If you have great self-esteem, never fight with your spouse or feel
disappointed during the holiday season, please don’t read any further.
However, if the holidays are creating anxiety, headaches and concerns about
marital tension and disconnection please do.
Last week I sat in a counseling session with Susan and Bob. (All names have been changed to maintain confidentiality.) They recalled their annual holiday fight. The decorations which were supposed to make their house sparkle and bright, instead caused sparks and dullness between them.
Another couple, Sally and Ted, was barely speaking to one another in
session. Sally was done with Ted allowing his family to demand gifts when
they were struggling with his unemployment this past year. Karen and Sam
shared how their close feelings vanished when Karen started talking to
another man at the company party. These situations are just a few of the
many that can create exactly what we don’t want during the holidays. We all
want closeness, joy and gratitude in our relationships, particularly with
the year-end—a time of evaluation.
Here are some ideas for getting your relationship in shape during this
season. First, spend some time alone and make a relationships wish list. Think of what you want to have happen between you and your partner and make a visual image of it. Now think of the times that you have been upset and what has prevented your desired outcome. Often our expectations can cause us to become upset and act in unwitting ways to achieve what we don’t want. Our disappointments from holidays past are powerful and tenacious at haunting us. Charles Dickens really understood this, verified by his novel, A Christmas Carol, resonant for so many over several centuries.
Once you have identified your anticipated disappointments, talk to your spouse about them. Having him or her listen to you can bring closeness. Try to problem solve together what your partner can do to fulfill your needs and what he or she can’t. Assess if you are asking your partner to make up for a painful past and are being too harsh or unrealistic. Ask your partner to do the same for you.
Together when partners feel they can get it right and make the other
person happy, closeness comes and walls come down. Often during this time of year, the media makes us feel deprived of what we don’t have materially or in our relationships. When we feel deprived we often blame those closest to us.
Be mindful or what you truly want. Laughing, walking, having sex are
free and often bring a contentment. The media often makes us believe those
positive connections are based on a material gift; challenge this with your
partner. This is the season of comfort and joy. Together identify what
truly gives both of you these feelings and agree to do some of those
activities each week.
As a new year approaches, hold on to the optimism that your relationship
can improve and this holiday season can be better. Focus on your
relationship habits and what can make your partner happier. Calculate how
often you smile and let your partner know how happy you are to see and be
with them. Wishing you a holiday season filled with love and positive
If you would like to learn more about Relationship and Sex Therapy, please contact me at 201-445-0550.