How to Prevent Holiday Stress from Impacting Your Marriage
The holiday season is upon us. Expect several lunches and dinners with family and friends, marketing blitzes, and a hurricane of activities that begin right after Halloween. The momentum will build at Thanksgiving, leading to Christmas and New Year’s celebrations.
These holidays are considered as ‘a time filled with happiness and love.’ As couples we expect to enjoy this time with our loved ones. However, this time can be stressful for many others who struggle to keep up with everything simultaneously. For instance, holidays cause partners to have unrealistic and overwhelming expectations from their relationships. Each partner plans to make the holiday season full of happy memories. The pressure increases when the couple has children, and each child has a massive wish list.
Moreover, the couples spend days trying to make their home look more festive, doing activities that might sound fun but are overly tiresome when not planned. Cooking heaps of traditional dishes, buying the perfect presents for everyone they know, and then wrapping them up to make it all more special under a minimal budget are some of the things that lead to stressful situations. To top it off, we can’t forget to leave significant space for the unexpected messes that always come up during the holidays due to the demanding schedules.
When the holiday plans start getting out of hand, the lack of control leads us to make unhealthy decisions in a marriage. Among several other issues, the ones that impact a relationship the most include blaming others and pointing fingers at each other. However, it is possible to prevent holiday stress from impacting your marriage if you identify and acknowledge the reasons that can potentially affect a relationship in the first place.
Prevent Holiday Stress
The most unpredictable fights in a marriage are often about things that we can’t control. While you can’t eliminate all factors contributing to holiday stress, most of its planning can be done in advance. The key is to mutually decide on matters and focus on what you can control rather than letting it control you.
Here are some of the common relationship problems most couples deal with during the holiday season and ways you can avoid them by taking adequate precautions:
1- Holiday Spending
We all know how deciding how much money to spend on presents, plane tickets, decorations, and groceries can be challenging with a limited budget. However, serious problems arise when partners refuse to stay honest about their plans and keep each other in the dark.
It is perfectly acceptable to have different perspectives about how your holiday budget should be utilized. However, it doesn’t mean you have to deceive your partner to do what you want. At this stage of the relationship, you should sit down and discuss your financial plans together instead of hiding things from one another. A realistic financial plan should be mapped out ahead of time, which allows you to decide how much you can afford on secondary things together as a couple.
You need to create a budget and stick to it. If you and your spouse have disagreements on certain matters, start making alternate plans that will spread the cheer but don’t cost too much. Keep in mind that the holidays are not about money and indulgence but about making cherished memories. Home-baked cookies, handmade cards, and a small family dinner are all you need to make a night memorable.
2- The Celebration Destination
One of the most common problems that most married couples encounter is deciding where to spend their holidays that year. While you can waste your time fighting over where to celebrate your Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, or Christmas, it is a much better option to alternate the holidays between both families. You can spend Thanksgiving with one side of the family and Christmas or Hanukkah with the other. You can also decide to spend the current year’s holiday festivals with one side of the family, and the next year with the other side.
If both these solutions don’t work for you, you always have the option to celebrate the holidays at your own home, inviting both sides of the family to your place. However, this can take a toll on you and your partner. Being home for the holidays could be a considerable undertaking, bringing a whole another level of stress for any couple.
No matter which option you choose, there’s one thing you can do to make your holidays a joyous experience. While we all tend to associate these occasions as something that should always be celebrated with our extended family, you need to remember that your own family should always come first. You’re fully entitled to celebrating your own merry little Christmas, Thanksgiving, or even Happy New Year in advance, packing it with warm, heartfelt traditions. Afterward, you can spend the holidays together with your extended family or friends as planned, knowing that whatever happens will not affect your personal celebration in any way.
3- Clashing Traditions
It is practically impossible to believe in the same rituals when you and your partner are from different families and raised in different environments. That’s another reason for both partners to stress over holiday plans.
Suppose your family always waited to open presents until Christmas morning while your partner’s family opened presents on Christmas Eve. So, what to do? This small issue can be solved with a simple this-or-that decision. However, hold firm to their particular opinions can cause conflict between the partners and impact their relationship.
However, you can efficiently resolve these issues related to traditions and rituals by planning ahead of time. You can decide to switch your rituals every year or even come up with a whole new third-way, creating your unique family traditions. Whichever path you choose to take, you need to make these plans way before the actual holidays to not strain yourself when you’re already in the middle of many stressful holiday dilemmas.
4- Holiday Drinking
Holidays are a time when we all choose to let go of our inhibitions and up our drinking game. However, this can lead us to misuse alcohol to excuse our bad behavior during family events, leading to unnecessary dramas and fights.
Whether you and your partner can hold your liquor at parties isn’t the issue here. The primary concern is that both you and your spouse are adults and should act likewise. Simply put, you can’t excuse your etiquettes because of holidays and should plan who will be drinking and who will be driving back home after a party beforehand. Moreover, it is necessary to establish a limit for how much you and your partner can drink to prevent any mis happenings that can contribute to piling holiday stress afterward.
5- Toxic In-Laws
Dealing with toxic in-laws can be another stressful yet expected aspect. You can plan for it before inviting them to your place or attending a family lunch or dinner at their homes. If you and your partner are open with each other about how you feel about each other’s families, you can reduce any chances of getting into trouble later.
For instance, suppose your mother-in-law always finds something to pin on you, or your father-in-law tends to get drunk and create trouble whenever he’s invited to a dinner. Instead of getting upset about these things, you can discuss this with your partner and make a plan that keeps you both out of stressful situations. You need to think about these things rationally instead of emotionally because your relationship with your spouse’s family is not something you should concern yourself about. Your main priority should be the family you and your partner are building with each other.
To help each other out, you can pre-plan some gestures or keywords that can work as “I need you right now” or “Can you handle this one for me?” signals. This way, you can eliminate the chances of things that might destroy your holiday plans. You might also need to practice deep breaths and see yourself as a gracious host or hostess in front of each other’s family. When you behave as a level-headed grown-up who can respond to other people non-defensively, the other party automatically gets dejected for behaving irrationally as well.
Things to Remember When Planning a Holiday with Your Partner
While the five concerning problems we mentioned above almost always erupt during the holidays, you now know how to react to them wisely, not letting them impact your marriage. There are some other things you can try out with your partner to make your holidays go even more smoothly. For example:
1- Learn to Take Shortcuts When Needed
Everyone wishes for a Christmas-to-end-all-Christmases kind of a holiday, but that doesn’t mean you have to go above your means to meet your goals. If you want to bail out of baking duty or send out holiday cards and have a ton of other things to plan, utilize other ways to go around them.
You are allowed to take shortcuts without feeling disappointed. You can use ready-to-bake cookie dough or even buy some prepared bakery goodies. As for the cards, there’s no need to make them personalized if you don’t have the time. You can simplify card-giving by making a general yet enthusiastic card and exclude personal notes that take a lot of time.
2- Re-Plan Your Expectations
As we have already established, a lack of preparation can make minutely stressful circumstances seem more overwhelming than they should. To avoid making short-tempered and flustering decisions, you should pre-plan everything from A to Z with your spouse about holiday plans. This also means re-planning your expectations to match each other’s convenience.
3- Carve Out Some Time to Just Breathe
Celebrating holidays doesn’t mean you have to take so much pressure to meet all social obligations that you stop thinking about yourself altogether. You should only do what makes you happy and say ‘no’ to any further societal expectations. Give yourself and your partner a break to breathe and reflect on what you’ve accomplished together as a couple. Celebrate your achievements and give a toast for many more happy, healthy, and successful years to come.
4- Control Your Reactions
The one thing that is always in your control is how you react to different situations. You can’t let the holiday stress get the better of you, as it’ll only make you and your partner experience negative situations.
Focus on your reason to celebrate the holidays instead of permitting others to disrupt your plans by focusing on the unimportant details.
Need to Talk?
At Marriage Means Moore, you can speak with an experienced coach for a free consultation and a range of coaching services to better manage relationships, marriage and prevention. Furthermore, we make it our priority to sit with you and discuss the issues that impact your marriage, building a strategy that works for you in the long-term.