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Navigating the Holidays as a Couple

Nov 16, 2022 | Advice, Counseling, Family, Strategies, Support

Key Takeaways:

  • The holidays can be a challenging time for couples, old and new, to navigate. Between family, gifting, and finances, there are many potential triggers for arguments.
  • Below are some questions to ask yourself and your partner going into the holiday season to identify where you might have vulnerable spots.
  • This time of year is ultimately about love and gratitude. Work to acknowledge potential challenges without letting them become the foundation of the holiday season.

The holidays can be a challenging time for couples, old and new, to navigate. There are interpersonal challenges: when can we find meaningful time to spend together during a busy season, what expectations do we have of one another around gift giving/receiving, how can we support each other to find contentment as the end of the year approaches? These questions can be further challenged by adding extended family into the mix: whose family do we spend what day with, is our relationship ready for family, how do I set healthy boundaries with my family and my partner(s)?

It is important to acknowledge the social pressures for couples during the holiday season. There are socially conditioned expectations around “meeting the family” and subsequent interactions with the family of your partner(s) that include but are not limited to: (1) proving that you are worthy of dating your partner(s), (2) developing deep relationships with new people in a short amount of time, (3) moving through relationship milestones at a pace that is acceptable and approved by the family. This is not generalizable to every relationship and/or family, rather it is a theoretical outline for some of the pressures that folks in relationships might be experiencing during this time of the year.

In preparation for entering the holidays with your partner(s), here are some reflective opportunities and questions that you can use with your partner(s) to get ahead of possible triggers/arguments/discomforts:

  • What are your hopes for the holiday season? Who would you like to see? What would you like to do? What experiences would you like to share and what experiences would you like to have individually?
  • In the past, the holidays brought up stress in these areas for me: A, B, C. So if you notice me being irritable or frustrated, please check in with me, rather than assuming that my negative feelings are about you. What are some stressors for you that I should be aware of? And how can I support you?
  • How would you feel about spending _____ holiday with my family? How does it feel to have that as an option?
  • What is your comfort with gift giving this year? I want to express my gratitude to you in some way, but I want to do it in a way that doesn’t make you uncomfortable or weird.
  • What holiday traditions are meaningful to you? If you would like me to be a part of them, how would that look? Are there new traditions that we would like to try out?

Let these questions be a place to start rather than a step-by-step guide to navigating the holidays. Trust yourself and the knowledge that you have about your relationship and partner(s) and let that steer these reflections and conversations.

Rachel Levy, LLMSW

Author: Rachel Levy, LLMSW

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*This blog was created with the help of Anton Babushkin

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