Even though the holidays are about loved ones, they somehow don’t leave much time for couples to connect. Between added responsibilities and family obligations, it might seem like you’re spending less and less time together. Or maybe quantity isn’t the issue, but quality time is.
“It is very important for couples to remember that although they are integral parts of their extended families, and for couples with children, integral parts of creating rituals and memories for their children, they also — first and foremost — have a commitment to each other,” said Nikki Massey-Hastings, PsyD, a clinical psychologist who works with couples.
But while connecting might be tricky, it’s absolutely possible. Here are six ideas for reducing stress and staying connected during the bustling holiday season.
1. Be selective.
Talk to your partner about the events you’ll attend. “Decide where you will go for which holiday, and alternate the choices every year,” said Mudita Rastogi, Ph.D, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Arlington Heights, Ill. Being selective with your holiday plans minimizes stress and lets you enjoy the events you do attend, she said.
2. Be fair.
When making plans, don’t shoot down your partner’s ideas. As Rastogi said, “If hubby insists on spending the whole weekend with Grandpa Henry, try to understand why.”
And brainstorm a variety of solutions. For instance, she said, you might drive separately to an event.
3. Have special traditions.
You probably have a number of traditions with your extended family, Massey-Hastings said. For instance, you might eat your holiday meal at the same place every year or have a specific way of opening presents, she said. And if you have kids, you might take them to the same holiday attractions, she said.
Traditions that involve the two of you are just as important. These rituals help to bolster your bond, Massey-Hastings said. And they protect against potential stressors that might come up from spending time with your extended family — for instance, your traditions might include selecting a new ornament every year or enjoying a special holiday date.
4. Sneak in together time.
Cook an interesting meal together, go to the movies or use your time in the car to catch up, Rastogi said. Even if you’re at someone else’s home for the holidays or hosting loved ones, carve out some alone time.
For instance, go to your room 30 minutes before you need to sleep, wake up 30 minutes before you need to start getting ready, go for a walk or run errands together, Massey-Hastings said. If you have kids, this time without mom and dad helps them bond with their other relatives, she said.
5. Get creative together.
“Create a collage of pictures for your annual holiday letter, bust out your favorite playlist and practice your dance moves for the holiday party, or write your own song with your sweetie,” Rastogi said. It’s also a great way to relieve stress, she said.
6. Make time for intimate moments.
It’s important to connect with your partner in all areas of your relationship, and that includes sexual intimacy, Massey-Hastings said. You might try different locations — like a bathroom or private backyard under a blanket — positions or activities, she said. Or you might just try being “quiet in a house full of loved ones.”
Connecting during the holidays might be a challenge, but with a little bit of planning and effort, you can have fun as a couple and nourish your bond.