The holidays can be a stressful time in and amongst all the holiday cheer. Disagreements about how to celebrate the holidays or conflicts with family and in-laws can add extra stress to your romantic relationship.
Addressing these conflicts right away with open and timely communication is an essential step in maintaining and strengthening your relationship, as you both navigate the holiday season.
The holidays are a time of celebration and spending quality time with those who are important to you. While this is both busy and exciting, it’s essential to make sure that you’re making time for your partner as well.
Make time for your relationship
Busy and stressful times make it easy to let your relationship take a back seat to stressors that feel like they’re right in your face. However, taking just a few minutes a day to focus on your relationship and your partner can help maintain your connection, even when other things are vying for your attention.
“When partners do small everyday gestures of kindness and engage with positive intention and presence, they grow their emotional bank account,” according to the Gottman Institute. This creates stability and resilience that acts as a counterweight against stress and conflict.
While preparing a cup of tea or picking up a needed item is beneficial and appreciated, they do not make up for quality time together. Even during busy and stressful times, make time for dates. The positive emotional outcomes of one date where you focus on each other cannot be overlooked.
Set time aside once a week for each other, whether you curl up on the couch to enjoy a movie or go to a show, that time together will help you weather the chaotic and stressful times more easily.
Open and timely communication
Life can throw many unexpected challenges at you, and sometimes the holiday season feels like an endless minefield of problems. Whether it’s coordinating which family to visit, or what food to serve, avoid putting off the discussion about it and practice good communication.
Giving you both as much time as possible to discuss and come up with a plan, the more likely you will both feel you’ve reached a fair outcome. In turn, you’ll feel more connected in your relationship and feel more positively about working together.
Teamwork is a strength when it comes to tackling surprise situations. Sometimes difficult family members turn partners against each other by providing conflicting demands. Still, if you approach each challenge as a unified team, you can work together to find a solution instead of against each other.
Before, during, and after a challenging situation, check in with your partner. Being there through each phase of a situation is an easy and impactful way to provide emotional support as you navigate the holiday season.
Checking in also helps to make sure you get on the same page about things. Whether it’s gift-giving or holiday activities, talking about and establishing agreed-upon ground rules helps to alleviate anger and disappointment from mismatched expectations.
Being open to compromises and accepting that the holidays won’t be 100% perfect is a constructive mindset to having the best possible holiday experience.
Dealing with conflict during the holiday season
Sometimes, despite your best intentions, your emotions run high, and disagreements about how to navigate the holidays arise between you and your partner. If you feel the stress and the pressure getting to you and find yourselves butting heads more frequently, try these tips to get you back on track and working together.
Listen to each other: listening to your partner’s needs and taking into account their wishes and feelings will help you make more inclusive decisions as a couple. Making decisions that you’re both comfortable with will allow you to focus on handling external challenges instead of fighting each other. And make sure all important discussions are done face-to-face so you can tune into the non-verbal expressions, which will reduce conflict and misunderstandings.
Solve what can be solved: not all the problems you face will be things you can control. You can’t fix extreme weather or unreasonable demands from family. Focus on solving the issues that you have control over and let go of those that you can’t control. If you’ve done or said something to hurt your partner, it’s essential you take responsibility and repair the damage as soon as possible. Repairing hurts in a timely fashion is one of the most important aspects of healthy conflict resolution.
Share your unsolvable problems: when you can’t find a way to resolve your differences, still take the time to talk about what you need and how you feel, but take turns and don’t hog the stage for too long or your partner may tune out. Use friendly gestures and words and ensure your tone of voice remains melodic and friendly so you don’t inadvertently threaten your partner. It’s important to express feelings of anger or frustration so you don’t hold resentment towards your partner, but make sure you also reassure your partner you love them and want to work it out.
Find a compromise: there may not be a perfect solution, but if you work together to tackle your problems, you can find a solution that you can both live with. Working together to reach a compromise will feel more like an agreement rather than a fight and promote a sense of teamwork. If you can’t find a solution that works for both of you, don’t stay stuck for too long. Take a break and do something fun together, and you can always come back to the issue at another time.
Holidays can be a stressful time. Navigating them is simpler and more fulfilling if you work with your partner to face all the challenges. Keep your communication open about both the easy and hard parts and make a point to express how you feel as you navigate things that will likely require compromise. Amongst the ups and downs, don’t forget to take care of each other by making time for each other and protecting your partner from harm from you and from others.
Do you need relationship help?
Since 2003, Clinton Power has helped thousands of couples and individuals as a counsellor and psychotherapist in private practice in Sydney and online in Australia. Clinton regularly comments in the media on issues of relationships and has appeared on Channel 7, The Sydney Morning Herald, and ABC Radio. Clinton’s eBook, 31 Days to Build a Better Relationship is available through his website or Amazon. Click here to take Clinton’s relationship checkup quiz to find out how well you know your partner.