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This Christmas will be my first Christmas as a married woman, and despite having spent the holidays as an engaged couple last year, I can't help but feel like things might be different this year. Different as in wonderful and challenging all wrapped up in one, the way married life can often be.

OK, it was more than a hunch that led to me to think that this Christmas may present some challenges. I have talked to many married women who have told me their first Christmas as a newlywed couple wasn't all rainbows and butterflies (or doves and mistletoe, if you will). I have always believed in learning from other people’s mistakes, so I asked long time married women to share their wisdom, and this is what they said.

Make new traditions and keep only a few of the old.

Elena says that she was struck by how different her and her husband’s family traditions were over the holidays and that it was pretty overwhelming to keep up with all the different “mandatory” holiday gatherings they had to attend. Her solution? Create a tradition that is all your own—something that isn’t his thing or yours.

“Try to come up with a tradition or two that is just for you and your hubby, whether it is a special meal or seeing the nutcracker,” Elena suggests.

Krizia had a similar experience juggling his holiday traditions and hers, but her solution is to only choose a few of your favorites so you don’t get overwhelmed. “Our first Christmas taught us that we're starting our own family now, and it's OK not to experience Christmas like we used to when we were single,” explained Krizia. “It's still special and it's still happy, even if it's not perfect or what we expected! We've since left out some of the most elaborate family traditions, like trying to have 13 different fruits in a bowl for a prosperous new year (my family's tradition) and having a huge elaborate meal for dinner (his family's tradition).”

If you have a wish list, don’t be shy about sharing it with your hubby.

Gift giving can get hairy for some couples, especially if gift giving is your love language, and he hasn’t yet gotten a hang of what kind of gifts would make you feel most loved. Anne’s first Christmas present fail from her husband was even more frustrating than it might have been had they been dating because now they shared a bank account, and she couldn’t help but feel frustrated that her gift was a waste of money!

“For our first Christmas as husband and wife, my husband got me a big book on Sewing (cost about $50) and 2 patterns to make purses,” Anne explains. “The thoughtful intention was there was because I "made" blankets for my bridesmaids for our wedding. But those blankets didn’t really require sewing and I actually have no patience for that.”

Anne explains that now she and her husband show each other their wish lists instead of guessing at what gifts to give. “It may sound shallow, but it works for us!”

Remember, gift giving isn’t all about you.

Speaking of gift-giving trouble, Margaret says her first Christmas she and her husband also grappled with gift giving. “I was disappointed that his gift to me wasn’t really my taste, and I don’t think he was super pleased with the homemade bookends I made for him either,” Margaret explains. “We smoothed things over but it was a moment I realized that the shortcut to happiness in the gift exchange is swallowing the self-centered feelings of desiring my taste, my style. Focus on his desire to please you and the hopeful excitement he felt buying it for you or preparing it. It’s not about you, stupid!”

That being said, Margaret suggested that not making it about you means really thinking about what the other person desires, not what you want them to want or what will give you pleasure to give them. “Looking back, I think he would have preferred a basket of snacks and my company while watching the Super Bowl than my bookends with woodburnt design.”

Set reasonable expectations for yourself. This Christmas isn’t all on you.

Krizia shares that she felt a lot of pressure to get everything right her first Christmas with her husband and looking back she realized she put way too much pressure on herself. “We lived in a tiny studio, and we didn't have an oven. I tried to bake a pie in a toaster oven and it burnt. I tried to bake parts of a chicken, but it was still raw, and had to keep going back in to cook longer,” explained Krizia. “Christmas dinner was a hot mess. I remember crying at the table because I felt like I was the only one putting effort into making it special, and I failed.”

Moral of the story? This Christmas isn’t all on you. Talk about your expectations for the holidays; if your mom was the one doing all the cooking each year, decide for yourself whether that arrangement works for you and your hubby this year.

Photo Credit: Cynthia Chung