The holiday season is fast approaching. While it can be a magical time for couples and families, it’s not uncommon for the stress and expectations to put relationships under strain.
In fact, the festive season (or shortly after) is one of the most common times for relationships to end. In some cases, it’s because couples see this as one last shot at saving their marriage or love. However, it is also very common for couples who thought they were strong to enter the downward spiral to a breakup. The threats are even greater as studies show the pandemic has caused a spike in divorces too.
If the stress and expectations of the festive season are playing on your mind, this Holiday Relationship Survival Guide could save the day. It will;
- Help you understand the sources of stress and expectations,
- Develop coping mechanisms as you look to juggle responsibilities,
- Learn what to do if the festive season puts your relationship under stress.
Why is the holiday season so difficult?
The festive season is supposed to be the most magical time of the year. However, those expectations can be a source of stress as you will naturally worry about not making the most of this time together. Incredibly, studies show that 88% of Americans feel that this is the most stressful time of the year. Couples are no different.
There are many reasons why the holiday season can cause stress and anxiety, especially for couples. They include but are not limited to;
- Creating time to see family and friends, as well as each other,
- Managing the financial aspects of the expensive festive season,
- Challenges finding the balance between religious and celebratory aspects,
- Worries about excessive drinking or putting on weight,
- Feeling inferior to family members or friends, even on social media.
Even the fun aspects of the festive season can cause a spike in stress levels. For example, over half of the adult population experiences stress linked to giving and receiving gifts.
The harsh reality is that stress can cause a range of symptoms such as anxiety, mood changes, depression, a lack of energy, anger, disillusionment, headaches, stomach pains, and more. For couples, the inability to have a good time when you have been looking forward to this time can spell disaster.
Therefore, preparing for the stress and expectations of the festivities, as well as time with friends and family is vital.
How to survive the stress and expectations of the festive season
Some of the reasons for feeling stressed have already been detailed above. Acknowledging them in advance will give you the strongest platform to build upon. Couples can then use some of the following seven ideas to protect their partnerships in style.
1. Set Boundaries
We all look forward to the festive period. However, the first one with a new partner or the first one after moving in together can be tough to navigate. Setting boundaries is a key aspect of building a better relationship, not least because they eliminate blame. Crucially, it is a key step to ensuring that you are both happy during the holidays.
Arguments (56%), unrealistic expectations (45%), and inequality in the relationship are three of the most common reasons for breakups. All of these issues can be fought by adding boundaries. It will go a long way to managing stress and expectations while also preventing the threat of the festivities causing problems in the months to come. Some key issues are;
- Without stopping your spouse from seeing friends, have a limit,
- Ensuring that you still have time to take care of your health and responsibilities,
- Knowing any festive activities that would make you feel uncomfortable,
- Limiting the amount of time spent with any particular friend.
These ideas add to the boundaries set in your daily lives and will protect your relationship.
2. Examine the expectations
As mentioned, unrealistic expectations are a main reason for relationship breakdowns. Research also shows that social media has increased our expectations. When you see the perfect lives that people present, it makes you demand more. In reality, their situations aren’t as perfect as they seem. And you must learn to manage your expectations too,
The sooner you set realistic expectations for spending as well as where you go and what to do, the better. The harsh reality is that when you expect too much, you will feel disappointed even if the holidays are happy. As a couple, you owe it to yourselves to set realistic expectations, which means;
- Accepting that you might not be able to do every single activity you’d like,
- Friends and family may not be as excited to see you or your partner as you imagined,
- Accepting that the loss of a love done could impact family dynamics and moods,
- Appreciating that unforeseen issues like illness could impact the fun.
When you have realistic expectations as individuals and a couple, you won’t go far wrong.
3. Communicate with others
Clear communication is the backbone of any successful relationship. Sadly, if you were raised by critical parents, it may have knocked your self-confidence and ability to express yourself in style. Having a partner that understands this and is keen to open clear dialogue patterns is hugely beneficial.
First and foremost, you will want to communicate clearly as a couple. However, it’s important to be clear with friends and family too. You should never feel guilty about rejecting an offer if it doesn’t fit into your plans, especially when it’s from distant friends. To keep everyone on the same page during your festive planning, consider the following;
- Where are you meeting or who is hosting?
- What day(s) are you meeting and will people be sleeping over?
- Are you giving gifts and have you set a cost limit?
- Are there any activities or traditions that you plan to do?
When all parties are clear about what is happening, stress animosity can be squashed.
4. Negotiate a schedule
Negotiation and compromise are vital in all aspects of your relationship. However, it can take on an even greater significance during the festive season. For starters, if you both came from broken homes, that could mean you have four households to visit. That’s before you’ve even thought about time with friends or time alone.
While 97% of workers are off on December 25, you may need to build your schedule around work patterns. After all, it’s likely that you will each have to work at certain stages throughout this period. When build your schedule for the festive season as a couple, you can look to the following advice;
- Start early and consider using a calendar app for confirmed plans,
- Appreciate your individual priorities but don’t use them for leverage in negotiations,
- Ensure that your time is fairly split between families, friends, and personal time,
- Leave some time for spontaneity.
A schedule makes you feel more organized and can help prevent disagreements.
5. Plan your spending
Holiday retail sales in the US are now worth in excess of $843bn. Most people will feel the pressure to spend big this year. In addition to gift-giving duties, there is a collective desire to make up for the missed festivities of 12 months ago. While it is important to create magical memories with the people you love, it’s equally crucial to know your budget limitations.
Studies in the UK found that nearly half the population regrets overspending during the festive season. It can be assumed that Americans show a similar rate of disappointment. For couples, it could stop you from buying a house, taking a vacation, or completing other plans in 2022. To avoid this problem, you can;
- Set a clear budget limit,
- Avoid ‘self-gifting’ when out shopping for others,
- Avoid waste on excessive food or items that get trashed,
- Track your spending.
The festive season is expensive but if you stay organized, it doesn’t have to break the bank.
6. Don’t be the Drama Mama
The holiday season is one that can attract a lot of drama and disputes. You are only responsible for 40% of your happiness. The impact of other people and the circumstances, as well as your genes, will feel even greater at this time. After all, the general daily habits are somewhat lost during this part of the year. Outsiders can influence your fun and relationship.
In many situations, the best thing you can do is take a step back. When your partner’s family are being difficult, it is already stressful for them. Don’t add to this. Stay supportive but expect the same when dealing with your family. Adopting a better mindset will make a world of difference. Try to;
- Stop letting things like late cancellations stop you from enjoying yourselves,
- Remove yourself from potential conflict zones,
- Do not openly judge your partner’s family unless it is truly needed,
- Remember that it’s only a few days.
And make a note of any issues so that you can avoid repeat situations next year.
7. Too much of anything is bad
Establishing a sense of balance is crucial at all times, and not only for your relationship. When entering the festive season, especially for the first time as a couple, you may be tempted to throw yourself into one aspect and forget the rest. However, too much of any single element, regardless of how much pleasure it brings, will have negative impacts.
For example, 36% of drinkers say that the rough mornings ruin the festive period. Similarly, spending too much time with a family member may stop you from seeing another. Or too much shopping or eating can stop you from experiencing the other activities you deserve to enjoy at this time. To ensure that you avoid too much of one thing, you can;
- Keep your schedule in mind,
- Ensure that you each get to pick some of the activities,
- Ask each other to monitor the other’s drinking, shopping, or eating,
- Be open to new ideas.
When your holiday season is truly balanced, your relationship will reap the rewards.
How to overcome festive stress in Lakewood & Longmont Colorado
Prevention is the best form of protection, but you cannot rule out holiday stress. The harsh reality is that your experiences will be influenced by a range of outsiders, including your families.
Whether you are worried about the stress that’s to come or need help getting your relationship back on track after a difficult, couples’ counseling is available. We invite you to call us at 720-551-4553 for a free 20-minute phone consultation. You can schedule your appointment via phone, email, or the contact page on our website. Right now, because of COVID-19, we offer both in-person and online anxiety counseling. We’re open to whichever option you feel more comfortable with. We look forward to hearing from you!