Tips For Couples During The Holidays

Tips for Couples During the Holidays

This time of year brings joy and happiness for many, but it can also be a time of high stress, challenging conversations and conflicts. Whether you are a new couple or have been together for many years, having a plan for how you will deal with holidays and managing the expectations that go with it, will go a long way to helping keep your relationship at the center of your decision making.

The following are some things to consider as we move into the holiday season.

  1. Have conversations. Open and honest conversations about what the holiday season means to both of you, your lived experiences with your family of origin, the traditions that are important to you as well as the challenges that come up for you this time of year are all important to talk about. Seek to understand your partner’s point of view and make time for these conversations. Be open minded.
  1. Strive for compromise. Coming up with a game plan that works for both of you and communicating that plan to other family members will help prevent last minute decision making and stress. Although it may not be perfect, focus on what you would like the holidays to be for you as a couple, and for your family. Consider what traditions are most important and what ones you are wiling to let go of, in the spirit of compromising. Communicate your decisions as a couple and be a united front.
  1. Set goals for gift giving. Look at your finances together and set limits that fit for you as a family at this point in time. Perhaps you have some things coming up in the new year that you are saving for. Think about how you can be creative with gift giving, including homemade gifts and family gifts vs. giving to every individual. Leave time for planning so that you are not shopping at the last minute, which can lead to overspending. Work together on a plan and communicate your plan to extended family, so that expectations are established ahead of time.
  1. Share the “To Do” List. There are lots of things involved in preparing for holidays, such as shopping, decorating, and food preparation. Share the responsibilities and make that part of the experience of the season, spending time together and making new memories. Consider new ways of doing things that might make things easier for both of you.
  1. Lean on each other. Often getting together with family members during holidays brings to light some of the family dynamics that might be triggering for you or your partner. Lean on each other and support your partner if there are challenges to face, or boundaries that need to be set with family members. Consider having strategies for calming yourself or your partner if things feel overwhelming during get togethers. For example, you may need to take breaks during get togethers, such as going for a walk, if things are becoming overwhelming. Have an “exit strategy” that you have predetermined together if you need to leave a situation. Stand up for your partner and help to redirect unhelpful conversations.
  1. Consider the needs of your children. For families with children, it is also important to consider their opinions, needs and feelings with respect to holiday traditions and visiting. If you child is easily overstimulated, or lengthy car travel is not good for them, it is important to weigh out what is best for them as you make decisions for your family and your commitments to others. Respecting your children’s wishes about how they would like to celebrate is also part of creating new family traditions that are best for your family. Also, be mindful of not getting caught up in the consumerism of the holiday season and pressuring yourself to overspend on your children. The magic of the season is not all about the gifts, but rather about the time we share together and the memories we create.

As with many challenges in life, open communication and planning are two ways to minimize the stress that the holiday season can bring. Mutual sharing of experiences, emotions and expectations with your partner will go a long way to bringing about understanding. However, sometimes it’s difficult to do this on your own. If you are feeling stuck in these conversations, it might be helpful to speak to a therapist to come up with different ways of thinking or responding to what is happening. Any of the staff at Brant Mental Health Solutions are there for you to help support you as you navigate the holiday season, or any other life challenges that you or your family are experiencing.