By Jeanie Tucker – Contributing Writer
The smell of apple pie, snowy nights cozying up next to a fire, and the hustle and bustle of everyone trying to find that perfect gift for someone they love.
For many, the holidays are an exciting and joyous time. For others, it can be stressful and overwhelming. Like many experiences we go through in life – having a child, loss of a loved one, moving – it has the power to enhance the bonds or exacerbate the problems you share with your partner.
The answer to why this festive, yet stressful time of year can improve one couple’s relationship and burden another’s lies in the couple’s communication and coping skills.
If a couple communicates effectively and leans on one another when they encounter obstacles, the satisfaction of sharing the challenges and festivities that holidays bring can yield a deeper connection with one’s partner. Conversely, a couple that does not communicate effectively and tends to pull away during difficult times may find themselves feeling more distant from their partner and burdened with the holiday’s financial, familial, and time expectations.
Consider the following tips when looking to strengthen your relationship through the holidays.
Determine a financial plan for the holidays with your partner: Finances are often a big source of conflict within intimate relationships. It’s important that both individuals feel comfortable with the amount that is being spent. Discuss your concerns with your partner and ask him/her what their concerns are, then work to find a compromise. Ensuring that both of you are comfortable with the plan will result in mutual feelings of respect and trust when it comes to financial matters.
Provide support at family gatherings: Extended family gatherings can lead to feelings of anxiety for those who have a history of conflict or misunderstandings with their loved ones. Talk to your partner about these fears and tell them specifically what you need from him/her. Knowing that your partner will be on your side will help ease your anxiety and may allow you both to enjoy your time together.
Create your own traditions: Shopping, holiday parties, and time spent preparing gifts can result in less time spent with each other. Traditions produce a feeling of unity and belonging, and require little to no financial output. Listening to holiday music on a record while burning cinnamon or pine scented candles after the kids go to bed; enjoying cinnamon rolls in your pajamas Christmas morning before jetting off to family gatherings. These special times one-on-one with your partner will bring you closer and remind you what the holidays are really about: being together.
Jeanie Tucker is a licensed mental health counselor in Amherst who focuses on relationship counseling. To reach her at The Counselor’s Corner, call 204-5552, Ext. 428, email her at TuckerLMHC@gmail.com, or visit her website by clicking here.
Read a related WNY Refresh story here.