Are you ready with your relationship for Christmas?
Everyone has an opinion about Christmas, as much as they do any other holiday season. Whether you love or loathe the festivities will largely depend on your history and the obligations you’re tethered to. If it is indeed a difficult time of year for you or your partner, then preparing as best you can should be your plan of action.
The good thing about this season, for those who need coping mechanisms, is that the challenges are usually the same from year to year. Although this repetition can be extraordinarily exasperating, the plus side is that the pattern is familiar and can, if you’re serious, be broken forever. Read on if you need help planning a holiday season on your own terms and with limited pressure.
Is your relationship in park or drive?
Depending on what stage your relationship is, Christmas is either a time when it gets parked on the back burner, or becomes something that goes into overdrive and includes extended family and multiple gatherings. The only way to manage each of these scenarios is to aim for balance, for you as a couple as well as those expecting time from you.
If you reluctantly kiss each other goodbye on Christmas Eve and pine away the holiday until you reunite, you may want to think about how few and far between years like this may become, as your relationship progresses. Having the space to miss one another and using this to fuel your affection can become a sought after indulgence, once marriage and children become factors to include. It’s difficult being apart, no one is denying that or trying to belittle your emotions, but there are so many ways to stay connected these days and the time will truly fly by.
For those of you who have reached the stage where you long to wave off your spouse and children and simply take a week of solitude for yourself, we ask that you think really hard about what you’d rather be doing. Perhaps it’s all of you going on a seasonal vacation and dodging extended family, or is it going to a restaurant instead of cooking?
Discuss your absolute dream Christmas with your partner and assess the viability of it. Don’t prematurely write it off as a pipe-dream. Can you both, with planning and dedication, commit to living it next year? You have a whole year to placate anyone who might be disappointed and an equal amount of time to get excited.
The in-law tug of war
Usually, the easiest way to decide which side of the family to spend the holiday season with is to take it in turns each year. It’s a formulaic, fair and unfortunately slightly dull way to make decisions about where you actually want to spend your time. You’re not alone, it’s guaranteed that most couples have this conversation, usually starting in November.
We know that extended family can become extremely territorial when a holiday season rolls around and that tactical decisions are necessary to stave off arguments, but how about you mix it up a little? This year remember, as hard as it may be to choose the dry-turkey-bed-by-nine in-laws over the party-all-night bunch, everyone will get over whatever decision you make by at least the end of January. If they don’t, it’s really their issue and not yours.
If your girlfriend’s family is a riot at this time of year then explain to yours that you’ll see them in the New Year. You don’t have to apologise for owning your adult life and making decisions that better suit the two of you. Don’t be insensitive, but also don’t spoil your own enjoyment this season by shouldering the emotions of other people.
Moody aunty Mabel
There are only a few times in the year when we feel compelled to spend vast amounts of time with family members that we don’t like or have very little in common with. As we get older, special occasions are shared with friends or spouses and so Christmas can sometimes feel akin to immersion therapy.
If you feel this way and absolutely must interact with the various sources of your angst or trauma, then a good way to get prepped is to keep an end goal in sight. This can take the form of being exceedingly clear about when you’re arriving and when you have to leave. It can also mean reminding yourself of your pain points and deciding not to engage with the sister who loves to argue, not to compete with your ego-driven father, or get too involved in your nephew’s mood swings.
The key is to be in control of yourself and not let alcohol rule you or old wounds be prodded by people who know exactly where to aim. Warn your partner that you may have your guard up a little for necessary reasons, and fill them in on exactly why.
Like any major life event, there has to be a comedown period where you reboot and gather up all your strength and reserves for the next occasion. The mistake people make is that they go straight from an intense holiday period that was in no way relaxing, back into the throes of work or other such commitments. Don’t do it.
Both you and your partner need to take the time to do something for you as a couple. Make it something you really want to do, maybe a movie night, a weekend of not leaving the house or conversely, going out individually with friends. Whatever you choose to do, ensure you have thoroughly shaken off any lingering pressures or tensions created by Christmas and go into the new year feeling refreshed.
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