Holidays - Hide or Have Fun?

Fun or Stressful?

Today, I thought we would tackle the holidays. Does this make you want to hide or have fun?

A lot of couples, especially newer in their relationship can really struggle with the holidays. It is just a tough time of the year, especially when you are a newer couple trying to figure out areas of compromise and areas of learning about each other.

It could be learning about each other's holiday rituals or coming up with new rituals together as a couple. It can be hectic, or expensive and travel. Let's be honest, it can be hard to be around extended family or in-laws. A lot of people are dealing with loss this time of year. Loss of a loved one, miscarriage, divorce. Any kind of loss. That can often put a sense of sadness around the holidays.

Sometimes deciding together on a budget can be stressful and make us want to hide. So, in this episode we are going to discuss strategies that may help that feeling and turn towards having fun instead. 

“Where did all these cars come from!?”

Jake and I have had some interesting holidays over the years, there are a lot of different things we have had to talk about and come to together in navigating. We come from different family backgrounds and I tend to come from a very large extended family and Jake comes from a much smaller family. There are some differences on traditions and our own idea of an ideal budget and things like that.

On top of that, Jake doesn’t have a typical work schedule which has been interesting to navigate as well. When we were first dating, he worked offshore, so we did not get to celebrate a lot of holidays together, at least on the day of because he would be out in the Gulf or overseas in Korea working. Nowadays, it is a bit easier, we live in the same state, same town, same house but he works the night shift, so that will make it a little different figuring out the holidays in terms of logistics.

I remember the first Thanksgiving that we had together. This was when I had introduced Jake to my extended family, our first holiday together. He was in town for that one, which was unusual. We pulled up to my Aunt and Uncle’s home and Jake looks around and says, “Where are all these cars from? Who has all these cars?” (LOL) It was so funny because I guess I didn’t do a good enough job preparing him that I came from a large extended family. You know, when you pull up and see 20-30 cars around when you come from a family that is much smaller extended family and used to seeing about 3-4 cars, it caught him off guard. So, he adapted very quickly to that. My entire family just adores Jake.

Now that we are married, we talk about budgets. I think coming from a smaller family and a family that tends to do things a little simpler around the holidays, we had some differences in terms of presents. Nothing that was completely stressful for us, but conversations to better understand each other.

So, one of the things that helped Jake understand where I was coming from was with presents is that, one of my dad’s love languages is gift giving. My dad grew up very, very poor and at some point, decided in high school that becoming a CPA sounded way better than to continue to pick cotton on very hot days in central Texas. Which is what he did all throughout high school.

So, my dad went out and got a college education and set up this life. We have always lived comfortably in that sense. So, one of the ways my dad shows his love is through generosity, particularly throughout the holidays. You know what, year-round, he is just really the most generous person you have ever met. So, that is one of the things I told Jake, “My family is so generous to me, that I want to be generous with them if and when I can.” So that was something that helped Jake, it wasn’t that I was spending frivolously, I don’t even like shopping that much. You will find me shopping online. So, that helped Jake, and I continued to understand that his family just does it differently. They don’t want a whole lot of presents; it isn’t a love language in their family. I must look to Jake as a guide to know what to do with his family when it comes to the holidays.

I also found out this year that neither one of us really cares for turkey. This year, on Thanksgiving Day and on Christmas, it will just be the two of us. I think this is a first for both of us. I was trying to figure out at Thanksgiving if he wanted me to order something from Costco or Whole Foods, those are the two places around us that do online orders for the holidays, as opposed to me making a big turkey or something. Anyway, through that conversation we both discovered that we don't really care for turkey that much. So that was interesting.

We talked about what we want Christmas decorations to be like for the house, and how much do we want to spend on that. How much effort and work goes into that? So, for me, I would rather skip the time and effort of putting lights the outside of the house, but at the same time too, paying for it is not something I would prefer to do. But I want a tree with lights and decorations. Having different conversations like that.

Another thing that Jake has been gracious to understand about me is that I don’t like to travel on the specific holiday day if I can help it. That was one of those things that we had an opportunity to go back to Houston for Christmas, but with Jake’s work schedule, that would involve traveling on Christmas Eve or Christmas day. I just said I really don’t want those to be travel days for us. That would be stressful, and Jake totally understood. So, we will look at doing something right after the holidays. These are just a few things that we have talked about over the years and our first holiday together in a state that none of our family lives and trying to figure all that out. 

To Do list or Not to Do List

With my clients, I have a lot of conversations around the holidays that are about boundaries and yet being flexible. Doing self-care. I spoke of this in my first episode, I work with a lot of clients with eating disorders, and so I am also talking a lot about relationships with food and body around the holidays.

With clients, there is a lot of stress around the holidays. It could be different things, it could be money, travel, relationships and boundaries. Working with eating disorders, it could be certain family members who are always talking about weight and dieting and that is so triggering for me. We are talking about boundaries in our sessions and how do I deal with that. Well, maybe that could be a family function you could miss, or you can attend and learn how to steer the conversation elsewhere, or say something more direct like “ gosh, you know today really isn’t the day I want to talk about dieting. Can we change the subject?” Or add some humor, if it is a dieting thing, and someone is skimping on the macaroni and cheese, you can say “Can I have your portion because I really love macaroni and cheese.” Just using some humor to ease the situation.

Also, creating some downtime. Especially, if you are like a lot of us women, our to-do lists are really growing! And if you have kids or multiple kids, man, your to-do lists can be a never ending chore, with finals, school performances and this break and that break and if you are in an area of the country where there is maybe a snow day or a weather day, that can throw off your entire plans.

I talk about self-care with my clients, how can we build in moments of saying “no” to certain things that maybe don’t give us a lot of excitement and asking for support around things that do give us excitement that may add something extra on our to-do lists. How can we pare down and how can we do new things and how can we create rituals of meaning and connections with our partners and families? Those are a lot of the things I talk with my clients about.  

Creating New Rituals

I think a few things we can talk about and I will lead off with the last thing I mentioned, creating new rituals as a couple. Whether you are new to this or you have been around for a while with your marriage or relationship. There is always the opportunity to create new rituals together and gosh that could be anything. It could be a new tradition around a special meal.

A new tradition around a new location, so that could look like finding a local 5k. Maybe attending a new church or a different church and attending a Christmas Eve service. Maybe at Thanksgiving trying a different food. Playing games around the holidays like bringing board games.

I think that talking together as a couple about your rituals and what you can build together as new rituals and what aspects from your own family you enjoyed that you want to preserve for your family.

The Ideal Compromise

I think that establishing boundaries and communicate often with your partner is important. These will be several good conversations and remember these could be topics that might be a bit more heated and or be a tough topic. You will want to start with a soft start up. We talked about that in the previous episode.

You will want to start with a soft start up and establish boundaries around budgets, time limits around extended family, or maybe “I have a really hard time being around this family member of yours, maybe you could watch out for me and if you see me across the room and they are talking to me you could rescue me or interrupt the conversation.”

Talking about whatever that is in an open way, and if your partner is saying something to you that is hard to hear, LISTEN. Be an open listener to what they are saying. Let them know if something was hard to hear and come together on some of those things. Communicate often, maybe this is a weekly conversation, but work on getting on the same page.

This involves a lot of compromise, a win-win the ideal compromise. Sometimes we can compromise, and it feels like a lose-lose so finding ways to find a win-win. “What is most important to you about being around your extended family?” “It is important to me that we show up, we laugh, we enjoy this food together as we always do. I am okay with us needing to leave after a couple hours, that is totally ok with me, we don’t have to spend all day there.”

Budget, maybe it is coming together and talking about creative ways to get around your budget. One of the things we do is save all of our credit card points for around the holidays and then we can get gift cards from those points or cash back and save that for the holidays, we are both totally fine with that.

Maybe you are in a relationship where there are different religious preferences or practices. Finding a way to honor and respect each other. Maybe you are not of the Christian faith or you are not Catholic and so a Christmas Eve service really isn’t your thing. But maybe you can show up and be there with your partner, or maybe your partner is Jewish, and you are not. You don’t know anything about celebrating Hanukkah, ask your partner and get involved with some of those traditions. It could be super fun. 

I think along with establishing boundaries and communicating often, we want to be flexible. So that is the win-win that I was talking about, understanding ways that you can be flexible with your partner in an area that maybe is a bit more conflict with you guys. What is your growth opportunity to be flexible? Look at that and share that with your partner, say, “Hey, I know that this is really important to you and you know that this is a struggle for me. This year here is what I would like to do and what I propose because I know that this is important to you and you are important to me."

Finding Ways to Have Meaning 

I think the last idea I wanted to share with you is, do your best to decrease stress. This could be getting rid of traditions or rituals or any opportunity that makes you feel anxious or rushed or not looking forward to something. Something that you are dreading. This is an opportunity to change a lot of that.

I get it, there may be some exceptions, there may be some things that you can’t change. Maybe your kindergartener is excited about a Christmas performance and of course you are excited about seeing it just not all the rehearsals and or making the costumes but finding ways to reduce stress around that. That may involve asking for help making the costume or involve the day before and or after saying “no” to everything so that you can have a day to yourself. If you can.

Maybe outsourcing some of the shopping. Or doing more stuff online so that you can decrease stress by avoiding traffic and crowds. Can you tell that I am introverted (LOL) these are all the examples I give, but you do you. You know the stresses in your life around the holidays.

Maybe you are someone who doesn’t have a whole lot of family or friends, maybe decreasing stress in your life by making new friends or to volunteer your time and services to people who are in need. That would be something good for all of us. Finding ways to have meaning in our lives around the holidays.

Let’s talk about it!

In your partnership this week, I want you to have a conversation and share some of the things you are excited about and some of the things that you aren’t so excited about. And find areas that you can compromise and support each other in your relationship.

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