Every other year or so, my husband and I forgo presents and family gatherings in favor of traveling someplace new together and celebrating the holidays with just the two of us. Although it might seem paradoxical, I love how this practice balances the comfortable predictability of a tradition with the energizing excitement of the unknown.
Since we live thousands of miles away from our nearest relatives, it makes the decision a bit easier when the cost of traveling to parents and siblings is often much greater than one of our couple’s adventures. To further reduce the holiday financial burden, we give each other homemade cards on Christmas morning instead of exchanging traditional gifts. My husband’s quite a cartoonist and he makes these wonderful drawings that celebrate the previous year, often reflecting the adventures (local and international) that we’ve had together.
Relationship experts often highlight the re-igniting potential of new experiences and research suggests that couples who share new experiences report higher levels of relationship satisfaction. While travel certainly fits the bill, mutually-enjoyable new experiences that are closer to home can have the same partnership-enhancing effect.
I’m sure that when we decide to expand our family, couple’s Christmas traditions will shift, perhaps in favor of leaving the kids with grandparents on Valentine’s Day or our anniversary. But regardless of whether this particular holiday tradition extends far into the future, it helps me be clear on how much I value travel and adventure with my partner. That clarity helps me find the adventure in more local experiences, like trying a new ethnic cuisine or exploring a new part of town. The ripple effects of learning new things and enjoying shared, unique experiences pay dividends in our marriage – both during the holidays and throughout the year.