Make Your Relationship the Gift for the Holidays

The Couples Expert explores commitments to social and family obligations vs couple time and making your relationship the gift for the holidays

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The holidays become hectic very quickly and if you’re not prepared, you can find your schedule swamped with everything from Christmas bazaars, school and church plays with the kids, work parties, family parties and the list goes on. Add on top of these your gift shopping, card writing, and other holiday traditions, and you might feel like your swimming upstream against a social tsunami. It’s hard to say no and still be in the “spirit of the season”, but where does it end? Do you and your partner even have a small moment together in the midst of all of this chaos?

The holidays are known to be a stressful time of year for many, and no matter how much you may love this time of year and what it stands for, you may still feel anxious and stressed. It’s easy to get caught up in the frantic energy of trying to get everything accomplished and do it in record time, to get the right gifts, get them shipped on time and to plan your holiday meals. Couples can become irritated and distant, short on time and energy, and may fight and argue over seemingly simple issues that normally wouldn’t set off a disagreement. 

We can often overextend ourselves simply because we’re unable to say “no” and many of us fall victim to the idea that busy is better, and we must shop and buy, and spend all our spare time being involved in the holiday “rush”. We spread ourselves so thin that we can snap at the drop of a hat.  Then we are snarky, irritated (and irritating) and difficult to live with, feeling unsatisfied with ourselves; and we shouldn’t be surprised that our partner’s not only do not want to kiss under the mistletoe, they’d like a sleigh ride to the farthest pole until the holiday is over. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. 

Here are some things that you can work on this holiday season to improve your relationships, your outlook, and the level of enjoyment of your holidays.

  • Put your relationship first – Whatever this looks like to you and your partner, do it. It may mean that you turn down some social obligations and stay in instead of going out to that holiday work party. Pop some popcorn and snuggle up with your favorite holiday film or dress up and go out to a charity event. Make your connection the focus of the evening, low stress, no drama, just you and your partner enjoying each other.
  • Put your family second – before you say yes to outside invitations, check in with your kids and see if there might be something they want to do. Go ice skating, caroling, or take them to a new movie release. Crafting, making decorations, it doesn’t have to be big, it only has to be inclusive.
  • Put social obligations in perspective – You are under NO obligation to say yes to every invitation. The response, of “spending time with my partner and family” is absolutely valid. You shouldn’t feel badly for turning anyone down in favor of putting your relationship as priority one.
  • Don’t over commit – Give yourself a break and keep your commitments to a manageable level. Make sure you carve out the all-important time to be together, make Christmas cookies, or swap gift lists with your partner and children. You need to give yourself time to rest, relax and appreciate the blessings of the season that you have right there at home.
  • Carve out time together to be rested and relaxed, have fun – You and your partner can plan a day in, watch movies, play games, just be together without any outside obligations. Put your phone on vibrate and go where the day takes you. Focus on each other and leave the holiday rush outside.
  • Spend time in reflection and introspection – The holidays have a deep spiritual connection for some, while for other’s it’s all about the almighty dollar. Don’t get caught up in the commercialism. Take time to reflect on gratitude, thanksgiving, compassion and forgiveness this holiday season. 
  • Spend time in service of others – In keeping with the idea of compassion, you and your partner can plan some community connection. Give in your community to those in need, even if you’re not wealthy. We all have something to give. You can decide what that looks like for you. This gives the season meaning and purpose and a new perspective on your own life and relationship.

The holidays can be a joyous and heartwarming time for your partner, your relationship and your family and friends when you’re able to step back from the crass commercialism of the season and focus on what really matters. 

Stuart Fensterheim, LCSW helps couples to overcome the disconnection in their relationships. As an author, blogger and podcaster, Stuart has helped couples around the world to experience a unique relationship in which they can feel special and important, confident in knowing they are loved deeply and that their presence matters.

The Couples Expert Podcast consists of provocative conversations offering the perspectives and insight of experts from a variety of relationship-related fields. Stuart also offers daily relationship video tips by subscription in Stuart’s Daily Notes. Stuart is happily married and a devoted father of 2 daughters. His office practice serves the greater Phoenix, Arizona area including the cities of Scottsdale, Chandler, Tempe, and Mesa.

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