Mind Your Feelings
First, it is important to understand and be mindful of your own feelings, expectations, and hopes. Does the holiday season bring you cheer and celebration or does is evoke dread and anxiety? Are you in a happy mood around this time or do you find yourself feeling stressed, sad or angry? The feelings that come up for us around the holidays can often become the fuel for arguments between with our significant others.
For example, the holidays for Julie are filled with sadness and mourning as her mother passed away around Christmas time. Julie is spending Christmas with her boyfriend Paul’s family. She feels the pressure to “put on a happy face”, and, although she wants to, she can’t shake the sadness. She then picks a fight with him because she is angry about feeling isolated in her sadness, misunderstood, and pressured to act disingenuous.
However, if Julie had been mindful of her feelings, she would be able to separate the sadness and anger about not having her mother there from her boyfriend wanting to spend time and enjoy the holidays with her. She would be able to understand that part of the anger may be that she feels the loss around her Holiday traditions, the way that Christmas was celebrated with her mother and is now directing it to her boyfriend.
Communicate With Your Partner
Once you are connected to your own feelings and expectations around the holidays, it is important to communicate with your partner. Some questions to ask each other:
These conversations are important to have BEFORE the holidays begin. They are essential to preempting misunderstandings, disagreements and blowouts as they will shine the light on our triggers and coping mechanisms, and help us separate the people from the problems.
Create joint traditions
There is no right or wrong way to celebrate. But chances are that your family-of-origin holiday traditions are different. Embracing another way of celebrating can feel like abandoning your family and denigrating your most treasured memories.
While the behavior may seem silly once we are conscious of it, many of us will fight about when the holiday dinner should be served, what constitutes a holiday meal, how and when the presents are opened, etc. Those fights aren’t really about turkey vs. ham or 4pm dinner vs. 1pm brunch. They are about our connection to our past, our roots.
So, how do we marry two sets of rituals and traditions? How do we continue upholding what we treasure most while affording our partner the same? We begin by talking, asking each other questions, getting our expectations and wishes out in the open.
Some questions to ask each other to get you started:
These simple, yet often overlooked questions can help you get to know your partner better, create connection, foster greater intimacy, prevent resentments and conflict.
Be sure to download a printable worksheet below!
Make a Joint Plan
Once you have a heart-to-heart with your partner, it’s time to make a plan.
Remember Julie and Paul? Paul and Julie have an opportunity to let his family in on how Julie experiences this holiday and include them in a new ritual that honors Julie’s mom’s legacy.
They could let Paul’s parents and siblings know what it feels like for Julie and try to incorporate some of her traditions into their celebration. This could look like having Julie’s mom’s signature dish prepared for a holiday meal or adding some of her ornaments to their tree. It could also be allowing Julie to say a prayer for her mother or share a memorable story about her mother to Paul and his family on Christmas morning.
We wish you a great Holiday Season! May it bring you Joy, Laughter, Comfort and Spiritual Fulfillment!
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Download the Great First Holiday Together Worksheet!