Giving thanks. Joy to the World. Peace on Earth. Festivals of Light. Goodwill to Men. While these wonderful holiday sayings and notions can warm our hearts and spirits, the reality is that often thanks, joy, and peace do not find their way into our own homes and lives during the holiday season. Instead, people feel overwhelmed with budget woes, long “to-do” lists, visiting relatives, and mall traffic. It’s no surprise that as the holidays approach couples report an increase in relational tension and disconnection. Often times, it’s the people we love most upon whom we “unload” or displace our holiday worries and anxiety.
One way to avoid or lessen some of the holiday stress is to set common priorities and realistic expectations as a couple before the holidays begin. It is important to make time to explore these holiday expectations and desires. Examine what is most important to each of you and then try to come up with two or three common priorities (i.e., attending worship services, staying within a budget, doing some form of holiday charity, hosting a neighborhood cocktail party). Remember during this conversation(s) that it is just as important to listen as to be heard. The key is to be preventative and not remedial. Having a conversation in early November about what is most important and realistic about the upcoming holidays promotes understanding and lessens the chance for the miscommunication and frustration that can occur “in the moment.” Throughout the holiday season, remember to focus on the ones you love, honor your common priorities and attempt to be realistic about “all the other stuff.”