Holidays are stressful. Need we say more? There’s the expectation that everything will be eggnog and gingerbread, but then you burn the ham and your partner forgot to hang the wreath—and now it’s all gone grinchy! Luckily, there are a few simple things you can do to prevent fighting during the holidays.
Seriously, though, the holidays are known to dredge up emotions. Expectations are high for a picture perfect celebration. You’re excited about time off and a chance to spend more time with your partner, but then you find yourselves fighting all the time.
Instead of reminiscing and planning for future holidays while you trim the tree, you and your partner are arguing over how to hang the tinsel. Then, instead of having a relaxing, laughter-filled holiday gathering, you’re disappointed about how your partner acts around your family. Suddenly, you’re fighting again.
While everything around you is sparkling lights and mistletoe, inside you feel unhappy, miserable even. You might start questioning the relationship. Should you even be together?
Despite these common feelings for couples around this season, there are a few simple things you can do to prevent fighting during the holidays.
Common triggers for fighting during the holidays
Holidays are idealized
Every magazine and holiday movie paints a perfect picture of what the holidays “should” look like.
According to these pictures, your clothes should be festive and sexy, your house should be decked in lights and seasonal throw pillows, and you and your partner should snuggle by the fire under a tartan blanket.
In reality, you feel unhappy with your holiday plans—just you and your partner at your in-laws for a regular dinner. Or a holiday party to which you wear an ill-fitting sweater and don’t talk to anyone all night.
When you compare to those idealized holidays in the glossy pages of magazines, it looks like you’re falling short. The disappointment can turn into blame, often directed at your partner, and then it escalates into conflict.
You feel ignored
Your partner is so preoccupied with getting presents for everyone, the children’s school parties, the holiday menu, that she has no time for you. When you are together, she’s emotionally absent.
The only way to get her attention is to raise your volume. And so begins another fight.
Spending time with each other’s family
You love your partner’s family, but there’s a limit to how much time you want to spend with them. During the holidays, you have to be at your best and pretend to get along with certain members of the family. On top of that, if you’re staying with them, you have no privacy and no space to decompress. There’s a limit to how much pressure you can tolerate before exploding.
Stress about money
If there’s a prime trigger for fighting during the holidays, stress about money is it.
Increased spending leading up to gift-giving events can create tension and disagreements in couples. You likely have different views on how much you should spend on presents, trips home to see family, or hosting parties. And money is a loaded topic since it’s so closely tied to feelings of security.
In the end, you’re exhausted from all the planning that went into the holidays, from lack of sleep, and from looking at a tightened budget for January. Your fuse is short.
Fighting during the holidays is not the end of the world if you can resolve it
Understandably, added stress from these holiday triggers can lead to conflict. The question is how you and your partner deal with the stress, and how you work together to resolve the conflict.
Things can be better. You can enjoy spending time together and your holidays if you’re able to resolve the conflict.
3 things couples can do to avoid fighting during the holidays
1. Be accessible
When your partner reaches out so you will notice him, pause the holiday frenzy to really be there with him. If your partner looks to you for help, put down your phone to listen to what she needs.
2. Be responsive
When you notice your partner looking frazzled, give her the hug she’s needing to calm her nerves. Or if he’s asking for more time with you, find times and ways you can be together.
3. Be engaged
Engagement is often shown through listening. Show your partner you hear what they’re saying. Give the soothing or encouraging touch they need. Make them feel like they matter to you.
Couples therapy can help you prevent fighting during the holidays
What to expect from couples therapy
- Less arguing, more open communication
If you’re feeling ignored or neglected, therapy can help you tell your partner. If you feel stressed about how much money you’re spending, it’s a time and place to talk about that.
- Better connection, enjoying spending time together
Even if the holiday season is busy, the time you do spend together will feel more fulfilling. You’ll learn how to be present and connected with each other.
- Less anxious and stressed out
The result of better communication and connection is a feeling of calm security in the relationship. This, in turn, leads to more calm for each partner and in the household overall.
- Better able to support each other
Another benefit of the work you do in therapy is knowing how to be there for your partner. You’ll learn what type of support they’re needing and when they need it.
- Better able to negotiate plans together
Whether your plans are for hosting a holiday party, spending money on gifts and travel, or imagining where the two of you want to be five years from now, therapy will help you find the words and the way to create those plans together.
About Dr. Irena
Dr. Irena has over 20 years of experience helping couples in distress, during the holidays and year round. She uses the most effective type of therapy, emotionally focused therapy (EFT) that can have incredible, lasting results. She offers online therapy for women and couples in Houston, the Woodlands, and New York City.
If you would like to schedule a session, email Dr. Irena for a free 10-minute video consultation: firstname.lastname@example.org or call (281)-267-1742.