While this time of year can be a great time for some, it can be pretty difficult for others. Spending time with family and endless holiday parties can be really exhausting – especially if you’re having problems in your marriage. The thought of trying to keep up appearances when you are struggling in your relationship can be really intimidating. It can bring up a lot of questions like “How much do we tell our families?”, “Should we both go to my holiday party at work?”, “Should we visit everyone like normal?” The holidays can be stressful if you do not have a plan for how to deal with them. Here are a couple strategies for making the holidays go smoothly:
Have a Plan:
I am by no means saying you should just get over the things stressing your relationship for the holidays. That would be ridiculous. I do suggest that you come up with a plan, though, about how you are going to deal with some of the land mines that could come up. The thought behind coming up with this plan is mainly to keep anything from making things worse than they have to be.
So the first step is making sure that both of you are on the same page with what different family members or friends might know. No one wants to be at a family get-together and realize in the moment that someone knows everything. Make sure that both of you are clear with each other about who knows what. If you have been talking with your sister for support during this difficult time, now is when you want to let your partner know. Otherwise, your partner might be catching that side eye that your sister is giving them. They put two-and-two together, and now you are having a fight that could have been avoided.
Secondly, you want to come up with a plan on how you will respond to people. There is a decent chance that you will be interacting with friends or family that you have not seen for some time. The first thing people say whenever they are reunited always seems to be some version of “How are you doing?” or “How have things been?”. Come with a plan together on how you would like to respond to these questions, and what you and your partner do or do not want others to know about your current struggles.
Do Not Overload Yourself
Having a plan is about making sure you and your partner have each other’s backs. This suggestion is about making sure that you take care of yourself. Family can end up pushing our buttons. Maybe that one nosey aunt will not stop asking personal questions. Maybe that one uncle keeps starting political arguments. All of these things can put you on edge, and being on edge is where a lot of fights start. So make a plan to get away from the things that you know will push your buttons. If a certain Uncle really knows how to get under your skin, make a point to strike up a conversation with your Mom when you are needing a break. If you know you need some time away, make a plan to take the kids out for ice cream. Making sure that you are taking care of yourself during the holidays is very important in not adding to relationship stress.
The holidays can be a very isolating time for people, and very intimidating when you are struggling with your partner. It is important to remember that you are not against your partner, but you are facing it together. There are resources out there to help if you are looking for ways to take care of yourself during the holidays. And if you are looking for relationship help, we at The Marriage & Family Clinic are here to help.
About the Author
Ryan Hicks is a licensed therapist and marriage counselor at The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, Colorado. He specializes in working with couples in high conflict and working with couples in the LGBTQ community. When he’s not working with couples, you’ll find him rock climbing or taking in the great outdoors of Colorado.