There’s nothing like the holiday season to bring out difficulties in relationships.
You may say, “how is this possible when the holidays are supposed to bring
us together?” Yet couples and holiday stress are common.
A major difficulty about the winter holiday season is the presence of
expectations. It is very easy to be let down when you are expecting your
relationship to be as loving and positive as a TV commercial or feel-good
In fact the holidays are filled with potential relationship stressors. Your partner
may have a different idea of how to celebrate, different emotional reactions to
the holiday (anything from cheerful to depressed), different needs about how
to cope with stress (anything from withdrawal to shopping sprees), and could
be going through a hard time based on a present or recent, or long-ago loss.
If you are in a male-female relationship there will be gender differences like the
desire to watch football vs. the need to take care of family, cook, and prepare
for events. If you are in a same gender relationship there are individual differences
and preferences that can come into play in a similar way.
For many couples holiday stress can include too much going on and a disruption
of regular routines including eating and drinking. For some couples there may be
loneliness or too few invitations.
A few suggestions:
The relationship skills you have developed at other times of the year are very useful
for this time of year. These include:
- lowering expectations if it is appropriate
- standing up for yourself and setting boundaries and limits when that is appropriate.
- Recognizing the “shoulds” in your thinking.
- Communication and listening to each other’s point of view.
Communication and listening to each one’s point of view is very important, and can
often lead to mutual compromise, the beacon of hope and light for all couples.
If you find that your relationship skills need help, it’s really a good idea not to wait until
a crisis comes up. The biggest regret that couples have is not getting help sooner.
Perhaps one person has already been in therapy or can start the process individually.
Remember that the holidays can be an opportunity for growth and learning as well
as a time of fun and celebration.