The holidays are a stressful time for everyone, but they can pose specific challenges for couples. A few weeks before the winter holidays, and right around Valentine’s Day, are the two most common times of year for couples to break up.
There are the stresses of money, the stresses of seeing family, as well as whose family to see when. There is the evaluation of the coming New Year, and any changes you are considering making in your life. There are also unspoken expectations you may have of each other, that can cause disappointment and rifts.
Lay the Foundation
Let’s start with the foundation to any good relationship, that is especially important at this time of year, communication. It is a good idea to open the channels of communication early when it comes to the holidays.
Here are a couple of ways to open the dialogue:
Have you decided whose family you are going to visit this year, or how you are fairly going to divide things up?
This can often be a major issue of contention, and one that leaves many feeling disappointed, or that they are getting shortchanged. This is not a time to only think of your needs and what will make your family happy, and cause you the least grief with them. Most of us spend much more time with our partner than our family, so who is the better bet to make happy in this situation? This is not saying that it is not important to see and spend quality time with your family, but this is saying that this is the time to compromise, so that each of you feel like you are getting that quality family time you want and need.
Time with family may be wanted, or needed, but it also may come with its share of stressors, and you may need your partner’s help and support to make it through the visit unscathed. Remember that whole component of sharing emotional labor? This is the time to really use it!
We love our families, but no family is perfect. Sometimes this quality time comes at a price. Perhaps there are unhealthy dynamics among family members, perhaps there are substance abuse issues, or perhaps you are the family scapegoat. Regardless of the situation, you may want and need your partner as a support. Whether it is simply being there as a support, or making sure no one over-steps with you, it is important to let your partner know your needs and expectations of them with your family. They can only meet your needs if you let them know what they are.
What about presents and finances?
This is an important conversation to take place before things get out of hand. If you share finances, if you have a budget, this is an important part of it. One of the most common reasons couples fight and ultimately split up are money related issues. Spending without forethought, and putting yourselves in a poor financial situation for months to come will only cause stress and strain in your relationship. Set a budget for spending, decide who you will be buying for, and what the limit is on gifts per person on your list. This kind of planning helps you stay on track, and on budget. Be fair in the way that you split up the money. Just because you are very close with your mother, does not mean that you get to spend twice what your partner spends on theirs. Be fair and understanding to each other.
How about presents to each other?
Are you expecting a holiday proposal, although this has not been discussed? Are you expecting an elaborate and expensive gift, even though you know money is tight? Your expectations of each other during this holiday season are another important area to discuss and maintain harmony. The two of you should agree upon a dollar limit for presents so that neither of you feels bad or disappointed. People can’t meet our expectations if we do not make them clear. Also, if we discuss things, we can find out if and why our expectations are unrealistic. It is always better to be open and prepared then caught off guard with hurt feelings. Your partner does not want to disappoint or hurt you, but they also can’t read your mind. Communicate your wants and needs. They will let you know if they can meet them.
These small conversations are important, as it brings concerns out into the light, and allows you to work on them together. If you keep all of these potential issues and road blocks in mind, and you are willing to be proactive and communicate, you can increase your chances of having an enjoyable and less stress filled holiday season with the one you love!
Need more guidance on how to survive the holiday season and beyond?