot to take time out to truly think through Mother’s Day and how I wanted to celebrate the day together.
As a mom our minds are always working. Even if life isn’t as busy, our mental load never stops.
It can feel selfish and even uncomfortable to allow ourselves just to reflect and consider how WE would like to spend a holiday. But it’s a very healthy practice that benefits EVERYONE involved!
What I have found works well for me is to visualize the holiday. What do I picture?
What are we doing together? Where are we celebrating? What sort of gift am I receiving? How is it presented?
Having a daydream allows our minds to work effortlessly and to just know our true hearts and see them reflected a little clearer.
Do Not Feel Guilt About Communicating Expectations
As I previously mentioned – we ALL come from totally different backgrounds and experiences.
We are ALL going to value different things. And that is OKAY.
DO NOT feel guilt over the “perfect day” you envision. Yes, you have to be realistic. Seeing yourself on a yacht when your budget is more like a rowboat isn’t practical. But you can take that perfect vision and adjust it to fit your dream.
Maybe instead of a yacht you go kayaking or have a picnic by the water.
Even small things that may seem a bit silly or trivial still matter. And, again, do not allow yourself to feel stupid for caring about them.
I personally do not love a homemade card from my husband. To me, it says “I forgot to buy one so I wrote some stuff down on a piece of paper.”
Growing up my family always bought really nice cards (Hallmark, of course) so having a store-bought card in my hands and knowing he took that time to choose it and read several of them to find one that said exactly how he feels means a lot to me.
When I told him this he was surprised, as to him a homemade card shows more love because it takes more time and effort to create rather than buying one someone else made.
I have discussed this with a close friend and it was so interesting to compare what little things matter a lot to us.
She doesn’t care as much about having a card at all, but for her, the important thing is the presentation.
It means much more to her to have a gift that was wrapped with care than handed to her in a gift bag or Amazon box.
For me, I don’t care about presentation much at all and often give gifts in Amazon boxes myself.
We both felt silly that these things mattered to us. But they DO and it’s OKAY that they do!!!
Kindly Communicate Expectations
As you think through your expectations it’s so, so important to communicate them.
When I see those moms complaining in Facebook groups? 99% of the time the frustration comes from their husbands not KNOWING what they wanted.
Guess what? Husbands can’t know what we want unless we communicate what we want.
Just as it’s super important to take time out of your day to stop and think about what your expectations are leading up to a holiday, it’s equally important to take some time and sit down face to face with your spouse to share those expectations.
This can be hard to navigate as it can feel selfish and even rude!
“Hey my birthday is coming up – here is what I want to do that day.”
It’s very important to come to the conversation in a loving, kind way. If you’ve never had a talk before about holidays and expectations your husband may be blind-sighted by it.
If you’ve pretended to enjoy past gifts or experiences then it makes it harder to have an honest conversation.
It’s important to be honest, but also be mindful of his feelings. If he makes you a hand made card every single holiday it could really hurt his ego to discover you’d prefer a store-bought one.
Lead with what you love and appreciate and then drop the hint on what you’d like to change and end with more love and appreciation.
“I really love and appreciate all the homemade cards you’ve done for me over the years and all the thought and care you have put into making them. When I was growing up we always did store-bought cards and part of the fun was trying our best to find cards that said exactly what we felt about that person. I thought maybe for my birthday this year you could see if there was a card at the store that really speaks to how you feel about me!”
You don’t want to overload too much at once but I don’t think it’s unrealistic to sit down with your husband and simply let him know that you’ve been doing a lot of self-reflection and personal growth and want to do better at appreciating him and enjoying holidays together.
That you are guilty of not communicating expectations – which isn’t fair to him!
You want to remedy that by communicating them now and will continue to do so moving forward.
I bet he’ll take it better than you think…and he might even be relieved 😉
—–> A great time to talk about holiday expectations is during a weekly check-in!
For us, communicating expectations was easier because we’ve had so many rough times on holidays and we both have been wanting to get things on a better path together!
My husband will come to me now and ask me about my expectations if I don’t go to him and say “hey babe I’ve been thinking about my birthday…” first!
Don’t Have Any Expectations? FIND SOME
On the most recent Mother’s Day my husband asked me my expectations and I truly didn’t have any.
I realized this was an error on my part. Having expectations for the day doesn’t just benefit the recipient, it also benefits the giver!
Knowing up front what I am hoping for during a holiday celebration minimizes my husband’s stress.
He’s not overanalyzing or overthinking. He’s not putting unnecessary pressure on himself to give me the “perfect day” or “perfect present.”
Having expectations takes the pressure and stress AWAY from our husbands and makes it EASIER on them to plan!
I truly didn’t have ANY expectations for our Mother’s Day celebration but I realized I should have. It’s worth coming up with some sort of idea of what I’d enjoy in order to help the day run smoother for us all.
Since I didn’t give him any expectations he spent the day trying to do so many things that it took away from the enjoyment of the day because I realized my only expectation was to ENJOY each other and having him doing-doing-doing didn’t allow him to ENJOY!
If I had communicated to him that I didn’t care what we were DOING but I just wanted to ENJOY HIM it would have made a big difference in our day and how we BOTH felt about it!
Leave Room for Surprises
“But won’t sharing my expectations ruin the surprise?”
I do understand the element of surprise, but you can communicate and still leave room for surprises.
Keeping your daydream about your day broad and vague helps allow room for your spouse to add in their own creative elements.
You daydream about a day spent at the water, he can decide if it’s that picnic or a boat ride or laying out at the beach etc.
A great idea is to make a Pinterest board or Amazon wishlist with things you see that you’d like to have someday.
Don’t make an actual “wishlist” but more of an idea spot. Don’t check it often. Just whenever you’re randomly scrolling on social media and see something you like – Pin It to that board!
Share the board with your husband and so he can have a one-stop-shop place to know the things you’d enjoy having.
That way he can surprise you…with something he knows you’ll love!
Having a gift idea board is also a great way to incorporate surprises without a holiday being attached.
Sometimes we put too much emphasis on a big holiday celebration and it can be too much pressure on our spouses and too high of expectations for ourselves.
Maybe instead your husband can pick a random date on the calendar and put a note to remind himself to surprise you.
And you can do the same for him!
Surprise each other with a random date night. An unexpected gift. A card (store-bought or, gasp, even homemade ha!) filled with sweet words.
Little random gestures that remind each other how much you care throughout the year makes a HUGE impact as your marriage as a whole…and also makes those special holiday celebrations much less stressful or filled with any sort of pressure!
You’re not sitting there counting down for Mother’s Day in order to feel appreciated, you know your husband appreciates you because he shows you all year long!
Communicating Expectations Minimizes Resentments and Frustrations
As women, we so often get caught up in the romantic idea of being swept off our feet with some grand surprise gesture that we end up being disappointed and our spouses feel frustrated that their efforts have gone unnoticed or unappreciated.
Communicating expectations at a holiday, or really ANY time, can feel very un-romantic. Un-sexy. And selfish.
It can also feel annoying too. I mean why should I have to spell it ALL OUT FOR HIM? Shouldn’t he JUST KNOW?!
The reality is that marriage isn’t a romantic comedy. (Sometimes the comedy though more than the romance!) It’s not a fairytale.
We didn’t marry someone who can read our minds. Someone who is spending their days at the office doodling hearts around our names.
Communicating expectations in a clear, kind way and being upfront about the way we feel is extremely valuable in a marriage relationship.
First, sharing your expectations with your husband helps YOU enjoy your day!
Second, it minimizes the pressure and frustrations that your husband feels about the holiday.
He’s not stressing over jumping through invisible hoops to make you happy, he KNOWS what will make you happy and is able to deliver.
Quite often men feel this intense desire to see us happy. They put this pressure on themselves to be the ones who provide us with endless joy.
It is quite crushing to them when they feel like they have let us down and are the reason we aren’t happy!
Knowing HOW to make sure the person he loves most in the world IS happy? That’s huge for a husband and takes off all that stress and pressure.
Lastly, communicating expectations also prevents resentment.
How many times has your husband dropped the ball on something and you’ve “let it go” but it’s really just sitting there stewing under the surface?
I know it’s dumb. I know it’s silly. I know I shouldn’t be bothered by it but it just bugs me.
Then another small thing happens that bugs me and it adds to that first small thing and then all I can see are the small annoyances.
Before I know it I’m seeeeething over a coffee cup that’s been in the sink for three days.
Just like my husband feels pressure to please me on holidays, I also can feel this sense of entitlement on a holiday too.
I should be spoiled. It’s Mother’s Day! I shouldn’t have to lift a finger. It’s my birthday!
So when those small annoyances happen on a special day? I’m even more quick to feel that resentment.
By communicating the expectations upfront with each other it takes away the pressure, frustration, and resentment and allows us BOTH to just enjoy the holiday and each other.
For my birthday last year I spent some time thinking of what I envisioned as my ideal day.
My birthday fell on a Friday which is a day my husband often golfs. I knew if he golfed on my birthday, I’d be bitter.
So I communicated that with him and asked him to hang at the house with our toddler so I could spend the day to myself.
I was able to go eat lunch with my older kids at school without distractions from the toddler. I was able to make several returns at stores without the toddler in tow.
It was perfect!
In my romantic sweep me off my feet dreams my husband tells me that he’s not going golfing on a Friday and is instead giving ME the entire day to enjoy.
So on my birthday? I was able to get that romantic fantasy in real life 😉
Follow the Process Prior to EACH Holiday
We cannot tell anyone something once and expect them to remember it.
This is true for our children, as well as our spouses. Do we remember every single thing everyone has ever said to us? Of course not!
So why do we casually mention something once to our husbands and expect them to remember?
This isn’t just a one time thing. It’s an every single holiday thing.
Our husbands need reminding and we need reevaluating too!
The beauty of taking time out to really consider our expectations prior to EACH holiday is so you can evaluate things and then communicate those thoughts to your spouse.
People change. Feelings change. Even love languages can change over time!
I used to be highly rated on the quality time love language but I think four kids and such a packed schedule has made me appreciate and desire alone time ha!
It can change from holiday to holiday, life season to life season and that’s okay!
Life can throw all sorts of things at us and our emotional needs shift and change in response. Our needs change. The way we need our spouses to show up for us change.
Communicating Expectations: All Holidays Apply
When we think of holidays that require communicating expectations, we think of the ones where we want to feel most loved and appreciated.
The “husbands better show up holidays” like Valentine’s Day, our birthdays and Mother’s Day.
But even when holidays aren’t about US we are still part of them and the bigger holidays like Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas can come pretty loaded with expectation.
Traditions are HUGE and passed down from our prior families before we enter into marriage.
Again, two people bringing different backgrounds to a marriage, and having to find that common ground place where they both feel like their needs and wants are met is tricky!
It’s important to take elements from BOTH husband and wife into family traditions, to leave room for creating something new as a family together, and to leave space for ways to spend time celebrating just as a married couple too.
I struggled with this a good bit early on in our marriage. We live in the town that my husband is from. So we naturally do a LOT with his family and follow a LOT of his family traditions.
It took us several years to find a happy balance where I feel like our little family has our own traditions together on each holiday and that some of my special childhood traditions are able to be passed down to my kids too.
We also have a tradition of getting away “just us” at Christmas prior to all the craziness so we can truly pour into our relationship and each other and just enjoy that quality time together.
Maybe even just plan a date night over the holidays. Pick up some Starbucks and ride around and look at Christmas lights together. Have a shopping date where you pick out gifts for your extended family together.
Communicating exceptions at the holidays aren’t just about what we want for ourselves but also what we want for our family unit. For our children to experience. What memories we want to make together!
It’s very important to communicate these desires with each other too!
—–> Read more about how to establish family traditions here
Be Kind – REMIND
Even if some things are always the same like I will always prefer my husband buy me a card over make one himself (I do, however, love when the kids make them for me!) that doesn’t mean I should expect my husband to always remember that (although I’ve mentioned it quite a few times now in this blog post sooooo he probably won’t forget ha!).
Make a note in your phone with some holiday preferences that you’ve found work across the board then review these thoughts when you’re having your pre-holiday reflection time.
Tweak changes as you see fit and then go over them with your husband leading up to the holiday!
And be sure to remind each other TO take that time out to evaluate and set those expectations in plenty of advance notice for the upcoming holiday celebration.
Expectations May Not Align
Something that has been tough for me is accepting that my husband is not having the same expectations I do going into a holiday celebration.
When he knocks it out of the park for me on a holiday I then feel this pressure to do the same for him on his next holiday.
This cycle got us in a bad spot of waaaaaay overspending on our holiday budgets because we both kept trying to show up big for each other each time and then go bigger the next!
It’s hard for me to accept a fancy gift from my husband and not feel like I need to get him an equally fancy gift in return.
But I’m learning that he loves to spoil me. It doesn’t mean HE wants to be spoiled and by trying to spoil him back it takes away some of his joy from the giving he enjoys towards me.
Sometimes it’s a gift to someone else to LET THEM GIVE to you!
Accept it with grace and don’t put some pressure on yourself about it.
My husband didn’t enter our marriage with nearly as much tough stuff on his heart as I did, he’s a pretty simple dude who doesn’t overthink or overanalyze things.
He’s not saying “I just wanna hang at the house” and really meaning “I want you to surprise me with something epic.”
Even though his expectations may not be grand or complex, it’s still important that he communicate those expectations with me and it’s OKAY that we have different needs, wants, and desires when it comes to how we celebrate holidays.
None of this really matters to my husband. He doesn’t have expectations for the holidays. I don’t think he really even CARES about how we celebrate him.
And that’s tricky too! Because I tend to look at him and assume HE wants me to sweep him off his feet the way he does for me on holidays – and that’s not accurate!
He doesn’t need as much time in reflection or in communicating expectations but I still need for him to remind ME that he doesn’t care one way or the other how we celebrate!
I thrive with a plan and I still need that reminder from him that he truly means it that he just wants to grab a pizza and go swimming for his Father’s Day celebration!
Show Appreciation and Gratitude
What’s the saying? That it takes 10 compliments to outweigh one put down?
The same can feel true when you’re disappointed in a holiday or let down by an expectation you had for your spouse.
One mess up can be tough to come back from!
It’s a learning process. Marriage is one big learning process.
We’re never going to get it right 100% of the time.
We’re not living in a Disney movie!
Find the positive. Focus on the good.
I have found that when we clearly communicate expectations that the holidays go pretty dang perfectly though! And then? I make sure to REALLY show my appreciation.
One of the most sought after feelings is to feel appreciated.
It’s so important to show our husbands we appreciate the thought, effort, time, energy, money, planning, love, and listening that went into our special day.
Thank him – especially in the way in which he receives love the best!
Communicating Expectations: Final Thoughts
I’ve talked to so many friends around the holiday seasons and so often they are disappointed with how they were celebrated by their spouse. SO. OFTEN.
I’ve seen countless threads in the mom groups on Facebook with disappointment and frustration with the way husbands show up, or don’t, for holidays.
And ya know what? This post is one that is preaching to MYSELF.
I have dropped the ball at remembering to remind my husband. I’ve forgotten to take time to think through expectations.
We’ve had some tough holidays. Some big blow up arguments. Some mega tears.
—–> Read how we get out of a marriage valley here!
And I know I come from a very skewed perspective on all of this due to my upbringing and some of the tough emotional junk I carry.
My husband doesn’t have it easy but I promise I warned him when we were dating and he still signed on up 😉
This is an area we are constantly working through and working on together.
I wrote this post in a very one-sided stereotypical way because it’s how OUR relationship has been.
I know there may be some husbands out there who have expectations and don’t communicate that with their wives. Some husbands who feel disappointed with how their spouse recognized their special day. I know there could be some dude Facebook groups where husbands complain.
But from my experience this is typically a “wife thing” so I have been speaking to us wives who I think can benefit from recognizing and communicating expectations 🙂
I love that our relationship is at a place where we’re both doing so much growing and self-reflection and a lot of really, really awesome communicating together.
This simple act of thinking through expectations and communicating them has really made a big impact on our overall marriage, let alone the holidays we celebrate!
Communication is crucial in all relationships.
All married couples can benefit from clear communication and self-reflection and I hope this advice benefits other marriages as it has ours.