The holiday season can be a wonderful opportunity to take time out from the stressors of daily life, the pressures of work, the never-ending list of tasks and duties and to connect with your partner, children, family and friends. The holiday season is much anticipated and highly valued by many. It is the end of one year and beginning of another. A time for reflection on the past, a time for planning for the future and importantly a time to be present with the important people in your world. The holiday season can often be rich with rituals that bring people together, sharing experiences, traditions and connections.
It is also true that the holiday season can be a very difficult time where relationships can become strained and disconnected, where expectations and ideals are not discussed or shared, where miscommunication and tension can arise.
It is often reported many different types of conflicts can arise concerning during the holiday season such as, finances and spending, argument about ‘whose family is Christmas day spent with’ existing tensions with extended family members reawakened, hurt feelings and arguments about the expectations on gift giving and receiving and, of course, the amount of alcohol consumed can also be a topic of conflict.
It is with this context of the holiday season being both a highly anticipated time and a time of potential conflict and disconnection that I would like to discuss a few strategies to promote the opportunity to increase connection and reduce tension and misunderstanding.
Being able to discuss with your partner your hopes, expectations, fears and concerns about the holiday season and being able to hear and understand your partner’s perspective, is an important step in reducing the potential of miscommunication and tension over this period. We know that masters of relationships work on understanding and validation first. They buy into this notion of valid subjective reality, meaning that each person has their own perspective, needs and wants in conflict and whilst it may be different to your view it is still valid and deserves to be listened too, understood and validated as important. Being able to express a positive need, what you are wanting more of rather than less of for yourself and from your partner is required. This provides an opportunity for your partner to know what the issues is, what you need and importantly what they can do to help—how they can be a champion for you.
Sometimes it requires looking for the deeper meaning that underscores the issue. That is what are the core values and beliefs and background or history on the issue or topic that is being discussed.
For several years when our children were young my partner and I had this recurring fight - every holiday season - about how much was spent on the children’s Christmas presents. I was of the belief we spent too much, and my partner shared a somewhat opposite view. Well as you could image this argument would quickly turn into some mild criticism amount being either too loose or too tight with money and the word ‘Scrooge’ was used on more than one occasion. Eventually we had a really great conversation on this issue, this time not focusing on describing each other’s capacity or lack thereof around finances, but we talked about the meaning of gift giving to our children at Christmas. Not surprisingly it turns out we held very different meanings and experience about this topic. When my partner was a child, her mother would save a little bit of money out of each pay and every Christmas would buy my her and her younger sister a large present like a trampoline or a push bike. She talked about the excitement that would build and the joy that was experienced on Christmas morning when the presents were revealed. Importantly, she knew the sacrifices her mother made to provide this to her children and honoured her mother for this. My story is different I grew in a large family being the last of seven children. Christmas was a time of getting woken up to go to midnight Mass, having ham and eggs for Christmas breakfast and being joined by friends and relatives at Christmas lunch which was always a hot roast regardless of the Queensland summer. Presents were less emphasised in our family traditions where gift giving was inexpensive and small. Sharing each others stories of the meaning of gift giving at Christmas gave both of us a deeper appreciation and understanding of our perspectives and allowed for greater opportunities for compromise. Importantly, we stopped having the negative interactions and where able to discuss this issue with respect and gentleness.
The holiday season is great time to develop meaningful ritual of connection with your partner and family. Rituals are important in families because we look forward to them, they symbolize who we are as a couple or as a family, they can honour your cultural heritage, faith or family values. How couple and families routinely come together creates a sense of belonging. Rituals demonstrate that we take time out of our busy schedules to make one another a priority.
Remember, the more shared rituals of connection you can find, the deeper, richer, and more rewarding your relationship will be. Finally, here are just some examples of rituals that couples and families for the holiday season and throughout the year.
- Six second kiss when you wake up, when you say goodnight, and when you come and go
- Christmas tree and decorations ritual
- Christmas day breakfast, lunch and dinner
- Family dinner time where everyone talks about their day
- Weekly date night
- Christmas day gift giving
- Returning to your honeymoon destination every year on your anniversary
- Leaving love notes by the coffee maker for your partner to find every morning
- Training for a distance bike ride together
- Watching a favourite TV show together
- How you approach your partner for sex
- Family game night
- Going to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve
From our families to yours – a wonderful Christmas Season to you all!
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