Make Love Not War During the Holidays by Dr. Ashley Arn, PsyD
The holidays can be an amazing time for relationships… and simultaneously a disastrous time as well! Some of us moms relish in the idea of family time, while others would prefer to get away to Hawaii. Family get-togethers can quickly become intense, hostile, and overwhelming if you and your partner are on different pages about the holidays.
One of the most important issues to address first is the topic of family traditions. Many couples struggle each year with the age-old dilemma of whose family they should see on which day, when, and how. Sometimes just the idea of managing the holidays can feel so overwhelming that we quickly prefer to just hibernate and pretend like they will never come. I have literally seen these types of arguments result in all kinds of hurt feelings and sometimes even long-term wars between family members.
The holidays can be such an amazing time to connect with your family and create memories that will last a lifetime. The secret to holiday bliss is staying connected to your partner, regardless of the inevitable ups and downs that will likely ensue. By just simply putting a couple of small steps into place, you can easily stay connected to your main squeeze throughout the holiday season.
Here are some ways to ensure that you and your partner can enjoy the holidays together and make them as special for your family as possible.
Step #1 Acknowledge & accept each other’s values
Many people differ in terms of the importance of family traditions. There are those that want to celebrate the holidays just like they did as a kid. There are also people who want to create their own traditions with their new family unit. Implementing new and old traditions in your family can be the perfect solution. Have you ever sat down and talked with your partner (not argued) so that you could really understand what pieces of the holidays are the most important to them? It’s worth a conversation. Arguments, specifically surrounding family traditions, usually happen when we try to meet our partner’s needs in the way that we get our own needs met. Basically, this means that we assume that our partner wants just what we want and that’s what makes them feel good. However, especially when it comes to family traditions, it is essential to really understand what values are important to you and your partner so that each person can get their holiday needs met.
I hear many couples say “The holidays are all about the kids.” Well, yes and no. Both parents being happy in their intimate relationship is the cornerstone of a happy family. If you and your partner are distant or arguing, the entire family feels the tension. In order for you to have a memorable holiday experience, you and your partner have to be on the same page.
The type of conversation that I am suggesting can be very simple. Plan ahead. As soon as you read this article, ask your partner when the two of you can sit down for a quick chat about how you would like the holidays to go.
During this meeting, you can ask these questions:
- “What are the most important parts of the holidays for you?”
- “What would you like the holidays to look like?”(as in spending time with who, when, and where)
- “How can we make sure that we have some time alone with just our family (you, me, and the kids) and how can we make that special?”
- “What time can we set aside just for you and I?” I am suggesting that you prioritize
I am suggesting that you prioritize your immediate family, but I am also aware that of course you are going to want to do your best to keep both partners extended families happy as well. Melding the values of different generations can be complicated. Parents, grandparents, and other family members often seem to want something far different than what feels important to us. Sometimes it feels so hopeless that we quickly end up giving into to certain family traditions even though we dread the event and then end up having a bad attitude the whole time we are there.
Start by appreciating and accepting differences between the generations. This will set the tone for a renegotiation of what is important in the present.
Once you have determined how both of you would like the holidays to go, strategize a plan and work together to do your best to make sure your plan happens. At the same time, it is also important to be realistic and flexible. As long as you are both doing your best to meet one another’s needs in the way you agreed upon, it will be much easier to work together as a team through any obstacles that come up throughout the holiday season.
Step #2 Emotionally connect no matter where you are
Acknowledging reality, you may end up in a boring situation together over the holidays. When things may feel a little stressful or boring, you can still maximize your connection with each other. Take a moment here or there to share a laugh about something funny or to flirt a little.
I know that I am always harping on the awesomeness of text messages, but when you are in a non-ideal holiday situation, you can really use text messages to your advantage.
You can text your partner something romantic, funny, what you wish the two of you could be doing, or simply just a text of appreciation. This can also be a great opportunity to make your partner feel special when you are in a crowded room of people.
The fact that the text message is just between the two of you makes it a secret, which creates an instant emotional connection.
However, if text messages aren’t your thing, you can always make up a random excuse to pull your partner aside, give them a quick kiss, embrace, or whisper a sweet nothing. Staying emotionally connected will continue to fuel the love and passion in your relationship.
Step #3 Practice mom-care
In addition to making sure you set aside time together, it is also essential that you practice mom balance. Self- care is critical through the holidays and will keep you the healthiest possible. Take a couple of minutes now to think about what truly makes you feel good and relaxed. Maybe it’s getting up before everyone else and having a cup of coffee and a little alone time (I know that is one of my favorites!). Maybe it means setting aside time for a workout. Don’t give into the hype of what helps other people relax, genuinely focus on what makes you feel good. If you just add “self-care” exercises that other people suggest to your to-do list you will just end up more stressed out. Setting aside even five minutes a day to rock out to your favorite music, take some deep breaths, or focus on what you are grateful for will help keep you calm and focused.
These three simple steps are a recipe for holiday success!
I wish you and your family a wonderful holiday season!