The holidays come with high expectations and romantic myths. The love of your life should guess what gift will make you happiest, defend you at the family dinner table and spend all their time with you. Real life doesn’t quite work out that way. Most of us are running to shop in between working, decorating and planning parties. You’re rushed and your partner is stressed. It seems there’s too little of you both to go around and your primary relationship suffers. Even the happiest couples face challenges during the holidays. Here’s how to protect your relationship from all the stress.
Make your partner a priority.
Reassuring each other of your love can soothe any hurt feelings that arise when one partner feels neglected during family events. Relatives you don’t often see during the rest of the year may be clamoring for your attention, and your partner can feel jealous, neglected or unappreciated. Keep your relationship a priority by taking time before the family visit to talk about not losing sight of each other.
Respect your differences.
You and your partner probably don’t always agree, and the holidays can emphasize your differences. One of you wants to make the rounds of every party, while the other wants to curl up on the couch with a cup of hot cocoa and a movie marathon. One partner knocks off Christmas shopping shortly after Thanksgiving, and the other is making a deep dive at the chain mega-drug store for last minute gifts. Don’t let your differences be the source of conflict during this happiest time of the year. Speak up with tact and diplomacy instead of judgment and blame.
Find the best way to love your partner.
Marriage counselors identify five ways people like to receive love: touch, quality time, words and affirmations, acts of service, and gifts. This is the season of giving, so make an effort to find out what would mean the most to your partner. One person might think cleaning the house would be the greatest gift, while another would adore receiving a love letter. Discovering the gift that matches how your partner receives love is the mark of true generosity.
Avoid piling on stress.
Practice saying no. Spend time at home with the people who mean the most to you. This time of year can easily be about excess: partying, spending, drinking. Keep in mind what the season should really be about.
Recognize your limits.
The holidays can bring up feelings of loss, stress and separation, and counteracting these feelings is a main reason people loose their self control. Drinking more than normal is common during the holidays and lowers inhibitions. Be careful and be aware of your limits. Practice using your best judgment.
Connect every day.
To-do lists are long and time is short during hectic holidays but making the effort to check in with your partner daily is critical to keeping your connection strong. Get up a little earlier and have coffee together while you plan the day. Take the dog for a walk or spend time together with your child at the park. Small gestures of affection are important. A goodbye kiss goes a long way toward establishing your bond.