For some parents, Christmas means a few simple presents for the kids and a nice family meal. For others, only lavish gifts and holiday trips will due.
When these two are married, the season of giving can be explosive. But it doesn’t have to be.
“First of all, you have to figure out what the spouse who wants to spend the money is doing,” says Tina B. Tessina, licensed psychotherapist, successful author, and Redbook Love Network expert.
A person may insist on an expensive Christmas for the kids because:
- They felt deprived as a child.
- They are afraid the kids won’t love them otherwise.
- It’s a celebration of their business or financial success.
The spouse who wants a cheaper holiday may also have complicated reasons for their belief.
“Some people think that people with money are good by definition,” says Tessina. “And some people think that people with money are bad by definition.”
As Tessina explains in her book Money, Sex and Kids, those who think that wealthy people are inherently bad want to hide their money. This spouse may skimp on Christmas for the kids to avoid being flashy or inconsiderate of others.
“What I’ve found in my counseling process is that once everyone really understands what’s going on, they get very cooperative,” says Tessina.
Tessina encourages couples to start the discussions early in the year. Strongly held beliefs naturally take lots of time to resolve.
Understand that there may be emotional reasons behind how your spouse handles Christmas spending—reasons they may not have ever thought about.
Finally, don’t forget the reason for the season.
“Remember, enjoying yourself as a family is the most important part,” says Tessina. “Nothing is as important as that.”
Tina Tessina is a licensed psychotherapist in southern California, with 30 years experience in counseling individuals and couples. She’s authored 13 books, including Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences, and The Commuter Marriage: Keep Your Relationship Close While You’re Far Apart.