Thanksgiving and Christmas provide opportunities for families to gather and spend quality time together. For some couples, it’s a time of stress and anxiety. Where do you fit in?
Back in 2011, English data journalist David McCandless pulled up information from every public Facebook account. He was specifically looking for any posts with the keywords break up or broken up. As he compiled the data, he turned it into a graph he shared on InformationIsBeautiful showing when the majority of break-ups occur. Two time frames quickly showed the peak he wanted. Couples break up frequently in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas and around Valentine’s Day.
Do you start to dread the holidays? As a couple, it’s a challenging time of year for many, but you can get through it. Here are expert tips for couples who want to survive the holidays.
Know When to Say No and Don’t Be Afraid to
For some people, the simple word “no” is not that easy to use. Experts say that children who grow up with overly strict parents or parents who bounce between leniency and strictness often turn into adults who find “no” impossible to say. They constantly seek approval from their peers and family members.
The problem with always saying “yes” is that you disappoint yourself. You become overwhelmed, frustrated, and even angry. You cannot be afraid to say no to others and even to yourself when it’s necessary.
For example, you’re already pressed for time baking cupcakes for your child’s bake sale, you still have holiday shopping to finish, and you need to wrap presents. Plus, it’s your year to host your parents for Christmas week, and you still need to do a deep clean.
Your sister messages you and asks if you’ll take your niece and nephew for the weekend while she and her spouse attend a company holiday retreat. She springs it on you at the last minute and you cannot imagine how you’ll get things done. Your partner is firmly against the idea, but you’re afraid to disappoint your sister. You have to put yourself first and say no.
Be Realistic and Never Over-Glamorize the Season
People often get caught up in the glamor of the holidays and forget their boundaries and budget. Sure, surprising your spouse with a trip to a lush Caribbean island may seem like an amazing idea, but it’s not if it puts you in debt that is going to have you on edge for months.
Set boundaries on what you can manage this holiday season. If you already have one set of parents coming to stay for Thanksgiving week, you may not have the room or tolerance to also have your siblings stay. If they want to come, they should look at hotels or vacation rentals. Don’t take on more guests than you can reasonably manage.
Romantic Gestures Count More Than Pricey Gifts
Before you go out shopping for gifts, set a budget. Remember that a pricey gift is far less important than something that has true meaning. To a new mom, a partner who tells her to stay in bed and get some sleep is going to mean a lot more than jewelry. A favorite childhood meal served by candlelight has more meaning than an expensive gift to many people.
No matter how you decide to handle gifts, a budget is important. Many couples fight over money, and that is one of the biggest stressors in relationships.
Team Up on the To-Do List and in Family Dealings
Create a comprehensive to-do list of everything that needs to get done. Grocery shopping, last-minute gift purchases, a deep clean of the home, and errands need to go onto this list. Once there is a list, divide and conquer. You can shop and get last-minute gifts while your partner stays home and starts cleaning.
If you have children, they should chip in, too. Keep tasks age-appropriate, as a six-year-old isn’t going to effectively scrub the bathtub, but a teen could. A six-year-old could fluff decorate pillows, dust lower tables like end tables and coffee tables, and put clutter away.
Stop and Reconnect With Couple-Only Time
Even on the busiest days, make sure you have time to yourselves. If your house is crowded with guests staying for the week, go for a walk together and slip out so that others don’t decide they should join you.
If you have kids, let your parents stay with them while you go out on a date night. Talk to your parents first, as they’ve been in your shoes and know the importance of time alone. The last thing they want to do is be in the way. They’re likely just as anxious about that, even if they’re not showing it.
Talk Openly When You’re Frustrated
If you feel frustration building, talk to your partner about it. Don’t bottle it up and let the frustration build until it’s ready to explode. It’s better to rationally discuss what’s bothering you. If your partner has criticisms of his or her own, don’t disregard those frustrations. You both need to list, discuss what can change to make it better for both of you, and put those changes into action.
Listen first and make sure you’re being empathic to each other’s concerns. Listen fully and don’t cut your partner off. If your partner cuts you off, make sure you point out that you feel unheard and that you both need to reset and listen without being judgmental or defensive.
As points are brought up, don’t be afraid to explore topics that you didn’t realize were frustrating to your partner. The more you talk openly about different fears, anxieties, frustrations, and desires, the easier it is to problem-solve and come up with ways to work together on future issues.
Ask for Help
Most importantly, ask for help when you need it. Just as you shouldn’t say yes to everything, you need to realize the value of asking for a helping hand. If you’re overwhelmed and feeling the pressure, stop and ask someone to help out.
You’re trying to cook a meal for everyone and realize that you’re falling behind schedule. Delegate some of the tasks you still need to do. The lasagna is in the oven, but you haven’t had time to get the tossed salad together. Ask someone to take on that task.
Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s are meant to be a time to gather, enjoy each other, and relax. Don’t let holiday pressures and demands derail that relaxation and quality family time. It’s the best way to avoid the pitfalls of a ruined relationship and break-up in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Seek Help if You Can’t Make It Work
Some relationships need expert help to get back on track. It’s another reason to ask for help. The Relationship Expert is the impartial person you need to look at your current relationship and strategize what’s going well, what needs to change, and how to embrace those changes in effective, meaningful ways. Reach The Relationship Expert online to arrange a phone, video conferencing, or in-person session.