While it’s been said that Christmas is ‘the most wonderful time of the year’, it can also be the most stressful, especially on your marriage. Not only are you distanced from your usual routine and support network, but you’re often forced to navigate through situations that could potentially cause a fall out. Some of these include:
Whose family to spend Christmas with
What gifts to buy that remain within the budget
What food to serve to suit everybody’s preferences
How to ensure that everything is done just right
And, habitual disagreements like varying religious practices, beliefs, and family traditions.
What’s more, Christmas can often be a tough time of year for some who are reminded of old tensions or long-standing resentments. It can also trigger sad memories of past hurt and unfulfilled expectations.
As such, we at Mind and Body Counseling Associates, Reno, Nevada, have put together the following tips on how to maintain an argument-free festive season:
1. Take Your Partner’s View into Account
According to Dr. Gottman, women tend to be better at acknowledging their partner’s view point than men. Furthermore, according to an American Psychological Association survey, women tend to feel the stress of the festive season more than men. As such, women often feel sick and tired and become disinterested in sex. It is, therefore, imperative that communication remains open and that each party takes into account the other’s feelings and wishes when making decisions.
2. Decide Which Issues are Solvable and Solve Them
While some situations you encounter over the holidays may seem unsolvable (refer to the next point), most will have a solution. Here is Dr. Gottman’s five-step model for solving problems, from his book, The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work:
Soften your start-up
Learn to make and receive repair attempts
Soothe yourself and each other
Process any grievances so that they don’t linger
3. Discuss and Work Through Your Unsolvable Issues
As mentioned above, you and your partner may encounter habitual issues, which can often result in what Dr. Gottman calls a ‘gridlock’. Relationship gridlock can bring on feelings of fear, annoyance, anger, and anxiety. To counter this, Dr. Gottman has developed a two-step process for revealing each partner’s individual dreams. For example, discovering that your partner has a dream to experience a shared, Christmas family tradition, within the gridlock, can result in compromise and release from the gridlock. Here are the two steps:
Each partner gets 10 minutes to discuss the gridlock problem, without condemning the other person. The speaker conveys their needs, wants, and emotions while the other person listens attentively.
Each partner spends 5-10 minutes alone in order to pinpoint their core needs, which are non-negotiable, along with their wants, which can be adjusted. They then share these core needs, and wants, with one another in order to find out where they can compromise and, therefore, be released from the gridlock.
Take it one day at a time: While it may be tempting to consider the entire upcoming holiday season and merge Christmas into New Years, this may amplify the length of the festive season in your mind. Instead, just take it one day a time!
Set up your social support beforehand: Find out who will be around for you to reach out to over the festive period.
Avoid overindulgence: While you should, by all means, ‘eat and be merry’, try to avoid excessive consumption of alcohol. Drinking too much can potentially lead to unnecessary conflict with your partner.
Maintain physical exercise: Continuing to exercise throughout the holiday will improve your overall mood and decrease feelings of anxiety.