Believe it or not, we are quickly approaching the holiday season. For couples, this time of year is often decorated with the spirit of love and gratitude, the creation of new traditions and… *checks notes* ….negotiations?!
That’s right, this magical time of year can quickly turn into a tricky game of scheduling chess. Deciding where and with whom to spend your precious, and often limited, time can become an obstacle for many couples. This is especially true for couples who may be spending the holidays with each other’s families for the first time. Here are some tips to negotiate the holidays with your partner successfully:
Take a moment to acknowledge the uncomfortable elephant in the room. Navigating the holidays can easily become a hot button issue. By acknowledging the challenge up front, you and your partner are more likely to set aside some defenses and take time to listen to one another’s needs. Remember that both you and your partner have valid reasons for wanting to spend holidays with their family/friends.
Take the time to explore each other’s expectations when it comes to the holidays. Does your partner come from a large family with a seemingly endless schedule of get-togethers? Do they deeply value certain time-honored traditions? What are their priorities when it comes to self-care, gift-giving and spiritual traditions? The differing backgrounds of you and your significant other will likely play a role in what is and isn’t important during this time of year. Get curious!
Remember the goal is to come together, not go to war. After taking time to listen to your partner’s perspective, validate their opinion! Their preferences are important for a reason, take the time to honor them.
It is just as essential to clearly communicate your needs and expectations. Is it very important that you both attend your company’s holiday party? Do you easily feel burnt out or overwhelmed during this season and need to maintain some time boundaries to preserve your energy? Your partner deserves to clearly understand your needs. They will likely be able to show up better for you with less frustration when these conversations are had up front.
Here’s the hard part: coming to an agreement. It’s likely that both you and your partner will have to make some concessions on how to allocate time. The solution that you come up with may look different from other couples or families that you know, and that’s okay! It is important to come together on a solution that is unique and acceptable for your relationship. It will likely be easier after practicing intentional, open and loving communication.
If you feel a bit overwhelmed reading this post, it’s understandable! While festive, the holidays can quickly eat into our time and energy with various social and familial obligations. You may notice that you and your partner have hardly made time to celebrate as a couple! Take some time to discuss how you would like to celebrate this season as a team. What new traditions would you like to build together? What old ones would you like to maintain? It is important to be intentional about setting aside and protecting quality time during the holidays, or it can easily be consumed. Your time together is sacred and worthy of being honored and protected during this busy time of the year.
Alexis Bibler, AMFT
Alexis is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist serving adults and couples virtually throughout California.
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