How the Holidays Can Create Stress for Couples and Relationships

How the Holidays Can Create Stress for Couples and Relationships

The holiday season is supposed to be a time of unbridled happiness, festivities, joy, and love. But how does it turn out to be one of the most stressful times for couples?

If you are in a romantic relationship, you must have experienced holiday stress at some point. It can be difficult to pinpoint where it comes from or why it is such a pertinent problem, especially for couples. Lets look at a couple common problems that are usually the cause of holiday stress for couples.

Unrealistic holiday expectations

The holiday season looks much different in movies than in real life. Movies and books show us how holidays are a time to catch up with friends, travel to our families, enjoy romantic moments with our partners, and have a great time overall. But does the world miraculously change during the holidays? Absolutely not.

You still have your daily responsibilities, even if it is Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years. The struggles and tasks of everyday life do not disappear during the holiday season, yet we tend to add more and more duties and responsibilities on our plate that ultimately lead to unrealistic expectations and more stress. This creates a disconnect between what we perceive the holidays to be and what they actually are. Stress and discontent follow as a result, and it invariably spills over to how we behave with our partners.

The solution

Acceptance, planning, and communication are the best solutions to overcome this disconnect. First, you must accept that the holidays are not as magical as they are portrayed to be. You still must go through the daily grind and do stagnant undesirable tasks.

Fortunately, planning your tasks can allow you to relax and enjoy yourself with your partner, friends, and family. Get the hardest (or most boring) tasks done in the morning, and you can have the rest of the day to yourself. In addition, couples can share responsibilities to get through these tasks even faster.

Communication is probably the biggest recommendation. This includes communicating the plans surrounding all holiday events and/or expectations as well as communicating areas where you may need more attention or help with. For example, communicate with your partner the level of stress of anxiety you may have when hosting a family gathering so you will need your partner to put even more attention into helping clean up or entertain while guests are present. Without communicating these needs, your partner will likely not meet them and will lead you to feeling disappointed in something he/she never knew was even an expectation.

Social pressure and anxiety

You are “supposed” to have a blast on around the holidays. You are also “supposed” to have a grand Christmas party with you or your partner's family. But what about times when these things are not possible? Or when you simply don't want to be around so many people? Here again, there's a disconnect between what you want and what you are expected to do. This can take an ugly shape when you and your partner have different expectations. Another area regarding social pressure and anxiety is commonly referred to as “the judgement from other”. This includes couples feeling as though they are not living up to the family’s expectations of their life and the holiday time is the perfect time for parents/in-laws to “catch up” on all the news from the year. How is your career going? What are the kids involved in? Why hasn’t the home projects been completed yet? Any luck on that promotion you talked about? At times, the simply catch up can leave couples feeling inadequate about themselves or even shameful that they didn’t accomplish all they desired throughout the year and are now being reminded of unmet goals.

Communicate often and clearly what you need to help feel supported and connected.  Talk to your partner well before the holiday season and decide what you are going to do and what you need from each other. If you want to spend a quieter New Year's Eve or Christmas, tell your partner about it and plan accordingly. Spend the holidays in a way you both enjoy and not necessarily in a way that fits the norm.

Buying gifts

Giving gifts is a loving and caring gesture, especially during the holidays. However, selecting and buying gifts can be stressful for couples. This is more common among couples who have very different tastes and preferences. It can often be helpful to make a “wish list” in advance and share it with loved ones. This will likely reduce anxiety about giving buying and gift giving if your loved ones have an idea of what you need/want rather than feeling pressure to buy a gift last minute, especially for those picky gifters.

No personal time

Couples often don't get the time to be intimate during the holiday season for obvious reasons. There's always something to do or somewhere to go. The lack of intimacy creates further stress/disconnection among couples and removes the romanticism of the holiday season.

The easiest solution to this problem is to be consciously aware of making time with your partner as a priority. Intimacy can be in the form of kind loving affirmations, touch, kiss, hugs, etc. It is a necessity to feel needed and desired by your partner, not only during the holiday season.

The holiday season can bring a lot of stressors into any relationship if it is not ready for it. With acceptance, planning and communication you will likely feel more prepared heading into this holiday season and ready to experience all the joys the magical season has to offer together.


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