By Jirzia Blackman, LCSW-S—CEO-Founder
The holiday season is a time for warmth, joy, and togetherness, allegedly. For some couples/relationships, it can be an opportunity to create lasting memories and strengthen their bond. However, it can also be stressful due to many reasons, such as conflicting expectations, and juggling multiple commitments. Join me as we explore how couples can navigate the holidays together, fostering connection, communication, and a sense of shared joy.
Number one, communicate, communicate, COMMUNICATE!! Promoting effective communication is a crucial factor in building stronger relationships, especially during challenging times. Research indicates that in many partnerships, there tends to be one person who communicates excessively while the other adopts a more reserved approach, avoiding discussions. What Gottman calls stonewalling. When confronted with the added stress of the holiday season, tensions can escalate. Hence, it becomes imperative for both partners to be purposeful in their communication. If you find yourself inclined to over-communicate, consider placing a greater emphasis on listening. Conversely, if you tend to stonewall, make an effort to engage in more open communication. This intentional approach can contribute significantly to navigating and improving relationships, particularly in stressful seasons.
Well, what do we talk about? Thank you for asking. Schedule several meetings. Sit down and plan your holiday activities and commitments together. This will help you align your expectations and priorities. Have an open and safe dialogue. For my over-communicators, this may mean listening to understand without interrupting and without judgment. Be curious and search for your partner’s underlying need, especially if it is difficult for them to share their emotions. Encourage open and honest conversations about your individual needs and desires during the holidays. Be open to compromise. You may have to find a balance that works for both of you, considering each other’s family commitments. Discuss any challenges and try to get as detailed as possible regarding the specifics of each event. Where are we going to spend the day, with whom, how long, what are we going to cook, not cook, likes, dislikes, what would you need help with, how can I support you?
Set practical expectations and acknowledge that perfection is not a prerequisite. Unrealistic expectations often result in disappointment. Stay open and willing to establish or discuss traditions, allowing for flexibility and compromise to foster a more enjoyable and harmonious experience. You may decide to create new traditions or incorporate old family traditions; be open to your partner’s needs and desires. Creating your own holiday traditions can be a beautiful way to strengthen your bond. Consider starting unique traditions that are meaningful to both of you.
Some relationships may need to establish boundaries to protect your time and energy. Ensure you both have time for yourselves and your relationship. Know when you need to take a break and take care of your own personal needs before committing to the festivities with your partner. Individual self-care is crucial for maintaining a healthy relationship during the holiday. Allocate quality time for just the two of you, even amidst family gatherings.
Navigating the holidays as a couple can be a joyful and fulfilling experience when you approach it with open communication, realistic expectations, necessary boundaries, and self-care. By working together and creating new traditions, you can strengthen your bond and make the most of this particular time of year. I challenge you to take a different approach this year by using the tips above. Do you accept the challenge?