Couples have something called a transactive memory or a shared memory that makes it more efficient for them to function because they have both assigned things to remember and, in effect, a larger scope of memory, when they combine forces.
Since couples usually do it anyway, as a consequence of being married, they might as well exploit it for the holidays. Here are five things that a couple can do to make the holidays stress free.
Combine Gift Lists
A couple will have a list of all the people they need to give gifts to. They shouldn’t assume that they have the same list or that the other spouse will remember to add Mr. A or Ms. X in their list. The best thing for a couple to do is combine their lists so that they remember everybody.
The next thing that couples can do is assign the people in the list to one another. Perhaps one partner is better at choosing stuff for the women and girls while the other partner is better at getting gifts for the men and the boys. This way, they get to be responsible for one half of the list and not have to worry about the other half.
Print Lists and Compare
Once they’ve agreed on who is in their list, the couple can then check on each other to see if they’ve covered everyone in the list. This is where they can actually help each other out. If one partner is behind, the other partner can chip in. They can remind each other of what still needs to be done. This doesn’t have to be constrained to gifts but can apply to other holiday-related chores.
In the same manner that each partner shouldn’t assume that the other has covered a gift, they also shouldn’t assume that chores are already assigned. They have to agree on what chores need to be done and who gets to do them. This way, there are no unmet expectations due to erroneous assumptions.
Writing out Cards and Wrapping
The couple can choose to divide the tasks either by the lists that fall under them or by expertise. One partner can wrap all the gifts while the other one is assigned to write out all the cards. The couple can also divide up based on all the holiday-related chores. One partner can take care of finishing the gifts (both wrapping and writing the cards) because the other partner is assigned to decorating the house and putting up the Christmas lights.
It would also be a good time for the couple to remember that the holidays is about being generous and kind and not about keeping score and getting what’s fair.
Create Holiday Stories Together
A good exercise for couples to reinforce their shared memories is to take the time to put together an album of Christmas memories. They can put together all the cards they received, all the photos that they took and all the artwork that the kids did during the holidays. Together with the children, a couple can create a powerful story of what the holidays meant to them as a family.
Going through this exercise will help the couple not only treasure each and every moment together but also prepare them for more shared tasks throughout the year.
While some might view it as a disadvantage, couples are lucky to have a bigger coverage of memory because they can rely on each other to remember things that they couldn’t possibly remember as individuals. Putting this to use during the holidays is one way to lessen the stress. They can do this by sharing the following tasks: combining lists of gifts and tasks, printing the lists and checking in on each other, assigning tasks to each explicitly like writing cards and wrapping and lastly, creating a shared story together by putting together a scrap book or album.