Happy Holidays? 6 Steps for Couples to Make it Through Family Gatherings!

Happy Holidays? 6 Steps for Couples to Make it Through Family Gatherings!

With so many back-stories, generations, personalities, and dysfunctional communication, it’s no wonder that family & friend holiday get-togethers can be so emotionally draining. Here are some tips that can help bring some calm for you and your partner during the holiday season if things get to stressful.

1. Be prepared

  “Ok, here it goes”. Take a deep breath, and recognize that there are going to be triggers that may frustrate you, anger you, or worry you. As a couple, sit down and discuss expectations and how you are going to acknowledge each other’s emotions, and self-soothe without being caught up in the dysfunction.

2. Role play!

No, not that kind… Be a team! Talk about what each other’s strengths are, where you might need help, and come up with some roles during the big day. Food prep? Drink serving? Setting the table? Clean up? Supporting each other builds trust and security in a relationship.

3. Set Boundaries as a couple

What do you need in your household? What discussions are you not willing to have during a family get-together? Get on the same page as a couple. Ask for your partner’s support when you define a clear need and be willing to have your partner’s back with their need.

4. You are different than me, and I am different from you….and that’s OK

Others may say or do things that we take as hurtful, or attacking.  Keep in mind that they may not see their actions as this, and it may be their own brokenness talking. Growth comes from recognizing, and responding differently ourselves. Practice empathy and compassion of others views rather than needing to be right, or having the last word on topics.

5. Take a Breather

Too much tension and frustration building up inside of you? Need a time out? Need a hug from your partner? Take a break together in your bedroom, a deep breath, and repeat the steps above!

6. Above all, be thankful

While it’s easy to focus on the negative and pain in our lives, there too is a positive side that longs to be recognized. That doesn’t mean stuffing in the nasty stuff – it is real, and needs to be acknowledged. However, beginning to plant positivity can be infectious to ourselves and our loved ones. Make sure to tell your partner and your family what you appreciate about them!

Family gatherings are not always the perfect scene that we fantasize about.  Calm, peacefulness, and enjoyment starts with you!  (Have an extra slice of dessert too. That can help!)  And remember…If you’re still feeling overwhelmed, make sure you reach out for help from a Marriage.com expert!

Chris Bader is a Registered Therapeutic Counsellor and Gottman Trained Couples Therapist from Vernon, British Columbia. He helps guide couples to deepen their lifelong friendship and intimacy through emotional fluency and healthy, effective communication.”
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