Pilots have some sort of machismo complex when it comes to making a smooth landing. I know it feels good to grease it right on the money. Not to mention that the landing leaves a lasting impression on each and every passenger. But a smooth landing is secondary to the primary goal of landing the airplane safely. Gusty winds and high crosswind components can quickly turn a beautiful flare into a scary situation. Best to err on the conservative side: just plant it!
Believe it or not, a sideload is more damaging to your landing gear than a rough landing. Aircraft designers build oleo struts, trailing link landing gear, and other forms of shock absorbency into the the system to protect the airplane from the occasional smackdown. Most planes however, do not have any lateral shock absorber. This means that any sideload will put a direct stress on the landing gear. Sure, the system is designed to cope with some stress (after all, we can’t always land perfectly), but fatigue can build up over time. In some of the more extreme cases, pilots have actually collapsed the landing gear by landing without the proper crosswind correction.
Sideloads are put on the airplane by landing in a crab (sideways). Pilots are trained to correct for this by entering a slip and landing one wheel at a time. The problem is that many airplanes start to get squirley on roundout in a crosswind. Control pressures are constantly changing, and the wind can quickly become too much to handle. You suddenly find yourself being blown sideways across the runway, which increases the chances of landing with a high sideload, or worse: getting blown into the ditch!
You can work to prevent a dangerous situation by doing your best to get the airplane down. Don’t try to make it pretty, just stick the airplane on the ground and accept a harder-than-normal landing. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not telling you to fly nose-first into the runway. That would be a bad thing. Just don’t “milk it” and aim for that satisfying “chirp-chirp” of the mains in a blustery wind.