This guest article from YourTango was written by Jennifer Chappell Marsh.
The holidays are special because of the opportunities we get to connect or reconnect with friends and family. But we all know that they can also cause a lot of stress because of the complexity that is added to our everyday lives: travel, in-laws, financial pressures, cooking, and shopping all start to pile up in our already busy schedules.
We are all equipped to deal with a certain level of stress, but at a certain point our bodies throw up the white flag and we’re left feeling exhausted and short-tempered. As a result, we may be less capable of managing relationship conflicts and keeping a positive outlook. So, how do we manage the holidays while maintaining a strong connection with our partners?
Below are five ways to help keep that connection strong and avoid a food fight with the fruit cake.
1. Get on the Same Page
The holidays are not the time to guess or assume what your partner is thinking. It’s the time to over-communicate. Sit down together and plan what you are going to do for the season. Learn your partner’s priorities, explain your own and incorporate them into a master plan. If you communicate early, you will be more likely to avoid conflict and blend your traditions together in a way that fill both of you with holiday cheer.
2. Ask for Help
When you are feeling overwhelmed, fight against the urge to shut yourself away in a dark room and use it as an opportunity to reach out to your partner. Identify the issues that you have some control over and those you don’t. From there, be specific about how your partner can help you resolve these problems and emphasize how much his or her help would mean to you. Or maybe just use your partner as a sounding board to release some stress and get advice on how to best handle a tough situation. It’s not always easy to ask for help, but doing so will foster a sense of team and closeness in your relationship.
3. Maintain Intimacy
From work parties to family festivities, your free time will be limited during the holiday season. With what little you do have, make sure to spend some of it alone with your partner. Pick a few nights a week to dedicate at least 30 minutes of time together without tv, iPhones, Angry Birds or other people. For the times that you are socializing together or are simply too busy to slow down, be sure to incorporate simple acts of affection– a spontaneous kiss, a note, picking up a treat at the store that your partner would like.
4. Recognize Stress
Stress is invisible and easy to overlook. Plus, we all hate to admit when we’ve reached our limits and can’t take anymore. During the holiday season, be able to recognize when your partner’s stressed and make allowances for it. Think about the ways your partner normally shows stress and realize that it will be magnified during the holiday season. When you see the signals, remind yourself that it’s temporary, be forgiving and offer a comforting touch or word.
5. Plan for Conflict
While we tend to wear rose colored glasses and hope for the best, conflict inevitably arises during the holidays. Be realistic. We can’t prepare for everything, but there are certain things that happen every year and we know will be harder than others. Talk to your partner about any anxieties you have about upcoming events, any black sheep in the family that are certain to make a scene or any situations that you know you’ll need help dealing with and work together on how you can approach these together.
Doing these things will ensure that your connection with your partner is strong, making the frenzied parking lots and mine filled family events easier with your partner at your side. So go ahead, give the fruit cake to Aunt Mary and save yourself the clean up time.
If you are in the San Diego area and would like additional support in maintaining or building your relationship connection, contact a Couples Counselor or Marriage Therapist.
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